I’m a big fan of easy meals and being able to throw a meal together from pantry staples is such a huge help on busy days…or on days at the end of the week when we’re running low on groceries. These are my go-to pantry recipes that both kids and adults at the table can enjoy!
When using the term “pantry” here, I’m assuming you have both some form of a pantry and also a fridge and freezer. The main ingredients of these recipes can be in either of those places for a longer amount of time than other fresh perishable foods.
Adjust these ideas as needed for your own reality and what you happen to have on hand.
Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
These are great made with canned beans. You can even freeze extra tortillas to use in future weeks.
You can make as few or as many of these easy quesadillas as you like.
5-Ingredient Vegetarian Burritos
Rice, beans, and cheese make up the filling of these easy burritos. Serve the filling and tortilla separate for younger eaters if needed.
You can vary the beans if you like in these simple burritos. Serve them with salsa and/or sour cream.
Refried Bean Taco Roll Ups
Canned refried beans and tortillas are all you need for this simple meal.
This makes 6 rolled up tacos, so you can adjust this as needed for your family. Taste the refried beans before you make the roll ups and adjust the salt and/or cumin if needed. You can also serve the ingredients in separate bowls and let your family serve themselves.
30-Minute Black Bean Soup
With pantry staples and lots of kid-friendly, flavor, this recipe is even ready in 30 minutes! I love the hit of citrus in this recipe and this is one of the few soups that my kids enjoy.
You can serve this soup chunky or pureed smooth, according to what your family might prefer. There’s also a slow cooker option if that’s more your speed!
Burrito Bowls with Rice Pinto Beans
Make a pot of rice and serve it topped with beans and favorite burrito fillings like cheese and salsa. I make a big batch of these once a month and have beans ready in the freezer for multiple meals!
You can double this recipe to cook 2 pounds of dried beans at once. Just increase the water to 12 cups.
4-Ingredient Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli
Try this with frozen broccoli or fresh broccoli, whatever you can more easily find. This is super simple and has nice flavor from the sausage (though you can sub in a can of white beans if you prefer!).
Just a heads up that you’ll need to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water, so keep that in mind BEFORE you drain the pasta. Chicken sausage is usually leaner than pork, so when making this with chicken sausage, I like to add butter or olive oil before serving.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This works with frozen cauliflower just as well as fresh and is an easy recipe to make for the whole family. It’s cheesy and has a veggie right in the mix.
Use yellow or white cheese according to your child’s color expectations!
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Keep an extra package or two of chicken in the freezer to make easy meals like this one easy. The shredded chicken is super moist so it’s easy for older babies and younger toddlers to eat. And the flavor is so good!
Pizza Rolls with Spinach
With dough, pizza sauce, and cheese, these pizza rolls are fun to make with basic ingredients. They store well in the fridge for easy lunches all week and you can stash them into the freezer too.
Be sure to grease your pan well and roll the dough up fairly tightly around the fillings for best results. (But it’s okay if they don’t look perfect when they go into the pan!)
Italian Lentils and Rice
We like this with rice, but you can also serve this with pasta if you prefer.
Serve as a simple side or a vegetarian main paired with warmed frozen peas or black beans. The rice sticks together nicely too, which makes it a little easier for toddlers to eat.
Make this without the optional flavors for a simple, yet yummy side dish that’s easy for your little ones to eat since the grains hold together well. Add just ginger, or add ginger and the optional spices at the end for more flavor. We like adding raisins to the mix when we add the extra spices!
Cheesy Meat Buns
With a simple dough, ground beef (a great freezer staple) and cheese, these are a fun pantry recipe to make and eat together.
These meat buns have all of the components of a cheeseburger, but are much easier for little kids to eat! Plus: They store well in the fridge and freezer so can be made ahead of time.
Salmon (or Tuna) Salad Sandwiches
I like to keep canned salmon and tuna in the pantry for backup protein options and this salad is a nice topping for bread or a dip for crackers.
We use homemade relish in this recipe but you can use any that you like the flavor of.
Learning how to make Salmon Cakes is easy—and it’s a convenient and affordable way to serve healthy fish to a family. They can be made with pantry ingredients that are easy to keep on hand. Serve over a salad for you and with simple sides for the kids. And don’t forget the dip!
These tender fish cakes make a quick and easy pantry meal when you haven’t planned ahead for dinner. Recipe updated slightly to ensure moistness in June 2021.
Cook up this cozy Alphabet Soup recipe the next time you want an easy meal that’s also fun! ABC pasta is a perfect addition to this kid-friendly soup—and you can tailor the veggies to the likes (or dislikes!) of your own kiddos. It’s so versatile!
You can use ABC pasta, orzo, pastina, or ditalini—or any other very small pasta shape in this recipe!
Quick Pantry Meals (without Recipes!)
Use these ideas when you don’t want an actual recipe, but still need some inspiration to get a meal onto the table.
- Scrambled eggs and toast
- Scrambled egg tacos
- Snack dinner
- Noodles with jarred peanut sauce
- Hummus and pita bread
- Hummus and crackers
- Freezer waffles and nut or seed butter
- Store-bought mac and cheese
- Tortilla roll up with nut or seed butter and a banana
- Cheese quesadillas
- Pasta with butter, thawed frozen peas, and Parmesan
- Pasta with jarred tomato sauce
- Store-bought gnocchi or tortellini with butter or tomato sauce
- Favorite store-bought freezer meals
- Grilled cheese
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I’d love to know your favorite pantry recipes, so please comment below to share!
This post was first published March 2020.