Mar 16, 2020

Recipe Ideas for Pantry Staples

My tips for what do with essential pantry staples like canned beans, tomatoes, chicken and basic vegetables.

Recipe Ideas For Pantry Staples

We live in uncertain times. With the swift spread of COVID-19 around the world many are taking the precautions recommended by the World Health Organization to “social distance” 2020 now has a buzzword that compares with the famous “conscious uncoupling” of 2016). People who fear they have been exposed are asked to quarantine causing many to panic and “fear-buy” grocery items leading to empty shelves. Things that have been the first to go? Toilet paper (apparently people’s biggest fear is running out of toilet paper more than it is running out of food) and canned goods like tomatoes and beans.

Tips for Buying Pantry Staples

  • I recommend purchasing canned goods like black beans, chickpeas and tomatoes (dried beans are good too!)
  • I also advise grabbing some rice, dried pasta and other grains like quinoa or farro.
  • Look for longer shelf life root vegetables like sweet potatoes and potatoes. These can also be utilized in many different ways.
  • Onions, garlic and shallots are great because they can be used so many different ways. 
  • Keep some versatile proteins like packages of chicken thighs, sausages, steak, shrimp and ground pork in the freezer. This way it can be thawed as needed.
  • Keep cooking oils on hand – I always have both olive oil and a neutral oil like vegetable oil.
  • A few dried spices can go a long way to flavoring and seasoning food.
  • I save takeout containers to store my leftovers easily in the fridge. It’s a great way to reuse them and I find they stack well in the fridge.

Be kind and leave some for others! If you want a fully stocked kitchen, check out my guide here.

Why Pantry Staples?

I took to Instagram to help people create meals out of the random assortment of products they picked up in their preparations for potential quarantine situations. My friends will frequently send a list of some of their random pantry items for help making dinners when they don’t want to go to the store, so I’ve taken that concept and applied it here.

Think of it as Chopped: Quarantine Edition, inspired by the popular Food Network show where contenders are given a basket of random products and asked to create dishes with them. I have a longer list of what I like to keep stocked in my pantry at all times here.

Some of my recipes can be paired down to better fit a limited quantity of items. I have made suggestions on those recipes below based on what ingredients you may have in the pantry/ on hand.

French Onion Soup

  • If you don’t have gruyere on hand use mozzarella or Parmesan instead.
  • Any color onions can be caramelized for the base of this recipe.

White Bean and Kale Tomato Soup

  • This can be made without the kale and bay leaf
  • Substitute whatever greens you have on hand like chard or spinach.
  • This recipe can also be made in a slow cooker.

Confit Tomato Risotto

  • This is a good side to make with any variety of roasted meat like chicken or steak.
  • You can omit the anchovies and oregano.
  • If in a pinch just use water instead of chicken stock (it won’t be as flavorful but it works!)
  • These tomatoes can also be used over this pasta dish or on top of a homemade pizza!

Saag Paneer

  • Rather than making turmeric rice, I often serve the Saag over Basmati rice, or a mixture of half basmati rice and half cauliflower rice.
  • Instead of using Ghee, regular butter can be used or omitted altogether.
  • If you can’t find paneer, either omit it completely or throw in some cooked chicken or salmon instead!

Cold Chinese Noodles

  • A crowd favorite! The broccoli can be substituted with cauliflower or other vegetables.
  • If you don’t have chili oil, add some red pepper flakes instead.

15-Minute Cauliflower Kimchi Fried Rice

  • You can use all long-grain white rice in this recipe instead of half cauliflower and half rice.
  • You can omit shrimp altogether or substitute a different meat like chicken.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

  • Substitute the palm sugar with brown sugar or granulated sugar!
  • While this recipe calls for chicken legs and thighs you can substitute one or the other.
  • I keep a pack of frozen chicken thighs in my freezer for “in case of emergency” situations.
  • Serve with a side of rice and whatever vegetables you want such as frozen peas and carrots.

Simple Cast Iron Chicken Thighs

  • This is an extremely flexible recipe which is why I love it so much.
  • Serve these alongside sautéed vegetables with rice.
  • Add it on top of pastas or salads to add protein to a dinner.
  • Top with a salsa verde, chimichurri sauce or zhoug sauce to amp up the flavor.

Cacio e Pepe

  • This recipe calls for a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan but you can use all of one or another.
  • Dried spaghetti is cheap and doesn’t go bad so I keep a few packs on hand.
  • While this is traditionally made with spaghetti you can substitute other pasta shapes in this recipe.

Quick Salmon Stir-Fry

  • Substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand like frozen peas and carrots.
  • Keep frozen fish like salmon in the freezer and defrost a few hours before ready to use.



Lemon and Garlic Spatchcocked Chicken

  • Feel free to substitute the lemon for any herbs for an easy twist.
  • I like to use thyme or rosemary in addition to the lemon and garlic. Try using sage for a fall-inspired chicken.
  • This recipe is great because you can utilize the leftover meat in soups and stews, on top of salad or in pasta dishes.

Lamb Merguez Breakfast Hash

  • Substitute the lamb merguez with any ground meat or sausage you have on hand!
  • This makes a good breakfast or dinner recipe!

Veggie Frittata

  • Substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand.
  • This is an extremely flexible recipe so feel free to use leftovers in this recipe.
  • You can even use cooked sausage or bacon with a diced and sautéed potato to make it a heartier breakfast.
  • I also like making frittata with spring vegetables like peas (you can use frozen peas), asparagus, spinach and Boursin cheese.

Roast Chicken with Braised Kale and White Beans

  • This goes great over pasta if you need to repurpose leftovers!
  • Substitute the kale for other leafy greens like rapini, Swiss chard or collard greens.
  • This recipe can also be made with chicken thighs.
  • Save the chicken fat that renders from cooking the legs and use it with olive oil to add flavor to roasted vegetables.

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  1. I love this! I am hoping that people will calm down with the over purchasing. It reminds me a little of when they say it is going to snow a couple inches and people freak out and buy all the eggs, bread and milk!