18 Budget-Friendly Meals That Don’t Involve Pasta

updated Dec 1, 2023
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Roasted squash and black bean enchiladas in a baking pan
Credit: Joe Lingeman

When you’re cooking on a tight budget, it’s so easy to fall into a pasta rut. Been there, done that more times than I care to remember! Pasta is a quick, inexpensive, and easy meal with limited cleanup required, which makes it pretty enticing, but it also gets boring fast.

Good news, though — cooking on a budget doesn’t have to mean pasta for dinner seven nights a week. From stir-fry to burritos to chili, here are 20 delicious, budget-friendly dinners that don’t involve pasta.

Meals That Don’t Involve Pasta

1 / 18
Spicy Ground Pork & Zucchini Stir-Fry
A quick and easy recipe for a spicy stir-fry with ground pork and zucchini. Just serve it over rice and you've got a complete meal.
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2 / 18
Tofu Chickpea Stir Fry with Tahini Sauce

In this recipe for tofu and chickpea stir-fry with its creamy tahini sauce, you’ll find all of the above.

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3 / 18
Roasted Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas
These wholesome enchiladas are packed with roasted winter squash, corn, & black beans, then topped with greens.
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5 / 18
Crunchy Black Bean Tacos

This recipe is sort of a cross between a hard shell taco and a quesadilla.

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6 / 18
Mixed Bean Masala

This recipe is a riff on chana masala — a curry of spiced chickpeas in a gingery tomato sauce — using any type of cooked bean you happen to have on hand.

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7 / 18
Alice Waters' Chickpea and Broccoli Rabe Soup

I used the dried chickpeas and pancetta the first time I made this soup, and the results were as delicious as expected.

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8 / 18
Andean Cheese & Potato Soup (Locro de Papa)

This South American soup holds many good and tasty things, from the tender pieces of potato to sweet nibbles of fresh corn.

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9 / 18
10 / 18
Beef Stew

It’s a dish that will serve you well through long winters and family visits and other small moments of need.

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11 / 18
Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon

It’s a mess of colors and vegetables — green, tender spinach draped over a big, hot sweet potato.

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12 / 18
Dill Pickle Chicken
Spicy and tangy pickle juice is the one-ingredient brine that makes the most tender and delicious chicken you will eat all summer.
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13 / 18
Braised Chicken Thighs with Bell Peppers and Onions

It’s an easy one-pot dinner for weeknights.

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14 / 18
Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs
A quick and easy recipe for crispy, skillet-cooked chicken thighs seasoned simply with fresh lemon and thyme.
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15 / 18
Green Shakshuka

Warm eggs cooked over a bed of garlicky leeks and greens with tangy feta cheese, all served with crusty bread.

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16 / 18
Spiced Lentils with Egg

It’s a simple and forgiving dish, made with lentils cooked with shallot, garlic, and toasty Indian spices.

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17 / 18
Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia

Any thin fish fillet would also work in this recipe; tilapia isn’t your only option here.

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18 / 18
Summer Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber & Basil
Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil are tossed with hearty and healthful farro to create a perfect pairing for any time of day.
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