18 Easy Make-Ahead Meals Perfect for Busy Weeknights

published Aug 23, 2023
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I’m a firm believer that make-ahead meals are one of the very best gifts you can give to your future self — especially as back-to-school season kicks off! Walking into the kitchen at the end of the day knowing that dinner is prepped, cooked, and just waiting to be reheated feels like a total treat. And not only that, but dinners like veggie-packed chili and braised meats happen to taste even better a day, even two or three, after they’re made.

From slow cooker chicken burrito bowls to red lentil soup to juicy boneless chicken thighs, these are our 18 most popular make-ahead meals.

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Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Tender chunks of beef and hearty bites of carrots and potatoes make this slow cooker stew the ultimate make-ahead dinner.

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Classic Beef Chili

Mixed with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and warm spices, this classic beef chili is a dinner staple. Serve with classic chili side dishes, like baked potatoes or sweet cornbread.

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Italian Meatloaf

Marinara and cheese set this recipe apart from traditional meatloaf. Serve with your favorite meatloaf side dishes, like classic mashed potatoes and green beans.

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Cheeseburger Casserole

A one-pot dinner with ground beef and cheddar cheese that channels all the Hamburger Helper vibes.

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Beef Tips and Gravy

Tender pieces of beef slowly braised in a rich and savory gravy. It’s perfect for serving over fluffy mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or a piece of crusty bread — anything to sop up that savory sauce.

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5-Ingredient No-Boil Baked Ziti

An easy recipes for baked ziti that doesn't call for boiling the pasta before baking. Tightly covering the baking dish in aluminum foil forces the pasta to steam-cook in the marinara sauce, which eliminates the need to pre-boil the noodles.

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White Lasagna

Unlike lasagnas made with marinara, you won’t find a drop of red sauce in sight. Here you get layers of hearty pasta, ricotta, mozzarella, Italian sausage crumbles, and an entire pound of fresh spinach. But what makes white lasagna so special and totally irresistible is the impossibly creamy white sauce that’s blanketed throughout the casserole.

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Instant Pot Mississippi Pot Roast

Flavored with an unlikely combination of seasoning packets, pepperoncini peppers, and butter, this weeknight-friendly dinner is like no other pot roast you've ever tasted. Spoon it over fluffy mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or cauliflower rice, or even piled on a sandwich.

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Chicken Divan

This retro chicken and broccoli casserole is ultra-comforting.

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French Onion Meatballs

Inspired by the iconic French onion soup, this skillet dinner has it all — caramelized onions, juicy meatballs, and gooey, browned Gruyère cheese.

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Chicken Parmentier

Layer buttery mashed potatoes over French-inspired chicken pot pie filling for the ultimate comfort food.

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Beef Ragù

Whether you toss it with pasta or serve it over creamy polenta, you can't go wrong with this cozy Italian-style meat sauce.

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Eggplant Casserole

If you like eggplant Parmesan, then this eggplant casserole is a must-try and a fun switch-up from the expected. With layers of herbed ricotta cheese, quick homemade marinara, meaty yet super creamy and tender eggplant, and a gooey cheesy top, it's one of our favorite make-ahead dinners.

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Beef Stroganoff

This beefy dish is the best thing that ever happened to egg noodles, creamy polenta, or mashed potatoes.

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Lasagna Roll-Ups

Everything you love about classic layered lasagna, only way easier. This classic dinner includes the same tender sheets of pasta, meaty marinara sauce, and creamy ricotta filling, but it’s more fun to make and much easier to serve because every person gets their own saucy spiral.

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Broccoli Cheddar Orzo

This one-pot weeknight dinner will remind you of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, and it’s so much better.

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One-Pot American Goulash

When you are looking for a dinner that will be a hit with the whole family and can be prepared in just one pot, look no further than American goulash.

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Easy Lasagna

A step-by-step guide to making a simple beef and cheese lasagna. Since this recipe starts with a jar of marinara for ease, make sure it’s one that tastes great.

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Cheesy Meatball Casserole

Flavorful marinara, tender meatballs, and a blanket of melted mozzarella cheese bake up into a comforting casserole everyone will love.

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Cowboy Casserole

This ultra-comforting casserole is packed with lots of melty cheddar and topped with a crispy layer of tater tots.

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Baked Ziti

Guess what - baked ziti freezes like a charm! So eat half now, and freeze the rest for another week.

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Instant Pot Beef Stew

Tender beef stew made in the Instant Pot in less than an hour.

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Creamy One-Pot Beef Orzo

Everything you love about spaghetti and meatballs made so much easier in this one-pot, no-chop dinner.

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One-Pot Beef Goulash

From the sauce-slicked macaroni to the crumbles of ground beef and pockets of melted cheddar, one-pot beef goulash is as comforting as it is easy to get on the table.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

This cozy soup celebrates the flavors of roasted tomatoes for the ultimate comfort food. Make it a meal with easy soup side dishes, like garlic bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Classic Beef Brisket in the Slow Cooker

The beef brisket that makes the whole house smell like a cozy day perfect for snuggling on the couch.

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Stuffed Pepper Casserole

This stuffed pepper casserole is easier and faster than classic stuffed peppers but brimming with all the wholesome goodness of the iconic dish.

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Hamburger Steak

Similar to Salisbury steak, this recipe shapes ground beef into steak-like patties blanketed in rich mushroom gravy.

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Spinach Lasagna

This easy, cheesy spinach lasagna is total comfort food for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

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Shepherd’s Pie

It doesn’t get more comforting than buttery mashed potatoes baked over a savory, veggie-packed filling.

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One-Pot Chili Mac

Never cook your chili and macaroni cheese separately again. Learn how to make one-pot chili mac in your Dutch oven.

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Enchiladas Suiza

Baked in creamy salsa verde sauce and topped with gooey Oaxaca cheese, these chicken enchiladas are unbelievably delicious.

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Pulled Pork

A pork shoulder, slow-cooked and pulled into succulent little shreds, can become a thousand different meals. Mix in some barbecue sauce and make pulled pork sandwiches, scatter it on top of tortilla chips for pulled pork nachos, or use it as a filling for pulled pork lettuce wraps.

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Turkey Lasagna

Swapping in ground turkey for the usual ground beef makes for a lighter yet equally satisfying lasagna.

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Guinness Beef Stew

This hearty, comforting pot of beef stew is simmered low and slow in a Guinness-spiked sauce.

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Tuna Casserole

This budget-friendly family meal is a modern-day tuna casserole that keeps the classic, comforting flavors but loses the can of condensed soup.

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Slow Cooker Sausage and Lentil Stew

This slow cooker stew is inspired by sausage and white bean soup, but we gave it a Southern twist by adding a pack of Andouille chicken sausage. Best of all, there’s next to no prep work needed, meaning your slow cooker does all the heavy lifting to bring dinner to the table.

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Tater Tot Casserole

This hearty casserole easily feeds a hungry crowd and is an all-in-one protein, vegetables, and tots.

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Easy Shepherd's Pie

This shepherd’s pie is a complete meal in a single skillet, and just the kind of dinner you want to tuck into as the weather cools.

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Red’s Brisket

This simple, slow-cooked brisket is tender and rich, with plenty of juice to drizzle over roasted potatoes.

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Slow Cooker Potato Soup

This slow cooker twist on classic potato soup is the perfect make-ahead dinner for your family.

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Instant Pot Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

Cook up tender chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes in a rich gravy in less than hour with an Instant Pot.

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Creamy Chicken Soup

Chicken soup with vegetables and herbs is pure comfort food, and this version takes it up a notch with a luxe, creamy broth.

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Slow Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast

This 5-ingredient, shortcut slow cooker recipe is going to completely change how you think about pot roast.

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Slow-Cooker Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

The slow cooker yields tender, fall-off-the-bone short ribs swimming in a savory broth, made deeper and richer thanks to several glugs of Cabernet.

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Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Beef

An easy, cheesy crowd-pleasing casserole made with savory ground beef and baked with tender rigatoni noodles. This baked rigatoni is easier to assemble than lasagna, packed with just as much flavor, and is a perfect freezer meal that reheats well.

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Spanakopita Stuffed Shells

A brightened-up version of the classic comfort food, featuring the flavors of Greek spanakopita: spinach, feta cheese, fresh dill, and lots of lemon.

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Greek pastitsio features layers of pasta, homemade meat sauce, and the most delicious topping of creamy bechamel.

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Chicken Tinga

This saucy shredded chicken is loaded with smoky, sweet, and spicy flavor. It's delicious served alongside corn tortillas or crunchy tostadas, refried beans, arroz rojo, and salad.

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Easiest-Ever Crustless Quiche

Crustless quiche is similar to a traditional quiche where it has savory egg custard loaded with cheese and mix-ins, but it’s baked without a pie crust.This easy egg bake comes together with whatever meat, cheese, or veggies you have in the fridge. And best of all, it keeps for days and it's just as delicious eaten straight from the fridge as it is warm.

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Ground Beef Taco Casserole

This recipe is everything you love about classic ground beef tacos baked into a big-batch casserole, then topped with lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheddar. Serve the leftovers over a salad of wrap them in a soft tortilla.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

A gentle soup, chock full with wild rice and shredded chicken, that is creamy enough without being too light or too rich.

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Similar to lasagna in construction, this Puerto Rican casserole is made with layers of sweet plantain, meat sauce, and shredded cheese.

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White Bean Chili

With a smoky flavor and subtle heat, this cozy chili will make you think it has the richness of meat even though (spoiler) it's totally vegan. Inspired by white chicken chili and creamy white bean and kale soup, this comforting one-pot dinner is packed with protein.

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Weeknight Cabbage Rolls

To make this comforting dinner more weeknight-friendly, a single skillet is all your need to take them from start to finish.

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Cottage Pie

The ultimate comfort food, cottage pie is made with ground beef and topped with fluffy mashed potatoes.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

This leftover-friendly recipe turns this classic chicken dish into a cheesy casserole.

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Instant Pot Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

This warming beef stew is ultra fragrant thanks to lemongrass, star anise, ginger, and cinnamon.

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Homemade Hamburger Helper

This one-pot casserole channels the nostalgic favorite with ground beef and pasta in a creamy cheddar cheese sauce.

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This post originally published on The Kitchn. Read it there: 18 Easy Make-Ahead Meals Perfect for Busy Weeknights