If you're looking to stock up your freezer with homemade vegetarian batch cooking, this is the place to start - read on for lots of recipes and tips!
Following on from my round-up of vegetarian store cupboard recipes, which will hopefully be helpful to anyone who's unable to get out to the shops at the moment, I thought I'd offer some tips for vegetarian batch cooking. I've also collected together some of my favourite vegetarian big batch recipes.
These freezer-friendly recipes can all be batch cooked, then portioned out and stored in the freezer until you're ready to reheat and serve.
You might need to make an initial trip to the supermarket to get everything you need for these recipes, but once that's done, you can stock up your freezer with delicious vegetarian dinners that can be reheated as required for easy eating.
Vegetarian batch cooking - recipes & tips
If you don't want to read this whole blog post, feel free to jump to the sections that you're most interested in:
- what is batch cooking?
- batch cooking containers
- labelling your meals
- how to reheat frozen meals
- 21 vegetarian batch cooking recipes
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is when you deliberately cook more food than you need to, so that you can save the leftovers for another day. Certain types of meals lend themselves really well to batch cooking - basically anything that will be just as good when reheated as it was fresh.
Usually, once you've batch cooked a few portions of a meal, you'll store the leftovers in the freezer so they're ready to go next time you want a quick meal.
So if you're the sort of person who loves eating home-cooked food, but doesn't want to stand in the kitchen cooking from scratch every single day, batch cooking is for you!
Batch cooking containers
If you're planning to get into batch cooking, you'll need some containers to store your meals in when you put them in the freezer. You have a few options:
1. Glass containers
The most environmentally friendly option is to invest in some glass tubs. These can be stored in the freezer, and since they're also oven-safe, they can be placed directly into the oven to reheat your meal (they'll slowly defrost as the oven comes up to temperature). They're also suitable for use in the microwave and dishwasher.
Glass tubs are a bit more of an investment than some of the cheaper alternatives, but if you're planning to batch cook your meals regularly, it will be worth it.
2. Plastic containers
Plastic containers are generally slightly less hardwearing than glass, but still fairly durable. Most kinds are suitable for use in the freezer, microwave and dishwasher.
However, plastic containers are not oven safe, so you can't grab a dish from the freezer and throw it straight into the oven, like you can with a glass dish. Frozen meals will need to either be reheated in the microwave, or transferred into an oven safe dish first.
Make sure you buy tubs that are BPA free, and that can be reused again and again, rather than single use plastic containers.
3. Foil containers
Foil containers are more of a single use product than glass and plastic containers are, as although they can be washed, they can be squashed and bent out of shape quite easily. However, if you're planning to batch cook meals to give away to friends, for example, they may be a good option for you.
Just like with glass tubs, you can take a foil container from the freezer and put it straight into the oven to cook.
Foil containers are recyclable, but obviously containers that can be reused multiple times are still more environmentally friendly.
Labelling your meals
When you stock up your freezer with batch cooked meals, don't forget to label them clearly! Especially if you have lids on your containers, it can be easy to forget what's inside, and when frozen, a lot of meals look very similar.
You'll probably want to label your freezer meals with:
- the type of food that's inside
- the date the meal was cooked
- a rough idea of how many portions are in the container
Depending on the temperature of your freezer, your frozen meals should retain their quality for around 6 months, so just keep an eye on your labels, and rotate the freshest meals to the back of the freezer.
How to reheat frozen meals
The best method for reheating your batch cooked freezer meal will depend on the type of food it is. All sorts of things can be frozen, even fruit and veg! Here are some examples:
Wet meals: soup, stew, chilli, etc.
This type of soupy meal is best reheated either in the microwave or on the stovetop.
To use the microwave, make sure your frozen meal is in a microwave safe container, and place it in the microwave with the lid slightly askew. Cook on the defrost setting until mostly thawed, then stir, and cook on full power until piping hot.
Or, just dump the whole frozen meal into a saucepan on the hob, and cook slowly over a medium heat until fully thawed and piping hot. Stir regularly, and use the spoon to break up the frozen lumps.
Bakes: casseroles, pasta bakes, etc.
Bakes can be microwaved as above, but they're often best reheated in the oven, as they can get nice and crispy again.
Assuming your container is oven proof, just place the frozen dish directly into a cold oven, and turn the oven on. As the oven gradually heats up, the meal will begin to thaw, then fully cook as the oven reaches temperature. As you might expect, cooking a frozen meal will take longer than if you were to bake the same meal from room temperature - allow an extra 20-30 minutes to bake a frozen meal.
To stop your bakes from becoming dry as they're reheated, cover the dish with a lid or some foil as it's cooking. You can remove the lid for the final 15 minutes of cooking if there's a cheesy topping that needs to crisp up.
If you're cooking a meal with the intention of freezing some portions, you might find it's easiest to freeze the meal in its uncooked state, rather than cooking it twice in the oven. This will also help to stop your meal from drying out. You can also make meals you intend to freeze a little saucier than you would if you were eating them straight away.
Dry items: veggie burgers, falafel, fritters, etc.
If your frozen meal isn't saucy, it's probably best reheated in the oven - microwaves tend to take the crispiness out of food.
Just place the food on a baking tray, and cook from frozen. They will probably defrost quickly, so won't need much additional cooking time compared to being cooked from fresh.
By the way, to make sure your items don't all stick together in the freezer, freeze them separately on a baking tray, then transfer them to a dish or a freezer bag once they've frozen. That way, you'll be able to grab one or two single items from the freezer at a time, rather than needing to take out the whole batch.
21 vegetarian batch cooking recipes
All of these vegetarian recipes lend themselves well to being frozen and reheated, using the guidelines above.
Some of these recipes only make a few portions, so if you're really wanting to stock your freezer, feel free to double, or even triple, each recipe to make an extra big batch - that way, you'll have enough to eat some of your cooking straight away for dinner, plus some leftovers to store for another day.
Slow cooker tomato sauce - freeze in portions
Bean and vegetable crumble with cheesy pesto topping
Easy mushroom and black bean chilli [vegan]
Hopefully I've inspired you to try some vegetarian batch cooking! Are you planning to stock up your freezer this spring? What will you be making?
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