Elevate Your Taco Tuesday… By Putting It on Autopilot

It’s no secret that I appreciate a good freezer meal. I love to cook, but I’ll be joining the “Two Under Two” Club any day now and do not have the time nor the energy to cook every single day. My husband works long hours as a high school teacher and coach, so between practices and games, most weeknights he gets home after dinner — which leaves me to prepare dinner and clean up after it by myself. Anything I can do to avoid massive prep and cleanup is a win in my book, and freezer cooking fits that bill perfectly.

Over the years, I’ve found that freezing already prepared meals is my freezer cooking style of preference, not only because it cuts down on the foresight of having to remember to thaw chicken, etc., but also because it saves me a ton of time and dishes. Of course, not everything freezes well, but I’ve stumbled upon a few dishes that have become my go-to freezer meals.

And a few of these happen to be AWESOME for taking Taco Tuesday to the next level!

While I am a diehard fan of traditional ground beef tacos in a crunchy shell, I definitely enjoy a “fancier” taco sometimes. My husband loves pork carnitas and I love barbacoa beef, but our toddler tends to lean more towards traditional ground beef. I decided to put Taco Tuesday on autopilot by making big batches of our favorite meats and even Mexican restaurant-style rice and freezing them in portions that made sense for our family. You can use regular freezer bags to do this, but I prefer to use my vacuum sealer. And an added BONUS of using the vacuum sealer: You can heat your food directly in the bags, snip a corner to squeeze your meat into your tacos, and make after dinner cleanup a piece of cake!

Taco Tuesday freezer meals

Here are a few of our favorite tried-and-true recipes that freeze and reheat perfectly:

Traditional Ground Beef

I typically make traditional ground beef taco meat in 5 pound batches in my Instant Pot. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually become my preferred way to cook ground beef because it’s so hands-off and keeps me from standing at the stove forever to brown a huge batch of it. This method actually steams the meat to cook it.

Simply put the trivet that came with your Instant Pot in the bottom, add one cup water to the pot, and place your “brick” of ground beef (fresh or frozen) on the trivet. Seal up your pot and set it to cook at high pressure (I do 15 minutes for my 5 pounds of meat). Once it finishes cooking, I quick release the pressure and check my meat with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s reached 160 degrees. (If it’s not there yet, you can reseal and cook again for 2-3 minute intervals until it’s done.) Once the meat is cooked, carefully lift the trivet out of the pot and place to the side. Discard the liquid at the bottom of the pot.

Since the meat stays shaped like the “brick” it was formed in prior to cooking, I like to take the extra step of giving it a quick pulse in a food processor to get it to my preferred consistency. This step isn’t necessary — you could absolutely just use a spoon or spatula to break it up.

To season the meat, I like to set my Instant Pot on “Saute” mode and add the beef back in along with my taco seasoning mix and water or beef broth. This is more like traditional browning of ground meat, but it’s mostly just mixing the seasoning into the beef to get it combined well since the meat is already fully cooked. I usually give it about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the taco meat is done, I let it cool completely and then portion it out into my labeled freezer bags. I typically do several bags that are big enough to serve my entire family for a meal and a few smaller bags that are individual portions. These individual bags are great for lunches or quick snacks like nachos or quesadillas.

When it’s time to serve, I try to remember to thaw the bag(s) in the fridge a day or two ahead of time, but that doesn’t always happen. Since it’s already fully cooked, you can defrost the meat in the microwave with no issues before heating fully.

Pork Carnitas

Our favorite carnitas recipe is another Instant Pot recipe that comes from Gimme Some Oven (it could also be done in a slow cooker). The pork is cooked in an easy but flavorful marinade, shredded, and then finished with quick run under the broiler to give you a bit of crispness. The broiler step isn’t necessary — I promise the carnitas are perfect right out of the pot! — but it does take them to the next level.

Once the carnitas are done, I let them cool completely and then portion it out into my labeled freezer bags. I typically do a few bags that are big enough to serve my entire family for a meal and a few smaller bags that are individual portions. These individual bags are great for lunches or quick snacks like nachos or quesadillas.

When it’s time to serve, I try to remember to thaw the bag(s) in the fridge a day or two ahead of time, but that doesn’t always happen. Since it’s already fully cooked, you can defrost the meat in the microwave with no issues before heating fully.

Gimme Some Oven includes a recipe for Pineapple Salsa that is the perfect complement to the carnitas. It’s quick to whip up, but since it has several fresh ingredients that I don’t always have on hand, I like to freeze it in small portions as well. It’s best thawed in the fridge, but I’ve thawed it under running water and on the counter while I’m fixing dinner before. It may be a little watery, but you can drain that off and your flavor will still be fine.

Beef Barbacoa

I first tried barbacoa on my first trip to a Chipotle. It was so spicy and delicious, I was instantly hooked. Since I love Gimme Some Oven, it was one of my first searches when I wanted to try making it at home — and it did not disappoint! I’ve made this dish in both the Instant Pot and the slow cooker and both are outstanding. The barbacoa is delicious in tacos, burritos, or burrito bowls, but I’ve also used it as a filling for taquitos and they were fabulous! I bet it’d be great in enchiladas, too.

Once the barbacoa is done, I let it cool completely and then portion it out into my labeled freezer bags. I typically do a few bags that are big enough to serve my entire family for a meal and a few smaller bags that are individual portions. These individual bags are great for lunches or quick snacks like nachos or quesadillas.

When it’s time to serve, I try to remember to thaw the bag(s) in the fridge a day or two ahead of time, but that doesn’t always happen. Since it’s already fully cooked, you can defrost the meat in the microwave with no issues before heating fully.

Mexican Restaurant-Style Rice

This rice recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch tastes just like the rice in a lot of local Mexican restaurants! There is a stovetop version, but I usually make a triple batch of this in the Instant Pot and then freeze family-sized portions of it because it freezes and reheats really well. I typically buy a bag of frozen peas and diced carrots and add them at the end (when you’d add the frozen peas). The only ingredient that you may not have in your pantry already is the tomato bouillon, which can usually be found in the international foods aisle of your grocery store.

Once the rice is done, I let it cool completely and then portion it out into my labeled freezer bags. I typically do a few bags that are big enough to serve my entire family for a meal and a few smaller bags that are individual portions. These individual bags are great for lunchtime burrito bowls.

When it’s time to serve, I try to remember to thaw the bag(s) in the fridge a day or two ahead of time, but that doesn’t always happen. Since it’s already fully cooked, you can defrost the rice in the microwave with no issues before heating fully.

Even though tacos are generally a quick enough meal to whip up on a busy weeknight, making them as freezer meals gives you a little more time in your evening.

I hope these recipes inspire you to kick your Taco Tuesdays up a notch!

Joey Yearous
Joey is a New Orleans native, Dominican alum, and LSU grad who joined the ranks of motherhood in the summer of 2019. She and her Colorado born-and-raised husband, Phil, left their Mid-City apartment for a house on the Northshore about ten days before they welcomed their son, Sam, into the world. Though she’s always had a passion for writing, it’s her work as the Director of Marketing for a Louisiana-based electrical firm that pays the bills. She’s a longtime member of the dance troupe The Muff-A-Lottas and when she isn’t covered in glitter and dancing through the streets of New Orleans, she’s usually cooking, trying new restaurants, and listening to true crime podcasts. A consummate Pinterest fanatic, she’s always looking for her next DIY project or recipe to try. She believes good senses of humor and random acts of kindness make the world go ‘round.

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