Our Top 50 Budget-Friendly Recipes

updated Jun 23, 2023
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Affordable cooking is top of mind for a lot of us right now. To ease some of your cooking anxieties, we wanted to share our tastiest and most utterly satisfying recipes that keep budget top of mind. These recipes often rely on simple, accessible ingredients and prioritize minimizing waste in order to stretch your dollar further. And sometimes they are a direct response to the question: What do I do with these leftovers? 

Our best budget recipes include a wide spread of dishes, from classic cozy dinners like casseroles and pastas to more creative solutions such as stir-fries and loaded meatballs. All in all, they are for the people who find themselves strapped for cash and sometimes time, but never willing to sacrifice flavor — so that’s all of us! Read on for over 50 budget recipes that very well might rank as some of the best meals you’ve had.

Budget-Friendly Soups

Go ahead and slurp your heart out, because these luxurious soups will cost you hardly anything.

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Salt and Vinegar Potato Soup
A vegan and budget-friendly soup that pulls inspiration from a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.
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The rich, comforting, and hearty notes that sing from this traditional soybean paste stew hinge on thrifty items commonly found in a Korean kitchen: beef, various vegetables, tofu. It all comes together in an Instant Pot, which makes it even easier to pull together.

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3 / 8
Lemon, Chickpea and Green Herb Stew

Stocking up on canned chickpeas will prep you to have endless meals, like lemony-bright aromatic stews. It gets great zing from fresh-squeezed lemons, while herbs on top provide freshness.

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4 / 8
20-Minute Pumpkin Soup

The tastiest, easiest, and most budget-friendly pumpkin soup, thanks to a can of pumpkin and your spice drawer.

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Cabbage Roll Soup

You can channel all the flavors of stuffed cabbage rolls and ingredients into this hearty, just-as-flavorful, budget-friendly soup instead. How's that for a good and cheap meal?

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Weeknight White Chicken Chili

This weeknight chicken chili — which relies on whole vegetables and pantry staples — pulls inspiration from chowder, but warm cumin and a trio of fresh, punchy toppings firmly plant it in chili territory. If you want, you can use leftover rotisserie or shredded chicken.

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Carrot Soup

With just a few aromatics and broth, a pile of carrot coins transforms into silky spoonfuls of soup brightened with fresh dill and lemon.

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Tomato Tortellini Soup

A package of frozen tortellini is a must-have to stash in the freezer because it’s cheap, lasts for months, and studs this creamy, tangy tomato soup that comes together in 20 minutes.

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Budget Pastas

When in doubt, bust out a box of dried pasta along with a few staples and you’re well on your way to dinner.

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Sardine Pasta
Consider this your family's new favorite flavor-packed, pantry-friendly pasta dinner.
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The Easiest Stuffed Shells

You don't need to spend a lot to feed a whole mess of people. Got pasta shells, ricotta and mozzarella, and a jar of marinara sauce? Grab a few more ingredients and a Sunday supper comes alive.

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Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta with Zucchini & Corn

Meet your go-to summer pasta. Due to the affordability of in-season vegetables, this easy and meltingly tender pasta will cost you less than 10 bucks for four servings.

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Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies

It turns out gnocchi on a weeknight is a more-than-doable dinner and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. This one-pan dinner of roasted gnocchi and vegetables doesn't even require you to boil the dumplings.

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No-Shell Linguine + Clams
Linguine and clams, or vongole, is a dish that celebrates the best that canned fish and pasta has to offer. Lucky for us, this version excludes those fussy clam shells.
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Big-Batch Turkey Bolognese with Linguine

This rich and savory Bolognese is easy on the wallet, comes together quickly, and yields plenty of leftovers.

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Caramelized Tomato Paste Pasta
A delectable dinner solution that uses a whole can of tomato paste.
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Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash Parm

A whole spaghetti squash gets the ultimate star treatment when cooked in the air fryer. Although it's not technically a pasta, it serves up major pasta vibes. The veg-forward spin on an Italian comfort dish is cheesy and perfectly al dente with an affordable ingredient list to boot.

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Caramelized Cabbage Butter Pasta Recipe

Take what's left over of the buttery caramelized cabbage from this dish and pile it onto crusty bread or rice with eggs, or tuck it into a sandwich for lunch the next few days.

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10 / 10
Broccoli and Cheese Risotto

A minimal-ingredient recipe for creamy broccoli-cheddar risotto that's both family-friendly and fit for a weeknight.

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Tasty Meatless Meals

If you eat vegetarian, here are a few recipes to recharge your creative battery and keep your wallet (and belly) full.

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Four-Can Pantry Salad
A quick and easy salad made with pantry ingredients you might already have on hand.
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BBQ Pizza Beans

This vegetarian rendition of the iconic barbecue chicken pizza from CPK trades the chicken and crust for glazy beans. No need to cook beans from dry — just grab a can of white beans, such as butter or Great Northern.

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Grain Salad with Use-It-All-Up Pesto

This hearty, satisfying main-course salad can be made with rice or whatever grain from your pantry: farro, millet, quinoa, etc. Orzo or couscous are also great options.

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Braised Cauliflower and White Bean Piccata
A bright vegetable-forward piccata that’s punchy with flavor and inexpensive to pull together.
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Caribbean-Style Beans and Greens Quinoa Skillet
The ultimate budget-friendly, one-pan skillet that comes together in a single skillet with minimal prep and satisfies you with plenty of protein and fiber.
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Sheet Pan BBQ Tofu

Here's how to go to town on barbecue and stay meat-free, too. A pack of tofu takes on crispy, jagged edges and a crunchy coating in the oven before it gets cloaked in a sticky blanket of BBQ sauce.

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Baked Potato Bar

Whether cobbled together from leftovers in the fridge for a weeknight dinner, or served as an over-the-top spread for a party, a baked potato bar is a dependable way to entertain and feed on a budget.

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Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes
A simple recipe for pan-fried potato pancakes using leftover mashed potatoes.
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Curry-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower with Saucy Lentils

The finished dish is full of contrasting flavors and textures — tender (but not too tender) roasted cauliflower, chewy dried cherries, al dente lentils. Plus there’s that yogurt sauce to pull everything together. At $8.55 for four servings, it’s a fine-dining dish at a fraction of the price.

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Cheesy Potato Quesadillas with Chipotle Mayo

These mini starch-on-starch quesadillas with melty cheesy and spicy mayo make for a yummy, cheap, vegetarian dinner that’s worth putting on repeat.

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Grilled Eggplant Caprese

This caprese salad tucks in more heft with the addition of grilled eggplant, turning the dish into the perfect meatless main event.

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Brown Rice Bowl with Lentils, Caramelized Onions & Fried Egg

Rice and lentils are as forgiving to cook as they are cheap. As this meal-prep meal demonstrates, they can be made ahead on a Sunday and stored in the fridge until the end of the work week. When you need a vegetarian lunch at a moment's notice, you can build a brown rice and lentil bowl with caramelized onions, a healthy spoonful of harissa, and a sprinkling of pine nuts and top with a fried egg.

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Salt and Pepper Smashed Cucumber Salad
The easiest cucumber salad made with just salt, pepper, and a homemade vinaigrette.
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Thrifty Meat Dishes

Meat-heavy meals often get a bad rap for being too costly when you want to cut down on food costs. But hearty all-star dishes are achievable on a budget — as long as you have some other proteins on hand (think: tinned fish, tofu packs, and lean cuts of meat).

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Country Ribs
These seasoned country-style “ribs” are glazed with luscious barbecue sauce and get oven-roasted until they’re super tender.
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Porcupine Meatballs

Adding rice to a beef meatball mixture yields more saucy, satisfying meatballs for less money.

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Trader Joe's Orange Chicken Fried Rice

Trader Joe's is a destination for top-notch affordable frozen foods, and their frozen Mandarin orange chicken is in a league of its own. This recipe bulks up a bag of the chicken with vegetables and brown rice to create a family-friendly weeknight dinner.

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Tuna Patties

These tuna patties are a fun and cheap way to turn a few cans of tuna, vegetables, and herbs into super-satisfying meal.

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5 / 7
Juicy Lucy Turkey Burgers

Turkey is a low-cost type of meat that can take on a generous amount of flavor in any way you see fit. Case in point: This Juicy Lucy turkey burger oozes with hot cheese filling and, as the name suggests, a lot of juice. Ready the napkins!

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Greek Chicken

With minimal effort, ingredients, and overall price, this chicken breast soaked in zesty Greek marinade is a budget-friendly dream.

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Creamless Corn with Sautéed Greens and Seared Salmon

Cream can be pricey. Luckily, you don't need it to make the best creamy corn — just some butter and broth will do the trick. With the sautéed greens and seared salmon, you get the perfect combo of tastes in every single bite.

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Simple Casseroles and One-Pot Meals

Here are the dinner solutions for those days when you need to make something not only economical but also quick and mess-free.

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Easy Egg Roll in a Bowl

Bagged slaw makes this "egg roll in a bowl" a cinch to make.

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Puerto Rican Arroz con Salchichas
This versatile and delicious Puerto Rican dinner comes together with a few pantry workhorses. Don't have Vienna sausages? Swap in Spam, tinned seafood, or canned legumes.
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4-Can Skillet Nacho Dip

Serve nachos as a skillet dinner dip using four canned staples: black beans, corn kernels, diced tomatoes, and green chiles.

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One-Pan Coconut Milk-Braised Chicken

A can of coconut milk is one ingredient that's needed to make the best one-pan braised chicken.

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Crispy Ramen Omelet with Spam and Spinach

Need a fun way to breathe new life to a pack of instant ramen noodles? We got you: Toss them with Spam and spinach, then cook it omelet-style until the noodles are crispy.

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5-Ingredient Enchilada Casserole
Easy weeknight enchiladas are within reach, thanks to a grocery store shortcut.
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Pineapple Casserole

This casserole breaks down pineapple pizza to its most essential (and best) elements: cheese, pineapple chunks, and a buttery crust. This pantry recipe doesn't involve any chopping.

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One-Skillet Chicken Thighs with Pearl Couscous and Eggplant
This one-skillet dish features crispy chicken thighs, pearl couscous, and eggplant simmered in a flavorful tomato base. A complete dinner with minimal dishes to wash? Yes, please!
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Vegan Enchiladas

Don't stress about costly store-bought vegan meat products. Our recipe for spiced-up, saucy vegan enchiladas have a simply delicious filling made from mushrooms and chopped walnuts mixed together with tofu. It's cheaper and, dare we say, meatier than what you can buy.

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Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyère

There's quite possibly no dish that stretches out a few eggs as well as a strata. If you want to eat your eggs and make the most of one carton, make this hearty breakfast bake that's packed with cheese and spinach, then baked until golden-brown and well-puffed.

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Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is a smoky, spicy tomato- and pepper-based rice dish that's a staple throughout West Africa.

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Tater Tot Casserole

This hearty casserole easily feeds a hungry crowd and is an all-in-one meal with protein, vegetables, and frozen tater tots.

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