Healthy Big-Batch Cooking Makes Nutritious Meals Easy
Say goodbye to last-minute takeout, thanks to 15 recipes that make enough food for multiple meals
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Vegan Big Batch Chana Masala; photograph by Olga Ivanova
As a work-from-homer I can’t blame my commute, but there are days when I trudge into the kitchen so late, I can’t imagine cooking something from scratch. And that’s even with a meal plan in place. In the past I might have picked up the phone to order takeout, but not any longer. You see, I’ve discovered the value of healthy big-batch cooking.
Make fast food, takeout, and convenience foods a thing of the past with these easy, delicious, nutrient-dense recipes.
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Why is batch cooking a healthy cooking method? >>
Healthy batch cooking recipes for freezing >>
Healthy big batch breakfasts >>
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What is batch cooking?
The concept couldn’t be simpler: You cook a relatively large amount of some kind of food, either a full meal or individual elements like lean protein or a whole grain, then portion it out and refrigerate or freeze. Days or weeks later, when you, too, trudge into the kitchen, imagine how delighted you’ll be to find delicious, healthy meals that only need reheating or assembling.
Why is batch cooking a healthy cooking method?
Just by avoiding takeout, you’re doing your diet a favor. Restaurant chefs tend to use a lot more salt and fat than we home cooks do — the nutrition facts for even a seemingly healthy to-go order might surprise you. Same deal, of course, with heavily processed convenience foods. Sure, you can get a meal on the table, but it won’t be good for you or your family.
With a balanced, nutritious meal ready to go, you reduce the odds you’ll impulsively grab a block of cheese from the fridge and call it dinner. Batch cooking also makes a healthy diet easier on your wallet, since buying in bulk at the grocery store is a great way to save money. And then there’s the fact that cooking larger amounts, less frequently, gives you more time for other things, like, say, taking a walk in the neighborhood or having a 10-minute dance party in the living room.
Healthy batch cooking recipes for freezing
I don’t have a huge freezer in my small New York City kitchen, but boy, do I love opening that freezer drawer on a weeknight to find meals that are fully cooked, ready to defrost and reheat.
Big Batch Chana Masala
A whopping four cans of chickpeas go into this easy version of a classic Indian dish. They get simmered in a spiced-up sauce of tomatoes, ginger, and garlic. Served atop brown rice or quinoa, this comforting curry gives you about one-third of your daily protein and more than half your daily fiber requirements.
Vegan Spinach Lasagna
This tray of lasagne (that’s the plural form, describing the sheets of pasta layered in the baking dish) looks and tastes indulgent. But thanks to a clever trick with tofu, nutritional yeast, and seasoning, the cheese-free, cheesy filling is packed with protein and fiber. The recipe makes 10 portions, so you’ll have plenty to freeze. Wrap individual portions in foil and store together in a zip-top freezer bag.
Hearty Italian Beef and Vegetable Soup
Soups are ideal for healthy batch cooking. Most soup recipes already make a large amount (and if not, they’re easy to double). They’re usually packed with veggies. And food with a lot of liquid, like soup, tends to keep you feeling full longer so you eat less. Here, you’ve got lean ground beef — just one pound for six servings — plus a flexible combo of vegetables, plenty of garlic, and canned beans.
Hearty Sweet Potato, Lentil, and Black Bean Chili
Spicy but not overwhelming, this vegetarian chili is bursting with color and flavor — and a single serving gives you 92% of your daily recommended fiber. The recipe simmers together dried lentils, canned black beans and tomatoes, and chunks of sweet potatoes (or butternut squash) until the lentils and potatoes are tender and the chili powder, cumin, and paprika have worked their magic. If you like, serve with quinoa for an extra protein boost.
Greek Gluten Free Meatloaf Muffins | Healthy & Easy Freezer Meals
A muffin tin makes this recipe for Greek-accented meatloaf exceptionally freezer-friendly. Cook a double batch, pop the individual portions out of the tin, and freeze them separately. (The recipe includes more detailed freezer instructions.) Whenever you want a quick meal of spinach- and feta-studded meatloaf, just grab however many you need.
Healthy bulk meals
I like to save time by devoting a weekend afternoon to meal prep, pre-making components of meals in large batches. Cooking in bulk gives me the freedom to combine items in different ways midweek, so healthy eating is easy every night and — most importantly — never boring.
Big Batch Healing Salad
Everyone knows you can’t pre-make a salad, right? Wrong, as long as you use sturdy greens like kale and cabbage, which benefit from extended time with dressing. Here, those two cruciferous vegs are deployed with a zesty mix of nut butter, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, ginger, turmeric, and honey. Toss it together in 10 minutes, then stow it in the fridge to eat all week long.
Super Savory Vegetarian “Meatballs”
I love to keep a stash of meatballs in the freezer. They’re so flexible, and so quick to defrost and reheat. This nutritious variety gets its meaty, umami punch from mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and chickpeas. For a quick weeknight dinner, these make a fantastic meatball sub with Italian bread and prepared sauce, either tomato-based or pesto.
The Best Vegan Bolognese Sauce (with Lentils, Mushrooms & Walnuts)
An authentic Bolognese sauce will make you swoon, but it ain’t exactly healthy. It calls for simmering ground beef and pork with butter and whole milk, wine, and tomatoes, for hours. This vegan version delivers similar flavors with no animal products at all. Lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts get the simmer-for-hours treatment, and the results are spectacular. The recipe makes a generous 15 portions, so you’ll have plenty to freeze, too.
Big Batch Greek Lemon Garlic Chicken
Few foods are more versatile than grilled chicken breasts. With your lean protein ready to go, you can make salads, bowls, sandwiches, you name it, and all you have to do is assemble. Here, you’re cooking four pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have spent some time in a zingy marinade, which gives you the makings for numerous easy weeknight meals.
Instant Pot Brown Rice
Whole grains are a must-have for healthy meals, but they take a long time to cook. Which is why I like to make a large amount at once. A big batch of brown rice gives me fixings for burritos, bowls, fried rice, and more. Also handy: double batches of farro, barley, quinoa, and bulgur.
Healthy big batch breakfasts
Remember that saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? With batch cooking, I can guarantee my family has an easy, nutritious option to start the day. Whether my teenager will actually eat breakfast remains unpredictable.
Healthy Breakfast Casserole with Sausage
Chicken or turkey sausage plus Greek yogurt plus egg whites equals oodles of protein in this quick and easy casserole. And it’s got room for whatever vegetables you have on hand, too. Depending on the size of your family, this could feed you for up to five days.
Healthy Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
If you like your breakfasts on the sweeter side, pancakes are probably near the top of your list. This big-batch recipe uses ripe bananas, whole wheat flour, ground flaxseeds, and chopped walnuts to provide tons of fiber and protein along with that sweet, sweet flavor. You wind up with 16 good-sized pancakes, and the recipe includes instructions for refrigerating and reheating.
Sheet Pan Black Bean and Vegetable Breakfast Burritos
Breakfast burritos rock because they’re not only super-filling, they’re also super-portable. This one is filled with seasoned black beans and veggies, plus scrambled eggs and a little cheese. Baking them all at once on a sheet pan gets the job done quick and adds a nice crispy edge to the tortillas. Pre-made burritos will last in the fridge for a few days, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for months.
Instant Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal
Overnight oats may be easy, but I prefer a bowl of hearty, stick-to-your-ribs steel cut oats. They take a long time to cook with lots of stirring — but not in the Instant Pot. I make a double-batch on Sunday and enjoy easy breakfasts all week long. Pro tip: Shred an apple or two into the pot for natural sweetness.
Big Batch Granola
Store-bought granola isn’t always so good for you, since it’s often high in sugar and fat. If you make it yourself, though, you can control that — which leaves you with a shelf-stable breakfast full of whole-grain oats and nutritious nuts. This recipe calls for what looks like a large amount of oil and sugar, but bear in mind that it makes 64 servings! Keep a jar in the pantry and you’ll always have a healthy breakfast ready to go.
Hungry for more?
When leftovers are what you're after, check out the healthy and simple ideas below.