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200 Best Meals in a Jar Recipes

Meals in Jar recipes are the perfect way to use your dehydrated foods and pantry staples to create long-term food storage meals for your family. They also make great kits for easy meals for those weeknights when you don’t have time to prep.

Those nights when you are on a tight schedule from kids’ school activities or have had a really rough day are when you tend to reach for the phone for take-out pizza or a drive-thru.

3 meal in a jar mixes

Like creating freezer meals, meals in a jar are handy prepared meals you have in your pantry that can be thrown into a pot of water to cook, and save you a ton of time from meal prep.

Benefits of Meals in a Jar

  • Quick easy meals that are ready for camping or busy weeknight meals.
  • Easy way to store meals for long-term food storage without the need to constantly prep a meal.
  • Create ‘instant’ meals to your tastes and nutritional levels and philosophies. Many of the instant meals from long-term food storage companies are high in salt and carbs – you can adjust any of these to meet your needs.
  • Make use of your long-term food storage. Whether you’ve invested in freeze-dried products, or dehydrate your own, or stock dry goods, you can put them to use in ready-made meals.
  • Perfect for emergencies. Whether natural disasters, power outages, earthquakes, or personal situations where health situations prohibit you from meal prep, these meals require less water and energy to prepare as opposed to many traditional recipes.
  • Help friends and family. Give the gift of food storage to those who may be in need. Elderly friends and relatives who can’t prep foods, those suffering from illnesses, neighbors in need, new and expectant parents, and families suffering loss are all prime examples of those who may need quick meals that need little prepping for comfort and nutrition.

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Best Meals in a Jar Recipes

For these recipes, we will be sticking to meals in a jar and side accompaniments that are primarily self-contained. A few will need a couple of extra ingredients to finish.

We will avoid meals in a jar that require a ton of dairy or other fresh ingredients that cannot be replicated with freeze-dried or dehydrated alternatives. We’ll also avoid dessert or salad in a jar that should stay fresh.

We also want to keep these mixes shelf-stable for long-term as much as possible, so things like granola won’t be included.

I hope to give you viable, good, shelf-stable options for meals-in-a-jar recipes at every one of these vetted links to help you build your pantry with long-term storage.

Substitution Tips:

  • Many of these recipes may contain products from a specific freeze-dried company. You do not have to use ingredients from that company. You can use your own dehydrated foods, or a freeze-dried company of your choice.
  • Use approximately 1/2 of the quantity of dehydrated foods when they call for freeze-dried, as freeze-dried foods don’t shrink. Quantities aren’t written in stone. You can change the mixes up easily to your preference.
  • Give yourself a little extra time in rehydrating/cooking when using dehydrated vs freeze dried. It may take a little longer.
  • Use a thermos to rehydrate/cook in if you are on the go
  • If you need a truly instant-meal, precook all of your ingredients before dehydrating.

LEARN MORE: 200+ Dehydrating Recipes

Also, some of these jars will make enough to fill a quart-sized mason jar. Some will be enough to fill a pint or pint and a half-sized jar. If desired, the latter can be doubled or tripled to go into a larger jar. The smaller recipes are great for backpacking or individual meal sizes.

You may have to scroll down the page to get to it for some of the recipes.

Breakfast Meals in a Jar

Breakfast Omelet

Camper’s Eggy Delight

Caryn’s Cheesy Sausage Fritatta

Cherry Chocolate Pancakes

Cinnamon Pancakes

Cranberry Buttermilk Pancake Mix

Hashbrowns and Eggs

Hearty Pancake Mix

Oatmeal

Sweet and Savory Crepes

Main Course Meals in a Jar

ABC Sloppy Joes

Baked Ziti

Beans and Rice Casserole

Beefy Philly Cheesesteak

Beefy Spanish Rice

Burrito Bowl Meal in a Jar

Cheesy Sloppy Joe Hotdish

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken and Rice

Chicken Broccoli Cheese

Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry

Chicken Chili

Chicken Noodle Skillet Meal

Chicken Salad in a Jar

Chili

Chili Mac

Cous Cous with Chicken and Vegetables (serves 1 – pint jar)

Creamy Chicken Veggie Casserole

Creamy Tomato Pasta Primavera

Curry Rice with Chicken and Cashews (for long-term storage, omit cashews or add at the last minute since nuts are best stored in the freezer for long-term) (serves 1 – pint jar)

Double Cheeseburger Sauce Mix

Eggroll in a Jar

Fiesta Rice with Corn (serves 1 – pint jar)

Francesca’s Unstuffed Peppers

Hamburger Stew

Hawaiin Style Teriyaki Beef

Hearty Beef and Bean Chili

Hearty Chili

Instant Chicken Salad

Jambalaya

Kansas City Chicken BBQ

Kicked Up Mac n Cheese

Mac and Cheese

Potato Cheese Sausage Casserole

Quiche

Rosemary Chicken and Rice

Sausage Frittata

Sausage Lasagna

Sloppy Joes

Spaghetti Sauce with Meat

Stroganoff Skillet

Stuffed Chicken and Gravy

Taco Beef and Cheese 

Thai Chicken in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Three Bean Chili

Turkey Noodle Casserole

Soup Meals in a Jar

Asparagus Soup

Bean Soup

Beef Barley Soup

Beefy Bean Soup

Beef Stew

Beef and Bean Stew

Beef and Vegetable for One

Beef and Zucchini Quiche

Buffalo Chicken and Rice

Caryn’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup in a Jar (add freeze-dried chicken to make a complete shelf-stable meal)

Chicken Pot Pie

Chipotle Corn Chowder

Cream Soup Mix

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Wild Rice Mushroom Soup

Curried Lentil Soup

Friendship Soup

Good Luck Soup

Ham Sausage and Bean Soup

Instant Cheese Soup 

Instant Creamy Asparagus Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Lentil and Rice Soup

Loaded Baked Potato Soup (recipe is in the description box of the video)

Love Soup

Minestrone Soup 

Nancy’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Noodle Soup in a Jar

Painted Desert Chili in a Jar

Palouse Soup

Potato Sausage Soup

Potato Soup

Prairie Garden Vegetable Soup

Soup Starters

Split Pea Soup

Taco Soup 

Texas Two-Step Soup

Tortilla Soup

Turkey and Stuffing

Turkey Noodle Soup

Vegetable Quinoa Soup with Lentils

Zombie Soup Mix

The following recipe for Sauce or Soup mix is used with permission from the Utah State University Extension List. Typically it is against copyright laws to take someone else’s recipe and share it in full like this, but they have given permission to publish widely. To see more uses for this recipe, alternatives, etc., you can find the information in this handy guide.

Anything Cream Soup Mix:

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients, mixing well.
  2. Store in an airtight container for a year+

Yield

Equal to 9 (10.5 oz) cans of cream soup.

To substitute for 1 can of cream soup

  1. Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water. Whisk until
    well blended.
  2. Cook and stir on stove top or in microwave until thickened.
  3. Add thickened mixture to casseroles as you would a can of soup.

    (This is used with permission from the USU Extension office)

Sides in a Jar

Curried Rice Mix

Cranberry Orange Rice

Creamy Herbed Rice Mix

Herbed Rice Mix

Lemon Dill Rice

Mac and Cheese (add a little freeze-dried beef or sausage and taco seasoning, and you’ve got a cheesy chili mac)

Pot Roast Gravy over Mashed Potatoes

Refried Beans (this is basically just dehydrated refried beans, but when all you have to do is add water, it makes a quick and easy side or protein replacement!)

Chicken Flavored Rice Mix

Scalloped Potatoes 

Spanish Rice

Yellow Rice Mix

Meals in a Jar Recipe Books

There are so many free meals in a jar recipes all over the internet apart from the ones listed above. But I know it’s so convenient to have something handy to have that isn’t attached to your computer or tablet!

So here are some recommended recipe books for making your own meals in a jar for your long-term storage.

Look to Backpacking Recipe books for other meals that you can also put into your storage. They may not be ‘in the jar’ and are usually geared more towards single or double serving meals in a bag, but they can be used easily translated to your family serving size.

A caveat to these kinds of recipes is that they may often use oils/fats while cooking and meats. For long-term storage, omit the oils and fats (they aren’t usually needed), and look to freeze-dried meats for more optimal storage.

Extras:

Vegetable soup in a jar mix

How to Store Meals in a Jar

You can store meals in a jar mixes in variety of ways:

  • Canning jars (also known as mason jars)
  • Any airtight container – spaghetti jars, queso jars, or other glass containers that are airtight. Hard sided plastic containers (not the more pliable) will also work
  • Mylar bags – these are reusable and great for camping and can be sealed with a simple heat seal with an iron or vacuum sealer, or vacuum sealed with an O2 absorber
  • Vacuum-sealed plastic storage bags as is used with many vacuum sealers
  • Zip-top bags for short-term storage (less than a week).

LEARN MORE: Quick Guide to Vacuum Sealing

Meals in a jar recipes will last easily last a year or two, and you may get even longer – 5+ years, but the quality and texture may begin to decline at that point.

Certain foods like tomatoes don’t have as long of a shelf-life as other foods, and meats are better used freeze-dried than dehydrated for longer shelf-life goals.

Proper storage is also necessary. Cool, dark, dry places are best for storage. If you have proteins, storing them in the freezer is optimal, and they can be pulled out at any time for a backpacking/hiking trip with no issues.

Using Oxygen Absorbers

These can be used in your jars to help control the shelf life of your meal in a jar recipe. They are not necessary but can be helpful. You can learn all about how they work and if you really need them (you really don’t) with this handy guide on storing dehydrated foods

Helpful Tips for Creating Meals in a Jar

  • Use Instant Rice or Instant Beans. For those ingredients that take longer to prepare, using dehydrated rice or dehydrated beans can cut your time down.
  • Mark your packages: Mark your bags or attach a recipe sheet to your jars. Having the correct directions on how to prepare or what more needs to be added. Mylar can be written on with sharpie markers. You can write on the lid of a jar, tape a recipe card to the outside, etc. Never assume you’ll remember!
  • Interchange recipes. You’ll often find recipes online that are built from freeze-dried foods only. While a little adjustment in the time to rehydrate may be different, you can easily replace freeze-dried with dehydrated foods.
  • Using dehydrated foods – consider cooking your vegetables fully then dehydrating to make the end product a little quicker to reconstitute.

Preparing Meals in a Jar Recipes

Usually simmering in enough water to replace the original water is enough, though I suggest a little extra to make up for loss in simmering and the extra sometimes needed to rehydrate. But follow the above recipe suggestions for best results as all will vary.

Tools for rehydrating meals in a jar

  • Saucepans
  • Fondue pots -surprisingly, these are excellent in emergency situations as they require nothing but a candle or other fuel source that is easy to store, and can be used to simmer smaller meal portions during power outages. Look for older non-electric fondue pots in thrift stores for less expensive options.
  • Thermoses
  • Instant Pots

Tips to convert recipes:

Many recipes you have already cooked can be made into a meal-in-a-jar recipe. Some helpful tips to covert recipes you already love are:

  • Stock: Replace 1 quart of stock with 1 1/2 tablespoons bouillion. Then use 1 quart water to make soup
  • Vegetables: Use 1/3 cup of dehydrated or freeze-dried vegetables to replace 1 cup of fresh. Remember that dehydrated vegetables may need a little extra time to rehydrate and cook, so meals that allow simmering work best.
  • Milk: Use 1/3 cup milk powder to replace 1 cup milk (and 2/3 cup water)
  • Ground Beef: 2 Cups freeze-dried ground beef for 1 pound of beef
  • Chicken: 2 1/2 Cups freeze-dried chicken for 1 pound of beef

Want some ideas for doing beverages as well? Try these beverage in a jar recipe ideas!

Dehydrating Basics & Journal book and ebook mockup

Meals in a Jar Frequently Asked Questions:

How long do meals in a jar last?

Typically, most meals in a jar will last a year to three years by the safest standards of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

However, using the proper storage standards listed above, you may get 5 or more years out of them. Just remember, things like tomatoes have a shorter long-term life and may begin to degrade a little faster than the rest of your dehydrated goods, so be sure to rotate often!
Meats should also be freeze-dried as opposed to dehydrated for best storage results.

Can I use freeze-dried foods?

Yes! In fact, I recommend using freeze-dried meats for all of my long-term storage of dried foods. They are prepared in a different way than dehydrating and can be shelf-stable for up to 25 years (unopened) and then longer than typical dehydrated meats on the shelf opened.
My favorite places to purchase freeze-dried foods are Thrive Life and Augason Farms, depending on who is running the better sale.
However, if you are concerned about storing meats long-term from a dehydrated or already opened, freeze-dried state, you can always keep your meat in the freezer and just add it as you put the meal on the stovetop to cook.

Can I replace freeze-dried with dehydrated food?

Yes, they are usually interchangeable in any meal. Just remember dehydrated foods may take a little longer to reconstitute. And if they were not dehydrated from a fully cooked state, they will also need time to cook.

Can I store salads in a jar on the shelf?

Unfortunately, salads in a jar type recipes are still meant for safe refrigerated storage but can help extend the life of your greens when vacuum sealed. They are not safe for shelf-stable storage, which is why they are not included in this list.

Do I have to use a mason jar to store meals in a jar recipes?

Use mylar bags with or without oxygen absorbers, food storage bags, airtight containers, and commercial glass jars with airtight seals. Zip top bags are to be used for very short-term storage only (think a week or so).

Can I do any meal and put into a jar?

Unfortunately, just any meal doesn’t dry and qualify for shelf-stable meal in a jar storage. Many foods are high in fats/oils, or aren’t considered shelf-stable.
So while you can do a bulk load of spaghetti sauce and noodles with meat, drying it once cooked is easy, but the meat may not be shelf-stable because of the fat content, and any oil used in the sauce can also create an issue.
This is why freeze-dried proteins and non-fat dairy are suggested for storage.
However, these meals would be fine for short-term backcountry/hiking meals, or can be stored in the freezer until needed.

Do items need to be kept separate?

With some mixes, the soups need different cooking times. A vegetable quinoa soup might need the quinoa cooked separately. Or in the case of a mac and cheese meal, the sauce components are bagged separately, then inserted into the top of the jar. Each recipe should notate if this might be necessary.

Can I make my own freeze-dried foods?

Yes! You can freeze-dry single ingredients or whole meals using a freeze-dryer. They usually have a longer shelf-life than dehydrated foods making your meals in a jar last much longer.

The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is the premiere home freeze-dryer on the market (much like Excalibur was 15 years ago). It is an investment, but for those serious about long-term food storage and control of your own food, it might be an investment worth making rather than purchasing from various companies.

carrots, jerky and berries

Conclusion:

There are so many resources for meals in a jar on the internet. Some are great for long-term storage, and some are made more for the effect of storing in a jar but might be better used for short-term gift giving.

Either way – play, explore, make up your own recipes! You’ll love the benefit of having shelf-stable meals ready for your family for easy meals, emergency meals, and opportunities to serve other people who may be in need of a hot meal that you can help them store.

Do you have a favorite you’d love to share with us?

3 meal in a jar mixes

Cheesy Chili Mac in a Jar Recipe

Take the classic mac and cheese up a notch and have a shelf-stable cheesy chili mac ready for weeknight meals, emergency meals, or something you can gift to a new family or elderly person as an easy meal help.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 373kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups quick cook elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup freeze dried protein (beef crumbles, sausage or diced chicken)
  • 2/3 cup cheese powder
  • 3 tablespoons instant non-fat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning mix
  • 1.5 tablespoons butter powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable powder (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups water Use only 2 cups if omitting vegetable powder
  • 3 cups Boiling water

Instructions

Store

  • Place pasta and protein into the bottom of a quart jar or mylar bag
  • Place dry ingredients into a zip top bag and place on top of pasta mix
  • Close the jar or bag as desired (vacuum seal, use an O2 absorber or simply close)
  • Store for 2 years easily, up to 5 years in most cases
  • Vacuum seal or use an O2 absorber for best results
  • See Notes

To Prepare

  • Heat 3 cups of water to rehydrate the pasta and protein.
  • Add 2.5 cups of boiling water to dry ingredients
  • Mix thoroughly and allow to sit an rehydrate while pasta rehydrates
  • Mix with pasta and serve.

Darcy’s Tips

Notes:
If using regular pasta, cook it first (you can rehydrate the protein in the same water), drain, then go into the next steps. You can use some of that pasta water to mix the dry ingredients to form your sauce.
For ease, you can cook all the ingredients together. The sauce may clump and it may take more time to mix together, but given time, the ingredients will mix properly.
Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to two years in a dark, cool, dry place.

Nutrition

Calories: 373kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 1034mg | Potassium: 433mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 15g

Nutritional information is an estimation only. Nutrient information for dehydrated foods is based on fresh. Use 1/4 of the servicing size for the same nutrient information. Thus 1 Cup of fresh fruit has the same sugars as 1/4 dried.

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14 Comments

  1. This was an extremely informative and quite complete post! THANK you!
    I was just wondering, since I can’t seem to find much about it online or in the few meals in jars books I have, if I were converting any recipe to a meal in a jar, what is the ratio of protein (meat), pasta/rice/etc, vegetables, sauce, per serving?
    I’m diabetic and can’t do carbs, so I’m having to really retrofit recipes and don’t know where to start …Thanks again for this post. Although most wont’ be do-able for me, I can try to retrofit them and you have SO much info it will certainly help!!

    1. I can’t tell you ratios in carbs. But carbs don’t shrink with dehydration. 1 Cup fresh is approximately 1/3-1/4 cup dried = 1 Tablespoon powder.

  2. Avatar for Linda Bales Linda Bales says:

    Thank you Darcy.

  3. These look good and I’m finding inspiration here for DIY gifts for the upcoming holiday season! Which recipes are pictured? I’ve clicked so many recipes but am unable to figure out which one matches the one with bowtie noodles. Thanks!

    1. Use whatever kind of pasta you want – you don’t have to stick to the type of pasta.

  4. Instead of using freeze dried meat in the meal in a jar, could I use dehydrated meat instead? Thank you!!

    1. From the post: “Many of these recipes may contain products that are from a specific freeze-dried company. You do not have to use that ingredient from that company. You can use your own dehydrated foods, or a freeze-dried company of your choice.”

      You can, but dehydrated meats don’t have a long, reliable shelf life (which is why they are recommended to store in the freezer – but are fine for short-term shelf use), so make sure that you’re aware of that and move through them more quickly.

  5. Avatar for marsha cason marsha cason says:

    I watched a video yesterday and you showed 3 ways to vacuum jars. I am trying to find the one that was battery operated and hand held. Can you let me know the name of it. I am new and want to start meals in a jar and can as well.

  6. Avatar for Norma Was Norma Was says:

    Have you tried all of these meals, or do you just know they will work?

    1. They will work because I understand the premise of how to make them – I’ve looked at the recipes to know what they are, and I’ve made a lot. Will you like them? I can’t tell you that since I don’t have the same preferences you do.

      1. Avatar for Norma Was Norma Was says:

        Thank you for the fast response. I will definitely try some.

  7. Avatar for OkieJammer OkieJammer says:

    5 stars
    Ok. LOVE the Mushroom Powder Seasoning Blend! I’m blown away by your energy-saving mixes, recipes and ideas. Working on dry Mixes next. Will report. Thanks so much, Darcy! Wow. You’re really helping a LOT of families out here.

    1. Well, these are not all my recipes, remember – just spent time collecting the best of the best from around the internet 😉 Glad they are helpful!

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