10 Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes to Make with Pantry Staples

updated Mar 10, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’ve always been someone who leans heavily on her pantry. Staples like canned beans and tomatoes, rice, and dried pasta make up the bulk of my meals because they’re convenient and affordable. As the coronavirus continues to spread and anxieties continue to grow, my pantry feels more important than ever.

If you’ve stocked up and are cooking more at home, take comfort in the power of your pantry to provide you and your family with a whole lot of cheap, easy, and delicious. Here are 10 of my favorite recipes that lean on pantry staples to get you started.

1. One-Pot Tomato Chickpeas and Orzo

In this one-pot pasta, the chickpeas and the orzo release some of their natural starches as they simmer together. This creates a creamy, risotto-like dinner that takes just 15 minutes to make.

Get the recipe: One-Pot Tomato Chickpea and Orzo

Credit: Jerrelle Guy

2. Roasted Tomato Soup

A can of tomatoes is the key to many great pantry soups and this recipe is no exception. Roasting the tomatoes in the oven before tossing them in the pot is the little secret to unlocking their flavor.

Get the recipe: Roasted Tomato Soup

3. Chickpea and Cheddar Quesadillas

While this hearty quesadilla recipe calls for cheddar, feel free to use whatever cheese you happen to have in the fridge. You can also skip the scallions if you don’t have them. Open up a jar of salsa to serve with them or simply grab the hot sauce. It’s worth noting, they also freeze really well.

Get the recipe: Chickpea and Cheddar Quesadillas

Credit: Faith Durand

4. Spiced Lentils with Egg

This cozy, Indian-spiced mix of stewed red lentils and yellow split peas hardly needs the egg on top to be satisfying. However, cracking one on top of a bowl and baking results in a dish so hearty, you’ll forget how humble it is.

Get the recipe: Spiced Lentils with Egg

Credit: Lauren Volo

5. Tofu and Broccoli Green Curry

Frozen broccoli is such a smart staple to keep in your freezer — and this recipe proves it. Here, it adds color and nutrition to a Thai-inspired curry. Oh, and while a block of tofu lasts quite awhile in the fridge and is worth keeping around for easy meals like this, if you don’t have one on hand, you can swap in a can or two of chickpeas.

Get the recipe: Tofu and Broccoli Green Curry

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

This is the most classic of Italian pantry pastas. Take a few basics — dried spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes — and in next to no time you have a comforting meal that’s the adult equivalent to butter noodles.

Get the recipe: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. How to Make Easy Shrimp Fried Rice That’s Even Better than Takeout

Shrimp probably isn’t the first ingredient that comes to mind when you think of pantry staples but it’s well-worth adding frozen shrimp to your standbys. It’s much more affordable than fresh and it thaws so quickly that it can lend almost-instant protein to practically any meal, including this fried rice.

Get the recipe: Easy Shrimp Fried Rice

Credit: Lauren Volo

8. 10-Minute Black Bean Tacos

This recipe makes for the easiest, most budget-friendly taco night there is. A couple of cans of black beans don’t need much more than a few shakes of chili powder to become the perfect base for meatless tacos.

Get the recipe: 10-Minute Black Bean Tacos

Credit: Joe Lingeman

9. How to Make a Frittata with Whatever You Have on Hand

There’s really no wrong way to make a frittata. Use this recipe as your guide and throw in whatever odds and ends you have like cheese, veggies, and even cooked meat. Enjoy a slice on its own or slide one between two slices of bread for an impromptu egg sandwich.

Get the recipe: How to Make a Frittata with Whatever You Have on Hand

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Spicy Canned Salmon Cakes

Canned salmon often gets overlooked for canned tuna but that’s a shame because it’s such a budget-friendly way to eat the good-for-you fish. Here a couple of cans are turned into crispy, fritter-like cakes that are fast and easy to make, yet still manage to feel pretty special.

Get the recipe: Spicy Canned Salmon Cakes