Amanda Terillo, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian with the M Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia


Everyone wants to have a satiating and healthy meal at the end of the day. However, who wants to cook after getting home from a long day of work? Well, some of us do, but most see it as a chore to be avoided at all costs. This is where batch cooking comes in.  

Batch cooking is different than meal planning in that you do not need to know exactly what you are going to eat Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. In my opinion, it’s way easier! It consists of precooking a bunch of ingredients from each food group that will make a complete meal once done (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vegetables). When ready for your meal, all you must do is assemble.  

Think of it as having your own taco bar at home. After you finish grocery shopping, you can cook your ingredients right away so that they are in an edible form and ready to go! 

Proteins

Ingredient Preparation  Uses  
Beans & lentils Soak 24 hours with lemon juice, then boil them until edible. Store in an airtight container. Tacos 
Casseroles 
Soups 
Rice bowls 
Nuts & seeds Store in a glass jar so you can visibly see them in your pantry! Oatmeal 
Salads 
As a snack  
In a smoothie  
Chia seed pudding 

Carbohydrates

Quinoa 1:1 water to quinoa ratio. Bring to a boil and then a simmer. Store in an airtight container. Sweet quinoa breakfast porridge 
Salad topping 
Savory bowls 
In soups  
Rice 2:1 water to rice ratio. Bring to a boil and then a simmer. Store in an airtight container. Savory bowls 
On top of salads  
Gluten-Free Oats Store in an airtight container. Overnight oats 
In baked goods 
Potatoes/sweet potatoes Cut in 1” chunks, drizzle with olive oil/coconut oil and seasoning of choice. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20–30 minutes until desired temperature.  In stir-fries 
As a side dish 
Savory bowl  
On the side of breakfast 
Root Vegetables  Cut in 1” chunks, drizzle with olive oil/coconut oil and seasoning of choice. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20–30 minutes until desired temperature. As a side dish 
On top of salads 
In a savory bowl  

Fats

Avocado On top of salads 
In a savory bowl 
In a smoothie 
As a side dish 
As a snack  
Olives On top of salads 
In a savory bowl 
As a snack  
Tahini  Make a tahini dressing for savory bowls and salads. 
Salad dressings Add to savory bowls 
Top of roasted vegetables 

If you have some of the above foods from each group cooked, you can make a balanced meal very quickly. For example, I can batch cook some roasted potatoes, quinoa, beans, salmon, two sheet pans worth of roasted vegetables. This can be done in about 2-3 hours on a Sunday. Now when coming home from work, I have a variety of ingredients to make a meal with such as a burrito bowl, a large salad, a stir-fry, tacos, or just separate sides. This should last several days. 

Tips for Batch Cooking Vegetables

Roasting

Roasted vegetables are a great way to have vegetables readily available for consumption. My favorite vegetables to roast are brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus.

Precutting 

Half the ‘pain’ of cooking vegetables is the washing and cutting. Pre-cut them and place them in an airtight container to quickly grab and eat and/or cook. Some great examples are bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

Making a large salad 

Salads can be stored for 2–3 days if you keep any ‘soggy’ ingredients on the side such as dressing and sliced tomatoes. I love to make a big kale salad that will last several days in the refrigerator. 

Tips for Overall Successful Batch Cooking:

  1. Make ingredients you are already familiar with.  
  2. Always start slow! If you cook foods you are familiar with, putting together a meal will be easier. If you want to start with new recipes that’s great! My recommendation is to do one new recipe per week. 
  3. Start with 2–3 ingredients from each group. 
  4. Making too much food can leave us feeling overwhelmed and lead to waste. Just like the tip above, go slow!  
  5. Have simple sauces on hand to make meals taste different. 
  6. Sometimes using different sauces can make meals more exciting, especially when having frequent leftovers. Some different sauces/dressings that can really boost flavor include salsa, different vinegars, fresh citrus juice, tahini sauce, smashed avocados, and various herbs and spices.  
  7. Re-heat food on a stovetop or bring a lunch-crock with you to work.  
  8. Avoid the toxic effects of reheating in a microwave by reheating in a safe form. The Lunch Crock is a great portable, mini Crock-Pot that makes it very simple and convenient to reheat leftovers safely while at work!