I use my freezer a lot. I love to stock it with leftovers from cooked meals so that I have a constantly rotating stock of single serving dishes to choose from on nights when I just need something fast. Figuring out which recipes are best for this purpose does take some experimentation, though, so I’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you and put together this quick roundup of my top 10 recipes for freezer leftovers.
In general, I find that soups, stews, pasta or rice based dishes, and baked goods all freeze very well. I reheat almost everything in the microwave without thawing first (because I’m lazy and impatient), but soups and stews can easily be reheated on the stove in a sauce pot over low heat (add a lid and don’t forget to stir!). Baked goods will thaw quickly at room temperature, or can be warmed with a quick 20-30 second zap in the microwave.
If you want more information on how I freeze my leftovers, check out my quick start guide on How to Freeze Leftovers.
Top 10 Recipes for Freezer Leftovers
Spanish Chickpeas and Rice
Spanish Chickpeas and Rice – This vegan, pilaf style dish is hearty and flavorful enough to be eaten as a main dish, or just keep in on hand to use as a quick side for your summertime grilled meat.
Garden Vegetable Lasagna Roll Ups
Garden Vegetable Roll Ups – Pasta is one of my favorite comfort foods, so I like to always have some on hand. These convenient little rollups are stuffed full of vegetables and just enough creamy cheese to make it feel indulgent. I like to freeze two to a container.
One Pot Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac
Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac – Seriously, comfort food to the max. Some people don’t like when pasta gets a little softer after it’s sat in the fridge or freezer, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s almost more “comforty” at that point.
Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork
Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork – Whenever I can get my hands on an inexpensive pork roast or loin (not tenderloin), I make this. Having this ultra flavorful pulled pork ready and waiting in the freezer is just awesome. Use it in soup (like my 30 Minute Posole) or make a quick burrito bowl with rice, salsa, beans, cheese, and pulled pork. Oh, I’ve also stuffed it into breakfast quesadillas with an egg! :D
Vegan Peanut Stew
West African Peanut Stew – One of my all-time favorite soups and it also happens to freeze fabulously. I have two portions left in my freezer (each complete with a scoop of brown rice) as we speak. Every time I reheat one I’m pleasantly reminded of how awesome the flavor of this soup is.
Skillet Meatballs and Marinara
Skillet Meatballs and Marinara – As mentioned, pasta is one of my favorite comfort foods, so it only makes sense to keep meatballs on hand. I’ve frozen these in the sauce with pasta, for a fast, complete microwavable meal, and I’ve also frozen the meatballs on their own, uncooked, so they can be quickly tossed into a hot skillet for browning (add a jar of sauce after they’re browned).
Sweet Potato Cornbread
Sweet Potato Cornbread – Okay, so I actually like to freeze any cornbread, but sweet potato cornbread is my favorite. If I know I’m going to freeze some (as opposed to devouring the entire batch), I’ll bake them in muffin a muffin tins for single serving portions. Let them cool completely at room temperature before popping them into a gallon freezer bag and stashing them in the freezer.
Weeknight Black Bean Chili
Weeknight Black Bean Chili – Speaking of cornbread, this weeknight black bean chili is the perfect freezer companion! Chili freezes wonderfully and is the perfect thing to have on hand when those monster winter blizzards hit.
"Oatmeal Cookie" Baked Oatmeal
Oatmeal Cookie Baked Oatmeal – Freezer leftovers aren’t just for lunch and dinner. Baked oatmeal makes a great reheatable breakfast, and you can keep it in the refrigerator OR the freezer. All the flavors freeze great, but Oatmeal Cookie is my current fav. ;)
Southwest Chicken Skillet
Southwest Chicken Skillet – Sure, this recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make anyway, but sometimes you just don’t even have that much time. So, the next time you do, be sure to freeze a portion of two for those nights when you’re extra busy.
So there they are! 10 of my favorite recipes to keep my freezer stocked. What do you like to keep on hand? Share your favorite recipes to stash in the freezer in the comments below (from anywhere around the web!). :)
What. containers do you suggest for freezing? I’m not sure whether glass can handle the temperature changes.
If you’re nervous about glass, I also really like those Ziploc containers with the blue lid because they come in so many different sizes and shapes, they’re dishwasher safe, affordable, and both freezer and microwave friendly. :)
Thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to tag your recipes “freezer”. Between keeping an active family fed from my home kitchen, to helping out when loved ones are laid up, you are a GODSEND!!
I have been trying to do a lot of frozen preparations on the run. I have been focused of heart healthy ingredients and coming up with enough variety that I can grab and heat up a healthy plate. I dont trust, but I dont have the time to read all the labels (which have been deceptive every since TV dinners and Fish Sticks), so I want to know what is in there and the only way I know is do it yourself. The problem I have is pre-prep and freeze basics that can = in infinite combinations, but planning this is more daunting than drawing up the schedule for the New York bus system.
For over a year I have been looking for a meal/pantry planner App or program that I know could make this spread sheet a simple Full Pantry or frozen or canned ingredients > that targets a variety of meals. & stock up for 4-6 months & include seasonal savings & track whats on sail. So I can match the speed of TV Dinners without the KILLING bizzare fillers that the FDA never has .
I am the Communications Officer for Montgomery Area Food Bank – the largest food bank in Alabama .
I’d like your permission to occasionally feature your recopies and strategies from Budget Bytes (using URL will provide attribution) to help our agencies and those we assist embrace cooking on a budget and forgoing fast food.
We have a dubious track record as a state when it comes to diet-related, chronic disease – and 100% of those we assist comprise the most at-risk demographic. http://www.montgomeryareafoodbank.org/Hunger2.html
Either way – I enjoy your web site a great deal. I was a single parent for almost a decade, while serving in the Navy, so a surprising number of your strategies (from portion control, freezing, pre-preparation during the weekends and slow cooking everything from gumbo and chili – which got leftovers added during the week – to a simple crock-pot pot roast were vital to our existence. I’m sure my daughter wished I had the benefit of your recipes – for variety!
Hi Al, thank you so much for asking, and yes, you may use and reference my content for those purposes. I’m always honored to have my work being used to help people in this way. :)
How do you freeze things so they keep well over time? I’ve tried many times to freeze chili, rice dishes, and other things but they always taste like freezer burn when I reheat them. Do you have any suggestions?
My boyfriend and I have very different tastes so I’m always cooking two meals at a time and have tons of leftovers. But one thing we both love are your recipes!
I think some people may be more sensitive to the flavor and texture changes that occur when freezing foods, and I have to admit that I am not sensitive at all (I’ll eat just about anything! LOL). But I did write up a blog post about How to Freeze Leftovers, which may help. :)
I actually love to make your black bean quesadillas for the freezer, too! Easy lunches or hearty snacks. The tortillas do get just a tad soggy, but they are still great.
A question, though. The only time I’ve been disappointed by thawed and reheated leftovers was with a salsa, rice and chicken casserole (not one of your recipes). The reheated casserole’s rice had a weird texture and was very watery. You mentioned that rice tends to freeze well, so I’m curious if you know what might have gone wrong with that one casserole. I think I might have used instant rice, but I can’t remember anymore…could that have been it? Or can you think of another reason why it might have turned out badly? Thanks!
Yes, the instant rice definitely could have been the culprit. :) The extra processing probably changes the molecular structure a bit and it might not hold moisture quite the same way.
I work retail so during the Christmas season I am exhausted and have a bad habit of living on fast food. This year, right before the busy season started, I got a lot of individual serving size Ziploc containers and made a couple of batches of soup to freeze for last-minute meals. Your Mexican Lentil Stew was one of the things that kept me alive, haha. It makes a huge batch so it’s great for the freezer, and I swear it tastes better left over than it does fresh.
I made your vegetarian cheesy chili mac last week and popped a few servings in the freezer! Can’t wait to bust it out in a week or two 😋
I keep proteins, such as chicken breasts, chicken thighs and ground beef in the freezer, so I don’t have to constantly shop for meat on a regular basis. I also keep frozen vegetables, French fries and ready to eat foods in the freezer as well. Although I’m a HUGE fan of the Sausage Skillet Meatballs with Marinara, it’s good to know that I can freeze the meatballs. If I’m craving spaghetti and meatballs, I can reheat them right away. Thank you so much for sharing this, Beth!! :-)
I love freezing leftovers for future meals. It makes my life easy. Do you think that the oatmeal cookie baked oatmeal would turn out okay if it was baked in a muffin tin? I know the baking time would have to be decreased, but I was wondering if you had ever done it that way.
I haven’t done it, but I have no doubt that it would work great. :)