We’ve rounded up 3 amazing dump and go crock pot meals. Bonus: You can make them ahead and freeze for later, too. Freezing instructions and shopping list included!
This post was created in partnership with Hy-Vee (Columbia).
Dump and Go Crock Pot Meals: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Let’s start with the bad and ugly. After researching, testing, and writing a cookbook all about slow cooker meals, one of the big takeaways for us was that most “dump and go” crockpot meals just aren’t very good. Most delicious slow cooker meals require a few extra steps to get the texture and flavor just right.
But…but, but, but…there are a few exceptions to this rule. We’ve pulled together three of our very best drop and go crock pot meals: Honey Bourbon Chicken, French Dip Sandwiches, and Vegetarian Tortilla Soup.
No extra–or very few extra–steps are required of these dishes. You’ll simply throw all your ingredients in the slow cooker for a hands-free dinner OR in a freezer bag for later. The combo of ingredients only get tastier as they slow cook!
Double and Freeze All 3 Recipes
A smart way to use your time efficiently is to double each of the recipes below and freeze them for later. Polly and I both do this regularly and call it the “freezer cooking lifestyle.” Believe us when we say, your future self will thank you!
Simply, set aside about an hour to make 2 batches of all 3 recipes. After doubling all these recipes, you’ll stock your freezer with 6 meals! You’ll have dinner ready to go for weeks.
To make it super easy for you, we’ve made you a shopping list with enough ingredients to double each of the 3 recipes.
Ultimate Time Saver: Use Aisles Online!
We recommend doing your shopping at Hy-Vee where ingredients are well stocked, it’s easy to keep kids entertained, and the store is clean and well staffed.
If you’re an online shopper, just hop to Aisles Online and fill up your cart with the ingredient list. It’s even easier to shop for sales this way in my opinion!
Their website is incredibly easy to navigate and their pick-up process is flawless…
Or, you can even have your groceries delivered…
I can think of no easier way to make this cooking session happen than having someone drop the groceries right to your doorstep.
You can do this!
Download and Print the Shopping List
As a reminder, this list is for the go-getters who want to double all three of these recipes. If you only want to make one or two, simply print off the recipe card(s) below.
Top 3 Dump and Go Crock Pot Meals
Alright, you know where to shop for the ingredients (Hy-Vee), you know the easiest way to get them to your home (Aisles Online), and you’ve heard our plea to double the recipes to save yourself time in the long run. Now it’s time to get cooking!
Every recipe that we link to below has instructions for how to freeze it ahead and how to prepare it from frozen.
A little sweet and a little spicy, this easy chicken recipe is BIG on flavor and takes just minutes to throw in the slow cooker. Stir fry some veggies while it cooks and then serve it all over rice. A reader favorite!
MAKE IT AHEAD: Add the sauce ingredients and chicken to a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal, toss to combine, and freeze.
TO PREPARE: Thaw and place the meal in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Shred or chop and serve over rice and stir-fried veggies.
A similar recipe to this one is our Teriyaki Chicken Thighs. You might like that one as well!Print
A little sweet and a little spicy, this chicken dish is big on flavor and takes just minutes to throw in the slow cooker.
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (For Gluten-Free: use coconut aminos or GF tamari soy sauce.)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup organic or all-natural ketchup
- 1/4 cup bourbon or other whiskey (For Gluten-Free: Omit or use chicken stock/broth instead.)
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (decrease to 1/8 teaspoon, if sensitive to heat)
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless, skinless medium chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Cooked basmati rice or brown rice, for serving
- Stir-fried vegetables, for serving
Make It Now:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, ketchup, bourbon, oil, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and green onions. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the sauce. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Place the chicken and sauce in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours or until cooked through. (The chicken is done when it is no longer pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Carefully transfer the chicken to a wooden cutting board, dice or shred the meat, and set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Carefully pour the juices from the slow cooker into a medium saucepan. Add in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Return the chicken and sauce to the slow cooker. Stir gently to combine. Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions and serve with stir-fried vegetables, if desired.
Freeze For Later: Follow step 1. Pour the sauce and chicken into a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze.
Prepare From Frozen: Note: Have cooked rice, cornstarch, and (optional) stir-fried veggies on hand to complete this meal. Thaw. Follow steps 2 through 4.
One of our readers tested this recipe without the bourbon and reported that their family thought it was still delicious.
My kids cheer when they see this drop-and-go crock pot meal on the menu plan. It slow cooks all day long and is fall-apart tender by dinnertime. Simply shred the meat, put together the sandwiches (a quick broil toasts up the rolls and melts the cheese), and dip them in the leftover au jus. Or…turn them into grilled cheese sandwiches to take them over the top!
MAKE IT AHEAD: Pour the sauce ingredients into a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Season the roast lightly with salt and black pepper and add to the bag/container with the sauce. Seal and freeze. Place the bread and cheese in separate freezer bags or containers. Seal and freeze alongside the roast.
TO PREPARE: Thaw. Place meat/sauce in the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. Shred the meat and serve on toasted buns with Provolone (or turn them into grilled cheese sandwiches).
A similar recipe to this one is our Balsamic Shredded Beef. It’s a reader favorite!Print
- 3 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1.5 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
- 1.5 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1.5 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 3–4 lbs boneless beef chuck roast (1 large roast or 2 smaller ones), trimmed of excess fat
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 16 large slices of sourdough bread
- 16 slices provolone, cheddar, or pepper Jack cheese
- In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, soy sauce, minced onion, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Place the roast in the cooker and season lightly with salt and black pepper on all sides. Pour the sauce over the top.
- Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 5 to 6 hours, until the meat easily shreds. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return the meat to the cooker and stir it into the sauce.
- Spread a thin layer of butter over one side of each slice of bread. Place a slice of cheese on the unbuttered side of half the slices of bread. Using a slotted spoon, add a layer of the shredded meat (be sure to drain the liquid first). Top with another slice of cheese and a second slice of bread, buttered-side up.
- Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook the sandwiches for a few minutes on each side, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted.
- Serve the sandwiches warm, with the warmed juices from the cooker in small bowls alongside for dipping.
FREEZE FOR LATER: Follow step 1. Pour the sauce into a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Season the roast lightly with salt and black pepper and add to the bag/container with the sauce. Seal and freeze. Place the bread and cheese in separate freezer bags or containers. Seal and freeze alongside the roast.
PREPARE FROM FROZEN: Note: You will need to have butter on hand to complete this meal. Thaw. Place in the slow cooker. Follow steps 3 through 6.
Instant Pot Instructions: FREEZE FOR LATER: Follow steps 1 and 2. Place the sauce and the meat in a gallon-size freezer bag or round container. Seal and freeze (if using a freezer bag, set it in a bowl or round container with a diameter similar to the Instant Pot so it will fit in the pot when frozen). Place the bread and cheese in separate freezer bags or containers. Seal and freeze alongside the meat.
PREPARE FROM FROZEN: Note: You will need to have butter on hand to complete this meal. Thaw the bread and cheese. Set the Instant Pot to “Saute” Transfer the frozen meat to the pot and cook for 5 minutes to release some liquid. Press “Cancel.” Follow steps 4 through 6. (The frozen meat will cook in the same amount of time as fresh.)
This pantry staple Vegetarian Tortilla Soup recipe is a meatless “one pot wonder” that I’ve been making and freezing for years for my family. Filled with beans, tomatoes, chilis, corn, and more, it only gets better the longer it sits in the fridge (or freezer).
MAKE IT AHEAD: Place all the ingredients except the rice in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal and freeze.
TO PREPARE: Thaw and place the soup in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.Print
This one-pot wonder is packed with flavor but is also vegetarian! This winning combination of ingredients and flavors is sure to impress your family and friends.
- 1 (32 ounce) box vegetable stock (Sub: chicken stock or broth)
- 1 (15 ounce) can vegetarian refried beans* (Sub: drained pinto beans that have been smashed with a fork)
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (Sub: kidney or pinto beans)
- 1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained (Sub: 2 cups frozen corn)
- 1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes (juice and all) (Tip: Fire-roasted diced tomatoes are delicious!)
- 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles (Sub: 1/2 cup salsa)
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 tablespoons all-natural taco seasoning mix
- 1–2 cups cooked brown rice (Sub: cooked quinoa)
- Optional Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, jalapeños, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, crushed tortilla chips, lime wedges, diced avocado
Make It Now:
Stovetop Method: In a large pot, combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Bring to a boil and quickly reduce to a simmer. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally while it cooks. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.
Slow Cooker Method: Combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning in the crockpot. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.
Instant Pot Method: Combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning in the crockpot. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.
Freeze For Later:
Method 1 (Uncooked): Combine all ingredients in a pot/bowl, except rice and optional toppings. (Don’t worry if the refried beans aren’t completely integrated.) Carefully ladle the soup into gallon-sized freezer bags or containers and seal. Package the cooked rice in a small freezer bag and freeze alongside the soup.
Method 2 (Fully Cooked): Fully cook the soup according to instructions. Stir in the rice. Let cool. Freeze in freezer bags or containers, as individual servings or one full meal. Freeze until ready to use.
Prepare From Frozen:
Method 1 (Uncooked): Fully thaw the soup. Cook according to instructions.
Method 2 (Fully Cooked):
Stove or Slow Cooker: Warm over low heat on the stove or in the slow cooker.
Instant Pot: Turn on Saute button and warm over low, stirring frequently.*
*If you want to cook the soup from frozen in the Instant Pot, you’ll need to freeze it in a round container that is smaller than the diameter of the pot. When ready to cook, turn on the “Saute” function and saute the frozen block of soup for 5-10 minutes to release some liquid. Press “Cancel”. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 12-17 minutes with a quick release.
Gluten-Free: If using a taco seasoning packet from the store, be sure to buy one that is gluten-free.
Dairy-Free: Omit using any cheese or sour cream on top.
For more make ahead freezer meal ideas, check out our Top 3 Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas (with shopping list)!