A well-stocked pantry means you can always throw together a warm and satisfying meal at the last minute. When you keep a store of basic ingredients— and a list of recipes you can make from them—you will never be caught off guard, whether your kids arrive home demanding food, you're surprised by spontaneous guests, or you just don't want to venture out for ingredients. Take a look at our list of must-have pantry items below for ideas on what to stock in your cupboard, fridge, and freezer. Then, browse the pantry recipes that follow, to get started with easy and delicious weeknight dinners you can whip up with the basics.
For the Cupboard
- Canned tomato products, including diced tomatoes, tomato paste
- Jarred pasta sauce and salsa
- Rice, lentils, whole grains, and assorted pasta shapes
- Canned beans and legumes
- Canned broths and condensed soups
- Canned fish and meats
- Olive and vegetable oil
- Dried Italian breadcrumbs and panko
- Nuts and dried fruits
- Sauces (unopened), including soy, sriracha, Tabasco, Worcestershire
- Dried herbs and spices
- Salt and pepper
- Baking ingredients, including flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch
For the Fridge
- Anchovy paste
- Potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, lemons
- Milk, heavy cream, sour cream, plain yogurt
- Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup
- Cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese
For the Freezer
- Frozen vegetables, including corn, peas, broccoli, French fries
- Frozen meats, bacon, fish, shellfish
- Frozen pre-cooked meatballs
- Frozen pastry shells
- Frozen burger buns, dinner rolls, sliced bread
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Two popular family casseroles come together in this hearty tuna macaroni and cheese bake that makes a satisfying weeknight dinner. Creamy condensed soup and shredded cheddar cheese give it plenty of richness, with canned tuna adding healthy protein and omega-3s.
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Canned beans and tomatoes form the base of this nutritious vegan chili that cooks in just half an hour and freezes well for a wonderful make-ahead meal. You can omit the bell pepper if you don't have it, or feel free to toss in any fresh or frozen veggies from your fridge.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Baked ziti is a popular potluck casserole that makes a fabulous weeknight family dinner. Canned chicken adds flavor and protein to a creamy baked pasta that requires just a handful of ingredients. Use cheddar cheese instead of the suggested Muenster for a super kid-friendly meal.
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Your family is sure to enjoy this winning dinner soup with all the delicious flavors of loaded baked potatoes. The creamy soup—filled with bits of crispy bacon, diced onion, and cheddar cheese—uses pantry staples, but tastes anything but basic.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Canned salmon can be substituted for leftover fish in this delicious recipe, without sacrificing flavor. The luxurious salmon spaghetti carbonara with bacon, egg yolks, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and peas is quick and easy enough for busy weeknights, but special enough to serve drop-in guests.
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Whip up this low-fat, protein-rich bean soup on cooler days when you're craving a warming bowl of goodness. It's quick and easy to make in just 15 minutes with canned black beans, vegetable broth, jarred salsa, and chili powder.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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White beans and pasta shells are simmered in a tasty, Italian-seasoned tomato sauce with dried or fresh herbs, for a protein-packed weeknight dinner that uses basic pantry ingredients, fills up hungry stomachs, and is easy on your budget.