35 Easy Pantry Dinners to Make Tonight
When it comes to whipping up dinner on busy nights, your pantry is a true hero. Stocked right, your pantry has a wide enough variety of staples that can easily combine with whatever fresh or frozen ingredients are around for a quick, easy dinner that's full of flavor. Take some inspiration from our favorite meals that start with pantry staples, and get cooking.
One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
This pasta dinner is a game changer: You use just enough liquid to cook the pasta--no colander needed. Recipe adapted from our sister publication Southern Living. Cost for 4: $8.43
Smoky White Bean Soup
Soups are the most comforting dishes for fall and winter nights. But if you want to do homemade soup right, you have to spend hours letting the broth simmer or leave it in the slow cooker all day. Not anymore! You might not believe us, but this Smoky White Bean Soup is ready from start to finish in just 25 minutes. That’s less time than it takes Mama to put her face on! Not only is this recipe super quick, but it cooks in one pot. A 25-minute, one-dish recipe that’s comforting and filling is a winner in every sense of the word. This recipe starts with one of our favorite things—bacon—but only one thick-cut slice of bacon, so make it an extra thick slice. This recipe is so easy because that you’re not chopping your time away. Pre-chopped onion, pre-chopped celery, one minced garlic clove, and a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme are next in the pan, and they cook right in the bacon drippings. Talk about yum. Add chicken broth, cannellini beans, one chopped and seeded plum tomato, one bay leaf, salt, and pepper, and you’re done. Really, we wouldn’t lie! This soup only simmers for eight minutes after it’s brought to a boil, and it’s ready to eat. This recipe is so easy to whip up the fastest lunch or dinner ever, and you can make it ahead to take to work for the most comforting brown-bag lunch in the office.
Instant Pot Chana Dal
For the ideal bowl of soul-warming comfort, look no further than chana dal. Hearty and tender split chickpeas absorb the toasty goodness of an aromatic, deeply flavorful broth, which is complimented by a bright yogurt topper. One taste is all it takes to become enamored with the way toasted cumin seed and curry powder, balanced with a handful of other spices and aromatics like turmeric and fresh ginger, infuse chana dal with dynamic flavor and a gloriously golden color. The Instant Pot makes easy work of preparing this classic Indian dish, making it a perfect vegetarian recipe to add into your meal-prep rotation. Dried split chickpeas can be found at specialty Mediterranean markets as well as online.
Zucchini Fried Rice
This single skillet dinner is a weeknight-friendly meal the whole family can get behind, not to mention—it’s a genius way to put a bulk of summer zucchini to good use. The grated zucchini helps to lighten and brighten this take-out favorite, and stealthily bulks up the nutritional value of pickier eaters’ plates. Plus, this budget-friendly dish is actually best made using day-old rice, so it’s a great meal to plan on for utilizing leftovers later in the week. You can definitely use whatever you have on hand, but smaller-sized zucchini tend to work best in this recipe, as you want to minimize the number of seeds. Feel free to eliminate the pork or replace it with tofu to make this meal vegetarian.
Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce with Garlic Cheese Toasts
We really liked this dish with the fruity heat of Turkish Aleppo pepper, but you can substitute crushed red pepper.
Radish, White Bean, and Olive Salad
This quick side is all about texture, from the meaty olives to the creamy cannellini beans and crunchy radishes. The mild bean makes the salad a great match for nearly any main.
Taco Mac & Cheese
When taco night meets mac and cheese, magic happens. Melty cheese, hearty ground beef, and a creamy Tex-Mex inspired sauce come together in this taco-mac skillet for a maximum comfort food meal. You can absolutely prep this cheesy dinner bake ahead of time to make for even easier weeknight prep; simply assemble (following the recipe through step 4), then cover tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake (add a few minutes to the bake time if you’re going from the fridge to the oven). You can typically find taco skillet sauce shelved near the dry taco seasoning and tortillas in the supermarket.
Vegetable Soup with Beer Bread
Wanna know what the best thing about this dinner is (besides the fact that it’s highly comforting and delicious)? You likely already have everything you need to make it on hand. An incredibly simple, 4-ingredient savory beer bread is the perfect fluffy and buttery companion to a bowl of vegetable soup. A swirl of store-bought pesto adds touch of bright, fresh flavor, but if you don’t have it on hand, don’t sweat it. You can also top off your bowls of steamy soup with a dollop of sour cream or a handful of fresh herbs—just use what you already have in the kitchen to give the recipe a custom touch.
Salmon Croquettes with Succotash
You’d never believe these crispy little croquettes with veggie relish were whipped up exclusively from pantry and refrigerator/freezer staples. It’s the perfect satisfying supper for those occasions when you’re next grocery shopping trip isn’t gonna happen for a few more days.
Simple Enchilada Casserole
Spicy, creamy, and wholly comforting!
Pantry Beans and Greens
If it’s a cold-weather, feel-good meal you want, Pantry Beans and Greens is everything you need. This hearty yet healthy dish is both easy on your wallet and incredibly easy to pull together. But don’t be fooled—just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most satisfying meals you’ll eat this winter. (It is.) And the best part is, while this pantry meal is delicious as is, it’s also endlessly customizable. Swap in a different, heartier green if you like; ditch the Parmesan to make it vegan; add bacon or ground meat to bulk up the protein; transform it into a pasta or soup—it’s really up to you. Enjoy the base recipe and then try changing it up with one of the variations written below.
Cuban Black Bean-and-Yellow Rice Bowls
Don’t think you can get a filling, flavorful meal in just one bowl? We’re here to prove you wrong. Brighten up dinnertime with this colorful, customizable meal. Start with bowls filled with yellow rice, black beans, and plantains, and then let everyone add their favorite toppings. If your family loves avocado, make sure you have enough to go around. You’ll be floored by how much flavor fits into one bowl of this meatless meal. This simple recipe will be on your table in just 50 minutes, and every bite has sweet, spicy, salty, and savory notes. If you’re new to cooking with plantains, we have a tip from the Test Kitchen: Plantains are ready to cook when their peels turn black on the outside, so buy them black or let them ripen before cooking. Many grocery stores sell heat-and-serve frozen plantains too. You’ll love the sweet crunch the plantains give this colorful dish, so gather the family around the table and tell them to dig in.
Bucatini Aglio e Olio
Dinner doesn’t get much simpler than this classic, garlicky pasta dish. Especially awesome for those weeks when you just can’t seem to make it to the grocery store, aglio e olio is easy to whip up with just a handful of pantry staples. You can definitely use spaghetti noodles instead of bucatini, but consider picking up a box of bucaini to try next time you go shopping. The noodle's hollow shape offers a texture (not to mention, sauce-gripping abilities) that we just love. We opted to jazz the dish up with the addition of broccoli florets, but if you have a different frozen green veggie kicking around the freezer, like sweet peas, or even a bag of spinach in the crisper, feel free to use what you’ve got instead. Or, hey, leave the veggie out altogether—this dish was designed to be flexible and delicious with whatever you have on hand. That said, if you have a block of Parmesan in the fridge, feel free to grate some over top of the hot pasta before serving.
Cheesy Chicken and Pinto Bean Taco Skillet
If you’re in need of a simple, tasty dish that works for a weeknight meal, consider that need fulfilled. This skillet dish is effortless to throw together and super customizable—you can use black beans or kidney beans instead of pinto. If you’re not in the mood for chicken, try shredded pulled pork from your favorite BBQ place. You can tailor the toppings as you see fit, so keep an open imagination. Serving is simple: just put everything on the table and let everyone make their own tacos.
Niçoise Gnocchi Salad
Haven’t made it to the grocery store in a minute? That doesn’t mean you can’t whip up an impressive dish. This lovely, snackable take on a salad Niçoise is composed largely from pantry items, like canned tuna and roasted red peppers, plus a couple of common refrigerator staples—frozen green beans and eggs. We use packaged gnocchi, shelf-stable gnocchi as a creative swap for the fresh potatoes typically found in a salad Niçoise. Dressed up with a super simple vinaigrette this “throw-together” salad could easily pass for a well-planned. In other words, keep this one in your back pocket for the next time you need a last-minute appetizer for entertaining.
Look no further for the ultimate, easy chili recipe. You may think you know how to make chili, but our homemade chili recipe is a gamechanger. With just a push of a button, your weekday dinner is taken care of as the chili cooks away in the slow-cooker. Add chili to your next barbeque to top grilled sausages for an upgraded version of chili dogs. You can easily substitute ground turkey instead of beef for a lighter option and the rest of the ingredients should already be stocked away in your pantry. To top the hot, spicy chili, add shredded Cheddar cheese and corn chips for extra flavor and texture. To go beyond our favorite classic recipe, find more chili recipes here.
Three-Bean Pasta Salad
We combined two potluck classics—pasta salad and three-bean salad—to make one tasty new side dish. Blanched celery is the unexpected star in this side dish; it has a tender-crisp texture and bright green color. Swap out the canned beans for your favorite cooked field peas.
Tex-Mex meets tater tots in this easy, inexpensive, and all-around comforting one-dish dinner. Our spicy twist on the classic tater tot casserole consists of a succulent ground beef filling—featuring creamy black beans, crisp-sweet corn, cheese, and mild green chiles for a kick—topped with crispy tater tots, and finished with a drizzle of an addictively spicy and tangy sour cream sauce. Top this fiesta of a casserole with fresh garnishes, such as avocado, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro, and it’s as perfect to serve at your next football feast as it is for a casual weeknight meal. We use 85/15 lean ground beef for this recipe and recommend that you do not go with anything leaner, as the higher fat percentage both contributes to the filling’s rich flavor and keeps it from drying out while baking.
Brown Rice Bowl with Miso, Poached Egg, and Kale-Radish Slaw
Nutrient-rich kale has a mild flavor and becomes tender very quickly, making it a snap to add to speedy meals like this one.
Cacio e Pepe
This foolproof method delivers the classic, crave worthy flavors and textures of cacio e pepe—strong peppery backbone (without verging towards too “hot”), earthy saltiness from the Pecorino cheese, and a luscious sauciness that will have you ready to lick the bowl. That said, while our method largely stays true to the iconic dish, one element might catch a traditionalist’s eye: olive oil. Though not exactly typical in cacio e pepe, we found that incorporating olive oil makes emulsifying the delicate cheese sauce a far less finicky process. Grating the cheese (as opposed to shredding) or using a Microplane is also key, as this allows the cheese to melt quickly. And finally, remember that pasta water is your best friend when it comes to making a silky smooth sauce. We developed this recipe for two as it makes for a incredibly impressive—yet budget-friendly—date night dinner when served with a simple green salad and a dry white wine. However, you can easily double the recipe to serve more. We love bucatini for this recipe because the hollow noodle is perfect for capturing the rich sauce, but you can use whatever noodle shape you like; linguine, spaghetti,or fettuccine are all great options.
Zucchini and Bean Burritos
The bean mixture acts as a barrier between the tortilla and the zucchini, so the burritos stay crisp.
Red Beans and Rice with Fried Eggs
Red beans and rice is a tried and true standby for good reason—at it’s simplest, the dish is hearty, tasty, comes together fast, and can be whipped up with ease, even during those hectic weeks you can’t seem to make it the grocery store. We amped up this largely pantry staple-based recipe with a runny yolked fried egg and a package of frozen “seasoning blend,” which includes chopped bell pepper, onion, and celery. If you have fresh onions, peppers, etc. on hand and a few extra minutes for chopping, feel free to go that route instead! Microwaveable rice keeps the dinner super speedy to prep, but you can use traditionally cooked rice here just as well.
Creamy Tomato Soup with Parmesan Crisps
We've turned our favorite part of a grilled cheese sandwich—when the cheese hits the hot pan and becomes a lacy, golden crisp—into a garnish for quick, creamy tomato soup. Grated Parmesan cheese melts and melds with crispy panko breadcrumbs in the skillet into silver dollar-sized crisps, then are flipped to brown on the other side. If you don’t have half-and-half, stir a spoonful or two of the pureed soup into yogurt until smooth, then stir that mixture back into the soup.
Roasted Potatoes with Smoked Trout
Canned smoked trout is a pantry staple you must try; it has a very mild, almost bacon-y flavor that enriches every dish you add it to.
Black Bean Tostadas with Cabbage Slaw
Look for salty crumbly fresh Mexican cheese—queso fresco—near other fresh cheeses. Swap crumbled feta or shredded Jack cheese in a pinch. Look for crunchy premade tostada shells near the taco shells. Use up the extra shells as a base for a batch of after-school nachos, or break them into pieces and use in place of tortilla chips. For even more veggie goodness and an extra punch of flavor, try adding a few slices of creamy avocado and a sprinkle of charred corn kernels.
Speedy Coconut-Curry Shrimp Skillet
These skillet shrimp noodles are super easy to make at home, but their flavor rivals something you’d get at a restaurant. It’s slightly sweet from the coconut, with a mild degree of spice, and has plenty of toppings to keep things interesting, especially with the combination of flavors—but by all means, if you want to go harder with toppings, go for it. Buy the freshest, highest quality shrimp you can source, preferably from a seafood market. They’re the star of this dish, so quality matters. If you’re peeling and deveining them yourself, pat them dry as best as you can before adding them to the skillet. Wet shrimp will add steam, while dry shrimp will get a nice sear, yielding a better appearance and taste.
Spaghetti with Pistachio-Mint Pesto and Spinach
This meatless meal definitely doesn't skimp on flavor. With a bright and fresh spring pesto and lots of healthy spinach, getting your greens has never been so easy.
Chicken, Broccoli, and Brown Rice Casserole
This healthy whole-grain spin on a comfort food classic is indulgent, creamy, and a guaranteed family-pleaser. Cost for 4: $10.31
Egg-Topped Quinoa Bowl with Kale
Here, the yolk of the fried egg serves as a dressing (without you having to do anything extra) to coat nutrient-dense quinoa. Pancetta adds a snap of savory satisfaction to earthy kale, while all-season cherry tomatoes, meaning you can make it whenever, lend a fresh pop of bright flavor. Sub steel-cut oats, bulgur, or leftover brown rice for quinoa. The hot sauce gives this simple dish a kick in the pants.
Instant Pot Two-Minute Taco Soup
Dinner doesn’t get any easier than this tasty taco soup that the whole family will love.
Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
Aromatic Indian spices mingle with chickpeas, green beans, and potatoes. Coconut milk is stirred into the cooked curry for a creamy finish. Serve over quick-cooking couscous.
Creamy White Bean Fettuccine Alfredo
Pureed with flavorful aromatics, white beans shine as a dairy-free hero, delivering creamy, rich body to our vegan Alfredo sauce. Whether you follow a vegan diet, you’ve cut out dairy, or you’re simply looking for a delicious (low-fat) new pasta dish to add into your rotation, you’re going to love this flavorful white bean Alfredo. The nutritional yeast is a key ingredient of the sauce, as it provides a near-cheesy umami flavor, so it’s worth picking up even if it’s not already a staple in your pantry.
Easy Taco Salad
Perfect for hectic weeknights, this easy taco salad recipe is something both kids and adults will love. The beauty of taco salad is that it’s entirely customizable to your favorite taco components, so feel free to stray from the recipe to accommodate whatever you’re craving and/or the ingredients you already have on hand. For example, you can easily swap in some diced avocado for the prepared guacamole. Pro-tip: Allowing the ground beef to sear before crumbling helps it to brown nicely without steaming.