Easy Recipe Ideas from the Pantry

Pantry Cooking Staples

Written by Cathy Taylor

I was once asked to write down some easy recipes for the husband of a woman who is a quadriplegic.  He wanted dinner ideas that were quick and inexpensive, and easy enough for someone with little cooking experience. 

After some thought, I decided that instead of writing down each individual recipe, I could share a list of pantry items that, if he kept on hand, could provide him with a variety of meal ideas.  This list has since been shared with newly-weds, college students, and wonderfully enough, my own teenagers who are taking on more cooking responsibilities.  (Woo hoo!)

Recipe via Mommy's Kitchen on Rhodes Bread Blog
Recipe and photo: via Mommy’s Kitchen on Rhodes Bread Blog

1 – Canned chili

Chili can be eaten alone, or spiced up with toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, onions, olives, and peppers.  You can use it as a smother for chicken, on Navajo tacos, for chili dogs, in a baked potato bar, over French fries, or mix it into macaroni and cheese.  It also makes a delicious dip when mixed with cream cheese.  Trying to eat less meat?  They make vegetarian chili too – and it tastes great!

2 – Canned refried beans

These can be used in all sorts of Mexican inspired dishes: tacos, tostadas, burritos, taco salads, nachos, quesadillas, etc.  You can change up the flavor by mixing in other items as well, such as salsa, enchilada sauce, canned black beans, ground beef, diced chilies, taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder, rice, or corn.

Pasta and Sauce

3- Pasta

Pastas like rigatoni, macaroni, fettucine, linguini, cheese stuffed tortellini, and penne are great to break up the monotony of regular old spaghetti noodles.   And the toppings for pasta can be just as varied: marinara, Alfredo, meat sauce, sautéed vegetables, butter and seasonings, parmesan, salad dressings, olive and other flavored oils, or vinaigrettes. 

Stuffed potato with chicken and spinach, baked with cheddar cheese
Stuffed potato with slow cooked chicken and fresh spinach, baked with cheddar cheese

4 – Potatoes

While these probably aren’t considered a pantry item, I love to include them because they are so versatile, and pair well with most anything.  They can be fried with onion, grated into hash browns, boiled and mashed, used in soup, roasted with olive oil and a variety of seasonings, baked and topped with veggies, chili, cheese, cream soups, salsa, sour cream, etc.  You can even bake them the night before and keep them in the fridge for later use.

Slow Cooker

5 – Bottled sauces, dressings and marinades

Slow cookers are a busy family’s best friend – and there are few things easier than putting a few frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker, pouring in a bottle of sauce, and putting on the lid.  (Don’t forget to turn it on too!)  Salad dressings like Italian, Catalina, vinaigrettes, and honey mustard are great over chicken.  You can also use BBQ sauces, salsas, spaghetti sauce, marinades, and Indian simmer sauces.  Then serve with pasta, rice or potatoes and you’re good to go!  Dressings can of course top your salads, but they can also add a delicious kick to sandwiches, wraps and pasta.

Now, these aren’t by any means gourmet meals.
What they are, is a solution for the reality of having a busy life.  We love having the whole world of cuisine right at our fingertips, but usually don’t have time for those recipes every day. 

So when you’re tired after a long day and the kids are asking what’s for dinner –  
Have no fear…

Your pantry just might save the day.

What’s your favorite quick and easy recipe you grab from the pantry?

22 thoughts on “Easy Recipe Ideas from the Pantry”

  1. Cereal with fruit, though my kids got sick of it a couple years ago so this week was the first time in a long time that we had it for dinner.

  2. A bag of spaghetti noodles and a jar of spaghetti sauce! One of the most easy meals to make! It’s fast to make and it will feed many people and you may have left overs, which is easy to reheat! 🙂

  3. I make a soup I call “Dump Soup”.
    1 can corn kernals
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 can black beans
    1 can diced chilies
    1 can chicken or veggie broth
    1 medium sized onion- diced
    4 cloves of garlic- minced
    2 teaspoons cumin & Pepper flakes
    Saute onion, add garlic, cumin and pepper flakes. Then DUMP everything in. Simmer until warm. If I have some left over fish or chicken I slice it up and serve on top. It’s hearty and my family loves it.

  4. I like to get a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and put diced up cooked smoked sausage in it. Stir and wella. You have a tasty, smokey mac & cheese meal that is really simple to make and also quick and delicious.

  5. I love to keep jars of salsa. I can make Fiesta chicken in my crockpot, pour it over chicken and bake, make taco soup, and many other things!

  6. Chicken and Rice is our go to pantry meal, but it does take time. In a big baking dish, mix together a can each of cream of mushroom, cream of celery and cream of chicken soups with 2 cups of rice, 2 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Add in chicken (we prefer chicken tenders, frozen is okay). Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until rice is done, stirring half way through.

  7. Chicken salsa is my favorite! It’s not really a meal from the pantry but it only takes a few ingredients in the slow cooker. 2 chicken breasts with a cup of salsa over it cooked on high in the slow cooker for 4-5 hr. The last half hour, shred the chicken and mix in half cup sour cream. Serve in a tortilla with tomatoes or avocadoes and rice! It’s so yummy!

  8. I like to have chicken broth on hand in my pantry. I add the broth to chicken in the crock pot. After It cooks I shred it and use it for dinner that night or freeze it to use later. I love using the shredded chicken in fettuccine alfredo, enchiladas, casserole, soup, and chicken salad.

  9. Rolled oats! We eat Amish/baked oatmeal with different fruit/nit toppings for breakfast or dinner multiple times a week. I also throw them in meatloaf when I don’t have bread crumbs, use them for no bake cookies, etc. Definitely my go to item!

  10. Quesadillas are definitely a go to and quick and easy meal. I love quesadillas because I can use whatever leftovers are in the fridge to make them. If I have some left over grilled chicken I can just cut that up and use that on the quesadillas. Or if I had some bbq pork and veggies I can also just make a quesadilla with that.

  11. Chili Casserole
    2 cans chili
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 bag of fritos

    Empty ingredients into casserole dish. Stir. Top with shredded cheese and bake at 350 for about half an hour. Garnish with sour cream if desired.

  12. A Campbell’s soup recipe we have made since the 1970s – goes great with BBQ!

    1 can beef consomme
    1 can French Onion soup
    1 empty soup can rice
    3 TBSP butter

    Put it all in a casserole, bake 350 for 45 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered.

    Best rice ever!

  13. My go to meal is breakfast for dinner! My mom always did that for me while growing up, as it was probably easiest since she had 9 kids. I always have pancake mix, eggs, potatoes & etc on hand!

  14. My go to panty meal is hamburger….noodles and rice we have almost every meal with hamburger rice or a noodles Wethersfield it’s hamburger helper with onions and cheese or homemade Mac and cheeese.

  15. Taco Soup

    1 can corn
    1 can Italian (or green chilies if you like it hot) diced tomatoes
    1 can black beans
    1 can refried beans

    Open all the cans. Do not drain anything. Pour them into a pan and stir. Cook on medium until hot.
    Note: sometimes I will add cooked then frozen ground beef or a can of chicken. Another option is to add some cumin.

    Top with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc.

  16. My go-to meal is usually suddenly salad. It’s great to be able to add almost anything and make it a meal. I usually add some grilled chicken, avocado, and grape tomatoes.

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