[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

As I waddled through the third trimester of my first pregnancy, my attention turned toward strategies for make-ahead meal prep and easy-cooking plans to keep myself well-fed this winter when my life turned happily upside-down!

That’s right… the time has come for us to dish about Instant Pot Freezer Meals! As part of my post-partum food prep strategy, I embarked on a little project to store a lineup of five of my favorite freezer-friendly pressure cooker dinners. Today I’m here to share what I’ve learned along the way – and all of the recipes too, of course!

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Prep Tips

The best containers for Instant Pot freezer meals

My weapon of choice: reusable gallon-sized freezer bags. These are made of a more durable, heavier-duty plastic than the disposable freezer bags they sell at the grocery store, so they can be easily washed and reused multiple times. I like that you can freeze them flat and stack for storage to minimize freezer space just like disposable bags, but without any plastic waste!

Why to prep Instant Pot freezer meal recipes without the liquid ingredients!

Instant Pot recipes generally call for at least 1 cup of liquid to enable the cooker to safely/successfully generate steam to build pressure – but, there’s no reason you need to include your liquid before freezing. The result: your freezer meals are slightly slimmer, it’s easier to break down a flat “slab” to fit into your pot (no need to compromise freezer space with bulkier containers matching the shape of your cooker! For the thickest bags, the most you might have to do is run a little warm water over the surface to break it into big chunks), and they reach pressure a little bit quicker because your liquid ingredients don’t have to first melt before they boil.

What’s the best way to label freezer meals?

To make things easier on your future self, it’s helpful to label containers with the name of the recipe and the date it was prepped (you’ll want to eat these within a few months for best quality). It can also be handy to include cooking instructions and even serving suggestions. For any adhesive label, be sure to affix it before filling the container; chilled food items quickly cause condensation that make it difficult for labels to stick. I often use washi tape for simple freezer labels – but if you want to get fancy, you can use printable labels which make it easier to include more information.

BONUS: I made a sheet of printable labels AND a complete shopping list for all of the recipes in this guide, and I set it up to share with you too! I’m sending a free copy to everyone who supports flavorrd by subscribing via email. Order yourself a pack of six-per-page printable labels like this one, then sign up below to get your free download!

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Prep Kit

Free download bundle of 5 printer-ready recipes + shopping list + printable labels… everything you need to get cooking! You can do it!

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When I cook freezer meals with Instant Pot, should they be thawed or frozen? Does it make a difference?

Most resources recommend that pressure cooking times can remain the same for frozen vs. thawed ingredients; the reason is that it takes longer for frozen foods to reach pressure, but once you’re hot enough for that, the cook time is unaffected. In my experience, I’ve found this to be true in some cases – but there are some important exceptions! 

When cooking big/thick frozen pieces of meat (like whole chicken breasts), I find that the center can stay colder longer and require more time to cook than it would if it weren’t frozen. I use this to our advantage in the recipe below for White Chicken Chili, where a 20 minute cook time is a good match for both frozen whole chicken breasts and soaked great northern beans.

With the other recipes below, you have flexibility to thaw first or to cook from frozen with little difference. One advantage of thawing before cooking is that you gain the opportunity to brown meat using Saute Mode before adding liquid and pressure cooking – so if you’re interested in building a little more flavor that way, thaw away! (or you can always pop a pan under your broiler afterwards for another browning option, if you didn’t plan ahead!)

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Recipes!

Now, with those logistics out of the way… onto the recipes! These are the 5 favorite nourishing dinners that I lined up for my post-partum freezer meal collection!

Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Barbacoa Beef
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Barbacoa Beef

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meal: Barbacoa Beef

With a batch of this richly spiced braised beef, you're ready to whip up all kinds of quick homemade burritos, tacos, bowls, salads, quesadillas, or any of your favorite Mexican cuisine. With the time you saved by pulling out this freezer meal, you might even find the energy to make a big fresh bowl of guacamole to enjoy with it!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins

Ingredients
  

Prep Day: Combine + Freeze:

  • 1/4 cup chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat trimmed of excess fat

Cooking Day:

  • 1 cup broth or water
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Instructions
 

How to Cook:

  • Dump into Instant Pot, add 1 cup of broth or water, and cook for 25 minutes under high pressure (whether thawed or cooked from frozen). Allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release before opening the lid. Squeeze fresh juice from 1/2 lime over the beef before serving.

Serve with:

  • Salad and/or rice and/or tortillas and/or whatever you like!
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Greek Lemon Chicken
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Greek Lemon Chicken
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Greek Lemon Chicken

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meal: Greek Lemon Chicken

You can build any number of Mediterranean-style feasts around a batch of this flavorful marinated chicken; right now it’s making me dream of crisp salads, cool tzatziki, and a fluffy bed of rice to soak up the delicious juices! Assuming your chicken pieces are separated and not all frozen into a giant mega-block, they will cook in about 15 minutes from frozen – if fully thawed, you can cut the cook time down to about 5 minutes instead if you’re planning to brown the chicken with Instant Pot’s Saute Mode first. Again, you can also transfer the chicken to a pan and place under your oven’s broiler to brown for a few minutes after pressure cooking if you like!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins

Ingredients
  

Prep Day: Combine + Freeze:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 medium bell pepper sliced
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

Cooking Day:

  • 1 cup broth or water

Instructions
 

How to Cook:

  • Dump into Instant Pot, add 1 cup of broth or water, and cook for 15 minutes under high pressure. Allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release before opening the lid.

Serve with:

  • Salad and/or rice and/or pita bread and/or whatever you like!
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Chana Masala
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Chana Masala
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Chana Masala

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meal: Chana Masala

Among these five freezer meals, this is the only one that compels me to have you do a little pre-cooking before you load your bag for the freezer. This vegetarian Indian chickpea curry really benefits from the flavor-building that you’ll gain by sauteing a base of onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices. With that step out of the way, when the time comes to cash in on your freezer meal project, you’ll enjoy an effortless dump-and-go dinner night!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins

Ingredients
  

Saute:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 medium jalapeno minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or one 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Combine + Freeze with:

  • 8 ounces dry chickpeas soaked overnight

Cooking Day:

  • 1 cup broth or water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced

Instructions
 

How to Prep:

  • Use Instant Pot’s Saute Mode to heat oil and saute onion until soft. Add all other ingredients through tomatoes, and continue cooking and stirring until fragrant and saucy. Combine and freeze with soaked chickpeas.

How to Cook:

  • Dump into Instant Pot, add 1 cup of broth or water, and cook for 15 minutes under high pressure (whether thawed or cooked from frozen). Allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release before opening the lid. Squeeze fresh juice from 1/2 lemon into the curry before serving.

Serve with:

  • Salad and/or rice and/or flatbreads and/or whatever you like!
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Korean Short Ribs
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Korean Short Ribs
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: Korean Short Ribs

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meal: Korean Short Ribs

Korean BBQ has been a beloved favorite food of my husband and I since we got acquainted with it when we lived in southern California. I've shared a variation of this recipe before with my Instant Pot Korean BBQ Beef Roast + Ssam… but in this case, swapping short ribs for the bulky roast makes this a little friendlier to your freezer space. When you're not up for grilling, Instant Pot is a good option for cooking up a big batch of braised beef using the same classic flavors.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

Combine + Freeze:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper minced (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar optional
  • 2 pounds beef short ribs

Cooking Day:

  • 1 cup apple juice or cider

Instructions
 

How to Cook:

  • Dump into Instant Pot, add 1 cup of apple juice, and cook for 30 minutes under high pressure (whether thawed or cooked from frozen). Allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release before opening the lid.

Serve with:

  • Kimchi, certainly! Plus lettuce wraps and/or salad and/or rice and/or whatever you like!
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: White Chicken Chili
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: White Chicken Chili
Instant Pot Freezer Meal: White Chicken Chili

[Instant Pot] Freezer Meal: White Chicken Chili

A super-satisfying high protein one-pot meal! If we were to pre-chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, they would risk overcooking when sharing the pot with our soaked-but-not-cooked white beans. For that reason, it works best to keep the whole split breast intact in your freezer meal, then shred or chop it after cooking. You also save yourself the job of carefully washing a raw-poultry cutting board on prep day!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

Combine + Freeze:

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 2 poblano and/or Anaheim peppers chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper chopped
  • 8 ounces dry great northern white beans soaked overnight
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast left whole, do not chop

Cooking Day:

  • 2 cups chicken broth

Instructions
 

How to Cook:

  • Dump into Instant Pot, add 2 cups of chicken broth, and cook for 20 minutes under high pressure. Allow 10 minutes for natural pressure release before opening the lid. Remove the chicken breast and shred or chop before returning to the pot.

Serve with:

  • Your favorite chili fixins (like cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions…) it’s great on its own or with a hunk of cornbread or over a big baked potato and/or whatever you like!
[Instant Pot] Freezer Meals: 5 Favorite Make-Ahead Healthy Dinner Recipes

Phew! Whether you rally yourself for a single mega-prep session or inch your way to a stocked freezer one-at-a-time (like me), look forward to reveling in the satisfaction of your tidy stack of easy freezer meals! Your future self will thank you!

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