Healthy Freezer Meals in your Instant Pot are all the rage right now and it's easy to understand why! Easy, fast, effortless cooking to make your life easier and yummier than ever. Read on to learn all you need to know to become a Freezer Meal Queen.
It’s probably obvious by now, but I LOVE talking all things Instant Pot! There are so many things about pressure cooking that make cooking easier, more fun, and exquisitely delicious.
Today’s discussion about one of my favorite features of the pressure cooker is totally worth talking to everyone about! Your cashier, your waitress, your hairdresser, heck even the guy filling his gas tank next to me seemed like a good target one blizzard-y winter evening.
We are talking INSTANT POT FREEZER MEALS, people, and it is a topic worth discussing for sure!
This post is filled with goodies. Here is what we’re going to cover:
(click each one to skip ahead to that section)
- 15 tips for healthy Instant Pot freezer meals
- How to meal plan meat based freezer meals
- Step by step meal demo with chicken enchilada soup
- Best Instant Pot Recipes to freeze
- Instant Pot Freezer Gift Ideas
TOP 15 TIPS FOR HEALTHY INSTANT POT FREEZER MEALS
Having a frozen meal ready to throw in the Instant Pot is one of the greatest gifts ever after a busy, tiring day.
After experimenting with this Instant Pot Freezer Meal concept for the past few years, I’ve learned some essential tips and tricks about layering, cook time, shaping, etc.
These 15 tips will help you know how to prep and assemble meals for your pressure cooker so they can be taken straight from the freezer and thrown in the pressure cooker for busy or lazy nights. Here we go!
- Freeze it in the pot
- Reserve the cooking liquid
- Don’t freeze dairy ingredients
- Tips for pasta, rice, or other grains
- Tips for vegetables and fruit
- Make dinner and prep freezer meals at the same time
- Rule of thumb for frozen food cook time
- Prep meat before freezing
- Freeze in marinade
- Avoid storing meat in an acidic marinade
- Label label label
- Single layer of meat on the bottom
- Cut large roasts into smaller pieces
- Sometimes freeze ingredients before bagging
- Hug it out
1) FREEZE IT IN THE POT
Perhaps the #1 most important tip, because if you have a frozen chunk of somethin' sitting in your freezer that's even 1/4 inch too wide, it's a no go. When you prepare your freezer meals, place a gallon size freezer ziplock inside your pot (sometimes I use the 2 gallon ones depending on the volume of the food), fill it with food, squeeze the air out of your bag, zip it up tight, then place the pot with the freezer bag of food inside, into your freezer. Once your food is frozen, you can remove it from the pot and leave the now perfectly pot-sized freezer bag inside your freezer for another day. This also works perfectly for freezing whole chickens and turkey breasts.
2) RESERVE COOKING LIQUID
For recipes that include water, chicken broth, etc in the recipe, do not freeze that along with the solid food and seasonings. That liquid is easy enough to pour into the pot when you're ready to cook your freezer meal and it will help the pressure cooker build pressure quicker. Examples of this are my favorite White Chicken Chili and Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup. In these recipes you add all of the ingredients except for the broth into the freezer bag, then when it's time to cook up your frozen soup, add the chicken broth into the pot along with the rest of the frozen ingredients.
3) DON'T FREEZE DAIRY INGREDIENTS
95% of the time, dairy products like sour cream, milk, and yogurt become watery or grainy. Don't risk it! One exception is grated cheese. So far I’ve had a lot of success freezing bags of shredded cheese for recipes like this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.
4) TIPS FOR PASTA, RICE, OR OTHER GRAINS
While pasta, rice, and other grains might freeze just fine, you run the risk of them being overcooked in freezer meals that require a long cook time. If you’re cooking something like a soup that has pasta or rice in it, I suggest cooking the pasta on the side and adding it to the soup after.
5) TIPS FOR VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
Some vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, and zucchini become very mushy after freezing. For recipes like this Chicken, Coconut, Cabbage Soup, this would be a problem because the final texture of the cabbage would be unpleasant. However, in recipes like this White Chicken Chili where the vegetables are going to be pureed, it's not going to matter if it turns to mush once it thaws. To summarize, keep in mind the ingredients in your recipe. If the texture of it is integral to the recipe, don't freeze it!
6) MAKE DINNER AND PREP FREEZER MEALS AT THE SAME TIME
When you are buying ingredients for your favorite meal, buy double or triple the amount so you can make your freezer versions of the meal right along with the dinner you are making for that night. For example, when I make these Egg Roll Bowls, I triple the amount of meat, use 1/3 of it for dinner, then split the rest of it into 2 bags to freeze for another day. It takes very little extra effort but you'll be singin' your own praises another night.
7) RULE OF THUMB FOR FROZEN FOOD COOK TIME
When I cook from frozen, I one and a half the original cooking time. So if the original cook time was 30 minutes, I cook it for 45 minutes. This isn't perfect for every situation, but it's my rule of thumb and a great place to start if you're not sure. Exceptions might include recipes like this Pepperoncini Beef where the cook time is already quite lengthy. I might only add 15 minutes to this one, open the pot, and if it shreds perfectly, great! If not, I'd put it in for another 10 minutes.
8) PREP MEAT BEFORE FREEZING
When you come home from the store with bags full of chicken, roast, or ribs that you found on an amazing deal, make sure and season them well before you freeze them. Then it's ready and flavorful right from the freezer! This works well for recipes like these Instant Pot Ribs and Buffalo Chicken.
9) FREEZE IN MARINADE
If you're using a marinade for your meat instead of dry seasonings like the above tip, then freeze your meal right in the flavorful marinade! Just don't forget to freeze it in the pot so it will fit back into the pot once frozen. This would work perfectly for meals like this Pepperoncini Beef.
10) AVOID STORING MEAT IN AN ACIDIC MARINADE
Lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar, etc tend to partially cook meat and make it tough and chewy. If those ingredients are in your recipe, instead of adding them to the bag to be frozen, add them to the pot when you are ready to cook the meat.
11) LABEL, LABEL, LABEL
I never cease to amaze myself at how many times I think I will just remember the what, where, and when of a recipe. Do yourself a favor, and label everything! I suggest labeling with the recipe title, the contents, and even the cook time so you don't have to bother looking up a recipe when you're ready to use it. I also like to label it with the extra ingredients I'm going to need that aren't included in the freezer bag, like the soup toppings in this Soul Soothing Coconut Cabbage Soup.
12) SINGLE LAYER OF MEAT ON THE BOTTOM
If you want several pieces of meat to cook evenly (like chicken thighs, chunks of chuck roast, meatballs, etc) spread them out into the bottom of the freezer ziplock bag in a single layer as much as possible. When you pressure cook it, the meat will be the first thing to thaw ensuring you don’t end up with undercooked meat.
13) CUT LARGE ROASTS INTO SMALLER PIECES
While it is possible to throw a 4 pound roast into the pressure cooker and get it cooked through, I find that you'll end up with tender pieces and tough pieces as you cut through the roast. Instead, cut the meat into smaller pieces (3-4 chunks) and press it into a flat layer in the bottom of the freezer bag like in the tip above for more even cooking.
14) SOMETIMES FREEZE INGREDIENTS BEFORE BAGGING
For recipes like this Instant Pot Meatball Sandwich, I place the shaped meatballs on a sheet pan, freeze them first, then place them in a freezer bag. This ensures the meatballs maintain their shape and also makes it so I can pick how many I want to cook for any given night. This would be great for meatloaf as well or anything that needs to keep its shape for cooking.
15) HUG IT OUT
Finally, and most importantly, give your pressure cooker a big hug after it makes you that glorious meal that saved you so much time and energy. This is both a perfectly acceptable and understandable thing to do. Or I'm a total weirdo . . .
HOW TO PREP AND FREEZE MEALS WITH MEAT
When assembling healthy freezer meals in the Instant Pot that include meat, there are a few specific things to keep in mind.
The following 4 steps are how I assemble and freeze meat based meals to ensure tender, flavorful, and fully cooked meat.
To show these steps in action, I’m using Pepperoncini Beef Sandwich, Smoked Paprika “Roasted” Chicken (recipe from our book, Master the Electric Pressure Cooker), and Chicken Fajitas (a recipe that will be coming soon).
STEP 1) Assemble Freezer Meal
Add the meat first, followed by seasonings, and spices. Unless I want the meat to marinate in a flavorful liquid, I don't add liquids such as broth and water until I'm ready to cook the meal.
Here is the Pepperoncini Beef plus all the other ingredients, minus the toppings of course
Fajita Chicken with all the spices plus some soy sauce and liquid smoke
Smoked Paprika “Roasted” Chicken covered in lots and lots of seasonings
STEP 2) FREEZE MEAL IN THE POT
Once all of your meals are sealed in freezer safe bags, place them inside a pressure cooker pot. Press the meat down to cover the bottom surface of the pot. This is very important because a single layer of meat on the bottom of the pot is going to cook much more evenly than a big clump of meat stacked vertically. Place the pot in the freezer. Once completely frozen, remove your frozen meal from the pot and behold your perfectly shaped bag of food that will return to the pot slick as can be when ready to cook on a later day.
TIP: DON'T freeze two bags in 1 pot like I did below. The meat needs to be in an even layer across the bottom in order to cook evenly through. I learned this lesson the hard way.
STEP 3) COOK MEAL FROM FROZEN
When it's time to cook, remove the food from the freezer bag and plop your perfectly pot shaped meal into your pressure cooker pot and cook. As discussed above, I typically do 1 ½ the original cooking time. So if something called for 30 minutes from fresh, I cook it 45 minutes from frozen.
STEP 4) DINNERTIME!
Open your pot and reveal your utterly delicious meal that took you 1 minute of prep time but looks like you slaved away in the kitchen for hours! Rockstar status for sure.
Would you just look at this Pepperoncini Beef Sandwich covered in melty provolone cheese, chopped giardiniera, and Sir Kensington Chipotle Mayo. Are you drooling? Totally acceptable, understandable, and justified.
Then there's this “Roasted” Chicken beauty. This baby even made the front cover of our Master the Electric Pressure Cooker cookbook and it is well deserved. I adore this Smoked Paprika Chicken more than I can say!
At this point you’re either feeling excited and ready to go stock your freezer or a bit overwhelmed. No worries, I’ve got your back!
Let’s see this entire process in action from start to finish with one of my favorite freezer meals of all time.
STEP BY STEP HEALTHY FREEZER MEALS DEMO WITH CREAMY CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP
I'm using one of my most favorite meals in the whole world, Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup. This recipe originally comes from Mel's incredible stovetop version of Chicken Enchilada Soup. Now sit back and enjoy this picture packed post on how to turn this frozen block of goodness
into this beauty with exactly 30 seconds of prep work. Enjoy!
HOW TO FREEZE AND COOK CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP:
- Gather all the ingredients except the chicken broth (this will get added right before you cook it)
- Layer it into the bag, chicken on bottom and everything else tossed inside in any order. Freeze it inside the pot to ensure it's the perfect size to go back into the pot once it's frozen.
- When it's time to cook it, cut away the ziplock.
- Place inside the pot and add chicken broth.
- Cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken and shred or cut into bite size pieces.
- Puree the soup.
- Stir in chicken and beans.
- Stir and serve.
This is one of my favorite meals to have on hand in the freezer and it works so well in the Instant Pot.
Click here to find the full Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe.
BEST HEALTHY INSTANT POT RECIPES TO FREEZE
Are you feeling more prepared to assemble and freeze some of your own favorite Instant Pot meals now? I sure hope so!
If you’d like to experiment with some recipes on my TIDBITS, the following cook from frozen very well:
- Egg Roll Bowl
- Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Potatoes
- Triple Bean Chili
- Easy Moo Shu Pork (this recipe is also found in The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Barbara at Pressure Cooking Today)
- Tomato Basil Soup
- And so many more!
INSTANT POT FREEZER GIFT IDEAS
Ready to take Instant Pot Freezer meals to another level? Check out my tutorial here for making Instant Pot freezer meals for gifting.
This post includes five recipes with printables for cooking instructions and clever gift tags. Here is a sneak peek picture of what it looks like:
EXTRA INSTANT POT FREEZER MEALS INSPIRATION
In need of some extra freezer meals inspiration? Check out my new email series: TOP 10 FAVORITE INSTANT POT FREEZER MEALS.
In this series you’ll get:
- A complete shopping list for all 10 recipes (for 3-4 AND 6-8 servings)
- Directions on how to prep, freeze, and cook your meals
- Weekly and monthly calendars to schedule your meals
- Tips and tricks on how to prepare the meals
- Step by step checklists, and more!
Sign up for the email series here!
I hope this post left you feeling excited and ready to stock your freezers to the brim with healthy, wholesome, DELICIOUS, Instant Pot Freezer Meals.
Feel free to ask any questions you might still have below in the comment section.
Don't forget to pin and share for all your freezer meal lovin' friends!
Now go stock your freezers full of amazing, healthy, easy meals!
Jaime Lindsay says
Hi Marci, just read this. Could you please send me a copy of the printable of the 15 tips? Thank you in advance! 🙂
I would love to be able to print this blog, but can’t find an option to print. I tried just hitting print but there would be pieces on almost every page that weren’t included. I did sign up for the Freezer Meals Inspiration post.
Julie, I actually have a printable of the 15 tips that might be what you’re needing. I made it up for my other business venture. Send me an email to email@example.com and I’ll send it to you.
Linda Meaux says
I would like a copy of the 15 tips.
Linda, No problem! Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send it to you.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….where was this time saver when my kids were little?! Lol. This is still something I can use now as I get busy in the studio and suppertime comes and oops! Forgot to plan a meal. Even hubby could do one of these! So thanks!
Cecilia, haha! No kiddin’! I’m wishing I’d had it when I had 3 kids 2 years old and younger.