Cooking with fresh vegetables can be sort of a pain on days when you feel way too exhausted to clean and chop them. While nutrition experts want us all to eat more veggies, there’s no reason they always have to be fresh. Frozen vegetables cut down on prep time since they’re pretty much ready to go and they have a lot more nutritional benefits than we once thought.
One team from the University of California, Davis worked with the Frozen Food Foundation to conduct two in-depth studies on how freezing impacts fiber, mineral, and vitamin content of eight different fruits and vegetables. The results are promising, indicating both fiber and minerals are well-preserved. While some vitamins suffer from the freezing process, others may actually benefit from the chilly treatment.
The next time you hit the grocery store, make sure to head to the freezer section to pick up some spinach, mixed veggies, and corn. When you’re faced with a busy weeknight or just want to get some healthy food on the table without too much work, these six recipes using frozen vegetables have you covered.
1. Salmon-and-Corn Chowder With Lima Beans
The word chowder usually indicates a soup made with a hefty dose of cream — hardly the type of food you can eat on a regular basis. This version from Food & Wine lightens things up without losing any flavor by using puréed corn and just a bit of half-and-half. Some frozen lima beans bring even more fiber, protein, and vitamins to the party. If you’d like to keep this dish pescatarian, skip the bacon and add a pinch of smoked paprika.
- ¼ pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1¼ pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
- 2⅔ cups frozen corn kernels
- 1 pound skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or scallions
Directions: In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add potatoes, broth, bacon, and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Place corn kernels in a food processor and pulse six to eight times to chop. Add corn to pot and cook, covered, until potatoes and corn are just done, about 5 minutes longer.
Add salmon, lima beans, and the remaining salt and pepper. Bring soup back to a simmer and cook until fish is just cooked through. Stir in half-and-half. Serve topped with chives.
2. Paprika Chicken With Baby Carrots and Brussels Sprouts
Give your regular boneless, skinless breast recipe a break and make these simple baked thighs with frozen veggies from Delicious Living instead. Though many people shy away from chicken thighs due to a slightly higher fat content, much of that comes from the skin. This dish uses skinless thighs, which don’t have many more calories and also contain higher levels of certain nutrients. Thigh meat also stays moister during cooking, so give this dish a try.
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 small red onion, cut into ½-inch wedges
- ½ pound baby carrots
- ½ to 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound frozen Brussels sprouts, slightly thawed
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine black pepper, salt, and spices. Mix to combine. Stir garlic and olive oil into spices to make a paste. Arrange chicken, bone-side down, in a 9-by-12-inch baking dish and rub paste evenly over the tops. Scatter onion and carrots around chicken thighs, then pour in enough broth to reach ½ inch up the side. Transfer to oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken begins to brown.
Remove from oven and add Brussels sprouts, stirring gently to coat. Season lightly with additional salt and pepper. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.
Remove from oven, season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a platter. Tent with foil to keep warm. Simmer pan juices over the stove until reduced. Serve chicken with reduced pan juices and parsley.
3. Healthy Barbecue Shepherd’s Pie
Stick-to-your-ribs meals don’t have to pack on the pounds if you use healthy ingredients. Try this twist on shepherd’s pie from Fit Men Cook to see how it’s done. The filling includes ground turkey, black beans, and some frozen veggies to give you plenty of fiber and protein. The topping is also a smart sub, replacing the usual mound of buttery spuds with a sweet potato and Greek yogurt mash. The melted cheddar cheese on top is optional, but you might as well go for it when the rest of the meal is so wholesome.
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ pounds lean ground turkey
- ⅔ cup diced red onion
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed, and drained
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup low-sodium barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- Salt and pepper
- ⅝ cup grated, reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- Chopped green onions
Directions: Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. In the meantime, rinse potatoes under water to remove grit and place in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
Drain, let cool, then peel off skins, cut into cubes, and transfer to a medium bowl. Add yogurt and mash until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and grease with cooking spray. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add turkey, using a spoon to break into smaller pieces. Add paprika, chili powder, and cayenne and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in tomatoes and beans, then stir in vegetables. Reduce heat to medium, then add the barbecue sauce and mustard, stirring to evenly distribute. Transfer filling to a casserole or individual, ovenproof dishes. Top with mashed sweet potatoes, then sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, garnish with green onion, and serve.
4. Spicy Shrimp With Peas and Curried Rice
Made mostly from kitchen staples, Real Simple’s easy seafood dish only requires a quick trip to the store to grab some shrimp and mint. The tiny crustaceans are one of the best proteins for weeknights because they cook so fast. Just start the rice first — then you can finish both the seafood and the peas while the grains cook. In just over 30 minutes, you’ll be sitting down to a feast that tastes like it took much longer to make.
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1¼ pounds shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen peas, thawed
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges
Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer.
Add curry powder, 1¾ cups water, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and cook, tossing often, until opaque, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate and sprinkle with crushed red pepper.
Using same skillet, heat last tablespoon of oil. Add shallot and peas. Cook, tossing occasionally, until shallots are tender and peas are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in mint, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper.
Serve rice with shrimp, peas, and lime wedges.
5. Baked Egg With Mushrooms and Spinach
Everyone loves eggs for breakfast, but they can also work just as well later in the day. This spinach, mushroom, and egg recipe from Eat This, Not That! is perfect for a make-ahead meal. Just layer all the ingredients in ramekins as directed, then wrap them in plastic, and transfer to the fridge. When you get home, just a pop a few in the oven for a super fast supper. Keep in mind, they may take a few minutes longer straight out of the fridge.
Frozen spinach is a great way to eat your greens, but it does contain a lot of water. Before adding it to the pan, squeeze it dry in a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels. It’ll keep the dish from ending up too wet.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 4 slices Canadian bacon or deli ham, cut into thin strips
- ½ (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
- ½ (7-ounce) can roasted green chilies
- Salt and black pepper
- 4 eggs
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Ad mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in Canadian bacon, spinach, and chilies. Cook until spinach is heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Drain any accumulated water from the pan, and season with salt and pepper.
Divide spinach mixture among four lightly greased, 6-ounce ramekins. Carefully crack an egg into each, making sure yolk doesn’t break. Place on a baking sheet and bake until whites are set, but yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes. Serve.
6. Quick Beef With Broccoli
Epicurious makes a fast meal even speedier by using frozen vegetables in this easy beef and broccoli stir-fry. The recipe uses soy sauce and garlic to ensure great flavor, but you can add a little more oomph with a drizzle of sesame oil. This recipe also works with chicken or pork, so use whatever you prefer.
- 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ pound sirloin beef tips, sliced against the grain into ⅛-inch-thick slices
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 10 ounces frozen broccoli florets, thawed
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ⅓ cup water
- Cilantro sprigs
Directions: Toss cornstarch, salt, pepper, and beef in a bowl until beef is evenly coated.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over moderately high heat. When hot, add beef and stir-fry until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to another bowl and keep warm.
Add remaining oil to wok along with broccoli and garlic. Stir-fry until broccoli is just tender and garlic is pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then add meat back to the pan. Stir until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes longer. Serve with rice and cilantro sprigs.