15 Pantry Recipes for Busy Weeknights

Easy Weeknight Meals Start With a Well-Stocked Pantry

Super Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Chili

The Spruce

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
  • Vinegars
  • 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
  • Olives
  • Potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, lemons
  • Milk, heavy cream, sour cream, plain yogurt
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • 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
  • 01 of 15

    Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Skillet spaghetti recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Frozen pre-cooked meatballs and jarred pasta sauce make this skillet pasta so easy to prepare. The whole meal cooks in one pan on your stovetop for a filling, hot and cheesy spaghetti dinner with minimal clean-up.

  • 02 of 15

    Family Tuna Casserole With Macaroni and Cheese

    Tuna Macaroni Casserole in a white casserole dish

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    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.

  • 03 of 15

    Bacon Risotto

    Bacon Risotto

    Philippe Desnerck / Getty Images

    Use bacon instead of pancetta in this simple 30-minute risotto with a beautiful balance of fresh and creamy. The rice cooks in the bacon drippings along with white wine, shallots, chicken stock, peas, and Parmesan cheese for a rich-tasting dish that's out of this world.

  • 04 of 15

    Super Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Chili

    Super Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Chili

    The Spruce

    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.
  • 05 of 15

    Salmon Burgers

    Salmon burger

    bhofack2 / Getty Images

    Canned salmon is used in these crunchy-on-the-outside salmon burgers that you can enjoy either on their own or tucked into a fluffy roll or burger bun. Make it a complete pub-style dinner with a side of French fries or potato salad.

  • 06 of 15

    Ziti Chicken Casserole

    Ziti Chicken Casserole

    Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

    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.

  • 07 of 15

    Cheesy Pasta Frittata

    Spaghetti frittata

    fotocebela / Getty Images

    When you're craving breakfast for dinner, but want something filling, make this cheesy pasta frittata, ready in just 20 minutes. All you need is some eggs, cooked pasta, chopped onion, whatever cheese is on hand, and a few basic seasonings.

  • 08 of 15

    Loaded Baked Potato Soup

    Loaded Baked Potato Soup

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    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.
  • 09 of 15

    Salmon Spaghetti Carbonara

    Tagliatelle with Salmon and Parsley
    NelliSyr / Getty Images

    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.

  • 10 of 15

    Simple Salmon Quiche

    Simple Salmon Quiche

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

    An elegant salmon quiche makes a nice light dinner. Prepare it ahead with basic pantry ingredients—including canned water-packed salmon, and a prepared unbaked pastry shell—and freeze it for a tasty meal you can heat and serve anytime.

  • 11 of 15

    Sloppy Joes

    Sloppy Joes

    Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

    Kids love sloppy Joes and this essential family recipe is always a crowd-pleaser. Saucy ground beef is piled onto burger buns for a tasty and filling dinner you can get on the table quickly. Use defrosted frozen beef to make it, thawing meat in the fridge overnight.

  • 12 of 15

    Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

    Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

    bhofack2 / Getty Images

    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.
  • 13 of 15

    Easy Creamy Tomato Soup

    Easy Creamy Tomato Soup

    The Picture Pantry / Getty Images

    The creamy soup has a surprising secret—it's made from canned tomatoes. Enjoy a warming bowl with crackers, rolls, or buttered toast, for a soul-soothing, weeknight dinner any time of year.

  • 14 of 15

    Parmesan Crusted Baked Fish

    Parmesan baked fish

    The Spruce

    Move frozen fillets into the fridge to thaw in the morning. Then come home and assemble this 30-minute fish dish with a crispy Parmesan breadcrumb coating For a complete meal, serve with hot rice or noodles and some cooked frozen peas or corn.

  • 15 of 15

    Vegetarian Pasta E Fagioli With White Beans and Basil

    Pasta E Fagioli

    YelenaYemchuk / Getty Images

    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.