20 Make-Ahead Recipes for Family Dinners and Parties

These freezer-friendly meals can be made ahead of time with a few weekend hours. Consider your weeknight dinner prep done.

Chicken Noodle Soup, an easy make-ahead recipe, served in a Blue Cooking Pot With a Metal Ladle and Two Bowls of Soup on the Side

If you're looking for make-ahead recipes you can easily heat and serve for dinner, look no further. Our make-ahead freezer meals are perfect for a crowd, families, and small get-togethers.

Many of these dishes, such as sweet potato bean burritos and crispy chicken cutlets, can be safely frozen for months, then defrosted (and eaten!) in hours. Read on for a bevy of recipes perfect for those nights when you need to get a delicious meal on the table in no time.

01 of 20

Oven-Baked Fish Sticks

Oven-Baked Fish Sticks Served With a Slaw on a Plate With a Metal Fork for Eating
Marcus Nilsson

It can't get simpler than this, and store-bought fish sticks aren't required. Coat the fish in seasoned bread crumbs, then freeze. To cook, bake until crisp and opaque throughout, about 20 minutes.

02 of 20

Decadent Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Casserole in a White Baking Dish With a Foil-Covered Pan to the Side, Labeled Mac & Cheese
Jen Causey

Believe it or not, if frozen correctly, this decadent dish is a great candidate for the freezer. The best way to freeze this rich meal is to cook it according to the recipe, let it cool completely, then wrap the dish tightly in plastic wrap and foil and pop it in the freezer. It will stay fresh for about three months.

When you're ready to eat the mac and cheese, let it defrost first. Once defrosted, remove the plastic wrap and re-cover the dish with the foil. Then, bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until it's warmed through.

03 of 20

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup, an easy make-ahead recipe, served in a Blue Cooking Pot With a Metal Ladle and Two Bowls of Soup on the Side With Metal Spoons for Eating
Jennifer Causey

This classic soup—a must during cold and flu season—keeps for about four to six months in the freezer if stored in airtight food storage containers. For the best results, freeze without noodles, then add freshly cooked pasta once you defrost the rest of the soup. While the previously frozen noodles won't go bad, they may be a bit mushier than you like if you freeze them along with the broth.

04 of 20

Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos With Corn Salsa

Sweet Potato and Bean Burrito Sliced in Half With Corn Salsa in a Small Bowl to the Side, Plus Warm Tortillas and Lime Wedges
Jennifer Causey

Instead of purchasing frozen burritos, make your own to freeze. These burritos are stuffed with crisp-tender shoestring sweet potatoes, fresh tomato-corn salsa, beans, and plenty of cheese. 

Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly cooled before you roll the burritos to prevent them from getting soggy in the freezer.

05 of 20

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs in a Baking Pan and Topped With Basil Leaves
Marcus Nilsson

Since tomato sauce freezes well, it's no surprise that this pasta recipe (filled with the classic Italian topper) freezes well too. Freeze it as you would mac and cheese, and defrost and reheat it the same way. If frozen properly, this dish will stay fresh for about six months—just garnish it with fresh basil when ready to eat.

06 of 20

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Turnovers

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Turnover, Cut in Half and Served with a Side Salad on a White Plate With a Metal Fork for Eating
Hans Gissinger

These stuffed pastry pockets make a great handheld snack. The sweet potatoes mix with cheese for a savory and creamy filling. Make a batch and freeze them for a quick anytime nosh or easy party appetizer.

07 of 20

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie Served in a Pot With a Portion Served on a Plate With a Metal Fork for Eating
Jonny Valiant

Filled with potatoes, beef, and butternut squash, this stick-to-your-ribs casserole can be assembled and frozen up to three months in advance. It's a perfect dish for cooler nights or when you want something hearty and filling.

08 of 20

Winter Lentil Soup

Winter Lentil Soup With Vegetables in a Large White Pot With a Metal Ladle for Serving
Kana Okada

This hearty winter soup recipe freezes and thaws splendidly. The best way to freeze any leftover soup is to transfer it to resealable plastic bags and stack them flat in the freezer to save space. When ready to eat more soup, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it on the stove until thoroughly heated.

09 of 20

Turkey-and-Rice Meatballs

Two Plates of Turkey-and-Rice Meatballs on Top of a Green Salad, With Dressing on the Side
Caitlin Bensel

These meatballs, made of turkey, rice, olive oil, and seasoning, are easy to freeze and work well in various dishes. Make them with the salad featured in the recipe, or serve them stirred into a brothy soup, twirled into pasta, or beneath a blanket of melted cheese atop a garlic-rubbed roll. You can't go wrong!

10 of 20

Slow-Cooker Black Bean and Zucchini Chili

Slow-Cooker Black Bean and Zucchini Chili Topped With Diced Avocado and Sour Cream, Served in a Blue Bowl With a White Spoon for Eating
Anna Williams

As any chili fan knows, this favorite game-day food is a great meal to freeze. It'll stay fresh in the freezer for up to six months and can be defrosted and reheated in a slow cooker or on low in the microwave. Once the chili is thoroughly reheated, garnish it with sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, and any other fixings you like.

11 of 20

Crispy Chicken Cutlets

Crispy Chicken Cutlets With Lemon Wedges on a White Serving Platter and Utensils for Eating
Jennifer Causey

These cutlets take just 40 minutes to make, and if you happen to have leftovers, feel free to freeze them. The best way to freeze these tasty, crispy cutlets is to place them on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer for about an hour.

Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight food storage container with parchment paper between each cutlet. They'll stay fresh in the freezer for about three months and go great with a fresh salad, a side of pasta, or grilled vegetables.

12 of 20

Green Chile Enchiladas

Green Chile Enchiladas Topped With Cilantro and Served in a White Baking Dish With a Large Metal Serving Spoon
Caitlin Bensel

These vegetarian enchiladas are filled with a cumin-spiced vegetable and bean mixture, which becomes deeply caramelized and savory after a long sauté. They are then baked in spicy green sauce and a blanket of melty cheese.

The easiest way to freeze this delicious vegetarian meal is before you pop it in the oven. Be sure to cover the enchiladas with aluminum foil in an oven-proof dish so you can cook them straight from frozen once ready to chow down. They'll keep in the freezer for about three months.

13 of 20

Cheesy Potato Casserole

Cheesy Potato Casserole in a Baking Dish With a Metal Serving Spoon on the Side
Alison Miksch

Also known as funeral potatoes, this cheesy potato casserole can be enjoyed for dinner or breakfast and works wonderfully as a holiday side dish. While it's best to freeze after assembly and before baking, you can also freeze baked leftovers.

14 of 20

Fajita Burgers

Fajita Burger With Grilled Onions and Red Peppers on Top of Mashed Avocado, With the Top Bun Off and Served With Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Caitlin Bensel

These flavorful burgers combine typical beef patties with Tex-Mex spices, creating a meal that's both delicious and easy to prepare. To freeze the uncooked patties, place them on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer until firm. Then, wrap each burger patty in plastic and put all of them in a resealable freezer bag, where they will last for about two months.

Allow the burgers to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. While they cook, whip up the sautéed bell pepper and onion mixture, and the avocado spread.

15 of 20

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna in a Blue Baking Dish With a Metal Spatula for Serving, Cut into Rectangles With Two Pieces Missing
Jonny Valiant

This lasagna recipe is filled with tender mushrooms and silky wilted spinach in a cream sauce and can be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to three months. For the best results, freeze the lasagna after it's assembled but before baking. That way, the cheese and noodles will better maintain their texture.

16 of 20

Four Cheese Classic Lasagna

Four Cheese and Beef Classic Lasagna in a Glass Baking Dish on Top of a Baking Sheet, With Chef in the Background
Natasia Hanratty

If you prefer a more traditional lasagna (with beef), try this classic lasagna recipe. Assemble and freeze before baking for an easy, hearty dinner ready to cook.

17 of 20

Shawarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs

Shawarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs With Red Onions on a Serving Platter With a Metal Serving Spoon and Warm Pita on the Side
Greg DuPree

Any cut of cooked chicken can be safely kept in the freezer for three to four months, meaning these flavorful chicken thighs are a perfect make-ahead meal. If you can, freeze individual portions for easier defrosting. With this particular recipe, make the creamy garlic yogurt sauce and browned onions when ready to eat.

18 of 20

Beef and Beer Potpie

Beef and Beer Potpie in a Cast-Iron Skillet With a Portion Scooped Out
Greg DuPree

Delicious and easy, this meaty casserole may be assembled (except for the puff pastry) and refrigerated up to one day in advance. When ready to cook, add the puff pastry on top before baking.

19 of 20

Slow Cooker Black Bean Posole

Slow Cooker Black Bean Posole Served in a Bowl and Topped With Sliced Radishes and Avocado
Victor Protasio

This fresh, spicy Mexican soup is a meal in itself when served with tortilla chips, avocado, and sliced radishes. For extra-easy re-serving, freeze leftovers in individual portions and let them thaw in the refrigerator the night before serving.

20 of 20

Spinach-and-Lamb Meatballs

top view of six Spinach and Lamb Meatballs, one cut in half, on a white plate with a metal fork for eating
Jennifer Causey

Freeze these flavorful meatballs raw or after baking, then pop them into sandwiches, soups, and pasta dishes, or use them to make kebabs. They'll stay fresh in the freezer for approximately three to four months.

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