A well-stocked pantry is the key to whipping up meals at a moment's notice and comes in especially handy if you can't make it to the grocery store. Long-lasting, shelf-stable items like dried and canned beans, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, tuna fish, and spices have a shelf life of a couple of years or more, while frozen staples like vegetables and meat will keep for up to a year. Cellar vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes have a long shelf life for fresh ingredients, keeping for months under ideal conditions.
Keep these basic items stocked and you'll never be caught without dinner plans again. This collection of recipes uses pantry staples to make delicious, filling main dishes that feel like a treat.
01 of 25
Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs
This one-skillet spaghetti dinner uses ingredients you probably already have on hand to make a quick and crowd-pleasing dinner. The pasta cooks along with jarred tomato sauce and frozen meatballs for easy clean-up. Include the cheese if you have it, dried basil or oregano can be swapped for the fresh basil.
02 of 25
Easy Chicken and Rice Casserole With Italian Dressing
This impressive main dish is made using entirely pantry ingredients plus chicken (which freezes great—defrost before making this recipe). Italian dressing mix and canned soup effortlessly add tons of flavor to the chicken and rice casserole.
03 of 25
Basic Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice
Cuban black beans and rice is a quick and easy vegetarian and vegan meal. Add any of your favorite seasonings to this basic vegetarian recipe for black beans and rice, spiced with peppers and hot sauce. Stir in additional protein or vegetables if you wish to bulk it out even more.
04 of 25
Korean Steamed Egg (Gaeran Jim)
Just 4 ingredients, including salt and water, and you're less than 15 minutes away from a bowl of silky, smooth eggs. With a few commonalities to an omelet, poached eggs, and scrambled eggs, Korean steamed eggs (gaeran jim) can be made in the microwave or on the stove. This quick and easy steamed egg dish is eaten at any mealtime.Continue to 5 of 25 below.
05 of 25
Hearty German Sausage and Sauerkraut
Sausage keeps well in the freezer and adds tons of flavor to whatever dish it touches. Combine any thawed German-style sausage with sauerkraut for a warming one-plate meal. Serve with a German pilsner (for the over 21 crowd).
06 of 25
Simple Sopa Aguada (Pasta Soup)
This bowl is a major Mexican comfort food prepared in most every home all over the country. It is almost always served in bowls as a meal’s opening dish—sometimes as often as several days a week. All you need is fresh or canned tomatoes, common veggies, broth, and a package of small pasta.
07 of 25
Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine With Couscous
Though there are many ingredients listed in this traditional Moroccan dish, it truly just takes a handful of canned items, spices, and vegetables to bring it all together. You can substitute vegetables you may have on hand such as russet potatoes or carrots. Additionally, you can serve the tagine over a variety of different grains or on its own.
08 of 25
Vegetarian and Vegan Chili
Canned beans, tomatoes, and dried spices make this vegetarian chili an anytime meal. You can easily add crumbled tofu, mock meat, or actual meat if you'd like even more protein. Chili tastes even better the next day and can be frozen for longer storage.Continue to 9 of 25 below.
09 of 25
Spam Fried Rice
Keep a can or two of Spam tucked away in your pantry so you can make delicious Spam fried rice whenever you like. Leftover rice and frozen veggies make this a quick, no-fuss meal. Top with chopped peanuts for crunch.
10 of 25
Healthy Tomato Basil Soup
Tomato soup made with canned tomatoes is almost as easy as canned soup but tastes much better. If you don't have fresh herbs on hand, swap for a few pinches of dried spices. Make a grilled cheese for a classic meal that kids love.
11 of 25
Quick and Easy Cheesy Pasta and Bean Casserole
For a filling dish that's a nice balance, assemble a pasta and bean casserole. The recipe calls for only five ingredients that are probably sitting in your pantry right now. Use non-dairy cheese to make the dish vegan.
12 of 25
Quick and Easy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
Canned black beans, vegetable broth, jarred salsa, and chili powder are all you need to make a flavorful vegan soup. If you have avocado, sour cream, or fresh cilantro, throw those on top. A squeeze of fresh lime is nice, too (or use frozen, thawed lime juice).Continue to 13 of 25 below.
13 of 25
Parmesan Crusted Baked Fish
Frozen fillets work perfectly for crispy baked fish that will remind you of fish fingers (in a good way). It takes just minutes to bread and bake the main dish, leaving you with just enough time to make a side dish or two.
14 of 25
Vegetarian Pasta E Fagioli With White Beans and Basil
A filling soup of pasta, white beans, and tomato sauce is perfect for throwing together on a cold weeknight. Serve pasta e fagioli with crusty bread or a salad or simply enjoy as-is. For extra flavor, swap the water for vegetable broth or add some cooked, crumbled sausage.
15 of 25
Vegan Pumpkin Risotto
Pumpkin risotto is a colorful dish with lots of fall flavor, and it's easy to throw together since the recipe calls for canned pumpkin. The fresh basil is optional, and ground ginger can be used in place of fresh if needed.
16 of 25
Crock Pot Tuna Casserole
Canned tuna is a real workhorse of pantry staples. The long-lasting ingredient can provide much-needed protein to a whole variety of dishes. This tuna casserole calls for pasta, canned soup, and frozen peas for an anytime meal.Continue to 17 of 25 below.
17 of 25
Vegan Black Bean Veggie Burgers
Canned beans form the base of these veggie burgers, while onion and dried spices add flavor. Crumbled bread helps the mixture keep its shape and gives the patties a nice texture. Stale or frozen, thawed bread works just fine.
18 of 25
Vegan Yellow Thai Curry With Mixed Vegetables
Use mixed frozen vegetables instead of fresh to make a quick yellow Thai curry at a moment's notice. Canned coconut milk makes the broth creamy, and dried spices give the dish a nice punch of flavor. Thawed frozen chicken or shrimp can be added if you're not vegetarian.
19 of 25
Easy Tamale Pie
Corn muffin mix, frozen corn, and jarred salsa make this hearty tamale pie a good pantry meal, especially if you have ground beef tucked in the freezer. You can leave out the cheese if you're not doing dairy, or use one kind for ease. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and pepper Jack are all nice choices.
20 of 25
Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice With Andouille Sausage
Dried beans and rice are dependable, long-lasting ingredients that everyone should keep handy. Combine with some andouille sausage (which keeps well frozen) and some seasoning for a tasty take on red beans and rice.Continue to 21 of 25 below.
21 of 25
Chickpeas and pasta may sound like an unusual combination, but the tender beans form a creamy sauce without any dairy whatsoever. White beans also work well here, and the dish can be made using cooked dried beans or canned beans.
22 of 25
Split Pea Lentil Soup
Dried split peas and lentils are cooked with aromatics until creamy for a vibrant, savory soup. Swap some of the water for chicken or vegetable broth for even more flavor. Serve split pea lentil soup as a filling lunch or as the first course in an impressive dinner.
23 of 25
Classic Shrimp Creole
This recipe for shrimp Creole may have a long list of ingredients, but you'll find most of them in a well-stocked pantry. Frozen shrimp is arguably better than fresh since most fresh shrimp sold at the supermarket is previously frozen anyway. Thaw before using.
24 of 25
Classic Chicken Vindaloo Curry
A blend of spices works to create a deep, pungent, and warmly spiced dish. Don't be overwhelmed by the number of spices in the ingredient list—they should be common ones found in your pantry or you can create your own spice mix to substitute. You can cook this recipe as is with chicken, or swap in pork, fish, or keep it vegetarian.Continue to 25 of 25 below.
25 of 25
Catalan Tomato Bread
Spanish tomato bread is toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomato, then drizzled with olive oil and a bit of salt. It's a simple dish at its core, but each step makes this an irresistible delight that will be gone in seconds. Create a DIY bar of various toppings, including cheese, ham, sausage, eggs, and more.