Crockpot Recipes You Can Freeze and Cook Later
Life can be pretty hectic. Sometimes, there’s not even time to dump a few ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave for work in the morning. If you’re strapped for time but not willing to give up from-scratch dinners, make-ahead crockpot meals are your friend. Just combine the ingredients for dinner in a bag, seal tightly using a vacuum sealer (or suck the air out using a straw), and store in the freezer. The night before you’re ready to cook the meal, remove it from the freezer and let thaw. Then, transfer the contents to your slow cooker, set the timer, and move on to the next item on your to-do list.
Freezer meal fanatics often take an assembly line approach to this type of food prep. If you’re willing to dedicate a day to shopping, slicing, and dicing, you could easily prep each of the seven meals below. Then, the next time you’re too busy to cook, you’ll have a simple, homemade solution to your dinnertime dilemma.
1. Ginger Peach Chicken
Sweet peaches and flavorful boneless chicken thighs come together for a family-friendly meal everyone will enjoy. You can serve this dish, which serves six, with rice or steamed vegetables. Recipe from Hello Glow.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 (12-ounce) bag of frozen peach slices
- 1 sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a plastic freezer bag. Seal tightly, then freeze.
To cook, transfer contents of bag to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours. Serve with steamed rice and vegetables.
2. Slow Cooker Sausage Spinach Tomato Soup
This hearty soup from New Leaf Wellness is packed with good-for-you ingredients like spinach and cannellini beans, so you can feel good about serving it to your family. You’ll need to add the chicken broth and pasta to this soup during cooking. Writing the preparation instructions right on the bag before you put it in the freezer will ensure you don’t forget that important step.
- 1 pound ground sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
- 24-ounce jar of pasta sauce
- 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 box of frozen chopped spinach
- ½ pound of carrots (about 4 large carrots), peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small yellow onion, diced (about one cup)
- 4 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup uncooked pasta, such as elbow macaroni or ditalini
Directions: Add all the ingredients except the pasta and the chicken broth to a gallon-size freezer bag.
Before serving, thaw bag overnight in the refrigerator. Add bag contents to the slow cooker along with the 4 cups of chicken broth, cover, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the pasta, turn heat to high, and continue cooking until noodles are tender. Serve with garlic bread.
3. Black Bean Chili
This spicy vegetarian black bean chili is packed with wholesome ingredients like pumpkin, fresh bell pepper, and tomatoes. Serve this crowd-pleasing meal, which serves six to eight people, with tortilla chips and sour cream. Recipe from Super Healthy Kids.
- 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1½ cups chopped onion
- 1 cup pumpkin (optional)
- 1 cup assorted chopped bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Sour cream and tortilla chips, for serving
Directions: Add all the ingredients except the vegetable stock, sour cream, and tortilla chips to a gallon-size freezer bag. Seal tightly and freeze.
Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking, or run bag under hot water to loosen bag contents. Add contents of the bag to the slow cooker along with 4 cups of vegetable stock. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips.
4. Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
Skip the take-out beef and broccoli in favor of this homemade version from Mom on a Mission. Slow cooking the meat rather than stir frying ensures the beef will be very tender. Serve this dish with brown rice, and feel free to add or substitute different vegetables, such as carrots, depending on what ingredients you have on hand.
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup beef broth
- ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 to 2 pounds boneless, beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
- 2 cups fresh or or frozen broccoli florets
- Sesame seeds and red pepper flakes for garnish (optional)
Directions: Mix together cornstarch and beef broth in a gallon-size freezer bag. Add the soy sauce, dark brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. Add the sliced beef and toss to coat. Squeeze out air, then seal. Freeze until ready to cook.
Add contents of bag to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours (if thawed) or 8 hours (if frozen). Add the fresh or frozen broccoli in the last hour of cooking. Serve over cooked brown rice and garnish with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.
5. Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Chops
Prepping these slow cooker cranberry pork chops from The Kitchn does take a little work, since you need to sauté the celery and onion before freezing. Fortunately, the delicious results more than make up for having to spend a few extra minutes in the kitchen. Consider pairing this meal, which serves four to six, with rice pilaf or potatoes.
- 4 boneless pork chops, about ½-inch thick (2 to 3 pounds total)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup chopped onion, from 1 small onion
- ¼ cup chopped celery, from 1 large celery rib
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth, or white wine
Directions: Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the pork chops for 2 minutes on each side. Immediately place them in the fridge or freezer to cool completely. (This step is optional).
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with the salt as it cooks. Set the mixture aside to cool completely.
Place the cooled sautéed vegetables, cranberries, pork chops, pepper, thyme, and brown sugar in a 1-gallon freezer bag. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage the bag to distribute the ingredients evenly. Freeze the bag flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When ready to cook, thaw the pork chops on a tray or dish in the refrigerator. On the morning of the day you plan to serve the dish, empty the contents of the bag into a 4-quart slow cooker and add ¼ cup broth or wine. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the pork chops are cooked through.
6. Crockpot Ginger Venison
If you have a hunter in the family, you may have a freezer full of venison that you don’t know what to do with. Turn some of that meat into this flavorful ginger venison dish from Wholistic Woman (substitute beef if you don’t have venison). This recipe makes three batches, which each serve 6.
- 6 pounds beef sirloin or venison
- 3 cups water
- 9 scallions
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- 6 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
- 6 teaspoons minced ginger
- 6 teaspoons minced garlic
Directions: Rinse and trim the beef or venison. Cut into thick strips, each about 2-by-5-inches long. Divide evenly between three gallon-size freezer bags. Add 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup scallions, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 teaspoons bouillon, 2 teaspoons ginger, and 2 teaspoons garlic to each bag, then seal and freeze.
To cook, add thawed meat mixture to a slow cooker (you can also cook from frozen). Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until beef is very tender.
7. Make-Ahead Slow Cooker Asian Beef Short Ribs
Your slow cooker is the perfect device for cooking tender short ribs. The meat in this recipe from Betty Crocker, which serves eight, is cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce and then served with simple pickled vegetables for a tasty yet easy to prepare dish.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 pounds beef short ribs, cut into individual ribs
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/3 cup chili garlic sauce
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled
- 2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 English (hothouse) cucumber, halved crosswise, shaved with vegetable peeler down to seeds
- 3 carrots, peeled, then shaved with vegetable peeler
- 4 cups hot cooked white rice
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
- ½ cup thinly sliced green onions (optional)
- 8 lime wedges (optional)
Directions: In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook ribs in two batches, fattiest side down first, on all sides 2 to 3 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer to plate; cool 15 minutes. Discard fat and pan drippings. Transfer ribs to labeled 1-gallon freezer bag. Pour 1/3 cup soy sauce over ribs and seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Lay flat and freeze up to 3 months.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce and mustard. Stir in garlic and ginger root. Transfer to labeled airtight freezer container; seal well. Freeze up to 3 months.
Thaw ribs and sauce 12 to 24 hours in refrigerator until completely defrosted.
Pour ribs and sauce into 3½- or 4-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 9 hours.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk vinegar, granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Stir in cucumber and carrots. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour but no longer than 3 hours; drain.
Transfer short ribs to cutting board. Transfer ½ cup braising liquid to medium bowl. Remove bones and any pieces of fat from short ribs and discard. Shred meat with two forks, and transfer to bowl with reserved liquid. Discard remaining cooking liquid.
Divide cooked rice among 8 bowls. Divide shredded beef and marinated vegetables among bowls of rice. Top with cilantro, sliced green onions, and lime wedges.
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