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How to Use Freeze-Dried Ingredients in Your Favorite Mexican Food Recipes

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Calling all Mexican food lovers and anyone who wants to get the most out of their pantry! Freeze-dried food is legendary for its long shelf life, versatility, and delicious flavor. But did you know it’s also a secret weapon for whipping up amazing Mexican dishes? Whether you’re a seasoned prepper or just curious about it’s potential, this guide will show you how to use freeze-dried food to make tasty Mexican food recipes like taco fillings, cheesy enchiladas, and more!

tacos with shredded cheese

Forget bland, freeze-dried stereotypes – with a little know-how, you can create vibrant, flavorful homemade meals that are perfect for busy weeknights, camping trips, and emergency preparedness. As a huge fan of Mexican cuisine, I also rely on Thrive Life freeze-dried (FD) foods – Survival Mom’s favorite brand for good reason! Throughout this guide, I’ll be linking to the specific Thrive Life products used in each recipe, but feel free to experiment with other brands you might have on hand. If you love Mexican food as much as I do, here are a few ways to use freeze-dried foods to make Mexican dishes that can rival any restaurant!

NOTE: Thrive Life freeze-dried (FD) foods are Survival Mom’s #1 choice, and here, you’ll find links to the specific products used.

Main dishes for the Mexican food lover in you!

Macho Mexican Rice

My Macho Mexican Rice is one of my go-to recipes whenever we have company over for dinner. I’ve been making it for almost two decades, and it has never failed me! Any recipe that is versatile, can be a side dish or main dish depending on your needs, and forgiving is a winner in my book! Here is the recipe and how to make my Macho Mexican Rice.

There are so many ways to incorporate freeze-dried food in this recipe, and once you make it, you’ll realize how helpful it is to have a few cans of foods that are already chopped and ready to dump directly into the pan.

I use Thrive Life’s freeze-dried corn, Green Chili Peppers, and even the Instant Black Beans are really good additions. Add freeze-dried ground beef or chopped chicken to extend the recipe so it becomes a filling main dish. 

Be sure to top the final dish with a handful or two of rehydrated Cheddar or Pepper Jack, giving it a few minutes to melt in a covered skillet.

Chile Relleno Casserole

My second most-favorite recipe is this one for Chile Relleno Casserole. I used to make it only with whole, canned green chiles, but a 4-ounce can is now close to $3 each, which is ridiculous for a recipe that should be budget-friendly. Once I substituted rehydrated Thrive Life green chiles, I never looked back! 


  • 1 cup rehydrated Green Chili Peppers, drained, or 2 7-ounce cans chopped green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups rehydrated Pepper Jack cheese or 8 ounces fresh Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1/2 cup rehydrated Cheddar cheese or 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded


Grease an 8″x 8″ baking pan. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Pour into the pan, and top with cheddar cheese. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. The top will be golden brown, and the center should be soft but baked through. Let stand for 10 minutes, and serve as a main dish or as a hot side dish.

Quick and Simple Taco Salad

Lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped avocado, finely diced onions – the base of this salad is easy to pull together for a quick meal.

To make it even quicker, add any or all of these freeze-dried ingredients:

  • Ground Beef
  • Instant Black Beans
  • Cheddar and/or Pepper Jack
  • Diced Chicken or Grilled Chicken Dices

For a creamy salsa dressing, mix up a small batch of Sour Cream Powder and combine with your favorite salsa.

Using Freeze-Dried Cheeses

You say “quesadilla,” I say, “freeze-dried Pepper Jack cheese!” A supply of FD cheeses helps make just about any Mexican recipe even better.

Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses are perfect for a taco topping or to include in a burrito. Have them on hand and never worry about moldy cheese. Rehydrate only what you’re going to use! This is perfect if you usually cook only for one or two people. Have the cheese flavors you love and rehydrate only small amounts of these grated cheeses. Oh, either cheese is perfect for quesadillas!

For queso, everyone’s favorite Mexican dip, follow this recipe for something creamy, cheesy, and so very, very dippable! Read this post for an in-depth look at how to use freeze-dried cheese, including a recipe video demonstration.

Survival Mom’s Creamy Queso

I got this recipe from Thrive Life but have adapted it to my family’s tastes. I prefer a queso with fewer additions, but this recipe is easily customized with seasonings and optional additions.


  • ½ c. Heavy cream
  • 2 Cups Instant Milk, reconstituted
  • ½ cup Cheddar and/or Pepper Jack cheese, reconstituted
  • ½ cup Thrive Life Cheese Sauce powder
  • ¼ cup Sour Cream Powder, reconstituted
  • 3 T. Green Chili Peppers, rehydrated
  • 1 T. Chopped onion, fresh or freeze-dried (reconstituted)
  • 2 T. butter, melted (used with flour to make a roux, optional)
  • 2 T. flour (to make a thickening roux, optional)

Seasonings to taste

  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder

Optional additions

  • Sausage Crumbles
  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Green Bell Peppers
  • Tomato Dices
  • Ground Beef
  • Cooked chorizo
  • 2-4 ounces softened cream cheese (thickens queso without the roux)


To make the queso, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the heavy cream, milk, peppers, chopped onion, and seasonings. Mix in the grated cheese until it’s melted and the mixture is smooth.

Bring to a simmer and slowly add the Cheese Sauce powder, whisking continually. Add seasonings to taste.

If you want to thicken the queso with a butter/flour roux, in a separate, smaller saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour, and whisk over a low heat until smooth. Whisk the roux into the cheese mixture, stirring until completely incorporated. Mix in additional ingredients as desired, heat for 3-4 more minutes before serving. 

Top with any or all of these: sour cream, guacamole, thick salsa, hot sauce (Cholulua or my favorite, Boerne Hot Sauce), and serve with chips.

Is this cheesy enough for ya? With freeze-dried cheese, you can’t go wrong. It’s one of my favorite freeze-dried foods.

Yummy Fillings for Classic Mexican Dishes

Just about every Mexican dish starts with a tortilla. If you know how to make homemade tortillas and stock up on the ingredients, you’ll be ready to use these fillings in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, and a whole lot more, no matter what is happening outside your kitchen!

Potato Dices

One classic filling is Piccadillo. This seasoned, flavorful filling includes potato dices added to ground beef, chopped or canned tomatoes, and basic seasonings like garlic, salt, and pepper. I like Piccadillo because the potatoes make a smaller amount of ground beef go a long way—and potatoes and beef are always good together. 

Ground Beef

Of course, ground beef is what you’ll use for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and even add a cup or so to my Macho Mexican Rice if you want it as a main dish. Read my tips here to get the most out of Thrive Life’s Ground Beef! My #1 tip is to chop the rehydrated ground beef once it’s rehydrated. This gives you a texture more similar to fresh ground beef.

My second tip for ground beef, a little goes a long way. Add a cup or so to a burrito filling, include with grated cheese for enchiladas, and mix with rice for tacos. Freeze-dried ground beef is pricey, no doubt, but keep in mind that you’re getting the full number of ounces in actual, cooked beef. Fresh ground beef includes many ounces of juice and fat that go down the sink drain. 

Refried Beans

Combine freeze-dried ground beef with Instant Refried Beans for another meal-stretching option. This combo is great for leftover ground beef and is the perfect filling for any tortilla-based meal. The refried beans are just the right texture for tostadas and as a side dish. Add garlic powder, a tablespoon of bacon grease, and/or some sour cream for more great flavor! (Few people know the secret of combining refried beans with sour cream, and now the secret is yours!)


Rice and beans are the typical side dishes at a Mexican restaurant, but they’re helpful on their own or combined as a filling for a burrito or quesadilla. Either the Instant Brown Rice or the Instant White Rice are handy if you just need a small amount of rice for a burrito filling. If you need a quick side dish, prepare a batch of their instant rice, and then stir in a small amount of rehydrated green chiles, salt, pepper, and a dash or two of garlic powder.


Ground beef is an easy go-to for most Mexican dishes, but don’t forget any Thrive LIfe chicken varieties — Grilled Chicken Dices, Chicken Slices, or Diced Chicken. The slices are good for fajitas, and I use the diced chicken for burritos and chicken enchiladas.



Although you can buy freeze-dried tomato dices, I don’t recommend them for any recipe that calls for more than a ½ cup or so since it’s a pricey way to add tomatoes when canned (home-canned or store-bought) are much cheaper. With that said, a few rehydrated Tomato Dices work well with a rice side dish, my queso recipe, or Picadillo.


If all these Mexican recipes are singing your tune, you almost certainly have a favorite salsa, either your own recipe or a store-bought version. Adding a small amount of rehydrated peaches, mango, or pineapple is a quick and easy way to have a flavorful alternative. 

Sour Cream

Along with that, keep a can or two of Sour Cream Powder on hand. It’s useful to drizzle over a quesadilla, tacos, or enchiladas or mix in ¼ cup or so with your refried beans. Add it to guacamole for an avocado salad dressing or to salsa for a creamy dressing for salads or anything that strikes your fancy!


Finally, freeze-dried veggies make prep and clean-up easy since they have been washed, sliced, and/or diced. For most recipes, you’ll need to rehydrate them, which takes only a few minutes. In the case of a tortilla or albondigas soup, just toss the veggies into the soup pot where they’ll quickly rehydrate in the broth.

These three different types of peppers (red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and green chili peppers) are ready to be added in a Mexican casserole, added to burrito meat mixture, or rice. 

Keep in mind that freeze-dried foods, including vegetables, retain nearly all their original nutritional value. Just because they’re convenient doesn’t mean you’re exchanging convenience for less nutrition. 

Expert Tips

  • As mentioned above, my #1 tip is to chop the rehydrated ground beef once it’s rehydrated. This gives you a texture more similar to fresh ground beef.
  • My second tip for ground beef, a little goes a long way. Add a cup or so to a burrito filling, include with grated cheese for enchiladas, and mix with rice for tacos.

Here’s your starter kit list!

If I was just getting started with freeze-dried food or wanted to make sure I had a good selection of the most versatile freeze-dried foods for Mexican recipes, here’s what I would want.

With these you have the basics for tacos, tostadas, my Chile Relleno Casserole, Macho Mexican Rice, burritos, and a side dish (refried beans). 


Can I use freeze-dried food to make vegetarian or vegan Mexican dishes?

Absolutely! There are many delicious vegetarian and vegan options in the freeze-dried world. Beans, lentils, and a variety of vegetables can form the base of your dishes. For protein alternatives, consider textured vegetable protein or pre-cooked freeze-dried lentils.

Do I need to rehydrate freeze-dried ingredients before using them in Mexican recipes?

It depends on the recipe and ingredient. Some dishes, like soups or stews, might call for pre-hydrated ingredients or additional water for unreconstituted items. The recipe will usually specify.

Get your FREE freeze-dried food primer now!

Click here for everything you need to know to get started using freeze-dried food:

  • What it is and how to use it
  • Which brands are the best quality
  • How to decide what to buy
  • How to save money buying freeze-dried food

Click here to get your FREE freeze-dried food primer!

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been saving your freeze-dried food for the Apocalypse, you’re missing out, my friend! You have dozens of options when you combine freeze-dried food with your favorite Mexican recipes.

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