Recipes and Tips for Maximizing Your Pantry Staples

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Recipes and Tips for Maximizing Your Pantry Staples

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Photo courtesy of @jessiemaysnyder

For creative, resourceful, pantry-led cooking: We gathered some of our favorite recipes that use old standbys, like beans, rice, pasta, and canned tomatoes, and some odds and ends you might have from last season’s cooking projects (ahem, Thanksgiving can of pumpkin purée). We hope these recipes inspire you to make something new while using what you’ve already got. If you find certain recipes call for ingredients that you don’t have, don’t feel like you need to go out to the store. The goal here is to riff and swap—and know that you can still make it delicious. If you have questions about substitutions, take a look at our notes below for guidance, or reach out to our food editor for advice at editoria[email protected]

BEANS AND LENTILS

These are the MVPs of the pantry. They’re affordable and ubiquitous, they’re used in many cuisines, and they pretty much keep forever. We use them in stews, dips, and salads and even roast them sometimes. You could use dry beans for any of these recipes. Just see our guide to cooking dry beans and adjust the instructions accordingly.

NOODLES

Pasta, soba, rice noodles: They all have their place in the pantry and can be used for many things. It was hard to leave some noodle recipes behind—we’re just scratching the surface of potential—but these win.

  • Cold Dan Dan Noodles

    Cold Dan Dan Noodles

    Super tasty, totally packable cold dan dan noodles have a way of making a lunch an event. Topped with fresh cilantro and cucumber for a crisply satisfying crunch, the noodles are tossed in a peanut sauce bursting with umami and a subtle but fiery kick.

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  • Kale Chorizo Pasta

    Kale Chorizo Pasta

    Spicy Spanish chorizo and hearty kale are a classic combo—toss in a little pasta and you’ve got a weeknight dinner dream. Hello, one pot!

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  • Gluten-Free Mac ’n’ Cheese
  • Aglio e Olio

    Aglio e Olio

    If you don’t have fresh parsley and basil, use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, or skip them. We love this plain, but it’s killer with some spinach, kale, or finely chopped cauliflower—just sauté in the pan before adding the cooked pasta.

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  • Buckwheat Soba Noodle Salad
  • Sesame Noodles

    Sesame Noodles

    These noodles are so easy to make. Great on their own, they also happen to be an ideal vehicle for pretty much any raw or cooked veggie.

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  • Night + Market Pad Thai

    Night + Market Pad Thai

    We were so excited to learn how easy Night + Market’s famous pad Thai is to make at home. If you don’t have a wok, just use the biggest sauté pan you’ve got.

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  • Penne Arrabiata
  • Carbonara-ish Pasta

    Carbonara-ish Pasta

    What this riff on carbonara lacks in pork, cheese, and gluten, it makes up for in caramelized shallots, sweet peas, and creamy egg yolk.

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RICE

Rice is a miracle pantry food. There are many types, and while you can certainly still swap in whatever variety you have on hand, do pay attention to the cook time and adjust accordingly.

GRAINS

Farro, quinoa, and freekeh are a few of the most versatile grains. They’re great in soups and stews, and using them in salads makes for meals that are healthy and hearty and keep well in the fridge. Use whatever produce you have on hand to bulk out the recipes below—they’re flexible.

OATS

Oats are so cozy and comforting. May we suggest three fun ways to serve them that keep things interesting. We prefer steel-cut, but you could certainly adapt the recipes to work with rolled if it’s all you have (just keep in mind that rolled oats cook much faster).

CANNED TOMATOES

Canned tomatoes—whether diced, crushed, or whole—are the backbone of so many excellent recipes. If we’re out, we’ve been known to use tomato paste thinned with water or even a little jarred marinara sauce in a pinch.

  • Celery Root Puttanesca

    Celery Root Puttanesca

    Puttanesca is the ultimate pantry sauce. This version uses spiralized celery root, but any pasta, gluten-free or otherwise, will work beautifully here.

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  • Eggs in Purgatory
  • Pesce all’Acqua Pazza

    Pesce all’Acqua Pazza

    “Pesce all’acqua pazza” translates to “fish in crazy water,” but this dish is actually elegant and simple. The fish gently poaches in the tomato broth, so it’s hard to overcook, and the broth itself is delicious and dunkable. Serve it with grilled bread.

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  • Vodka Sauce

    Vodka Sauce

    Slightly creamy and slightly spicy, this classic Italian-American sauce is always a crowd-pleaser. And it freezes super well.

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  • Pressure Cooker Red Sauce

    Pressure Cooker Red Sauce

    Making the sauce in a pressure cooker gives it that rich, slow-cooked flavor in just an hour, so you don’t have to spend your entire afternoon watching over the stove to get your Sunday sauce fix.

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  • Vegan Cashew Tomato Soup

COCONUT MILK

We use coconut milk in desserts and as coffee creamer, but it really comes in handy for Southeast Asian–inspired curries and stews.

  • Chickpea and Kale Curry

    Chickpea and Kale Curry

    The recipe makes a lot of curry, and it gets better as it sits in the fridge and freezes well, too. We love it with brown rice, but it’s also great on its own or with quinoa. Feel free to add more stock and coconut milk if you like a slightly soupier consistency.

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  • Curry Noodle Soup
  • Black Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk & Mango

CANNED PUMPKIN

Canned pumpkin is not just for the holidays (there, we said it). It’s nutrient-dense and incredibly flavorful, and it makes dairy-free pastries work.

PICKLED, BRINY THINGS

This one goes out to the random jars of olives, capers, and artichoke hearts at the back of your cupboard. These ingredients might not always be the star ones, but you can count on them for acidity, tang, and salt.

CHIPOTLE CHILIES

They might be left over from the last time you decided to make posole, but there’s so much you can do with these incredibly flavorful chilies. The adobo sauce they come packed in makes a great spicy mayo, too.

TINNED FISH

Tinned fish adds depth and complexity to a recipe. And it can turn a humble side dish into a full-blown meal.

  • Provençal Tuna Sandwiches with Radicchio

    Provençal Tuna Sandwiches with Radicchio

    The mix of capers, olives, radicchio, onion, and herbs in this classic French tuna salad gets even better as it sits. It’s fantastic on crusty sourdough, but you could use a good gluten-free bread, too.

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  • Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta
  • Sardine, Avocado, and Crunchy Veggie Millet Bowl

ALTERNATIVE FLOURS

We use buckwheat, spelt, and chickpea flour pretty regularly in the goop test kitchen, but you might have half a bag of one of these at home and nothing to do with it. Until now, of course.

NUTS AND SEEDS

Storing nuts and seeds in the freezer will extend their life, but these recipes are great for using them up. They are also very substitution-friendly, so feel free to add some pistachios to your granola or hemp hearts to your cookies.

POPCORN

Cheap, versatile, and a long shelf life: the ultimate pantry food.