Cranberry Catalina Chicken

Dinner doesn’t get much easier than this simple Cranberry Catalina Chicken freezer meal!! Two minutes to toss it all in a bag and you’re done! Don’t let the ingredients scare you – this is a delightful meal that is a great balance of sweet and savory!

Cranberry Catalina Chicken on a bed of white rice on a gray plate, garnished with sliced green onions.

Cranberry Catalina Chicken Freezer Meal

This Cranberry Catalina Chicken is my adaptation of a recipe I love, from Pam at Over The Big Moon. Her original recipe calls for French dressing, and I like it, but I somehow never seem to have French dressing on hand when I need it. I’ve seen other recipes floating around in the blog-o-sphere substituting Catalina or Russian dressing, and so that’s how this one was born. I’ve actually made all three variations, and they are all great! Today’s is the Catalina variety, because, well, that’s what I had on hand. 😉

You know how some days you just want dinner to magically appear on the table, without you having to actually cook anything? Yeah, I have a lot of those days. 

Dinner time rolls around and I don’t have the mental capacity or the energy to even come up with an attempt at an idea for dinner.  But dinner needs to get on the table NOW.  And I have 20 minutes MAX or there will be mutiny, or worse, a reenactment of a scene from Lord of the Flies.   <–THIS happens way too often.  THIS is why I do freezer meals.  THIS right here!

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When I have slow cooker meals already prepped in the freezer, I can pull them out the night before (or more honestly, the morning of), and it isn’t too early to think about dinner. Or I can even pull them out the morning of, while I’m not rushed and kids aren’t fighting and I’m not hounded teenagers to do their homework or else.  In the morning, I can put something in the slow cooker, and then basically leave it until we are ready to eat. 

There is really not much to tell you about this one. You’re going to need a few very basic ingredients, and a gallon-size zip top bag. That’s it.

Preparing the Freezer Meal

As freezer meals go, it doesn’t get much easier than this.  There is no prep worked involved other than to open a few bottles or cans.  

Place all your ingredients into the zip top bag, seal tightly, and label.  Then stick it in your freezer.  Done.  (And I know you already have your own bottle of dry onion soup mix already, but just in case…here’s the link to the recipe if you still have yet to make your own.  Go make it.  Go now.  I’ll wait…)

Cooking Your Cranberry Catalina Chicken

Cranberry Catalina Chicken served on a bed of white rice atop a gray plate sitting on a gray board background.

To make, you can either take the bag out of the freezer the night before and thaw overnight in the fridge, then put it in the slow cooker the next morning… OR … (and please don’t laugh, but this is totally what I usually end up doing) pull the bag out the morning of, cut the bag off the frozen cranberry-catalina-chicken ice cube, and stick the entire frozen cube in the slow cooker and set it to cook.

My family likes to have this served over rice, and my husband likes a lot of sauce with his, so I often double the sauce ingredients.  Especially if I’m only making one of this meal (which is rare, because I almost always make two at a time), because, what in the world do you do with a half a bottle of Catalina dressing leftover??  (My family will not touch salads if it was the last food on the planet, let alone a salad with Catalina dressing…)  I’m open to suggestions on how to use up the leftover Catalina dressing.  🙂

Closeup shot of cranberry catalina chicken on a bed of rice, on a gray plate.

Cranberry Catalina Chicken on a bed of white rice on a gray plate, garnished with sliced green onions.

Cranberry Catalina Chicken

Servings: 6 servings
Course: Freezer Meal Recipes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Dinner doesn't get much easier than this simple Cranberry Catalina Chicken freezer meal!! Two minutes to toss it all in a bag and you're done!  Don't let the ingredients scare you - this is a delightful meal that is a great balance of sweet and savory!
4.6 from 37 votes
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  • 1-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz Catalina dressing*
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix or 2-3 Tbsp. homemade mix


  • Place all ingredients in gallon-size zip-top freezer bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal tightly.  Knead gently to mix ingredients.
  • Label bag.  Lay bag flat in freezer to freeze.

To make:

  • Place thawed contents of bag into slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours in slow cooker.
  • Serve over rice.

To make in the Instant Pot:

  • Place meal into a silicone or metal bowl or pan* that fits inside the inner pot of your Instant Pot or pressure cooker. There should be about half an inch between the edges of the bowl or pan and the inside of the liner pot to make sure there is room for steam.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups water into the bottom of the Instant Pot liner pot.
  • Place a trivet in the liner pot.
  • Place your metal or silicone bowl or pan on top of the trivet in the pot.
  • Close lid and seal vent. Cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes, then let your Instant Pot sit for 10 minutes (10 min npr) and then release any remaining pressure (quick release).


You can substitute French or Russian dressing for the Catalina. They are all great!
*I keep 8" round aluminum cake pans around for this very thing - you can find them at Walmart in the wedding craft section if they are not with the normally cooking pans. You can also use stainless steel stackable pots or silicone. Please DO NOT use glass or Pyrex or Corningware as those manufacturers have not rated their products to be used under pressure.
If you go with stackable pans, you can cook the rice at the same time. Just increase your time to whatever recipe you use for your rice (it's usually about 12 minutes for white rice) - it won't hurt the chicken to cook a little longer.


Serving: 6servings | Calories: 441kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 48g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 1020mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook @MakeAheadMealMom!

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  1. 1 cup Catalina dressing
    1/2 cup salsa
    1 lb. Ground beef or Turkey
    Brown the ground meat, drain grease add dressing and salsa. We use this as taco salad meat. Put over lettuce cheese,etc. Then we crush up tortillas chips on the top.

  2. I served this to a crowd of about 50 people back in the 80’s. It was new to me and couldn’t imagine the ingredients called for tasting good, but oh was I surprised when I tasted it. It was fantastic. People were asking for more sauce. I made it with French dressing that time.
    Well, here it is 2022 and I’m going to serve it again to about 35 people. This is the most delicious way to serve chicken, as far as I’m concerned. This time I’m going to make extra sauce because people will be asking for it. I’ll make it at home first with the Catalina to see how it tastes, because I only know and love the French. I’ll do that this weekend.
    Thank you for posting this recipe for us. It is a wonderful, lovely looking meal.

  3. I have made this many times with the catalina dressing and with french dressing and both work great. I adore whole berry cranberry sauce and this dish served on a bed of rice makes me so happy. My picky family likes it too so that is a total success!

  4. 5 stars
    Thank for the IP directions. I have seen recipes using a cup of apricot preserves instead of the cranberry sauce. I am going to try this to use up the rest of the dressing.

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