Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS.
Written by Brenda Godinez
Wouldn’t it be nice if you were like some of the (many) celebrities who eat a ketogenic diet?
You’d have a personal chef catering every meal, taking the stress out of cooking every night and making your motivation and willpower a complete non-issue.
Or maybe you’d have a food delivery service. At the beginning of each week, you’d have delicious keto-friendly meals delivered to be put in the fridge or freezer and reheated whenever you wanted.
There’s a secret technique many people use to help you get as close as possible to making this a reality without hiring a personal chef or a meal service.
How? Through batch cooking.
What Is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking is exactly what it sounds like: cooking big batches of meals that you can keep some in the fridge to easily reheat later, or freeze for future meals.
But if you’ve never done it before, batch cooking may sound like a lot of work. So in this article, we’ll go over…
If you do some meal prep, you might wonder why you should bother batch cooking, too.
But it turns out there are a few great reasons to consider it.
Batch Cooking Reduces Food Waste
Did you know that the average American throws out 650 pounds of food every year[*]?
That’s food that you worked hard for. You specifically spent your hard earned money on it, spent time shopping for it, and maybe even went to the great lengths to prepare it.
With batch cooking, you can make meals that use the same ingredients across several different recipes, so that you never have to throw away that half a head of cauliflower or ½ a bunch of cilantro again.
It allows you to use up your groceries before the best before date and freeze pre-cooked meals for later.
Batch Cooking Can Saves You Serious Money
That food waste that I just mentioned?
It’s estimated that will cost you $640 per year. It’s literally going into the garbage… after you’ve made the effort to go out and buy it and store it in your refrigerator.
If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that if you invested that money each year for 30 years at an 8% return, you’d have turned it into $72,000[*].
That’s not the only way batch cooking saves money. Batch cooking allows you to buy ingredients in bulk, a less costly option than buying your ingredients in small quantities.
Batch cooking also saves money by giving you plenty of food options in your fridge and freezer, so you won’t need to shell out for takeout or succumb to fast food when you don’t’ have time to cook.
Probably the best reason for batch cooking on the ketogenic diet, however, is the fact that batch cooking helps you stick to the diet, even when your willpower is weak and your motivation is running dry.
Batch Cooking Strengthens Your Willpower
Have you ever tried to adhere to a healthier diet when your partner insists on having unhealthy snack foods in the house, like chips, cookies, or ice cream?
It feels pretty impossible, right?
That’s because you’re relying on willpower to stay away from the junk food. If you’ve been eating junk food or even carb-laden foods for any period of time, your body has adapted to crave those foods. And in a battle between willpower and biology, biology will always win.
Research suggests that trying to restrict a certain food could in fact increase the craving of that food. [*]
Why? Because in your brain, strong food cravings are similar to drug addiction: the underlying cognitive, conditioning and emotional processes show three major phenomenons:
- Ironic cognitive processes (the more you try to suppress, the bigger the craving).
- Conditioned cue reactivity (intense desire for the food when you see it).
Dysphoric mood (unease, dissatisfaction or anxiety when you can’t fulfill the craving).
However, if you engineer your environment to support your goals rather than sabotage them, you’re giving your willpower a break, because it doesn’t have to be strong in the face of temptation.
Think of willpower like a muscle. It can be strengthened, and it can also become weak if you don’t use it. Your willpower gets tired, just like your muscles do. If you’re lifting heavy weights in the gym all day, it would be difficult to get your muscles to cooperate if you were moving a heavy piece of furniture by yourself that evening. They’d be tired.
So if you’re asking your willpower to stay strong in the face of temptation all day, it’s difficult to ask it to remain strong at the end of the day when you’ve just returned home from work hungry and have nothing ready for dinner. Your willpower will collapse and you’ll end up ordering takeout or eating something easy and unhealthy (mac n’ cheese anyone?) rather than preparing a keto-friendly meal from scratch.
Therein lies the power of batch cooking. You can cook big batches of healthy, keto-friendly meals ahead of time so that you give your willpower a break and you have a supportive environment in which to reach your goals.
Just take one of your meals out of the freezer, reheat, and enjoy the fat burning magic of ketosis.
Now that we’re clear on the amazing benefits of batch cooking, we’ll show you how to start batch cooking even if you’ve never done it before.
The easiest way to start is by doubling or tripling what you were going to make tonight for dinner.
The power of batch cooking lies in maximizing the number of future meals you can make in the same amount of time it takes you to cook just one meal.
Think about it: you’re already washing, chopping, prepping, and cleaning dishes just to make one dinner for two, but if you triple your ingredients you can easily make three day’s worth of dinners without having to put in all the prepping work for each one. Cook smarter, not harder.
Here’s how to get started:
#1: Make Batch Cooking Part of Your Weekly Routine
Most people choose Sunday, because they have the day off and tend to spend at least the evening at home anyway.
If you don’t like cooking or dread spending a part of your weekend batch cooking, you can do it more slowly.
Just start doubling or tripling the recipe of the meals you’re already making (let’s say for dinner tonight) and slowly building your stash that way. For example, if you’re making Loaded Cauliflower Bake for dinner tonight, make two or three of them to freeze and reheat later.
It will just take a little longer to accumulate a big freezer stash and some variety in your recipes, but you’ll get to reap the benefits of batch cooking without having to worry about saying goodbye to your weekends.
#2: Batch cook the items with ingredient crossover.
Since food waste is such a costly (and environmentally damaging) problem, batch cooking recipes with ingredient crossover will help you eliminate or at least drastically reduce how much food your family is throwing out.
Plus, this also reduces the amount of time you have to spend on batch cooking, since you only have to handle the ingredient once. If you’re cooking something with onions, for example, chopping or processing two onions at once is easier than doing them separately.
Later in this article, we’ll show you some recipes perfect for batch cooking (you can click here to jump straight to that section).
#3: Become Intimate With Your Freezer
Part of batch cooking is storing the meals you just batch cooked. So batch cookers tend to become best friends with their freezers.
- Knowing what you can freeze. The awesome thing about batch cooking on the ketogenic diet is that you can freeze almost everything, as long as you process it properly. The only keto-friendly foods that you can’t really freeze is cream cheese. You can freeze eggs and cheese and everything else.
- Knowing how long you can freeze it for. Most meat and seafood can be frozen for around 3 months safely in your refrigerator freezer. Vegetables will last for up to 8 months, and soups, stews, casseroles, and other keto-friendly recipes will keep for around 3 months. You can pretty much triple the amount of time for a deep freeze.
- Label whatever you froze with what it is and the date you froze it. That way, you’ll know what you should eat first. The best way to do this is to either use a permanent marker on a freezer bag, or if you plan on using reusable containers, use painter’s tape for labeling.
- Consider getting a vacuum sealer (like a FoodSaver). These will help your food last for longer in the freezer.
- Freeze in the portions you’ll eat the food in. Most foods shouldn’t be defrosted and then re-frozen, so keep in mind that you’ll have to eat most of what you pull out of the freezer within a few days.
#4: Use a Slow Cooker Where Possible
A slow cooker – or crockpot – is a game-changing tool for batch cookers. If you don’t own one yet, you might be thinking “not another appliance…”, but this pot is completely worth it if you want to simplify batch cooking.
As the name suggests, it cooks meals for long periods (a minimum of six hours) at low temperatures. It’s the ultimate “set and forget it” appliance. Here’s why you should consider making it a kitchen staple:
- One-step cooking. A slow-cooker turns almost any dish into a one-pot meal. There’s no sauteing or stirring — you simply add all the ingredients, close the lid, and go about your day until it’s ready 6-8 hours later.
- Helps you stick to your keto diet. You can set your slow cooker to have a fresh keto dinner ready by the time you come home from work. For example, you can dump the ingredients for a stew in your slow cooker before going to work, set it for 8 hours, and enjoy it later that night. You won’t even consider ordering take out or snacking on unhealthy food.
- Saves time. Because all you have to do is chop and dump the ingredients in the pot, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family, relaxing, or finishing work.
- Virtually no clean-up. Since you don’t need a collection of pots to make your meal, the clean up boils down to just the slow cooker.
- More flavorful food. The longer cooking time brings out richer flavors in your meals.
- Better for tough cuts of meat. A slow cooker can tenderize tough cuts of meat in a way an oven can’t.
- More energy-efficient than an oven. Using a slow cooker will save you more money in the long-run than using an oven. While an oven consumes around 2.2kWh, a slow cooker uses a mere 0.7kWh over eight hours. That’s a 33% increase in efficiency.
Wondering what you can make in your slow cooker? Almost anything:
- Bone broth
- Chicken soup
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Beef roast
- Zucchini lasagna
- Shrimp boil
A slow cooker can make your keto lifestyle a lot more manageable. To make sure you’re using it right, follow these tips:
- Put firm veggies in first since they take longer to cook. Place the meat over the veggies.
- When using a non-slow cooker recipe, reduce liquids by one-third to one-half of what the recipe says. Liquids don’t boil away in a slow cooker as they do on the stove.
- Don’t remove the lid while cooking, as it can delay the cooking time by 15-20 minutes.
- Add dairy (milk, cheese and cream) and soft veggies (zucchini and tomatoes) during the last hour of cooking to prevent curdling and mushy veggies.
#5: Take Advantage Of Batch Processing
If you have a recipe that you can’t batch cook, you can probably batch process. For example, let’s say you want to make a hearty salad with lettuce, kale, avocado, tomato, bacon and ricotta cheese. Leafy greens don’t defrost well, so freezing is not an option.
However, you can prep all the ingredients in advance:
- Instead of plucking and washing a couple of lettuce or kale leaves at a time, wash and dry the whole head of lettuce in a salad spinner and then store all the leaves in the fridge in a large glass container lined with a kitchen towel. This way, you’ll have clean lettuce ready to use each day of the week.
- Clean and cut several tomatoes to the desired size and keep in the fridge. They will last 3-4 days.
- Cook the bacon and store it in the fridge.
- Cut the avocado when you’re ready to make your salad.
Once you’ve done this, it’s a breeze to assemble the prepped ingredients waiting for you in the fridge.
It’s trickier to keep raw veggies fresh than cooked meals, but you can still save time by washing and chopping them in a batch, and making sure you eat them throughout the week since they don’t last long.
Before you start batch cooking, you’ll need key tools and appliances that will make the process easier. Here’s what your kitchen should have at all times:
- Plenty of cutting boards (even the plastic ones you can get at the dollar store or Iikea)
- A good set of knives. Make sure your set includes a high-quality steel 8-inch Chef’s knife
- Measuring cups and spoons, preferably made of steel for durability
- A colander
- A fine-mesh strainer
- 2-3 mixing bowls
- A grater
- Large wooden spoons
- Soup ladle
- Salad spinner
- Vegetable peeler
- Slow cooker
- Large pot
- Casserole dishes
- Muffin tins
- Round and square baking pans
- Non-stick skillets
Storing and Freezing Food
- Food saver or vacuum sealer
- Freezer bags (in some cases. You don’t always need these, especially if you plan on eating the meals within the next little while)
- Containers (glass is best, plastic if you must)
- Plastic wrap and, tinfoil
Once you stock up on everything you need to make epic low carb freezer meals, it’s time to choose the recipes you want to make:
Many keto-ers will avoid bothering because common batch cooking ingredients like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, rice and pasta dishes are off-limits on the ketogenic diet (too many carbs!).
But you can batch cook a lot of recipes. The most common ketogenic foods to batch cook are soups, stews and casseroles, but you don’t have to limit it to just that.
You can even batch:
- Smoothies. Just blend in a batch, store in plastic bags and freeze
- Bone broth
- Keto-friendly stir fry
- Fat bombs
- Keto-friendly pancake batter
- Ground beef for low-carb pasta sauce, keto tacos, etc.
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Bacon strips
- Grilled chicken and fish
- Chicken and fish soup
- Bacon and cheese stuffed chicken breast
- Garlic shrimp
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Spinach quiche
- Stuffed peppers
- Egg muffin cups
Sounds good? Start filling your fridge and freezer with these recipes:
Here are a bunch of keto-friendly recipes you can batch cook.
- Flourless Matcha Latte Pancakes
- Superfood Pumpkin Waffles
- Micronutrient Greens Matcha Smoothie
- Keto Power Breakfast with Green Sauce
- Turkey Sausage Frittata
- Easy White Turkey Chili
- Spring Keto Stew with Venison
- Crispy Skin Salmon with Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- Shrimp Stir Fry with Baked Cauliflower Rice
- Mushroom Bacon Skillet
- Slow Cooker Taco Soup
- Loaded Cauliflower Bake
- Roasted Chicken Stacks
- Beberé Enchilada Style Stuffed Peppers
- Superfood Meatballs
- Lemon Balsamic Chicken
- Cheesy Broccoli Meatza
- Celeriac Everything Oven Fries
- Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps
- Creamed Spinach
- Keto Cloud Bread (“Oopsie Bread”)
- Rosemary Cauliflower Mash and Gravy
- Keto Brownies with Peppermint Crunch
- Macadamia Nut Fat Bomb
- Low-Carb Gingersnap Cookies
- Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Bites
- Pumpkin Spice Fat Bombs
- Perfect Keto Mocha Fat Bombs
- Mint Chip Popsicles with Micro Greens
After you pick the recipes you want to make for the week, it’s time to make the shopping list.
Batch Cooking Shopping List
Keep in mind your personal shopping list will be focused on large quantities of a few key ingredients that will make the main meals of the week. Here’s a comprehensive list of everything your shopping list might include:
- Ground beef
- Peeled and deveined shrimp
- Turkey breast
- Chicken thighs
- Pork chops
- Organ meats
- Cream cheese
- Cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, feta, etc)
- Sour cream
- Full-fat yogurt
- Heavy cream
- Canned tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Canned asparagus
- Canned sardines
- Leafy greens (kale, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, etc)
- Bell peppers
- Berries (strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, etc)
Nuts and seeds
- Coconut milk
- Coconut cream
- Chia seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Tree nuts (almond, macadamia, walnuts, etc)
- Nut butters
- Monk fruit
To see everything you can eat on a ketogenic diet, check the Full Ketogenic Diet Food List.
For instance, let’s say you are going to batch cook these recipes for the week for one person:
- Flourless Matcha Latte Pancakes (yield: three pancakes a day).
Your shopping list would look like this:
- 1lb organic ground turkey
- 9 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 16oz (1lb) shrimp (peeled, tail on)
- Cream cheese
- Heavy whipping cream
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 12 oz frozen riced cauliflower
- 1 head of purple cabbage
- Green onion
- 1 lemon
- One 2” ginger root
- 4 baby bella mushrooms
Nuts and seeds
- 1 tub of sunflower seed butter
- Coconut oil
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- Monk fruit sweetener
- Bay leaves
- Pink Himalayan salt
- Dried Italian herb blend
- Coarse black pepper
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Bacon fat
- MCT oil
- 1 container of Perfect Keto Matcha Latte MCT Oil Powder
- 1 container of Perfect Keto MCT Oil Powder
- 1 container of Perfect Keto Chocolate Exogenous Ketone Base
After you’ve done your big cook, you’ll have at least a few days of meals waiting for you in the freezer.
These are perfect for weekday meals on those busy nights when sticking to keto is hard. We’ve compiled some hacks to make reheating effortless, safe, and delicious.
#1: Use Muffin Tins for Perfect Portions
Freeze already-cooked casseroles and other dishes that are more difficult to freeze in muffin tins.
When they’re frozen, you can pop them out and throw them in a freezer bag for portioning out throughout the week. That way you don’t have to unthaw and entire batch. Just defrost what you need.
#2: Cut Down on Dishes
If you plan to eat a freezer meal within a few weeks, store directly in a microwave-safe glass container in the freezer. Then you can just defrost, heat and eat.
No need to transfer the food into a separate bowl or waste a freezer bag.
#3: Freeze Liquids In Freezer Bags for Stackable Tiles
If you’re like most people, you hate a disorganized fridge or freezer. To avoid that, store soups, stews, sauces, and anything liquidy in freezer bags that you lie down for stacking. Because the stacks are thin and spread out, they will defrost faster and more evenly.
Image from New Leaf Wellness
#4: Make Your Food Last 3x Longer in the Freezer
If you plan on batching some meals that you might not want to eat for the next couple of months (maybe you do a super batch day and cook weeks worth of food), you don’t want your hard work to get freezer burn.
Vacuum sealers can make your freezer meals last three times longer than regular freezer bags. If you plan on taking this batch cooking seriously, it’s a great investment.
#5: Use This Tip for Smarter Casserole Storage
You could freeze casseroles directly in your casserole dish or pan, but if you’ll need it before you think you might eat the meal, line it with parchment paper before freezing. Then you can remove the whole meal when it’s frozen, transfer the casserole into a freezer bag or wrap it in tinfoil, and pop it back into the pan later.
#6: Defrost Your Meals Safely and Properly
Freezer storage makes your food last longer because bacteria won’t thrive in the cold temperatures.
However, you can run into some food safety problems when you’re defrosting your meals. To avoid problems, never defrost your food at room temperature. That’s not food safe and can cause harmful bacteria to grow on the food.
According to the USDA, food left to thaw on the counter can start to grow bacteria once it reaches 40°F [*] — particularly on the outer parts:
“Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.”
There are two ways you can thaw your food safely instead:
1. In Your Fridge
The cool and constant temperature of your fridge will prevent bacteria from growing on your food. Take your meal out of the freezer and store in the fridge for 24 hours.
After thawing in the fridge…
- Meats like ground meat, stew meat, poultry, and seafood remain safe for an extra 1-2 days before cooking.
Red meat cuts like beef, pork, lamb roasts, chops and steaks remain safe for an extra 3- 5 days before cooking.
2. In Cold Water
If you’re in a rush and can’t wait 24 hours, fill a bowl with cold water and thaw the freezer bag in it. Make sure the bag doesn’t have any holes, as this could introduce bacteria into your food.
It’s important the water remains cold, so change it every 30 minutes to avoid reaching warmer temperatures.
Your food will defrost in 1-3 hours depending on the size of your bag.
Avoid removing the meal from the freezer and placing it directly in the microwave or oven still frozen. That’ll take forever and likely burn the outside of your meal while the inside is still uncooked.
Batch Cook Your Low Carb Meals Like A Pro
Eating low carb can be challenging if you don’t have a plan, but with batch cooking it’s easier than you ever thought.
Batch cooking will let you enjoy keto-friendly meals every day of the week so you can stay on track with your health goals, while saving time and money. It will increase your willpower and motivation instead of draining it, and you won’t have to worry about what to cook for dinner, especially on those busy nights.
All you need are the right tools — slow cooker, freezer, basic utensils, and containers –, then choose 4-6 recipes to eat during the week, shop for the ingredients, cook your big batch, freeze it for later, and follow food safety guidelines when defrosting.
Get used to batch cooking by making it a weekly routine. If you turn it into a habit that makes you happy, you’ll be able to put your ketogenic diet on autopilot and reap all the energy-boosting and mental clarity benefits.