50 Pantry-Friendly Recipes & Substitutions That Work (2024)


50 Pantry-Friendly Recipes & Substitutions That Work (1)

There’s a lot going on right now, and we’ll get through it together. I asked on Instagram what kind of content you’d like to see as we stay home to flatten the curve. Many of you requested flexible pantry-friendly recipes. You’ll find a large selection below, and I’m working on more to share soon.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find guidance on common substitutions. Now is a good time to flex our creative powers in the kitchen and make the most of what we have. It’s also a great time to take on new cooking techniques, like homemade pasta or ricotta!

I created a printable pantry ingredient checklist. You can access it any time at cookieandkate.com/pantry. Use it to review your pantry setup for what may or may not be missing. You can then keep your list near your computer when you’re reviewing recipes to make. I hope it’s helpful.

This pantry resource is organized into sections:

  • Pasta
  • Casseroles
  • Rice
  • Eggs
  • Substitutions That Work

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Try typing an ingredient into the search bar (it’s underneath the logo at the top of each page) or peruse my ingredient index.

Soups & Stews

All of these soups make great leftovers (up to five days) and freeze well for later. The only soups that might not freeze well are those that are full of cheese, milk or cream—none of these are. Sometimes, soups with pasta soak up more liquid as they rest or reheat, but I have not had significant issues with this when I use quality pasta (look for labels that indicate the pasta was processed on bronze dies).

If you’re out of fresh greens or the suggested garnishes, don’t worry. These soups will still be great without them.

  • Lentil Soup
  • Homemade Vegetarian Chili
  • Chickpea Noodle Soup
  • Quinoa Vegetable Soup with Kale
  • Pinto Posole
  • Classic Minestrone Soup
  • Pasta e fa*gioli
  • Seriously Good Vegetable Soup
  • Spicy Black Bean Soup
  • West African Peanut Soup

View all soup recipes here.


Who doesn’t love pasta? I sure do. I try to incorporate a lot of vegetables into my pasta dishes to mitigate the simple carbohydrate factor. The shells and green pasta linked below are easily made with frozen greens rather than fresh. You can add frozen peas to mac and cheese or just about anything, really—drop them into simmering water and cook just until they’re warmed through the middle (it doesn’t take long).

  • Spinach Stuffed Shells
  • Lemony Green Pasta with Peas and Ricotta
  • Real Stovetop Mac and Cheese orAmazing Vegan Mac and Cheese
  • Parmesan-Crusted Cauliflower Steaks with Marinara
  • Vegan Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

View all pasta recipes here. You’ll find more pasta in the casseroles and lentils sections below.


Casseroles make for great leftovers and freeze well, too. Think about how much casserole you’ll want to serve in portions later, and freeze those portions separately. I say that because they can take quite a while to thaw. While I intend to share a full-blown freezer guide soon, our preliminary tests are showing that baked lasagna freezes better for later than unbaked. Be sure it cools completely through the center before freezing.

  • Vegetable Lasagna or Vegan Lasagna
  • Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables orLentil Baked Ziti
  • Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
  • Veggie Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Better Broccoli Casserole
  • Spinach Artichoke Enchiladas
  • Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

View all casseroles here.


Brown rice is an absolute staple in my pantry. I’m partial to long-grain brown rice (basmati or jasmine), and short-grain brown rice. I buy Lundberg brand rice and cook it according to my foolproof brown rice method. Since most of the rice recipes below are cooked, they’re quite amenable to frozen vegetables (the paella is, too).

  • Vegetable Paella
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Baked Tofu with Honey-Sesame Glaze
  • Thai-Spiced Peanut Rice Bowls
  • Build-Your-Own Buddha Bowl
  • Anything-Goes Kale Salad with Green Tahini Dressing
  • Thai Red Curry with Vegetables
  • Thai Green Curry with Spring Vegetables
  • Veggie Sushi Bowls
  • Fried rice:Extra-Vegetable Fried Rice or Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Rice orThai Pineapple Fried Rice
  • Risotto: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto orSpring Pea and Asparagus Risotto orEasy Brown Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Oregano

View all rice recipes here.


Eggs are a quick-cooking source of protein, choline, vitamin A and more. Scrambled eggs and fried eggs are best served fresh. Frittatas keep well for several days—I like to serve them with toast, or even cut them into pieces for a quick taco filling or salad topper. The breakfast burritos shown below freeze well for later, if you’d like to make a big batch now to have on hand for future quick meals.

  • How to Make Frittatas (Stovetop or Baked)
  • Foolproof Shakshuka
  • The Creamiest Scrambled Eggs (with Goat Cheese)
  • Vegetarian Breakfast Burritos
  • Fresh Huevos Rancheros
  • Austin-Style Migas with Black Beans
  • Simple Breakfast Quesadillas

View all egg recipes here.

Beans & Lentils

My most pantry-friendly bean recipes have already been featured in the lists above. Have a surplus? Check out recipes that call for black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans and white beans.


Lentils, like beans, are a wonderful source of protein, fiber and other nutrients. Unlike beans, they cook up in about 20 minutes. Make a batch of perfectly cooked lentils and add it to your pasta with marinara for a vegetarian take on bolognese. Or make a lentil salad—you can enjoy it as is, pile it onto greens, use it as a quesadilla stuffing with cheese, and so much more.

  • Lentil Baked Ziti
  • Greek Lentil Salad
  • Mujadara (Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)
  • Quick Dal Makhani
  • Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce

View all lentil recipes here.

Substitutions That Work

I always try to write recipes with versatility in mind. Any time you see multiple options listed within the ingredients section, rest assured that any one of them will work. Also check below the recipe for a “change it up” section, which provides guidance on how to vary the ingredients. Lastly, you can review the comments to see what has worked for other readers!

Canned tomatoes

The most versatile canned tomatoes are whole peeled tomatoes because they are easily processed into diced or crushed tomatoes. To turn them into diced tomatoes, roughly dice them by hand or crush them with the back of a sturdy spoon as they cook. To turn them into crushed tomatoes, blitz whole or diced tomatoes in your food processor or blender until they are more smooth than chunky. Tomato paste is great to have, too.

If you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, substitute regular—you can always add a tiny pinch of smoked paprika if you miss the fiery flavor.

Fresh bell peppers

For recipes that don’t rely on the raw crunch of bell pepper, substitute jarred roasted red peppers or frozen bell pepper strips. If using roasted red peppers, add them later in the cooking process than the instructions for raw peppers indicate (since they’re pre-cooked). Not all roasted red peppers are made equal; I like Divina and Whole Foods 365 brands.

Fresh herbs

For recipes that call for a small amount of fresh herbs as an accent or garnish (say, less than 1/2 cup), you have a few options. You can simply omit them, or substitute dried herbs, or sometimes, you can substitute one herb for another (cilantro and parsley are occasionally interchangeable, but cilantro would likely taste out of place in an Italian dish).

When substituting dried herbs for fresh, use one-third of the amount specified (so if a recipe calls for one tablespoon—which is three teaspoons—fresh dill, use one teaspoon dried dill). You can always add more if desired.

Fresh greens and vegetables

Frozen greens and vegetables are great for cooked recipes that call for fresh greens or veggies. You wouldn’t want to make a spinach salad with frozen spinach (yuck), but frozen spinach would be great in a pasta dish—you likely wouldn’t notice much difference. Likewise, I wouldn’t try to roast frozen broccoli, but frozen broccoli would be good in your mac and cheese.

Frozen produce that may come in useful: Spinach, kale, peas, broccoli and/or cauliflower, bell peppers, and edamame. You might also appreciate frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries or mixed), pineapple and bananas (peel and slice into 1-inch pieces before freezing).

Tip: Before using, I place my frozen vegetables or greens in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse off all the ice. I’m convinced this reduces freezer burn flavor, and it also helps defrost them before using.

Vegetable broth

Substitute water for vegetable broth, then add salt to taste when you’re done cooking. You likely won’t miss it (the one exception to this might be my Chickpea Noodle Soup, since it’s the most brothy of the bunch).

More resources you might appreciate: 23 healthy make-ahead breakfast recipes, 29 healthy comfort food recipes and 20 simple weeknight dinners. You might also like my monthly seasonal produce guides and essential kitchen tools. View all roundups and resource posts here.

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50 Pantry-Friendly Recipes & Substitutions That Work (2024)
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