5 Weeknight Dinners Featuring Fresh Pantry Ingredients

Meal Plans from The Kitchn

A few weeks ago we showcased some dinners using shelf-stable dry pantry ingredients, but there's the other (equally important) half of the pantry we try to keep well-stocked too. What's in this pantry? The dairy, vegetables, and other fresh staples you always have kicking around in your refrigerator or freezer. Now it's their turn to shine in these simple weeknight dinner recipes.

Permanent Refrigerator and Freezer Residents

When I'm talking about fresh pantry ingredients, I'm referring to those things that you grab on autopilot in the store, even though you might not be sure quite how they'll be used up. For me, that list includes cheese, citrus, milk, eggs, onions, frozen vegetables, cheese, and root vegetables. If I'm out of these things at home, I'm actually strangely anxious until they're replenished!

These items are permanent residents in my kitchen because they have decently long shelf lives, but are also adaptable. Adaptable is the key word here because these ingredients are easy to cook, but also easy to throw together in various combinations to make a complete meal (I'm looking at you, emergency grilled cheese). Typically these ingredients are also fairly inexpensive, which makes them perfect for weeknight budget dinners.

This Week's Fresh Pantry Recipes

Since we're still smack-dab in the middle of the winter freeze, the name of the game for these recipes is comfort. Three of the recipes serve up big bowls of steaming goodness: a slow-cooker split pea soup, a Greek-inspired soup chock full of orzo pasta, and a braised cauliflower that can be served over couscous or rice.

To round out the braises and soups, roast up some crispy potatoes and sausages together on a sheet pan, and take it easy on yourself one night and have breakfast for dinner with some migas (Mexican scramble). These recipes are a great way to use up some of those fresh ingredients you have laying around in new, delicious ways.

5 Dinners from the Fresh Pantry






The Recipes

Your Meal Plan

Things to Prep on Sunday

  • Dice the onions, carrots, and celery for the soup.
  • Boil the potatoes for Tuesday's roasted potatoes and sausage.


  • In the morning, start the soup in the slow cooker.
  • Make the grilled cheese croutons when ready to eat.


  • Roast the potatoes and sausage.
  • Put together a salad while everything is roasting.


  • Braise the cauliflower.
  • While the cauliflower is braising, steam the couscous.


  • Make the soup.


  • Make the migas.

Your Shopping List

This list of ingredients does not include the optional side dishes.

To buy at the store:

  • Cooked sausages, such as chicken-apple (12 to 16 ounces)
  • Cauliflower (3 pounds)
  • Baby red potatoes, about 2 inches in diameter (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Carrots (2)
  • Celery stalks (2)
  • Jalapeño peppers (2)
  • Fresh parsley (1/2 bunch, optional)
  • Frozen spinach (10 ounces)
  • Smoked cheese, such as Gouda or mozzarella (4 ounces)
  • Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (1 cup)
  • Salsa (1/4 cup)
  • Dried green split peas (1 pound)
  • Sourdough bread (4 slices)
  • Corn tortillas (4)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (1 cup, about 3 ounces)
  • Orzo pasta or long-grain rice (1 1/2 cups)
  • Chicken or vegetable broth (2 quarts)
  • Garnish and serving options for the migas: salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, scallions, corn or flour tortillas, beans

From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):

  • Milk, not nonfat (3 cups)
  • Parmesan cheese (2 tablespoons grated, plus more for the soup)
  • Large eggs (12)
  • Lemons (3)
  • Onion (5)
  • Garlic (17 cloves)
  • Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon)
  • Bay leaves (2)
  • Olive oil (3/4 cup)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

(Image credits: Melissa Ryan; Faith Durand; Christine Gallary)