Here are 15 easy pantry meals that I hope will help you on those days when you haven’t planned ahead (and we all have them) but you’ve gotta’ fix something for the hungry hoards who depend on you.
An easy pantry meal is one that you prepare with what you have on hand without putting in much time and effort. Most of what I put here on the blog is easy – hence the blog name – but these recipes use items that you’ll find in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you don’t have things like this, I’ve included a section on the types of food to stock up on for those days when you need a quick meal.
Quick Links to 15 Easy Pantry Meals
I know the title says 15 meals, but I threw in an extra one to round things out. The links below take you to a photo and a short description of each recipe. A link in the description will take you to the full write-up of the recipe. Let’s get cooking!
What Should You Keep in Your Pantry?
The photo below shows some examples of items that can be meal building blocks. These are things you can combine with each other to create a healthy meal with plenty of protein. You can also toss in some fresh produce and you’ll have a healthy meal with veggies too. We use lots of fresh vegetables but you can substitute frozen veggies in most cases.
- Beans – have several types on hand. Pinto and black beans work well in Mexican dishes. Cannellini beans are found in many Italian recipes, and garbanzos are common in Mediterranean dishes.
- Rice – makes a complete protein when combined with beans. You can use it in grain bowls, soups, or as a side dish.
- Pasta – such as spaghetti and macaroni make for a quick meal.
- Sauces – like enchilada sauce and marinara are great to have on hand.
- Tortillas – with both corn and flour types you can make quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas.
- Soba noodles – are made with protein-rich buckwheat. They make for an out of the ordinary noodle in soups and grain bowls.
- Polenta – grab prepared polenta from the pantry and slice off what’s needed for a meal.
- Dried beans and pulses – such as lentils, garbanzos, and pinto beans are good to keep around.
- Frozen fish and shrimp – not shown in the picture, but if you have room in your freezer, keep some available. Both fish and shrimp thaw out quickly.
- Other meat – If you eat chicken or beef, cook some ahead of time and freeze it to add to your recipes.
Easy Pantry Meal Soups
Beans and canned tomatoes form the basis of lots of soup ideas. Use pinto beans or black beans with a spicy Mexican variety of canned tomatoes for a south-of-the-border style soup. Cannellini beans and Italian seasoned tomatoes are a great combo, but any type of beans with canned tomatoes makes a quick soup. Toss in fresh or frozen spinach or kale and other veggies that you might have on hand for an easy pantry meal.
The vegetable bean soup below is an example of a quick soup that you can make with canned tomatoes, canned beans, and a few fresh veggies.
Grain Bowls as Easy Pantry Meals
Grain bowls typically combine beans with grains and fresh veggies to create a complete meal in one bowl. Add your choice of salad dressing to spice things up.
This black bean quinoa grain bowl includes romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, and fresh corn on the cob. The fresh corn on the cob adds some nice color and flavor, but frozen corn works well too.
Another example of an easy pantry meal is a pinto bean brown rice grain bowl. Fresh avocados and tomatoes are a flavorful addition to grain bowls.
Soba noodles count as grains too. They’re made from protein-rich buckwheat. The soba noodle salad in the picture below contains fresh carrots, Brussels sprouts, and bean sprouts. Frozen edamame thaws out quickly and makes a nutritious protein boost. If you don’t have all of those items on hand, mix in some fresh greens like kale, or use broccoli instead of Brussels sprouts.
Bean Crust Pizza Easy Pantry Meals
Bean crust pizzas use canned or prepared beans and other common ingredients to make a crust. Here are two pizzas to try.
Made with cannellini beans and whole wheat bread, this is an easy pantry meal with Italian flavors. Top it with your favorite toppings. Go here for recipe details.
This Mexican bean crust pizza is made with enchilada sauce instead of marinara and pinto beans instead of cannellini beans. The recipe uses my homemade enchilada sauce, but you can use canned enchilada sauce as a quick option.
Pasta and Polenta Pantry Meals
I combined these two because they both have an Italian or Mediterranean origin. Besides these recipes, remember that spaghetti and marinara makes a quick meal as does macaroni and cheese.
Pearl couscous is easy to find in the grocery store and it has a long shelf life. It’s good in lots of recipes, but I really enjoy the combinations in this couscous garbanzo salad. Serve it on top of lettuce, spinach, or kale for extra nutrients.
Polenta is another item that’s good to have in your pantry. You can buy it pre-cooked in tubes that need no refrigeration until they’ve been opened. This polenta chickpea marinara uses prepared marinara sauce. Add sauteed mushrooms and spinach for extra flavor.
Instant Pot Easy Pantry Meals
I use my instant pot a LOT. It’s a wonderful appliance that’s good for lots of things. Here are a couple of ideas.
This lentil cabbage soup is a favorite recipe for lots of people who visit my site. You will need some dried lentils, canned tomatoes, and fresh cabbage to make this easy pantry meal.
This southwestern fish chowder has potatoes, mahi-mahi fish (from the freezer) and green chiles that give it a southwestern flair. I used a canned variety of chilis that are readily available.
Mexican Food Pantry Meals
Here are some of my favorite recipes. We regularly turn to these quick meals. Packaged tortillas, canned beans, and fresh veggies are included in these recipes.
We’ve made these veggie enchiladas so many times for friends and everyone likes them. This flexible recipe used my homemade enchilada sauce, but you can use a prepared type if it’s what you have in your pantry. Spice it up or down depending on your taste.
I could have put this in the Instant Pot category, but I decided to let this lentil taco recipe hang out with the other Mexican food ideas here. Made with dried lentils that cook up in 15 minutes in the Instant Pot, it’s a favorite around here. That’s my avocado tomatillo salsa on the plate. It adds a tart, spicy zing to these tacos.
These quesadillas are easy to make and are a perfect example of an easy pantry meal. Grab a couple of tortillas from the pantry and put some of your favorite cheese between them. Serve them with chips, beans, and salsa. Add spinach or sliced squash for extra nutrition.
Veggie tacos are another example of an easy-to-make meal. Use soft corn tortillas, canned beans, and your favorite fresh sautéed veggies.
Frozen Fish or Shrimp Pantry Meals
Here are a couple of ideas that rely on frozen fish or shrimp. The great thing about fish and shrimp is that they both thaw out quickly. Shrimp comes in lots of sizes and you can buy it pre-cooked, which really speeds up meal prep.
These fish tacos are an all-time favorite in our house. The sauce in this recipe is one I make from scratch but check out the condiment aisle in your grocery store for ideas. Since these tacos use fresh cabbage, you might like a prepared slaw dressing instead.
This salmon with orzo and spinach is one of those meals that seems pretty fancy. We served to a neighbor one night and she asked if we “ate like this all the time”. We told her that it was a really simple meal that comes together in minutes. And, yeah, we do eat easy, delicious food most of the time.
If you have an Instant Pot and dried beans, check out my instant pot beans post that describes how to prepare dried beans from start to finish. Also, the vegetarian stuffed bell peppers recipe uses fresh bell peppers with canned beans and frozen corn to create a complete meal.
Whatever you choose to prepare, stock up on the basics and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to pull together a healthy meal from what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Enjoy!