Cooking from your pantry doesn’t need to be boring or repetitive! Shake up your routine, and pack a punch of flavor and nutrition using these Healthy Pantry Staple Recipes. They’re simple, easy recipes anyone can master, and most are freezer friendly too!
I’m incredibly fortunate to live in a small town with a kick-ass group of parents who are so totally here for one another as we weather this unpredictable new normal. We’ve had countless group texts over the past week discussing everything from homeschooling resources and telemedicine options to sharing the best of the best parenting memes and which store still has Lysol in stock.
In the course of these chats, I may have received a nudge or two (more like a shove off a cliff) to provide advice on what the heck to cook while cooped up. It’s a pantry cooking party, all day every day!
But pantry staple recipes can get a bad rap – they definitely do not have be endless rounds of pasta with marinara sauce or heaping servings of black beans and rice. There are so many healthy, real food meals you can make when access to fresh produce is limited.
I’ve rounded up my absolute favorite recipes that rely on healthy pantry staples. I’m also including a list of what I’ve currently got stocked to keep the bellies in this house both full and nutritionally balanced.
Healthy Pantry Staples
(Photo credit Jill Chen)
I’ve always been a fan of a well-stocked pantry because let’s face it – life with tiny humans is always full of surprises! I’ve found myself scratching my head more than once at 4:30 in the afternoon wondering what the heck to make for dinner in an hour, and pantry staples save the day every single time.
Here’s a list of the items you can always find in my pantry, freezer, and fridge (items that store long-term). You’ll find plenty of real, whole food options to create endless meals and snacks for your family.
- Tomatoes and Tomato Paste: all varieties, including whole peeled, diced, and crushed. We love Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes for unbeatable flavor in quick-cooked meals, but any variety of canned tomato is going to be useful when relying on pantry staple recipes.
- Beans: white beans, black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), kidney beans, etc. Variety is the spice of life and that bears out when selecting beans.
- Fruits and Vegetables: I’m not a huge fan of most canned vegetables (I prefer frozen) but I do have a light stock of canned green beans, corn, pumpkin puree, and diced green chilies. My children love canned peaches (so do I for that matter!), as well as canned pineapple and all varieties of applesauce.
- Coconut Milk: a must for enhancing soups and curries.
- Gourmet Canned Foods: I typically have a small stash of olives, artichoke hearts, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. A little goes a long way, especially when fresh produce is scant.
- Flours: all-purpose and wheat flour are of course classics; I also have almond flour and cornmeal, and a small stash of alternative gluten free flours like oat flour.
- Baking Starches and Leavening Agents: baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot, and tapioca starch.
- Dried Beans: they’re cheaper than canned and take up less space. Lentils are a must! We like both green and black.
- Grains: a few varieties of pasta, white or brown rice, arborio rice (for making risotto), quinoa and coarse cornmeal/polenta. Oatmeal is also a must for breakfast.
- Stock: chicken, beef, and vegetable stock, either store-bought or homemade.
- Herbs and Spices: I always have the basics on hand, plus salt and pepper of course. Staples like italian seasoning, curry powder, garlic and onion powder, and sweet spices like cinnamon will go a long way.
- Oil, Vinegar, and Condiments: olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, a few different vinegars, maple syrup, honey, and coconut aminos or soy sauce will go a long way to when striving for day-to-day variety.
- Nut Milk and Nut Butters: a few cartons of cashew milk, plus almond butter and peanut butter.
Long-Term Storage Vegetables
- Potatoes: yukon golds, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and russets.
- Alliums: yellow or sweet onions, red onions, and plenty of garlic.
- Carrots and Celery: properly kept, carrots and celery will keep for a long time in your crisper drawer and they add tons of flavor and nutrients to almost any dish from pasta sauces to soups and casseroles.
- Winter Squash: stored in a cool dry place, winter squash will keeps from weeks to months depending on the variety and is a great way to add nutritional value to pantry staple recipes.
- Apples: apples will keep for a long time! I find the more tart versions keep crisper longer.
- Cabbage: while the outsides might wilt, cabbage has a long shelf life. Simply peel the outer leaves to reveal the still-fresh interior.
- Meat: I find that ground meats and sausages store best long-term. A few pounds of chicken breasts or thighs or a pork shoulder can be stretched into many meals. Bacon is terrific as a freezer option – it doesn’t take up much space, and you can use it to season certain dishes when you want just a little meat.
- Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: peas, carrots, corn, green beans, broccoli, okra, and spinach are most frequently in my freezer. We also have frozen berries and stone fruits for smoothies.
- Dairy: butter freezes very well, as do hard cheeses like parmesan and sharp cheddars.
Our Favorite Panty Staple Recipes
Reach for these pantry staple recipes to shake up your routine in the coming weeks. I’ve made notes where fresh produce (usually leafy greens) can be omitted, or substituted for a canned or frozen option. Nearly all of these recipes can be doubled and will freeze beautifully. I’ll be adding to this list in the coming weeks, so pin or save this post and be sure to check in again!
Any leafy green will work in this recipe. If none are available, you can skip entirely.
This is stick-to-your-ribs food and makes generous portion sizes. Substitute ½ tsp dried ginger if fresh isn’t available. The cilantro is a nice touch, but not necessary.
I seriously love this soup, and it’s so filling. Add an extra can of white beans and serve with bread to stretch into additional meals. Use dried thyme instead of fresh.
Made with almond flour and chia seeds, these muffins are packed with good fats, protein, and fiber. Don’t feel limited to fresh blueberries – frozen fruit works great, and chocolate chips are a terrific substitution for a sweet healthy-ish treat.
This serves six and the leftovers are even better the next day. Add a cup of frozen peas for extra nutrition. Substitute ½ tsp dried ginger if fresh isn’t available; add it with the spices in the first step. Fresh cilantro and lime juice aren’t necessary, though even just a dash of bottled lime juice will improve the flavor.
This one is always a crowd-pleaser, especially for the kids. It works with any pasta you have available, and makes enough for two robust meals. We like to serve it with whatever sides we happen to have available – a little fruit or a green salad.
If you have parmesan in the freezer, use it here! Risotto is a terrific base for plenty of vegetarian meals. Top it with roasted vegetables or stir in frozen peas.
Picadillo is made almost entirely from panty staples. If you have the odd can of olives hanging around, it’s their time to shine! Don’t fuss with seeking out pimento-stuffed olives – use what you have.
Ran out of tortilla shells? No problem. Stuff that taco meat into a baked sweet potato – it’s delicious. Bulk up the taco meat with a can of drained and rinsed black beans and stretch this recipe into multiple meals. Use jarred salsa and your other favorite shelf-stable toppings like pickled jalapeños and sour cream. Double the taco meat and stash half in the freezer.
When you need a big, warm hug, this is your soup. Skip the fresh rosemary if necessary. Serve with good crusty bread.
Lots of healthy pantry staple action happening here! This recipe is packed with protein and serves 6. If you can’t find fresh bell peppers, use frozen.
Ah, my favorite “I didn’t plan on dinner” dinner. Frozen or canned green beans work really well in place of fresh. Double this one for a freezer stash.
This one seems fancy, but it’s made with humble pantry staples and packs a protein punch. Use ¾ tsp dried parsley in lieu of fresh.
Skip the fresh mushrooms if none are available. Any leafy green can be substituted for the fresh chard.
There are endless options for using up fresh marinara sauce – toss it with pasta and/or meatballs, use it as a pizza sauce, the base for minestrone soup. The list goes on, and making your own has never been easier (or more delicious).
Fresh strawberries will likely be in short supply, but frozen work beautifully if you still like a fruity topping! Toss them with a little honey and they’ll soften into a nice little fruit compound.