Freezer Cooking: What Can You Freeze?

Freezer meals have changed over time. Now they are diverse and versatile and super easy to make. Wondering what you can freeze? Here’s what:

This post was originally published November 28, 2009. The list still works for me.

Freezer Cooking: What Can You Freeze? Freezer meals have changed over time. Now they are diverse and versatile and super easy to make. Wondering what you can freeze? Check out this straight forward list.

Carnitas Soft Tacos with Fresh Guacamole

Often when people hear the words, freezer meal, they imagine a cold, hard slab of a casserole covered in ice crystals. Ick. Makes freezer cooking sound unappealing, doesn’t it? How about this instead?

That puts a new look on a frozen dinner, doesn’t it? Carnitas are easily prepared ahead of time, cooled, wrapped well, and stashed in the freezer for dinner later in the month. Just add corn tortillas and fresh guacamole and you’re good to go.

Traditionally freezer meals were casseroles or consisted of a base of canned cream soup. That’s so not the case any longer.

It’s not as if the entire meal has to be prepared ahead of time. Just think through your favorite recipes. What can you do in advance without loss of texture or taste?

I have experimented with meals such as Peanut Butter Chicken and found ways to make parts of it ahead of time. I cook the chicken and veggies, cool and wrap, package the sauce separately, and make sure that I have noodles in the pantry to cook on the day of serving. Then I can assemble the meal quite quickly without having to chop, shred, dice, or mix, saving myself a ton of time and energy.

If you’re not sure something will freeze, test it out next time you serve it for dinner. Freeze a portion size before or after cooking. Then try it a few days later. If it tastes good, you know it will freeze well.

Freezer Cooking: What Can You Freeze? Freezer meals have changed over time. Now they are diverse and versatile and super easy to make. Wondering what you can freeze? Check out this straight forward list.

You’d be pleasantly surprised by what you can cook and freeze for later. I love casseroles with the best of them, but you don’t have to limit your big batch cooking to just 9×13 inch pans. The following is a list of what I’ve found that freezes well. It’s not an exhaustive list. There’s more that I haven’t yet discovered. Your options are almost limitless!

What You Can Freeze

  • meatloaf - I like to mix and form the loaf, wrap in foil, stash in a freezer bag and freeze prior to baking. I think it tastes fresher this way.
  • meatballs – Use the same meat mix that you use for meatloaves, form the balls, bake them in the oven and then freeze family-size portions in freezer bags. Later you can turn them into Swedish Meatballs, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Boules de Picolat.
  • hamburger patties – Flash freeze uncooked patties on a plastic-lined cookie sheet. Once patties are frozen, place in a freezer bag.
  • seasoned ground beef – Cool the cooked meat and store in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Incorporate later into tacos, chili, casseroles, nachos, burritos, and chimichangas.
  • meat and chicken in marinades - Place uncooked meats in freezer bag or freezer-safe container with marinade. Thaw in a dish in the refrigerator and cook as you normally would, right before serving.
  • meat and chicken presliced for stirfry – Store in freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
  • casseroles and lasagnas – I use my regular baking pans, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and then place in a freezer bag. If I don’t have a big enough freezer bag, I double wrap it with heavy-duty aluminum foil that I reuse over time.
  • pasta sauce – Cook up a big batch of sauce, with or without meat, in freezer-safe container.
  • cooked chicken – Seal securely in a freezer bag and use later in chicken salad, soft tacos, burritos, nachos, Asian dishes, soup, and sandwich fillings.
  • chimichangasPrepare burritos or griddle-crisped chimichangas, cool completely and seal in freezer bags. Wrap in plastic wrap first if you’ll be stashing these in lunch boxes.
  • tamales – Leave steamed tamales in their cornhusk wrappings. Seal well in a freezer bag. Resteam right before serving.
  • taquitos – Flash freeze on cookie sheets then stash in a freezer bag. Bake frozen.
  • carnitas and shredded beef or pork – Store cooked meat in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Use in tacos, burritos, nachos, soup, and BBQ sandwiches.
  • stews, soups, and chilisCool and freeze in freezer-safe containers. Consider making portion-size containers as well for quick lunches and snacks.
  • cooked beans – Prep a big batch of dried beans and store 2 cup portions in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. 2 cups is just about the size of a can of beans. Perfect for all your favorite recipes.

What You Can’t Freeze

There are some things that are better left unfrozen. Here’s my short list:

  • white potatoes – These generally discolor and lose texture. Money Saving Mom uses this freezer-safe recipe for mashed potatoes that works.
  • certain recipes containing mayo – The mayonnaise can tend to separate, but I’ve never worried about it too much
  • lettuce/salad and veggies to use in fresh applications – Sog City, baby. ‘nuf said.

What do you freeze to enjoy later?

If I missed something, I’d love to know what you’ve had success with.

Wondering what more you can make ahead and freeze? Check out the Ultimate Freezer Cooking post.

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Comments

  1. you can freeze cheese, if it's shredded! I do this mostly with Mozza because it's not something I use very often but would rather buy the bigger blocks because it's cheaper overall.

  2. Jennifer Young says:

    I was going to say cheese too! I've gotten really good deals on shredded cheese and block cheese. I have frozen both and they come out just fine.

    I buy pre-made guacamole when it is a good deal with a coupon. That also freezes beautifully. I have not tried to freeze my own, so not sure how that works out.

    Other things that freeze: flavored coffee creamers, cookie dough (packaged or your own), fruit (flash freeze), pancakes (also flash freeze). I've also read that cream cheese and milk can be frozen, but the cream cheese can only be used for baking after being frozen. I've never been brave enough to try either!

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Heather Acuna says:

      @Jennifer Young,

      When I got married in August I had a dessert reception with about 8 types of cookies. About a month before the wedding I spent a day mixing dough and scooping them into 1″ scoops. I flashed freezed them on cookie sheets then put them into freezer ziplocks according to their type. A couple of days before the wedding my mom and my sister baked all of the cookies. Then my friend arranged them on pretty platers for my reception. I added some other SAMs club petite desserts, a fruit tray, some nuts, and viola, the desserts were taken care of. I spent about $100 on the whole thing. I had cute little dessert sacks for guest to fill and take cookies home for a favor and I still had left overs.

    • Milk freezes very well. You should allow space in the container as it will expand a bit as it freezes. Just take it out of the freezer, thaw and use as usual. Great money saver.

      Buttermilk does not freeze well. It seems to separate and just generally does not do well..

  3. I am blessed! says:

    I appreciate this post as I'm trying to branch out. I have a couple of casserole recipes that freeze nicely and I just place them frozen in the oven and cook them for about 2.5 hrs on the day we eat them. I like King Ranch Chicken and Chicken Spaghetti. Both of these recipes have lots of vegetables and make for nice one meal dishes. I also freeze apple crisps and breakfast casseroles of eggs, sausage, and cheese.

  4. Love this post!! Those tacos look great! I need to stock my freezer, so I'm always looking for good sales so I can get meatballs and meatloaves into the freezer. I've got this bookmarked so I can have an easy list of things to freeze! Thanks!

  5. we freeze fruits/veggies, especially berries and bell peppers!

  6. Sherri @ Design2Shine says:

    You can freeze ripe bananas. If you don't eat them or have time to bake up muffins or bread, just peel them, put in a freezer bag. Pop them out, thaw and make up bread or muffins.

    • @Sherri @ Design2Shine,

      I’ve learned you do not even need to peel the bananas. Just throw the fruit in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator before using (which doesn’t take long).

      Over the years, I have tried freezing bananas using several methods. This is the approach I like best.

  7. Hoosier Homemade says:

    I'm planning my meals for Dec. With limited time this month, these ideas are great. Thanks for sharing!
    ~Liz

  8. @Jennifer Young: I freeze cream cheese and milk and they both work great! You're right about the cream cheese though…you can only use it for baking. The milk is great and comes out tasting just fine.

    • Tammy Hall says:

      With the cream cheese, do you freeze the block or the container kind,or does it matter? Also, you said to only use it for baking? what about regular cooking recipes where it is cooked in or meltedor literally just for baking after it has been frozen?

      • Jessica Fisher says:

        It depends on how you plan to use it on the other side of thawing. It becomes crumbly and less spreadable after freezing.

  9. how long can you freeze cooked chicken for?

    excited for tuesday!

    • Tammy Hall says:

      I freeze and can chicken both. I only just started canning it. I have been cooking up whole chickens 2-4 at a time, and de-boning it, and vacuum sealing it for years. It lasts pretty long in the freezer if it vacuum sealed, not sure about the regular freezer bags. The more air you get out ( I have read to take a straw ziplock the bag to the straw and suck out all the air then hurry and seal) the longer it will stay in the freezer. I have had mine in the freezer for months before.

  10. Those carnitas look awesome!

    I am so tempted to get back into freezer cooking now that my baby is 1. My 3 year old could even "help" with some things if I'm brave, LOL! :)

    My dilemma (if you can call it that) is that we were blessed to purchase 1/2 a cow from the neighbor across the road. It is taking us FOREVER to go through all this meat! Ground beef is one thing, but the steaks and roasts last much longer.

    Any ideas for what to do with roasts, besides, well, just making roast beef? DH and I both grew up eating way too much beef roast, so that's off our list! :)

    Looking forward to Tuesday!

    • @Vicky, We do this as well, and I like to use the different cuts for swiss steak, steak sandwiches, beef and noodles, beef stews/soups, fajitas, steak salads, italian beef, pot roast, steak bites, beef and veggie skewers, beef sandwich spread (it’s kind of like a chicken salad but uses beef and it’s REALLY good.) etc.

    • Amanda Williams says:

      Hi! As far as beef roasts, put one in your crockpot, pour over 1 large can of beef broth. (You can get a flavored can if you want.) Then dump in one package of aujus (dry packet found with other mccormick seasoning packets) one dry packed of zesty italian seasoning, and let cook for 8 hours, or all day! The roast will fall apart, and should be fork tender. We put it on hoagie buns and have french dip sandwiches and use the leftover juices for aujus “dipping” sauce. :) It is SO good, and I take this meal to many people for church and they always want the recipe! Hope you enjoy it! :)

    • You could can it. It’s wonderful – falls apart, it’s so tender. My parents used to can meat & I just did it for my first time. I cut the roast into 1-2″ cubes and raw packed it into hot jars, and sealed with 2-piece lids. You don’t need to add any water to the jars – the meat will make it’s own. (I was skeptical, but it’s true.) Process in a pressure canner for 75 minutes. We usually warm the meat on the stovetop and serve over hot egg noodles. Yum!

  11. Mandi @ Organizing Your Way says:

    I love to freeze PB&J sandwiches for those days when the baby is screaming, the kids are grumpy and I'm feeling frazzled (lunchtime is always the hardest part of the day for me). The key is to put a thin coat of peanut butter on BOTH pieces of bread and then spread the jelly on top.

  12. Great feedback, everybody! You all brought up excellent points.

    When I freeze cream cheese, we still use it on bagels and in lasagna without a problem.

    Claire, if you just have a refrigerator freezer, I wouldn't go more than 2 months. You can go longer in a deep freeze.

    Vicky, I'm going to be doing a lot of beef dishes this week as I got a great deal on ground beef and chuck roast…. taco fillings (gr and shredded), ragu, pasta sauce, taquitos, tamales, etc. Stay tuned.

    Mandi, I had heard of this, but never tried it. Thanks for bringing up a great point.

  13. Pie kits freeze well. I have several apple pie and pumpkin pie kits in the freezer right now. You may have to adjust the liquid amount in the recipe to allow for thawing, but I've never had a problem with texture when baking.+

  14. I freeze fresh picked berries on a cookie sheet and then put them in a freezer storage baggie. I also store our nuts in the freezer. I have a recipe for Freezer Apple Pie, it's really good. And also I've made Freezer Cole Slaw. It takes like cole slaw only it has the texture of sauerkraut. A little disconcerting at first but I'm the only one in our house that likes cole slaw so this makes it possible for me to enjoy it on my BBQ sandwiches and hotdogs.

  15. Jessica Morris says:

    I make breakfast burritos and freeze them. They have egg in them, which sounds gross to freeze, but they heat up just fine and taste really good!

  16. Any advice on defrosting? Or adjusting cooking temps/times to adjust for freezing? I seem to have a hard time (particularly with casseroles and pasta dishes like lasagna) getting them cooked all the way through after freezing even when refrigerating for a day before.

    • Tammy Hall says:

      I do ALOT of freezing, and most of my recipes I got specifically to make more than 1 casserole ata timeso I can eat one and freeze the other for later. Almost all of them say to thaw for 30 minutes or so before cooking. Hope that helps.

  17. angie_tn_us says:

    Vicky –

    If you ever buy 1/2 a cow again, have your roast ground up and put in the hamburger meat. You will get more hamburger and less of what you don't eat.

    Candi or anyone else —

    My recipe for freezer slaw. I don't think it has a bad texture. We eat lots of it! I freeze it when the garden is in with cabbage from our garden.

    Freezer Slaw

    1 gallon chopped cabbage
    1 tbsp salt
    2 chopped carrots
    1 c sweet peppers
    1 tsp celery seed
    2 cup sugar
    1 c vinegar
    ½ c water

    Mix sugar, vinegar, and water. Boil for 1 ½ minutes. Let cool. Mix cabbage and salt. Let stand 30 mins. Add carrots, sweet pepper, and celery seed. Pour over vegetable mixture. Let set 30 min. Pack and freeze

  18. JoubertCG says:

    You can freeze egg rolls as well.

  19. Vicky,

    I make lots of Italian Beef with our roast and experiment with lots of different marinades for steak. We are blessed to have a grocery that offers amazing deals on meats a few times a years, so we stock up.

    I also tried a Butter Beef recipe that the husband enjoyed, but I didn't care for.

    And try roast cooked with vermouth or dark beer. The flavor is so different and wonderful.

    I stock up anytime I find shredded cheese on sale and freeze it.

  20. Kelly, I don't think there's a rhyme or reason to that. I try to thaw most things, but NOT pot pies. Cook those frozen. If something is icy, I usu add time and check frequently. Sorry I can't be more help!

  21. AMBER FERGUSON says:

    If I ever have extra sauce left over I will freeze it using ice cube trays. This way I can make just the right amount of sauce when I need it. So if I want a quick, delicious lunch or fast dinner for one or two I can always make the amount needed without wasting or worse refreezing the rest. This trick also works great with rice. Just spray the ice cube tray with a little pam or olive oil. After its frozen pop out the cubes and store in a freezer bag.

  22. I got a recipe for rice from a cooking show that freezes great. Using a little olive oil (enough to barely coat the rice), “fry” rice until it begins to turn clear. Add water to about an inch above rice, simmer covered about 20 minutes without checking. Turn off heat, let rice cool. Then I just throw it into a big zip-loc bag mash flat and freeze. It will NOT stick together, you can just break off or scoop enough for whatever dish you need it for. With only me to cook for most of the time, this is the best solution I’ve ever found.

  23. I only buy potatoes when they are just crazy cheap, then I buy 10 or 20 lbs at once (obviously too much for a family of 2 to use quickly) and make most of them into portions of mashed potatoes and Ellie Kreiger’s garlic fries, I cool and freeze these in 2 person portions – they come out perfectly when reheated! I also stock up on eggs and freeze them raw, out of the shell with yolks mixed in, in large ice cube trays before transfering to ziplocks. (Then again, I freeze everything – really – just about anything short of lettuce, I will freeze it somehow.)

  24. Rebecca says:

    I have just a small freezer above my fridge, so I started out mostly using my freezer for meal components. I freeze shredded mozzarella. I freeze diced onions (so I only have to cry once). I made all my son’s baby food (freezing small portions in ice cube trays), and when he was older and on to solid foods, I just used those cubes of veggie puree and added them to spaghetti sauce (my hubby would notice if I added diced veggies, and he would not like it). Whenever I buy chicken breasts for cheap I cook them right away (boiled for 30 minutes), then I fork shred them and freeze them in small (1-2 breast) portions. These can be used later in casseroles, soups, etc. For the woman with all that beef roast to use up, I will throw a big hunk of beef in my crock pot covered with water. I let it cook for 4+ hours or so on low, then I drain most of the water, cut/shred the meat up a bit, and cover with BBQ sauce and cook for another 4+ hours. I freeze this in 1/2 cup portions in ziplock baggies. This makes excellent BBQ beef sandwiches. Nuke the baggie for 90 seconds to 2 minutes, place on sandwich bread, and top with pepperjack cheese. This makes 2 sandwiches.

  25. Tabatha says:

    I actually just did this and we froze beef stroganoff, stuffed shells, lasagnas, shredded chicken for chicken tacos, and a few other items. I love my freezer! Some other things that I know freeze well and we have done in the past is mac n cheese, french toast, homemade perogies, pancakes, and jams. I tell my husband all the time our power better not go out because our cooler isn’t big enough! LOL

  26. @Vicky- Freeze your roasts (I use round) and cut thinly by hand or use a meat cutter to cut very thin slices. (The freezing makes cutting my hand really cold but SOOO much easier.) Then put it into a Bulgogi marinade and freeze. This is super yummy!

    Bulgogi

    1-2 lbs. Thinly sliced sirloin or round- freeze to help aid in cutting thin
    1/4- 1/3 C Sugar
    1/4 C Soy Sauce per pound
    2-3 T Rice wine vinegar
    1-2 T Sesame oil
    3-4 cloves Garlic per pound of beef
    2 Scallions per pound of beef, white and green included
    1/4- ½ t Ground black pepper

    (*1-2 T toasted sesame seeds optional- I put on finished product)

    First cut frozen, yet workable beef into thin slices. Let thaw and sprinkle sugar on top. Let sugar sit for about 20 minutes while preparing the rest of the marinade. Combine other ingredients and pour over beef. Let marinade at room temp for 1 hr (or in fridge for 2 hours- minimum) Sauté in wok or large fry pan. Boil marinade in separate pot and serve as sauce for meat. Serve with rice in Romaine lettuce leaf.

  27. I love to freeze homemade pizza ingredients! I chop up peppers and onions and freeze them in 1/2 cup portions in baggies, pepperoni, cooked ground beef, crumbled bacon, cooked chopped chicken, shredded mozarella, you can freeze basil pesto in ice cube trays and use that too for pizza, as well as freezing smaller portions of homemade pizza sauce. I like to make a double batch of pizza dough in my breadmaker, bake one immediately for supper, and roll out and freeze the other one on a pan (w/ parchment paper covering the top and bottom so it doesn’t get freezer burned). Makes it almost as quick to make your own as a purchased frozen pizza, and that helps me for the nights I just don’t know what else to cook. I also like to freeze cookie dough balls–and recently read that this is more successful if you use baking powder rather than soda in the recipe. This is b/c soda activates immediately upon mixing, while the b. powder partially releases during the baking process, so they freeze better that way.

  28. Wow! I know this is really old, but I just found it! I freeze potatoes in soups and things like that and they don’t turn colors. Examples: Potato Cheese Soup, Beef Stew, etc. Make sure they are completely covered in some sort of sauce and it seals them or I cook them down just a little until they are almost cooked and freeze them that way. This way when I make a meal that needs potatoes they are already somewhat cooked. I was also wondering if you would (or have) give a list of some of the meals that you freeze with the recipes?! I seem to do the same old same old all the time and would love to try some new ones! Thanks!

  29. does anyone have tips on storing the freezer meals? I have a limited amount of dishes to hold my food and am new to freezer meals!

  30. Ashley, I use disposable foil pans and zip lock bags! :-)

    I have frozen homemade egg rolls a number of times, with good results. But tonight, I used a package of won ton wrappers I got cheap with a sale and coupons and, in addition to some veggie won tons, made crab rangoon to put in the freezer as well. I was/am nervous about the cream cheese, but after reading some of these comments about freezing cream cheese, I am optimistic!

  31. You can freeze raw or cooked bacon and pork necks to put in the crockpot with lima beans.

  32. Thanks for all these amazing tips for what can be frozen. I have no actually started doing this yet but plan to as soon as we move. Just wondering if any of you seasoned pros could give me some pointers at making this successful as I won’t have the time to really trial and error any of it.
    I have 2 children ages 6 and 2 and once we move my husband and I BOTH will be starting college. It’s a big step for us and it is going to make life for us pretty hectic. I am just trying to figure out how to still be able to get dinner on the table while trying to maintain school for 3 and at least some what of a normal family life. Any suggestions or tips that you can give me are greatly appreciated.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I’ve written A LOT about it throughout the Freezer Cooking archives. If you spend an hour or so reading, you should be able to pick up lots of tips. Good luck!

  33. You can freeze whipping cream, too! I just purchased 10 pints on sale/clearance and froze them all. Just thaw them completely in the refrigerator, and they’ll whip right up for whipped cream. Or, one time I left a pint out on the counter while we went to church (3 hours), and when we returned it was ready to be whipped.

  34. Can you freeze eggs? I’m wondering if I can make a breakfast casserole and freeze it.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes, you can freeze eggs in a breakfast casserole. I freeze mine prior to baking. Then thaw overnight in the fridge.

  35. junebaby says:

    I freeze all these wonderful homegrown tomatoes. If you blanch them first they freeze well – you can’t use them for sandwiches but you can certainly cook with them. I also freeze butter when i get it on sale, it last a long time and still works great in all my baking.

  36. Tammy Hall says:

    FYI– to nayone new to freezing. Most things, if flash froze first, freeze btter, and if you vacuum seal, they last a bit longer and also don’t squish as the air is sucked out. Basically let them get fairly froze or all the way and then put into bags or vacuum bags. Anything from cookie dough, to pancakes and waffles, hasbrowns– pay it all on a cookie sheet, let it freeze then bag. EASY!

  37. I cooked rice, coat with a small amount of olive oil, then freeze. it was easy to use in soups & stir fy

  38. Bell Peppers & onions, pumpkin puree, I’ve been trying to cut down on produce waste. If it looks like it isn’t going to be eaten in time I’ve sliced, diced or pureed and tossed in the freezer. Pureed squash (summer varieties) & pumpkin work great in soups, stews & spaghetti sauces with bonus veggies in the meals with no one the wiser. I love to have peppers & onions on hand to toss in a quick breakfast dish or shorten prep time for dinners.

  39. K8sMom2002 says:

    Contrary to popular belief, you CAN freeze potatoes! I buy big russets when they are on sale, fill my oven to the brim with the potatoes (just cut x’s on them and put them directly on the racks, as many as you can fit) and bake as usual. Cool, then dump them into a gallon zip-top bag.

    To reheat, nuke in the microwave. They come out tasting like Wendy’s baked potatoes. Yum!

    Another couple of uses: they are frozen solid, so they can serve as an ice pack in your lunch … Take one, some tater toppin’s and a drink in an insulated bag, and nuke the tater in your office kitchen microwave.

    And, when you want to make hashbrowns, nuke a tater, shred it in your food processor, and voila! You can use in your favorite hashbrown recipe.

    This is a great way of taking advantage of those 10 or 25 lb bags of potatoes at rock bottom prices. And it’s EASY!

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