20+ Meals You Can Make From Frozen Meat When You Forget to Thaw It Out

Recipes for when you forgot to thaw out the meat

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Recipes for when you forgot to thaw out the meat
karandaev/istockphoto; NRuedisueli/istockphoto

Dinner Rescue

We’ve all had those days where we’ve come home starving and the only meat to cook is frozen. Before turning to the microwave to defrost your meat (and resigning yourself to it being unevenly thawed), try these frozen meat-friendly recipes instead. You'll barely notice the difference, and we promise, we won’t tell.  

Related: Easy Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less

Keto ground beef enchiladas casserole
gwenael le vot/istockphoto

1. Dump and Bake Taco Casserole

There is no shame in relying on dump and bake meals — who’s got the time these days? This recipe combines everything we love: turkey meatballs, cheese, and taco seasoning with the option of adding avocado chunks and sliced olives. Best of all, it takes very little prep but tastes like it’s been cooking for hours on the stove. 


Recipe: The Seasoned Mum   


Related: Dump-and-Bake Casseroles You Can Make in Minutes

Grilled beef steak

2. Frozen Steak with Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce

Most chefs will say they cook steak only once it’s at room temperature. This recipe is a game changer and details how to turn a frozen, boneless rib-eye or strip steak into a melt-in-your-mouth meal. The trick is in shallow-frying it before transferring it to the oven, plus allowing for that all-important resting time once it’s done. 

Pro Tip: It’ll take longer to cook from frozen, so use the time to prep sides such as a kale salad or a sheet pan of roasted vegetables. 


Recipe: Epicurious

Fried cod fillet with fresh vegetables

3. Baked Cod

Firm-flesh fish is great to cook from frozen, but just take note that olive oil (not butter) should be used as part of its marinating/seasoning mixture. This recipe keeps the flavors simple and fresh, but other herbs and seasonings can be changed to suit individual tastes. 


Recipes: Healthy Recipes Blog

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Shrimp tacos. Seafood fajitas with cabbage, onion, parsley in tortillas served on wooden cutting board

4. Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Fresh shrimp is great, but if you can’t get them, frozen is just as good in this recipe. Because they’re easy to thaw, there’s no need to take them out the night before. Just put them in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes and use the downtime to prep the other taco ingredients as well as a tangy Mexican slaw. 


Recipe: A Couple Cooks 


Related: Delicious, Cheap Ways to Fill Your Tacos

Fresh Whole Roaster Chicken

5. Instant Pot Frozen Chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner — even if you’ve forgotten to thaw the chicken. You will need an Instant Pot, some spices, and at least an hour of cooking time (for a 4-pound bird) plus time to allow for the Instant Pot to have a natural release (upward of 15 minutes). What you do get is a juicy chicken that can be turned into a week’s worth of meals. 

Pro Tip: Rinse the chicken under some water to help oil and spices stick, and avoid subjecting your fingers to frost burn.


Recipe: ifoodreal.com

Juicy pork chop steaks with asparagus, sweet potatoes and yogurt sauce

6. Perfect Pork Chops

Use a hot skillet and oven (put the skillet in for 15 to 20 minutes) to cook some frozen pork chops to 140℉. Don’t miss out on the all-important, post-oven resting period of five to eight minutes so the pork chops are juicy. 

Pro Tip: For an oven-baked version, you can coat some frozen chops with mustard and seasoned breadcrumbs, then pop them in the oven to cook for about 45 minutes.  


Recipe: Just Cook


7. Instant Pot Chili

Everyone has their secret chili ingredient, and if yours involves frozen beef, that’s quite all right. While this recipe calls for an Instant Pot, you don’t need the version that comes with a chili function. Just cook on high pressure and allow it to naturally depressurize. 

Pro Tip: Instead of beef, you can use ground bison, turkey, or chicken. Keep in mind if the meat has more than 10% fat content, you should drain off the excess grease after browning.  


Recipe: A Mindful Mom

Chopped chicken meat for salads in a deep plate is on the kitchen board

8. Instant Pot Shredded Chicken

Left with only frozen chicken breast in the fridge and need to meal-prep in a rush? Fret not, because this simple, no-thaw, Instant Pot recipe produces juicy, shredded chicken in under 30 minutes (cooking time). While this recipe suggests paprika, oregano can be used for a more subtle, non-spicy flavor. 


Recipe: Show Me The Yummy

quinoa with shrimp and parsley
Salmon Steak in Fryer

10. Oven Roasted Salmon

Fans of Costco’s frozen sockeye salmon love it for its heart-healthy omega-3 content and how it can go from the freezer to the dinner table in 25 minutes. Accompany it with a simple maple syrup-soy sauce for some tangy but sweet and salty flavor, plus a side salad or roasted potatoes. 

Pro Tip: Run the fillets under water to remove their icy glaze and pat each dry before seasoning. 


Recipe: From Valerie's Kitchen

Delicious homemade burgers or cutlets

11. Air Fryer Frozen Sausage Patties

Good quality sausages and sausage patties are a must-have for any kitchen. They’ll go from rock hard to a juicy bite in less time than it takes to blow-dry your hair. Having an air fryer helps, but if you don’t have one, an oven or grill will do in a pinch (keep the temperature low and turn the sausage to keep browning evenly). 


Recipe: Thyme and Joy

Chowder with Shrimp

12. Shrimp Soup with Corn and Bacon

What pairs well with shrimp? Smoky bacon and kernels of sweet, juicy corn, that’s what. This hearty soup has all the elements that make it a big bowl of comfort on a cold wintery evening — just don’t forget about the Old Bay seasoning. 

Pro Tip: ​​Cook the shrimp until pink and remove it from the heat before it’s overdone.


Recipe: A Seasoned Mum

Hot stew tomato soup with meatballs and vegetables closeup in a bowl on the table. Albondigas soup, spanish and mexican food.

13. Meatball Minestrone

This might be cheating, but if you have frozen meatballs and a can of minestrone soup handy, you can make this full-flavored meal in under 30 minutes. Add a side salad or some crusty bread to make this a full feed. 


Recipe: Taste 

Cauliflower Shrimp Fried Rice in a Bowl Directly Above Photo

14. Cauliflower Shrimp Fried Rice

While this paleo-friendly, Asian-style recipe calls for freshly grated cauliflower, you can cheat and pop a steamable packet of cauli rice in the microwave while the plump shrimp come to room temp. Go ahead and make a bigger batch, then save the leftovers for a meal later in the week. 


Recipe: The Lemon Bowl

Flounder fillet roasted in a skillet

15. Fresh Herbed Halibut

When you’ve scored some frozen halibut, have this winner on rotation. All you need is some lemon, fresh dill, salt, and pepper, and you’ve got a low-fat, high-protein meal ready in less than 30 minutes. 

Pro Tip: When roasting (425℉ is recommended) frozen fish, expect it to take at least 20 to 25 minutes, or until the flesh is completely opaque. 


Recipe: All Recipes

Sunday Gravy

16. Fennel Bolognese

A twist on the typical Bolognese sauce, this sauce uses cooked fennel to add subtle, sweet nuance. This recipe calls for red wine (swappable with water or stock) and milk for a fuller overall flavor, then melds it with a favorite marinara sauce. 

Pro Tip: When cooking frozen ground beef on a skillet, the trick is to get a hot sear on both sides and to flip regularly until the beef is broken down into small pieces.


Recipe: Just Cook

Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti

17. Frozen Chicken Parmesan

Who says no to a weekday chicken parm? No one. This recipe takes just five minutes of prep time (with no thawing), so there’s no excuse not to give it a go. It will take at least 30 minutes to cook in the oven, so you can squeeze in a workout or item from a to-do list while it’s cooking. 

Pro Tip: When cooking frozen meat, use a food thermometer to ensure the meat is fully cooked. For chicken, it should read at least 165ºF. 


Recipe: The Cookful


18. Italian Meatballs

These meatballs are another recipe to keep handy for busy weeknights. All you need is a bag of frozen meatballs, some tomato sauce, and an Instant Pot to whip this up in 15 minutes. Serve with some mashed potatoes or a wedge of sourdough. 


Recipe: The Butter Half

Homemade Slow Cooker Pot Roast

19. Instant Pot Frozen Roast Beef & Potatoes

How to turn a chunk of frozen beef into a buttery, fork-tender pot roast with all the trimmings? You guessed it — an Instant Pot. This easy-to-follow recipe takes just two hours including prep and cooking time, but we would recommend adding an extra 30 minutes in case the Instant Pot’s natural release takes longer. 

Pro Tip: While this recipe works for the Instant Pot, avoid cooking frozen meat in a slow cooker or crockpot. There’s a chance it will stay in the danger zone of 40℉ to 140℉ for too long and bacteria might grow. 


Recipe: Oh So Delicioso

Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup

20. Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

For when you need a pot of chicken soup and can find only frozen chicken breasts in the supermarket, an Instant Pot will help get a nourishing bowl of soup in your belly in under an hour. An Instant Pot will quick-cook the chicken before it’s combined with the vegetables, but it’s still the pick-me-up you need. 


Recipe: Balancing Motherhood

Close up of Fried chicken wings thai street food market

21. Frozen Chicken Wings

Some kitchen gadgets are worth the cost if they save you a bunch of time and effort in the kitchen. An air fryer, when used to transform frozen chunks into juicy chicken wings in 25 minutes, is a godsend, especially during football season and when juicy, crispy wings are on call, all day. 

Pro Tip: If you feel nervous about cooking from frozen, run the meat under cool (not warm) water or fill a bowl with room temperature water and let the packaged meat sit for a bit. 


Recipe: Air Fryer Yum

Jambalaya. Spicy rice with smoked sausage and red pepper

22. One-Pot Spicy Southern Sausage and Rice

Pull frozen, precooked sausage from the freezer and let it thaw while you prepare the peppers and onions. A wholesome, one-pot, 30-minute meal that can be cooked in the morning and grazed on all day. Bookmark this recipe and add it to your monthly meal plan. 

Pro Tip: Use a Dutch oven to intensify the flavors. 


Recipe: The Wanderlust Kitchen

Corn chowder soup in white bowl on concrete background
Andrey Zhuravlev/istockphoto

23. Instant Pot Fish Chowder

This creamy but not stodgy meal is perfect for winter, but takes some prep work. Follow the recipe instructions to layer the ingredients accordingly — veggies, spuds, and then frozen fish chunks — so everything cooks evenly and the flavors are fully developed. 


Recipe: Cardamom and Coconut

sloppy joe sandwich on plate with french fries

24. Instant Pot Sloppy Joes

When you’ve forgotten to thaw meat, but still have the craving for hearty Sloppy Joes, use an Instant Pot to cook frozen beef. Take note, though: You’ll have to prepare and saute all other ingredients first; the block of frozen beef is placed on top. 


Recipe: The Dinner Bite


25. Korean Bulgogi with Frozen Ground Beef

Craving the briny, sweet flavors of Korean beef bulgogi? This recipe is easily executed on a stovetop or in an Instant Pot using frozen ground beef. The trick is to make enough marinade to go around. If you don’t have mirin or blackstrap molasses handy, there are alternatives. 


Recipe: Dr. Karen S. Lee

Homemade Grilled Chipotle Chicken Breast

26. Frozen Chicken Breast

Air fryers work wonders with frozen chicken breast, but don’t expect to make a dump-and-go meal. Season or marinate frozen chicken as per normal, place it in the air fryer, and bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the chicken to add the remaining seasoning (or marinade) and flip over for a delicious, juicy meal in under 30 minutes. 


Recipe: Air Fryer Yum