Do you strive to get weeknight dinners on the table in 30 minutes or less? I know I do, and I have a hunch I'm not alone. Choosing the best recipes for the job is one step in the right direction, but there's an even more important tool to achieve this dinner victory: The real key to mastering 30-minute meals is your pantry.
Why Your Pantry Is the Solution for 30-Minute Meals
When stocked strategically, the pantry is your secret weapon for getting dinner on the table quickly and efficiently. It is home to the core ingredients that build the foundation for easier, smarter weeknight cooking. When you rely on your pantry, it's actually quite easy to make dinner in 30 minutes — from the prep all the way through the cooking — but you have to have the right ingredients to make this a reality.
You won't find every last ingredient you need for dinner among the contents of the 30-minute meal pantry. Instead, it holds the time-saving products that are foundational to a faster meal. Stock or broth, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, mustard, or a sweetener like maple syrup or honey are all key elements. All of these items wear multiple hats when it comes to their place in the pantry (they're budget-friendly and extremely versatile), but today we're talking about how they can make your cooking faster.
30-Minute Meals That Lean on Your Pantry
Faster Cooking with the Help Of the Pantry
There's not a one-size-fits-all plan for stocking a 30-minute meal pantry besides that obvious fact that you need to fill it with things you actually want to cook. The list we're sharing here tends to be as universal as it gets, but we're explaining the reasoning behind each item so you get a sense of how to add ingredients that have potential to play the same role for you.
- Canned beans: A can of beans is your ticket to 10-minute tacos, a protein-packed no-cook salad, a quick stew or soup, and a spiced filling that turns a baked potato into a meal. Dried beans might be more cost-efficient, but they require prep and planning. For fast meals, canned beans are the way to go.
- Coconut milk: We're including this in the 30-minute pantry because it's pretty much a meal in itself with only a few other ingredients to make it dinner. Use that can of coconut milk hiding in the back of the pantry to cook up a quick, fragrant curry, a silky soup, or flavorful and rich braised fish.
- Mustard: Mustard is such a simple way to give most meals an upgrade. When combined with maple syrup, it makes a quick sauce to make chicken thighs sing. Having an egg sandwich for dinner? Add a swipe of Dijon to give it some dimension.
- Maple syrup and honey: Staple sweeteners are the key to stirring together a quick dipping sauce for chicken fingers, and for upping the ante on fast-cooking salmon fillets and rice bowls.
- Pasta, rice, and grains: These are the staples to rely on for fast and fancy pasta dinners, rice and grain bowls, veggie stir-fries, and totally dinner-worthy salads.
- Frozen vegetables: From five-minute sides to quick curries, a selection of frozen vegetables will take you far at dinnertime.
- Frozen tortellini: In under 30 minutes you can turn a package of frozen tortellini into a veggie-filled skillet dinner or hearty soup. And when all else fails, there is always a jar of marinara.
Stock Up Now, Cook Later
Relying on your pantry for 30-minute meals isn't just about what's inside — it's also about how it gets there. Instead of buying these pantry staples on a one-off basis as you need them, stock up now and then reap the rewards later when it's time to cook.
Take advantage of weekly deals at the grocery store when items like canned beans, tomato sauce, and frozen broccoli are on sale. They might not fit into your weekly meal plan right now, and that's okay. Part of the beauty of pantry items is that they have a relatively lengthy shelf life. Having these items within arm's reach makes a big difference when it comes to getting dinner on the table in a short period of time.
Your turn! What are the pantry staples that help you get dinner on the table in 30 minutes? Share your favorites in the comments!