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11 Pantry Staples Recipes: What to Make When There’s “No Food” in the House

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While it is wonderful to have a pantry and refrigerator full of fresh and delectable ingredients, sometimes life throws a curve ball and getting the store just isn’t possible. In such times, it can be hard to come up with delicious and satisfying meals. But it doesn’t have to be! A the request of a reader, I put together a list of 11 of my favorite easy pantry staple recipes. My hope is that these will help you make a flavorful, healthy, and delicious meal in minutes, even when it seems like there is “no food” in the house!

Butternut Squash and Yellow Lentil Stew: an easy pantry staple recipe

During the pandemic, I had a lovely exchange on Facebook with two long-time Scramble members who shared how The Scramble had helped them to plan their meals and grocery trips during the stay-at-home orders. One member shared that she had only been to the grocery store TWICE in six weeks, thanks to The Scramble. Then one of the members suggested a roundup of easy recipes made from pantry staples… and so, of course, I accepted the challenge!

The Scramble has a list of pantry essentials, but for this challenge I thought I should go even more bare-bones, so I limited the list of ingredients to items that are shelf-stable or last a very long time in the refrigerator. Here is what I what I came up with:

Shelf Stable Ingredients

  • Fresh produce that lasts for a while: onions, green onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, winter squashes, lemons, and limes
  • Frozen produce
  • Canned or dried beans and legumes
  • Canned fish
  • Eggs
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Grains (pastas, rice, couscous, quinoa, farro, etc.)
  • Olives, capers, and pickles
  • Condiments, spices, and sweeteners
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Oils and butter

A note about my selections

You will note that other than canned fish, I did not include meat. This is not to say that meat cannot be stored in the freezer or that cured meats (e.g., bacon, prosciutto) don’t last for a long time, but I really wanted to select items that you didn’t have think too much about when it came to storage.

In addition, there are some recipes included that list fresh herbs. I tried to select recipes where dry herbs could also be used successfully.

Some of the recipes include optional ingredients that are not staples. My thinking was, if you have those optional ingredients, that’s a bonus, but it isn’t required for a successful meal.

So, without further ado, here are 11 easy meals made from pantry staples.

11 Pantry Staples Recipes: What to Make When There’s No Food in the House

Penne Puttanesca: an easy pantry staple recipe

Penne Puttanesca

Salty and spicy, this quick Italian classic makes good use of olives and capers to fill out the flavor. If you don’t have one or the other, you can easily make do with what you’ve got. And if you’ve got anchovies knocking around your pantry, they also can make a great addition here.

Crispy Hash Browns with Sunny Side Up Eggs

Crispy Hash Browns with Sunny Side Up Eggs

Breakfast for dinner is always a winner in my house and this is one of our favorite options. The hash browns get so crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and then soak up the egg yolk for a super satisfying meal! To speed up the grating process for the potatoes, use the grater attachment on your food processor, if you’ve got one.

Warm Sweet Potato Corn and Black Bean Salad

Warm Sweet Potato, Corn, and Black Bean Salad

Use frozen corn for a pantry-friendly version. If you don’t have the fresh herbs, they can be skipped or just throw in some dried. No matter which way you go, though, the combination of textures, as well as the balance of sweet and savory in this recipe is always a hit.

Creamy Chickpea Tomato Curry (Chana Masala)

Creamy Chickpea Tomato Curry (Chana Masala)

An Indian classic. This is one of my comfort foods—it’s so nourishing and flavorful. If you don’t have a jalapeño pepper, you can skip it or add a dash of curry powder or cayenne. And if you don’t have any fresh ginger on hand, ½ tsp. powdered ginger will work as well.

Tangy Tuna and White Bean Wraps: and easy pantry staple recipe

Tangy Tuna and White Bean Wraps

Use any wrap or bread you’ve got in the house, or just eat this delicious salad on its own. Packed with lean proteins and a wide range of flavors, this is also a great option to make ahead and then use for quick lunches or snacks.

Mighty Meatless Four Bean Chili

Mighty Meatless Four Bean Chili

Using four different kinds of beans (or however many you have) adds a lot of flavor and varied nutrition to this lovely chili that is so simple to make you may never go back to another chili recipe again.

Spaghetti with Classic Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

Forget the jarred stuff, this simple sauce will become your go-to from here on out. Just like grandma (if you had an Italian grandma, which I didn’t) used to make.

spanish oven omelet

Spanish Oven Omelet with Diced Potatoes

I fell in love with this dish when studying abroad in Spain. This healthier, simpler version means that it can be prepared any time (and for any meal of the day). It’s also delicious served at room temperature, so feel free to make it ahead of time.

Chickpea Tomato Stew

Chickpea Tomato Stew

Don’t you love meals that taste like they’ve been cooking all day, but really only take a short time to prepare? This is one of those meals! Hearty, healthy, and super flavorful, this stew is fantastic served over rice or with crusty bread.

honey sesame spaghetti: an easy pantry staple recipes

Honey Sesame Spaghetti

Not your classic pasta dish, but oh so good! Your family will love the sweet and savory Asian flavors of this meal, and you’ll love how simple it is to throw together. If you don’t have sesame seeds, then feel free to use any finely chopped up nut for an added crunch.

Butternut Squash and Yellow Lentil Stew

Butternut Squash and Yellow Lentil Stew

This warm, soothing stew is packed with protein and can be as chunky or as smooth as your family likes. If you don’t have fresh ginger, you can use ½ tsp. powdered ginger and it will still be delicious!

Do you have favorite easy pantry staple recipes that you use for quick meals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! And don’t miss out on our list of the best pantry staples to have on hand.  

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[…] you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully stocked after your next grocery […]

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