Many of us have spent the past weeks, or even months, in isolation with restaurants closed. Regardless of whether you don’t feel comfortable venturing to the grocery store, or just have a lot of food accumulated in your pantry, here are 10 recipes to make with items in your pantry.
But before we start sharing recipes, let’s work on stocking your pantry.
How to stock your pantry
Before we start, let’s talk about the best way to stock your pantry. We are going to use a broad definition of pantry. It includes not only dry goods in the cupboard, but also items in your refrigerator and freezer. Here are suggestions for items to include:
- Grains and beans- Ideally, you want to include complete proteins in your meals. Mixing a grain and a bean together will give you a complete protein. Therefore, it’s best to include a mix of grains and beans in your cupboard. Our favorites are: chickpeas; lentils; red, black and pinto beans; brown rice and couscous.
- Pasta- Few things are easier to make and more comforting than a nice bowl of pasta. Spaghetti is always good. Fusilli and penne are also great choices because they capture lots of sauce. And don’t forget lasagna noodles so you can make a delicious, filling tray of lasagna.
- Canned vegetables- Canned tomatoes are an excellent staple to keep on hand. You can use them for a variety of pasta dishes, to make a great chili and even Indian food (which freezes very well and is even better as leftovers). Canned corn makes a fresh addition to salads. Canned artichokes are also good in salads and in lots of Italian dishes. You can make soups, pies and yummy bread out of canned pumpkin.
- Oil- Olive oil and some type of vegetable oil (canola or sunflower) are sufficient to make most recipes. If you cook a lot of Asian food, you probably want to stock sesame oil. Avocado oil is a healthy alternative to olive oil- it even has more vitamins. Plus, it has a high smoke point so is safer for high heat cooking.
- Dried fruits and nuts- These are not only an interesting addition to many dishes, but are excellent snacks. Pecans, walnuts and almonds are all good for baking and can also be good in salads and even soups.
- Seeds- Flax, chia, sesame and even hemp seeds are great to sprinkle in yogurt, on salads and even main dishes. They are all excellent sources of fiber, protein, healthy fats and even micro-nutrients.
- Dried herbs and spices- This depends a little on the kind of food you like to cook. If you like Italian food, you should have dried oregano, basil and red pepper flakes (if you like your food a little spicy). For Indian food, you should stock curry, coriander (cilantro), cayenne pepper (or pods), turmeric and garam masala. For Thai food, make sure you have lemongrass, canned coconut milk and curry powder. Dried thyme, basil leaves, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder are good in many cuisines. Sea salt and black pepper are essentials for most people.
- Bouillon cubes- They are not as healthy as homemade stock (nor as good), but if you are sheltering in place for any length of time, you likely won’t have the luxury of making broths from scratch. A good supply of beef, chicken and/or vegetable bouillon cubes will allow you to make lots of good soups and stews.
- Baking supplies- If you like to bake, you should stock ample flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking powder, baking soda and yeast (even though this technically should be kept in the refrigerator, we are including it here). You can even stock extra chocolate chips and maraschino cherries.
It can save you a lot of time to cook large batches and freeze the leftovers. Pasta sauces are excellent for this, as is Indian food.
- Vegetables- Frozen vegetables are a lot better than they used to be, now that they flash freeze them. Even if you don’t like them on their own, frozen peas, green beans and spinach can be added to a variety of dishes for additional vitamins and nutrients.
- Meat- Ground meat only lasts four months in the freezer. However, uncooked beef, pork and venison keep for a year. Flash frozen shrimp is an item that thrives in the freezer and adds a touch of elegance to any meal.
- Bakery products- You can make large batches of bread and cookies, the freeze the extra dough for future use.
- Vegetables- Obviously greens and most fruits and vegetables don’t last very long in the refrigerator. However, you can keep potatoes, sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, garlic, onions and ginger for weeks in the refrigerator.
- Dairy- Eggs only last about three weeks in the refrigerator. Soft cheeses only last two weeks. However, hard cheeses can last up to four months if they are unopened.
- Condiments- These last a long time and can add some great variety to your dishes. We recommend keeping a good supply of ketchup, tomato paste, Dijon mustard (good in salad dressings), salad dressings, Tabasco sauce and even Sriracha in your refrigerator. You should also keep vinegar on hand, but it doesn’t have to go in the refrigerator.
Our 10 favorite recipes to make with items in your pantry
Now that we’ve got your pantry properly stocked, let’s get started. Here are our 10 favorite recipes to make with items in your pantry.
Chili is relatively easy to make, hearty and can be made in large batches and frozen. Here is a good recipe. Unless, that is, you are from Texas, then you are going to beg to differ. But if you take your chili connoisseurship to this level, you likely have your own recipe. Chile con Carne Recipe
2– Chicken with spinach and artichokes
This is both elegant and delicious, and a lot healthier than it seems. You can substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream and frozen spinach for the fresh spinach- just make sure you thaw it first in the microwave or a double boiler. Chicken With Creamy Chicken and Artichokes Recipe
3– Curried lentil and pumpkin soup
You can use any kind of lentils with this soup, but we personally don’t waste expensive green lentils in it. Green lentils are good in salads because they don’t get mushy, but that’s what you want in a soup so red, brown or yellow lentils work well in this soup. Curried Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup Recipe
4–Rava Dosas with Potato Chickpea Masala
This is a great South Indian recipe. The only non-pantry thing you need is fresh cilantro as a garnish. If you can’t find it in stores (or can’t go out), you can always leave it off. If you don’t have rice flour for the dosas, regular flour can be substituted. You can also skip the dosas and serve with rice. Rava Dosas with Potato Chickpea Masala Recipe
5– Lemon Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Pasta
This dish can easily be made with pantry items if you use flash frozen shrimp and spinach. If you don’t have fresh a fresh lemon available, you can substitute white wine- just add it to taste. To thaw the shrimp, simply transfer to the refrigerator the day before you prepare the dish. If you decide to make it last minute, here are safe ways to thaw your shrimp. Lemon Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Recipe
6– Shepard’s Pie
This is an easy, single dish meal that your whole family will love (unless they are vegetarians, in which case perhaps try some of the recipes above). Traditional Shepard’s pie, which originated in England, uses lamb. However, this one uses ground beef, which is more to American tastes. If you want to make it truly English, use frozen peas instead of the other vegetables the recipe suggests. Easy Shepard’s Pie Recipe
7– Fresh tortillas
Do you like quesadillas and burritos but don’t have fresh tortillas in your refrigerator? It is actually really easy to make your own tortillas using basic ingredients from your pantry. If you don’t have shortening, you can substitute butter- although shortening is obviously much easier to keep in your pantry. You can fill them with black beans and rice to make a complete protein. Flour Tortillas Recipe
8– French onion soup
A bowl of French onion soup is a very satisfying meal, yet is still quite light. And if you don’t have fresh bread, you can bake your own using items in your pantry (see next recipe). French Onion Soup Recipe
9– Artisan bread
This artisan bread recipe is the perfect accompaniment to our French onion soup. It is easy and only requires three pantry items: flour, yeast and salt. You can double the batch and freeze the dough for future meals or snacks. Homemade Artisan Bread Recipe
10– Minestrone Soup
This is another satisfying, yet light, meal that can be made with pantry items. And it goes well if you have any leftover bread. The traditional recipe calls for just potatoes and spinach (you can use frozen if you don’t have access to fresh spinach). You can make the following recipe with just these vegetables. Or, if you happen to have others in your refrigerator, the recipe gives lots of options for using other fresh vegetables. Classic Minestrone Soup Recipe