Up until now, I had naively turned my back on meal prep. No matter how useful or timesaving it would be for me to have meals already sorted throughout busy weeks, I just didn't see the appeal. To me, all the recipes looked the same, either salads or some plain chicken with rice.
I couldn't have been more wrong, and now I am struggling to think of a recipe that couldn't be easily adapted and used when meal prepping. It isn't merely for quick lunches as I previously thought; instead, you can prepare elaborate, filling meals that only need to be heated up before enjoying.
Whether you're cooking for one or five, meal prepping will take a massive weight off your shoulders. Not only will it reduce the number of times you're popping into the store during the week, but also the amount of time you spend slaving over a hot stove. You can spend that extra time with your loved ones, genuinely enjoying the homemade meals you'd never guess had been made days before.
Dinners you can Meal Prep in Advance
1. Honey-Sriracha Glazed Meatballs
This recipe for Honey-Sriracha Glazed Meatballs makes a whopping eight servings or around 40 meatballs, so if you were cooking for one, then you would have meals sorted for weeks. Meatballs are notoriously easy to make, and they freeze well for meal prep, without taking too long to defrost due to their size.
The glaze sounds like the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, and you could serve these with a variety of accompaniments from rice, to quinoa, to spiralized vegetable noodles.
2. Sausage with Summer Squash
I love how adaptable this recipe is. There are many different varieties and flavors of sausages you could use in your Sausage with Summer Squash meal prep, from regular pork to vegetarian, which are far more delicious than you might expect.
The vegetables used could also be adapted and added to; I love the idea of throwing some red pepper into the mix. Capers and olives will give this meal a hit of saltiness, which is needed to maintain flavor in a dish that might be kept refrigerated for a few days before it is enjoyed.
3. Roasted Chicken and Veggies
As previously mentioned it was boring chicken dishes that I was afraid of when I first considered meal prepping, but this is far from that. While still being a simple and easy to accomplish meal prep dish, this Roasted Chicken and Veggies is packed full of flavor.
I am a firm believer that the best way to cook a chicken is to roast it, nothing else quite gives it the same intense flavor. Roasting the vegetables brings out the sweetness, and those lovely herbs and spices will elevate the dish.
4. Sticky Ginger-Soy Glazed Chicken
Chicken thighs are an underrated piece of meat, in my opinion. I find they maintain the best texture and moisture regardless of how they are cooked or how long they are refrigerated for. I don't often cook with them, but know that they would work well in meal prep dishes like this Sticky Ginger-Soy Glazed Chicken.
I haven't come across too many meal prep recipes which use noodles, most use rice, so that is refreshing to see. The noodles in this recipe look flavorful, and like a perfect accompaniment to the chicken, the meal is complemented by bright green broccoli florets.
5. Honey BBQ Baked Salmon Bowls
As a huge seafood fan, it shouldn't be taken lightly when I say that salmon is probably my favorite type of fish. Not only do I find it more filling than many lighter, less meaty varieties, but also the most flavorful.
Sweet sticky glazes always work well with salmon, just like the one in these Honey Baked Salmon Bowls. Along with the zucchini noodles, this dish will remain deliciously fresh even when stored and eaten a few days after being prepared. As another plus, it is also incredibly healthy.
6. Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Any dish which acts as a homemade version of a favorite takeaway restaurant dish gets a massive thumbs up from me. I can't lie, I love both the flavor and the convenience of Chinese takeaway food. I reckon however that by meal prepping this Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry on a Sunday night it would feel like I was treating myself to a takeaway at a fraction of the price and with no dodgy ingredients.
You could have the stir fry on its own for a lighter lunch or pair it with rice, quinoa or noodles to bulk it up into a dinner dish.
7. Garlic Parmesan Kale Pasta
The garlic marinated chicken in this recipe looks delicious enough for me to be sure that I will be using it in different dishes as well as this one. I for one am not a fan of raw cherry tomatoes, never have been, but the process of blistering them like in this recipe brings out a sweetness while intensifying the tomato flavor and I can't get enough.
This Garlic Parmesan Kale Pasta has multiple elements to it which I like as it would make you forget that it was something you reheated all at once, maintaining that homemade feel.
8. Veggie Stir Fry
You could add any vegetables you wanted to this Veggie Stir Fry, likewise remove any you or your family aren't keen on.
This recipe is simple while still being flavourful, and the soy-based sauce is a familiar flavor so wouldn't be too out there for anyone with less adventurous taste buds. Because the stir fry consists of only vegetables, it is healthy, and you can choose your accompaniments to keep it that way by using something like quinoa or brown rice. If you aren't a fan of vegetarian dishes, it would be easy to add some meat in along with the vegetables.
9. Asian Style Chicken
The Asian inspired flavors of soy sauce, ginger, and garlic come up often in recipes that are perfect for meal prep. This is because they last well, are versatile and pack a punch without overpowering whatever you're eating them with. If you stick to that kind of sauce, like in this Asian Style Chicken, you are bound to be onto a winner.
As the recipe suggests, you can use any different vegetables alongside the chicken in this dish so take this as an opportunity to finish up anything you have in the refrigerator.
10. Caribbean Jerk Shrimp with Cauliflower Rice
Even looking at a picture of this Caribbean Jerk Shrimp with Cauliflower Rice is making my mouth water. The marinaded shrimp seem delicious, and serving them with cauliflower rice is a way of making the dish both healthy and a little bit different.
I'm not too experienced with cooking shrimp, so I find that I tend to shy away from it, but this easy recipe has made me believe I could give it a go. That said, it would also be delicious made with pieces of chicken if you would prefer.
11. Cajun Honey Chicken Bowls
Something I love about these Cajun Honey Chicken Bowls is the fact that the yummy marinade could be made in a large batch in advance and stored ready for whenever you want. It would work with various meats, and also more meaty varieties of fish.
This dish has all kinds of flavors going through it, from citrusy lime to spicy jalapeño pepper to sweet honey. There is no doubt that it would be a taste sensation.
12. Sweet Potato Tacos
Tacos go down a treat in my house without fail, but I can't say I'm too adventurous when it comes to fillings. These Sweet Potato Tacos might be the key to trying out something new while still allowing me to enjoy the meal with everyone else without having slaved for hours making it just before.
I like how different textures are going on in the tacos, and this would be maintained even after reheating. The corn would have a sweet crunch while the sweet potatoes would be fluffy and soft. Make sure to add a cool dipping sauce in alongside these tacos.
13. Cashew Chicken Quinoa Bake
Any recipe which involves all its components being cooked together in one dish is one that will draw me, a hater of washing up, right in. Another great thing about cooking everything together is that it feels more like one full meal as opposed to multiple separate ingredients.
The consistency of this Cashew Chicken Quinoa Bake is giving me risotto style vibes in the way that it all comes together when cooked. I like that about it, and it means each forkful will have a bit of everything within it.
14. Jalapeño Sliders with Sweet Potato Buns
These Jalapeño Sliders with Sweet Potato Buns are a lot of fun, and something entirely different from what you might think to make as meal prep on a Sunday night.
I have never had sliders with anything other than a regular bread bun, so I am incredibly intrigued to find out how sweet potato holds up as a substitute. The fact that the burgers themselves have jalapeño inside makes them far more exciting than a beef patty. You could have fun with sauces and toppings just like with a regular burger, trying different cheese and vegetables.
15. Korean BBQ Burrito
I have never considered burritos to be something that can be made in advance, but since coming across this recipe, I don't see why not. They are convenient and easy to store based on the fact that they're a full meal contained within a tortilla wrap, and once wrapped in tinfoil they would freeze or refrigerate well.
Although the beef in these Korean BBQ Burritos takes a long time to cook, around 3-5 hours, there is little hands-on work and the outcome would be the most deliciously flavourful and tender meat.
16. Spiralized Pad Thai Chicken Bowls
Since traveling around Asia last summer, I have had regular dreams about eating pad thai, and I am not the slightest bit ashamed of it. I would go as far as to say that pad thai is one of my favorite meals ever, although I haven't quite managed to master making it myself yet.
Because regular noodles are swapped for veggie ones in these Spiralized Pad Thai Chicken Bowls they are super healthy, and I don't know about you, but whenever I eat something as naturally bright and colorful as this, I can feel the benefits as soon as the fork hits my mouth.
17. Italian Chicken Bowls
Italian flavors are well loved by everyone, whether they are in the form of a delicious pizza or pasta dish. I can imagine these Italian Chicken Bowls would be no different, and I know for a fact that my whole family would enjoy them, kids and adults alike.
This recipe is simple, all it requires you to do is combine your ingredients on a tray, cover them with some delicious herbs and spices and pop it in the oven. Weeknight meal for four, sorted.
18. Creamy Sausage Pasta
I am interested in the way that this pasta dish is cooked. I would always cook my pasta in boiling water by itself before adding sauce or other ingredients, but this recipe combines all the ingredients, including the raw pasta and water in together.
The sausage in this Creamy Sausage Pasta adds a meatiness which I am glad of, as I find that I have to eat a far bigger portion of meatless pasta dishes before I am full up. This is a simple yet tasty weeknight meal and one that I would always be happy to have on hand.
19. Bolognese with Zucchini Noodles
You could adapt this recipe to use your favorite bolognese recipe, as I have found that between families and even individuals, they vary greatly. My mom makes a delicious lentil version, whereas my dad's version is always rich and meaty.
I have never tried Bolognese with Zucchini Noodles, but I am excited to and feel that it would bring a different freshness to the dish that you don't necessarily get from heavier regular pasta. This particular recipe takes very little time to make, so even your Sunday night meal prepping doesn't eat into your valuable family time.
20. Butter Chicken with Rice and Garlic Naan
Butter chicken is the perfect curry to be loved by everyone. It's creamy and manages to remain not too spicy while still containing a mix of all the delicious Indian spices you want in a classic curry.
I have been fond of butter chicken for a long time, but have always been put off trying to make it myself by lengthy, complicated recipes full of ingredients I had never heard of before. That was before I came across this Butter Chicken with Rice and Garlic Naan recipe. Not only is it perfect for meal prep, but it is more than simple to follow and limits its ingredients to the bare essentials.
21. Lemon Salmon with Sweet Potato
The portion size of this Lemon Salmon with Sweet Potato looks perfect. I like the combination of salmon and sweet potatoes, but if you would rather have a different accompaniment, you could swap out the potatoes for rice or quinoa.
It would take a matter of minutes to heat this dish, so it's perfect for a busy night, or even for when you're on the go and need something to eat in the car. I lost count of how many plastic tub meals I ate in the passenger seat of my mom's car as she drove me to dance classes when I was young, so I'll keep this idea up my sleeve for my own kids.
22. Vegan Habanero Chili
This Vegan Habanero Chili uses seitan instead of beef which I see as a welcome alternative, but if you are an undying meat fan, you could use beef just as easily.
Packed full of beans and fresh tomatoes this chili is healthy and tasty. It's got some spice to it, enough to warm your tummy but not so much that you will be gasping for air. The hands-on prep time is only around 15 minutes which is less than I initially expected, and then the cooking itself is about 20.
23. Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls
I like the concept of these Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls. They're like a cross between a deconstructed burrito and an exciting salad.
There is a combination of fresh ingredients, with the lettuce and tomatoes, and cooked ones, with the chicken and rice. Apart from the little cooking that is involved all you have to do is line up all your ingredients and make them look pretty. I imagine you could eat this meal from a bowl either hot or cold like in this example, or you could roll it up in a tortilla wrap and eat it as an actual burrito.
24. Thai Coconut Quinoa Bowls
Aside from roasting the vegetables, these Thai Coconut Quinoa Bowls require minimal effort and still deliver on flavor. I love any Thai inspired dishes with their coconut bases and hints of peanut and ginger, and this dish delivers on all those elements.
A small portion of this would make a delicious packed lunch to take to work, and an easy one to eat at your desk. It could also be a highly satisfying dinner, however, and both the slaw and roasted vegetables would last well if refrigerated for a few days.
25. Chicken Fajitas
I often brag that Chicken Fajitas are my specialty dish before realizing that they are one of the most straightforward dishes you can make and that anyone can do so.
They are already one of my go-to quick meals, but using this recipe to make them perfect for meal prep would save me even more time throughout the week. With the deliciously marinated peppers and chicken I would happily eat this right from the dish, but it would taste even better to pop the mixture in a tortilla wrap and top it with some sour cream before chowing down.
26. Mexican Stuffed Peppers
The idea of a full meal contained within a pepper is a fun one to me; I am therefore desperate to try these Mexican Stuffed Peppers.
This recipe maintains many classic Mexican flavors without being as fatty as many dishes usually are. Baking peppers help them to release a sweetness which I love, and they will soften a little but remain the perfect small ‘bowls' for that beef filling. I would serve these up along with some spicy rice and cooling sour cream and guacamole.
27. Pumpkin Black Bean Chili
This Pumpkin Black Bean Chili looks like one of the more hearty and homely meal prep dishes which is what drew me to it. I haven't ever tried an entirely meatless chili before, but I am excited to do so.
This recipe does a fantastic job of incorporating multiple different ingredients which act as meat substitutes like black beans, mushrooms, and pumpkin, so it will be just as filling as it would be if it included beef. I am intrigued by the addition of steel cut oats. If I like the effect it gives I might transfer it to other chili recipes.
28. Jalapeño-Popper Stuffed Chicken
Stuffed chicken is always a winner because I love chicken enough when it's plain never mind when it is stuffed full of yummy things. One of my favorite ways to stuff chicken is with spinach and ricotta, and this Jalapeño-Popper Stuffed Chicken looks like it would give a similar creamy texture.
By wrapping these tight so that none of the fillings spills out you could easily keep them refrigerated or frozen up until you're ready to enjoy. Because the jalapeño is already a strong flavor I would keep the accompaniments simple with this one, probably opting for new potatoes and greens.
29. Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato
Dependant on how big your portion sizes are, this Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato recipe can make up to a whopping eight portions, so if you're cooking for one you're sorted for numerous meals. Because this would last so long you could be creative with what you eat it with, eating it in amongst salads for lunch or with vegetables and avocado as a larger meal.
Although chicken and sweet potato is a rather simple combination that is what makes it perfect for meal prepping as it is versatile. Play around with the spices you add to the chicken before you find a combination you love.
30. Chicken Butternut Squash Pasta
I am guilty of not putting much effort into my pasta dishes; I tend to stick to a simple sauce, maybe tear up some ham slices to pop on top then call myself done. Although that is simple and still tasty, I know I could do better, and I would be more filled up and satisfied if my pasta had a little something extra.
This Chicken Butternut Squash Pasta looks delicious, and exactly what I am looking for. Not only does it add meat in the form of chicken, but also a vegetable element with the butternut squash. The texture of butternut squash is one that will keep well even when refrigerated, making this the perfect meal prep pasta.
31. Beef and Potato Curry
I have found that many meal prep recipes center around chicken. Of course, you can adapt these recipes to work with other meat or fish, but I wanted to source more that are intended to be for other proteins.
I came across this Beef and Potato Curry which sounds simple but is packed full of delicious Indian flavors and spices. I love when a curry is cooked with potatoes in it. Not only does it mean that the whole dish is made in one pot, but the potatoes also take on the flavors of the curry when cooked in amongst it. The beef in this dish looks tender and moist and would stay that way because of the moisture in the curry.
32. Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
Enchiladas are my favorite Mexican dish. I love that the chicken is covered in a scrumptious sauce and encased in a tortilla wrap which is coated with even more sauce and melted cheese. I always add peppers to my enchiladas along with my chicken; it adds a different flavor and texture so I would recommend doing that.
The sauce used in this Cheesy Chicken Enchilada recipe is entirely homemade. It has a bit of heat behind it with the chili powder as well as other flavors like garlic and cumin. The fact that it includes chicken broth means that the chicken flavor throughout the dish will be just as rich as the tomato.
33. Shrimp Fried Rice
Here's another example of a homemade takeout dish that you can make to address those cravings. It is important to remember that shrimp should be eaten within a few days of being cooked, so make this Shrimp Fried Rice a day or two before you plan on eating it.
This fried rice is not only topped with plump pink shrimp but full of veggies too, like peas, corn, green beans, and carrots. You could use this recipe as a base for many different fried rice dishes, swapping the shrimp for meat if you would rather, or adding some extra vegetables of your own.
34. BBQ Chicken and Roasted Sweet Potato Bowls
These BBQ Chicken and Roasted Sweet Potato Bowls are made by preparing and seasoning the ingredients before popping them all onto one sheet pan and cooking. I like recipes like this, not only for the lack of washing up but also because I find it tricky to balance multiple cooking times and this removes that issue.
BBQ is a well-loved flavor, especially when combined with chicken and I can just tell that its smokey sweetness will pair perfectly with the sweet potatoes. The chicken looks like it shreds easily, meaning that it's tender and soft, just how I like it.
35. Seared Tuna and Sweet Potato
I always thought I hated tuna, but I realized a few months ago that I in fact only hate canned tuna, and that tuna steak is an entirely different story.
Tuna steaks are delicate, and your knife can cut right through them like butter when cooked right. In this Seared Tuna and Sweet Potato recipe, the flavors have been kept simple which I am fond of because it means the tuna itself will be able to hold its own. The sweet potatoes are lightly seasoned and pink peppercorns will give the tuna both a pop of color and a light peppery taste.
36. Korean Beef Bowl
These Korean Beef Bowls are something a little different while still being incredibly simple. The beef is flavored with all kinds of interesting ingredients from brown sugar to sriracha, making me intrigued to find out what it tastes like.
This recipe in particular pairs the beef with spinach, rice, and boiled eggs, but you could change one or all of these ingredients based on what you prefer. The different components are perfectly arranged in the tubs, which doesn't matter when it comes to flavor but is something that I find aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
I am already breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of my weeknights becoming less busy the more I get into meal prepping. My initial beliefs that meal prepping involved solely bland chicken and rice have been proven entirely wrong, and I now know how much flavorful fish, meat, and vegetarian dishes I could make.
Because I have always been a big fan of fish I will need to try out the BBQ Baked Salmon Bowls. I can't tear myself away from that Pad Thai recipe either, and the Butter Chicken is something I have been wanting to master for ages.