25+ 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.
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.
Zucchini and Bean Burritos
Zucchini and Bean Burritos Recipe
The bean mixture acts as a barrier between the tortilla and the zucchini, so the burritos stay crisp.
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.
Vegetable Soup with Beer Bread
Vegetable Soup with Beer Bread Recipe
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.
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.
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.
One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes Recipe
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
Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce with Garlic Cheese Toasts
Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce with Garlic Cheese Toasts Recipe
We really liked this dish with the fruity heat of Turkish Aleppo pepper, but you can substitute crushed red pepper.
Simple Enchilada Casserole
Simple Enchilada Casserole Recipe
Spicy, creamy, and wholly comforting!
Pantry Beans and Greens
Pantry Beans and Greens Recipe
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.
Cheesy Chicken and Pinto Bean Taco Skillet
Cheesy Chicken and Pinto Bean Taco Skillet Recipe
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.
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
Brown Rice Bowl with Miso, Poached Egg, and Kale-Radish Slaw Recipe
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.
Red Beans and Rice with Fried Eggs
Red Beans and Rice with Fried Eggs Recipe
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.
Speedy Coconut-Curry Shrimp Skillet
Speedy Coconut-Curry Shrimp Skillet Recipe
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
Spaghetti with Pistachio-Mint Pesto and Spinach Recipe
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
Chicken, Broccoli, and Brown Rice Casserole Recipe
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
Egg-Topped Quinoa Bowl with Kale Recipe
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
Instant Pot Two-Minute Taco Soup Recipe
Dinner doesn't get any easier than this tasty taco soup that the whole family will love.
Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
Vegetable and Chickpea Curry Recipe
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
Creamy White Bean Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe
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.
Satay Soba Noodle Bowl
It's amazing how many delicious meals can come from a can of coconut milk, and little nut butter, and a handful of other pantry staples. Here, with a rich and creamy shortcut satay sauce, soba noodles and frozen edamame are transformed into a scrumptious vegetarian main within a matter of minutes. In other words, during extra-chaotic weeks (as in, so chaotic you haven't made it to the grocery store lately), this speedy supper is here for you. If you want to customize the dish with other fresh ingredients, go for it! This noodle bowl is a great base for creativity. If you just happened to have a block of tofu in the fridge, go ahead and crisp it up in some oil and add layer it on top of the noodles—you won't be sorry.