25 Healthy and Cheap Recipe Ideas for Frozen Produce
Frozen produce has many advantages: It lasts a long time, it's always ripe and in good condition, it retains its original nutritional value, and it's cheaper than fresh. Keeping a few bags of frozen vegetables and fruit on hand lets harried cooks prepare last-minute meals any time of year. Especially during the cold months, when fresh foods are in short supply or transported from thousands of miles away, frozen produce ensures greater variety of healthful ingredients. Here are 25 ways to incorporate frozen fruits and vegetables into everyday meals.
Related: How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruits for Winter
Related: How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruits for Winter
A recipe for pineapple upside-down cake on the blog Christine's Cuisine, originally posted in Cook's Country, uses fresh or frozen pineapple, both of which hold their shape and texture better than canned. Caramelizing the pineapple before layering it in the pan adds an extra dollop of richness to the sweet, buttery topping and provides ballast to the light, airy cake base.
Soup is a healing comfort food, especially during the winter months when colds and flu are common. Frozen produce adds flavor, nutrition, and heft to soups; speeds preparation; and minimizes cost. A quick vegetable soup recipe from Taste of Home is built on a chicken broth and diced canned tomato foundation. It ups the ante with cubes of cooked chicken or beef and chopped fresh cabbage, an inexpensive winter stalwart.
A slice of blueberry pie is a taste of summer that can be enjoyed in any season thanks to frozen fruit. The "expert tips" accompanying a recipe from Betty Crocker recommend partially thawed unsweetened blueberries for the best results. Frozen wild blueberries or a mix of different berries also work well.
Recalls of bagged spinach due to possible contamination have made some consumers skittish about buying fresh. Enter frozen spinach, nearly indestructible and an excellent source of bulk and nutrition. For a spinach-tomato soup with orzo recipe on Babble, the frozen vegetable is a fine substitute for fresh. (Tip: Thaw before adding.) Serve the soup as a filling lunch or prelude to a hearty winter dinner.
Making jam at home is less expensive than store-bought and also allows for fiddling with the amount and type of sweetener. Jamie Cooks It Up provides a step-by-step guide to making jam from frozen berries. Raspberries, blueberries, and Marion blackberries are said to be foolproof. Let the fruit semi-thaw before heating and adding the pectin for thickening.
Mango has a naturally creamy texture when blended, which makes frozen mango chunks a popular ingredient for smoothies. A recipe for frozen mango smoothies on the blog She Wears Many Hats calls for half a cup of milk and half a cup of yogurt. For added tropical indulgence, all or part of the dairy can be swapped out for thick, rich coconut milk. Stash leftovers in the freezer for an ice cream-like treat for later.
Curry can require hours of simmering to perfect the flavor balance. But a recipe from Budget Bytes uses prepared curry powder and frozen vegetables to turn coconut vegetable curry into an easy and cheap meal that can be prepared in 30 minutes. Frozen broccoli and cauliflower florets are the recommended ingredients, but any vegetable mix produces exemplary results.
The blog In a Southern Kitchen contributes a traditional southern peach chutney with a hit of spice from ginger and red chili flakes to balance the sweetness. The sweet and spicy flavor profile pairs particularly well with savory foods like roasted meats or alongside curry in place of the common mango chutney. This simple condiment takes less than half an hour to prepare.
A show-stopping time-and-money saver, Taste of Home's strawberry shortcake delivers on flavor and presentation. Sliced frozen strawberries are a burst of fruitiness between the rich layers of whipped cream and cake. Not into strawberries? Substitute frozen peaches for an equally satisfying treat.
The popularity of the habanero pepper is on the rise thanks to its fruity flavor and Scoville scale rating as one of the spiciest peppers around. Cooking it down with frozen pineapple, peaches, or other sweet fruits helps tame its extreme heat without sacrificing the uniquely perfumed flavor. A recipe for pineapple salsa created by the chef Roberto Santibañez for Epicurious uses two peppers with the seeds. Anyone timid about the level of spice should start with one.
Choose frozen (or fresh) baby carrots for this sweetly spiced side dish, a natural accompaniment to roast chicken or pork. Just four ingredients and 15 minutes of prep time are all that's required to turn out cinnamon-glazed carrots with a recipe posted on Food.com. Liven up the proceedings with a dash of red chili flakes.
Skip the ice cubes and use frozen fruit for an extra blast of flavor when serving fruit punch, sangria, other alcoholic punches, and even virgin juice blends. And be sure to try this trick with still or sparkling water -- a few cubes of frozen fruit add a sly hint of sweetness.
Lime bean purée with olives and shaved pecorino is a modern twist on an otherwise plain-Jane bean. Dressed up with salty olives and shaved cheese, thawed lima beans run through a food processor turn into a tasty spread that serves as appetizer, sandwich filling, or dip. A recipe from Food & Wine uses baby limas, which are more tender than their full-grown counterparts.
A quick and easy recipe for raspberry vinaigrette from the blog Wellness Mama takes full advantage of the fruit's natural tartness. Blending raspberries with household staples like vinegar and olive oil yields a fragrant and savory sauce that can dress up salads, marinate meat, and brighten roast vegetables or boiled potatoes.
Turning simple pancakes or waffles into something special is as easy as heating up some frozen fruit. Setting frozen berries in a hot pan helps them break down into a saucy consistency. Add sugar for extra sweetness, although the berries' natural flavor stands on its own alongside maple syrup.
Rice may be the primary ingredient, but risotto is considered a sophisticated dish despite its humble origins and constituent parts. Vegetables often make an appearance for enhanced flavor and texture. Spring peas are a popular but pricey choice and may be hard to find in their fresh state. Follow the lead of Chef Michael Smith and instead use the frozen variety in a risotto with parmesan and peas.
Peach pie, unlike berry pie, is tricky. Results differ depending on the fruit's ripeness and water content. To achieve consistently delectable pies, heed tips from The Joy of Cooking on the subtleties of working with frozen peaches. The basic steps include doubling the thickener and not thawing before assembling the filling.
A bag of frozen corn is the foundation for a simple side dish that's big on flavor and quick to prepare. Mexican Street Corn Salad, presented by the blog Six Sister's Stuff, can be adapted to dietary restrictions or flavor preferences by omitting or substituting ingredients (no cheese, for example, or parsley instead of cilantro). Add chicken or shrimp for a complete meal.
For a nutrition-packed breakfast or snack that basically tastes like a milkshake, try a homemade banana-berry smoothie from The New York Times. The recipe specifies frozen berries and a ripe banana, but adding a frozen banana yields a thicker final product that can be eaten with a spoon.
Turning frozen tropical fruit into a sweet and spicy loaf is a delicious way to work fruit into a winter meal. The blog A Dash of Sugar and Spice uses large chunks of mango interspersed throughout to distinguish its bread from other spiced loaves. Thawed frozen mango generally works as well as fresh in any capacity, even for ungarnished snacking. It insulates against price spikes and saves the tedium of peeling.
Everybody loves lasagna, and this tried-and-true family meal comes together in a snap when using frozen vegetables, which also add fiber and vitamins. Any variety of frozen veggies will suffice, and Spark People's No Chopping Vegetable Lasagna is an efficient and delicious way to use up half-full bags of whatever is idling in the freezer.
The addition of sweet fruit to a savory sauce deepens the flavor and complexity. Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for chicken with peach barbecue sauce in Bon Appétit calls for fresh or frozen peaches, but frozen have their advantages: peak ripeness for peak flavor, not just bulk. Mango is an excellent substitute for peach.
Pot pie is cooked in two stages -- first the filling and then the assembly. Parcooking the filling beforehand is essential, and frozen vegetables save both time and money. They also ensure the ideal consistency. Betty Crocker's Classic Chicken Pot Pie calls for the traditional frozen peas and carrots.
A bit of rice can become a satisfying meal with a little extra help from an inexpensive bag of frozen vegetables and some seasonings. There's no need to defrost before tossing the vegetables into a hot pan to make fried rice. A recipe from 100 Days of Real Food makes this dish so quick to prepare it's almost more convenient than takeout.