13 Frozen Food Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Frozen food is everywhere. The amount of frozen food sold each year is no joke: In 2023, the value of the worldwide frozen food market was placed at nearly 297.5 billion dollars, a value that's projected to grow massively in the coming years, per Fortune Business Insights. With so much frozen food out there, it likely won't surprise you that some intrepid folks have experimented with how to improve their sub-zero goodies, resulting in an impressive range of hacks that can make your food so much better.

The thing about frozen food is that it's way more versatile than manufacturers make out. Simple items like fish sticks, frozen seafood, and dumplings can be used in loads more ways than you might expect, and can be used in anything from quesadillas to paella. Elsewhere, you can completely repurpose frozen food, and use freezer staples like frozen dinners in completely innovative ways. Even the most simple frozen items, like frozen vegetables, can be leveled up by cooking them in new, unique styles, unlocking additional layers of flavor and texture. The best part? All of these hacks are cost-effective, making your meals way better at a bargain price.

1. Top your baked potatoes with frozen dinners

If you're not using your frozen dinners to totally upgrade your baked potatoes, you're missing out. Topping a baked 'tater with a frozen dinner is a quick, easy way to make a filling meal, without any hassle. Frozen dinners take all of the work out of picking toppings for your baked potato, and instead give your potatoes immediate flavor. Doing this also takes the work out of picking a carb accompaniment to your frozen meals, and gives you a neutral-tasting base that you can load steaming, moist spoonfuls of your favorite dinner onto.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that not all frozen dinners will work well with baked potatoes. Generally, meat or cheese-based frozen meals will work well, particularly those which don't come with potatoes, rice, or pasta (or those that have the protein component in a separate section, so you can reserve your carbs for another time). It's best to avoid using pasta-based frozen dinners on top of your baked potato — while the appeal of a double-carb might sound good, in practice you'll end up with a meal that's way too starchy.

2. Stuff your frozen fish sticks into fish tacos

Fish tacos are a firm favorite, but making them can take a while. Not only do you have to slice all your toppings, but you have to prepare and cook your fish, which can often involve breading and frying bitesize freshly-bought fillets. The latter is enough to make you think about having something else for dinner — but luckily, frozen fish sticks are coming to the rescue. This frozen fish stick hack merely involves swapping your regular fish for fish sticks in your tacos, and allows you to not have to worry about having to go out and buy fish before making them. Just pull them out of your freezer and stick them in the oven.

The neutral flavor and flaky consistency of fish sticks lends them particularly well to fish tacos. Made with white fish, the sticks act as a flavor base for your sharper, more piquant toppings. The breaded coating, meanwhile, gives the very center of your tacos some much-needed crispiness, and lends itself well to soaking up any salsas or sauces you throw on them. Fish sticks are also small enough to tuck into a soft-shell without having to chop them up first. Honestly, what's not to love?

3. Broil your frozen pizza or use a cast iron skillet to make it crispier

Few frozen foods are more reliable than frozen pizza, but it's not controversial to say that it's not the most interesting meal out there. Luckily, there are a few ways to tweak your frozen 'za that'll stop you from cooking it any other way ever again. If you want to turn your frozen pizza into a deep-dish delight, grab your cast iron skillet, and place a partially-thawed frozen pizza inside it. Then, pop your skillet in the oven, and bake your pizza. As it cooks, the pizza's sides will start to puff up, giving the frozen pizza a depth that you wouldn't get if you were baking it on a flat surface from frozen, and give it a crispy crust.

Speaking of crispiness, broiling your frozen pizza is another way to get an enviable crunch. To do this, you'll simply need to bake your pizza as per the instructions on its box, and then when there are a few minutes left on its cooking time, switch to the broil function. This top-down cooking method helps to toast the top of your pizza, giving your toppings a crispness that you just can't achieve if you're only baking it.

4. Make frozen ravioli into a super-easy lasagna

Lasagna is one of those dishes that takes forever to cook. While you're rewarded for your hard work with a delicious, complex, hearty meal, most of us just don't have it in us to put one together mid-week, not least because the layering process takes so much time. By using frozen ravioli, however, you can make a quick and easy lasagna bake that's bursting with flavor, and allows you to avoid having to fiddle with dainty, tearable lasagna sheets.

The method behind this hack is simple: Just use frozen ravioli instead of lasagna sheets, layering in your sauces and meats as you normally would between the pieces of pasta. As with all the best hacks, though, it's so much more than the sum of its parts. Using cheese-stuffed ravioli gives your lasagna bake a huge amount of added flavor, and if you're feeling especially lazy, the cheese filling can act as a substitute for béchamel sauce or added cheese. Using a more interestingly-flavored ravioli can also give your lasagna a completely new flavor dimension. Additionally, adding ravioli provides lasagna bakes with extra bulk, and their smaller size makes them easier to dish out once they're cooked — no worrying about cutting through lasagna sheets here, folks.

5. ‌Grate frozen peppers for instant flavor

Looking for a way to add instant fresh flavor and a hint of heat to your meals? TikTok's jalapeño dust trick has you covered. This hack requires two things to perform: a jalapeño, and a Microplane. You just have to place your jalapeño in the freezer until it's completely frozen, and then when it's rock solid, take it out and grate it over any food you like. Doing this gives any meal a zesty, fresh garnish.


You hear my gasp when its actually working, pure shock as I don't always believe what I see. This was the real deal and I'm impressed, it added the fresh smell and taste of jalapeño spread out like a seasoning. I'll be hitting my food with this dusting all the time! #amy #viralhacks #jalapenodust #jalapenodusting #jalapeno #dust #dusting #tearsforbreakfast #adallasdiamond #recipe #cooktok #mustwatch #viral #hack #hacking #foodhack #food #spicy #salmon #cauliflowermash #dinnertime

♬ SABOR A MI (Versión Piano) – Alexis González

While you might be worried about this trick lowering the temperature of your food, rest assured that it won't. Because the Microplane breaks up your jalapeño into such tiny particles, when they hit your hot food they'll warm up and soften instantly. It's worth remembering that doing this won't add a whole lot of spice to your food, as jalapeños aren't the hottest peppers out there, and the majority of their spice is enclosed inside the pepper itself, in its white placenta. If you do want more heat, it might be worth trying this trick with dried chili peppers, or freezing a split-open pepper and then grating its insides onto your food.

6. Use frozen waffles for next-level breakfast sandwiches

Put frozen waffles down in front of us in any form, and we'll be happy. We'll be even happier, though, if they appear on our table as part of a breakfast sandwich. Frozen waffles make the ideal replacement for bread in breakfast sandwiches thanks to their sturdiness, creamy flavor, and pocketed texture. Simply stuff some cheese, bacon, pre-cooked eggs, or breakfast sausage between two waffles, add your favorite sauce, and go to town.

Frozen waffles give breakfast sandwiches a lightly sweet, buttery flavor, which contrasts excellently against the salty fillings you choose to put inside. Their dimpled surface, meanwhile, makes them the perfect vessel for sauce or drizzles of honey or maple syrup, which get caught in the pockets of the waffles. Usefully, frozen waffles take just a few minutes in your toaster, so you don't have to wait around for too long to get your breakfast munch on. If you want your meal to be a touch more nutritious, too, opt for whole grain waffles, which will provide a boost of fiber and some much-needed vitamins and minerals.

7. Stuff your quesadillas with frozen dumplings

Frozen dumplings might not be the first thing you think of to put into quesadillas, but once you've tried it, you'll never look back. To do this, first thaw some frozen dumplings until they're completely soft, and then chop them up. Then, spoon the chopped dumplings into a flour tortilla, add cheese and any other toppings you want, and then cook until the inside is warm and gooey.


What's your favorite dumpling hack? #dumpling #dumplings #cookinghack #recipeinspiration #dumplinghack

♬ Elevator Music – Bohoman

Although this might sound strange, doing this gives your quesadillas so much flavor with barely any work. Frozen dumplings are generally fairly mildly-flavored, and skew heavily towards savory notes, which work well in quesadillas without distracting too much from the simplicity of the dish. They also work excellently with cheese, and the chopped dumpling wrappers give your quesadilla extra chewiness. The best part is that this is a hack that works for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. If you want a protein-packed quesadilla, opt for pork or chicken dumplings; if you want something more vegetable-based, go for a leek or cabbage variety. Kimchi dumplings are a great way to add spice and funkiness to quesadillas, and set them apart from the norm.

8. Instead of tortilla chips, use frozen tater tots for your nachos

Nachos are easy and reliably delicious — but they can also come and go in the blink of an eye. It's easy to wolf down a plate of nachos in minutes and still feel hungry afterwards, due to the fact that tortilla chips, while tasty and crispy, aren't exactly substantial. We're here to argue, therefore, that tater tots make better nachos than tortilla chips. Tater tot nachos give you more to grab onto in every bite, and make this snack into a full-blown meal.

One thing that tater tots do better than tortilla chips is nailing the balance of crispiness to softness. While tortilla chips have a tendency to become soggy and limp once the nacho toppings are added, tater tots remain robust, with their crunchy outside shielding their pillowy softness within. Using tater tots also makes serving nachos way easier. Instead of having to shatter multiple chips as you cut your way through the nachos, the tots' smaller, bitesize shapes mean you can just spoon out individual servings with zero breakage. Their small size does make eating them slightly trickier, as you don't have the tortilla chips' flat shape to balance the toppings on, but hey — if you've got a fork, you'll be fine.

9. Initially roasting frozen veggies without oil helps makes them crunchier

Roasting vegetables is a surefire way to make them so much more delicious. When you roast veggies, their surface caramelizes, giving them a deeper, nuttier flavor and a crispier texture. Generally, though, we tend not to try to roast frozen vegetables, as we assume that they'll turn soggy and mushy in the oven before they have a chance to crisp up. The trick, though, is to roast them naked for an initial blast before adding your seasonings.

By initially roasting your vegetables without any oil, you allow any excess water in them to evaporate. Adding oil creates a barrier between frozen moisture and the hot air of your oven, and so the water remains trapped in your veggies, causing them to steam. After your vegetables have dried out and started to brown, you can then add your oil to stop them from burning, as well as any seasonings you desire to flavor them. We would always recommend roasting your vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet, to stop them from sticking, especially as you'll have no oil to start off with.

10. Use frozen mixed seafood to make a speedy paella

Paella is one of those meals that seems to take forever, not least because you often have to buy a load of fresh ingredients to throw into it, requiring a trip to the store beforehand. Well, you can significantly cut down on the amount of time your paella takes by leaning on frozen seafood. Using cooked frozen mixed seafood not only allows you to make paella whenever you want, and not have to trawl through the fresh aisles at your supermarket to find a selection to toss in the dish (which can also, we should point out, get pretty expensive). It also allows you to avoid having to cook the seafood in the pan, as all you have to do is thaw it just before your paella is ready to go.

To do this, scatter your cooked frozen mixed seafood on top of your paella a couple minutes before the rice is cooked. The pan's heat will thaw the seafood, releasing its juices into the rice and giving it a briny, intense flavor. You then simply finish the cooking process, spoon your paella into bowls, and stir everything through slightly, allowing the flavors from your rice, stock, and seasonings to coat the seafood.

11. Pan-fry frozen gnocchi to make it into a gourmet meal

Frozen gnocchi can be pretty hit and miss. Anyone who's ever tried to cook this frozen food via the package instructions will be aware of how quickly it can turn into a soggy, gloopy mess. You're generally advised to cook frozen gnocchi by boiling or microwaving it, but these methods risk it taking on too much water or steaming, which can soften it too much and make it gummy.

Avoid this happening and elevate frozen gnocchi to restaurant status by pan-frying it. By pan-frying gnocchi, you help it retain its structure, and give it a crispy, browned exterior, which fills it with even more flavor. This flavor is added by throwing in seasonings to your pan as you fry it, like garlic or fresh chili, helping you avoid the need for a separate sauce. If you want to make it more substantial, add some vegetables to your pan, like sliced mushrooms or broccoli, while you cook the gnocchi. Top it off with a scattering of parmesan cheese, and you've got a meal fit for a king, in no time at all.

12. Turn your frozen mac and cheese into breadsticks

You'd have to be a fool not to love frozen mac and cheese. This frozen dinner is reliably tasty, ready in just a few minutes, and pleases even the fussiest of eaters. However, it's let down by one thing: its texture. Frozen mac and cheese is almost relentlessly gloopy, and unlike the baked kind doesn't have any crispiness to offset the soft pasta and cheese sauce.

So if you want the ultimate upgrade for your frozen mac and cheese, make them into breadsticks. Take a tray of frozen mac and cheese, and pop it out onto a cutting board. Then, use an ultra-sharp knife to slice it into sticks, before either wrapping these sticks in frozen pizza dough, or daubing them with an egg wash and coating them thoroughly with breadcrumbs. While breadcrumbs can give you added crispiness, bear in mind that unless your mac and cheese is completely covered it can leak out, so we'd recommend using frozen pizza dough to be on the safe side. Once you've coated your mac and cheese sticks, pop them in the oven or deep-fry them until golden and crispy. As they cook, the mac and cheese inside will heat up and soften, creating that all-important contrast.

13. Upgrade your frozen french fries with a quick drizzle of oil

Frozen french fries can be a little hit and miss. While they're a super-quick, super-cheap way of getting your french fry fix, they can often come out of the oven limp, pale, and soft. Thankfully, there's a super simple way to upgrade frozen french fries, and it takes no more than using an ingredient you probably have right next to your oven: oil. French fries are designed to be cooked without any additional oil, but coating them lightly in fat before baking them helps them crisp and brown more effectively. It also stops your french fries from sticking to each other, or to the baking sheet they're cooked on.

Cooking your frozen french fries in oil also gives them a greater ability to retain any seasonings you add. Even fine sea salt has a tendency to bounce off these dry fries when they come out of the oven, but oil helps it adhere more strongly, giving each bite extra flavor. Importantly, remember to use an oil that has a smoke point lower than the temperature you're cooking your fries at. If you opt for a more fragile oil, it'll fill your oven and your kitchen with fumes and make your fries taste burnt.