10 Terrific Freeze-Ahead Casserole Recipes
The weather is finally starting to turn cold, which means two things: football has started and the holidays are coming up, fast. In other words, you probably need to set aside time to prepare and cook big meals for your family. Below I've detailed 10 easy, freeze-ahead casserole recipes that might save you time when you're in a rush. (See also: 10 Great Freeze-Ahead Burrito Recipes)
But First, a Dish Tip
But before I get started, please note: If you only have one casserole dish and can't afford for it to sit in the freezer for days before pulling it out to cook, try this suggestion from Cooking Light. Line the casserole dish with heavy duty aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray (if it's suggested by the recipe), assemble, and freeze. Once it freezes, pull it out and lift it out of the dish. Then wrap it tightly and re-freeze. When you're ready to eat it, pop it back in the casserole dish, heat, and serve! I wouldn't suggest this for the runnier recipes, but you can always use freezer bags. Also, if you live alone or have a smaller family, divide into individual portions before freezing. (See also: Frugal Single-Serving Freezer Meals)
OK, now on to the recipes, which I've broken down into two simple categories: sides and entrees.
All you need before you eat is to make a main course and pop one of these sides in the oven.
1. Stuffing/Egg Bake
This variation of Stove Top stuffing is jazzed up with mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, and green onions. This mixture, once properly sealed up, can last up to three months.
2. Macaroni and Cheese
This side dish is traditionally a casserole, although the blue box might make you think otherwise. Martha Stewart suggests adding nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and breadcrumbs to make it tastier. Eating Well has a slightly healthier recipe. They keep the nutmeg but substitute the parmesan cheese with cottage cheese and line the bottom of the pan with spinach. Both recipes keep in the freezer for three months.
3. Veggie Jambalaya
This veggie jambalaya recipe is listed as a side item simply because if you're like my boyfriend, you don't consider anything meatless an entree. Along with red beans and rice, this recipe calls for green peppers, celery, canned tomatoes, garlic, and a few spices. I also suggest adding some creole seasoning or cajun spice. Unlike the other recipes listed, this casserole is cooked completely before freezing, and is heated up again on the stove (which technically doesn't make it a casserole, but it is like a stew so we'll count it!).
4. Veggie Pasta Shells
These veggie pasta shells might seem like an Italian twist on macaroni and cheese, but they actually resemble lasagna. The recipe includes many of the same ingredients as lasagna — ricotta cheese, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. The recipe is basic, so jazz it up with green peppers, red onions, and mushrooms to make it more of a meal. This side dish lasts three months and can be perfectly paired with a salad or chicken. If you freeze these individually, they make for a quick meal. (See also: 25 Quick and Easy Dinners)
If you want a one-dish meal to pull out of the freezer, make one of these delicious and filling main-dish casseroles. (See also: 10 Tasty Main-Dish Casseroles)
5. Broccoli, Beef, and Potato Hotdish
This dish on Eating Well was inspired by the Minnesota Tater Tot hotdish, which you can imagine isn't all that healthy. But this better-for-you version will provide a hearty meal for a cold night or a quick dinner when you're too busy. This does need to defrost in the fridge for two days before baking, so keep that in mind.
6. Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas
All enchiladas are technically casseroles, but these sound especially delicious, using chicken broth, chili powder, a small chipotle chili, adobo sauce, ground beef, and a few other ingredients. This recipe is a little different in that you'll want to leave the sauce and tortillas and beef separated so nothing gets soggy. But once you're ready to eat, simply defrost the sauce overnight and pour and bake the next day. No need to defrost anything else. This recipe lasts a good two months.
7. Sausage and Bean Casserole
I picked this recipe because it looks amazing and delicious. Also because it's by Martha. There are very few ingredients for this recipe, and most are cheap and easy to obtain. It lasts up to three months.
8. Buffalo Chicken Casserole
This was the most exciting recipe I found. This football season (I say it like it's an important yearly holiday, but I've only really gotten into it this year), I have become obsessed with buffalo chicken sandwiches. So when I saw a recipe for buffalo chicken casserole, I was instantly sold. There are noodles under this because you have to have some sort of starch, but it contains the other basic ingredients: carrots, celery, chicken, hot sauce, and blue cheese. To freeze, cook the noodles a little less longer than package directions and prepare through step 4.
9. Curried Chicken Thighs
For a long time, I was terrified of curry. I have a myriad of stomach illnesses and things just don't sit well with me. However, the minute I tried curry, I was hooked. So this recipe for curried chicken thighs got me excited. With this recipe, you'll need curry powder, ground ginger, frozen peas, chicken broth and lemon juice; the other ingredients are common pantry staples. You cook the chicken ahead of time. This recipe lasts up to one month in the freezer and requires a two day thaw in the fridge. Once you're ready to eat it, make some rice while the casserole is cooking and enjoy!
10. Eggplant Parmesan
Okay, one more Martha recipe. I don't have great luck with cooking eggplant, but I am a firm believer that casseroles cook everything correctly, and this recipe seems simple enough. There are no crazy ingredients here, just canned peeled tomatoes, bread crumbs, eggs, and some other basics. You treat the eggplant exactly like you would meat, by dipping in flour, eggs, and then bread crumbs. This recipe lasts three months in the freezer and as with every other recipe, make sure everything is completely cooled before wrapping it up tightly.
What are your favorite casseroles that do well in the freezer?