15 Pantry Staples for 15-minutes Dinners

Today, I thought of listing 15 must have ingredients for last minute meals.
Keep these 15 staples on hand all the time to make 15 minute dinners any night of the week. While they’re not all technically “pantry” staples, nothing in this list will go bad before you get the chance to cook it, so you don’t have to worry about planning way ahead for dinner.

We all know that well stocked pantry gives us confidence to step into the kitchen to cook anytime. With the following list of ingredients, you will always be motivated and thrilled to cook family dinner even after long tired some days.

Instant quick cooking grains like brown rice(I keep instant brown rice box from Quaker), quinoa, oat, farro can help to make great tasting salads and soups.  I also stock Beaten rice from Indian Grocery known as Poha. Poha helps to make quick recipes.

2. Canned Beans like black beans, chickpeas, kidney & Pinto Beans are our family favorite beans. I personally don’t like canned beans so I buy dry beans, boil them and freeze. I use stove top or electric pressure cooker to boil them using pot in pot method to boil multiple beans at once. But it wouldn’t hurt to keep one or two cans of these beans in pantry for quick recipes like to throw in salads and soups.

3. Lentils cook faster than beans so when you need an inexpensive, highly nutritious, filling, quick and easy meatless meal… these lentils will be here for you. Lentils are great for making quick stew.

4. Flours like whole wheat, multigrain can help to make quick breads. These days, lot of healthy flours like quinoa, coconut, oat, chickpea flour choices are available as well.

5. Pasta

Don’t let complicated recipes stand in the way of you and carbs. Quick & easy pasta dishes will make dinner stress-free, and are delish enough that you’ll be happy to have leftovers. From classics like spinach alfredo and Crock-Pot spaghetti to out-of-the-box eats like ravioli lasagna, there’s something for everyone! 

I personally believe that these homemade dishes are better than eating at the restaurant or eating fast food just because of limited time to cook.

6. Breads/Pita/Tortillas/Rotis

I always have few types of breads in my pantry, refrigerator or freezer. Yes, if you think that you won’t be able to finish any type of bread, just freeze them. Wrap with wax and foil paper and seal in ziplock for better results. When ready to use, thaw them by keeping at room temperature for about an hour or depending on the recipe, frozen breads can be used immediately as well. These breads can help to make wraps, sandwiches, and more and very versatile for breakfast recipes.

7. Frozen vegetables have all the same health benefits as fresh vegetables (as long as you buy plain frozen veggies without salt and sauces added) – but they’re often cheaper, already chopped up, and they certainly last a lot longer before going bad. That makes them perfect for veggie-packed meals without a ton of effort! I also keep some of my Indian vegetables as well.

8. Canned Tomatoes

I keep a pretty lean pantry, but I absolutely always have a couple of cans of tomatoes in stock. Their possibilities are pretty much limitless — whether they’re whole, diced, or crushed — and they make the many months when peak tomatoes aren’t in season a whole lot more tolerable. 

Make chili.It’s one of the most obvious ideas but arguably one of the best. Pretty much all chili recipes call for a can. Stir up a quick pizza sauce.Forget the jars of pre-made pizza sauce and make your own (tastier) one in seconds.Use them instead of water to cook grains.Forgo water in place of canned tomatoes when cooking grains like rice, quinoa, and farro to give them extra flavor. Just about any soup tastes better with a can of tomatoes added, whether it’s a simple minestrone or a Mexican-inspired tortilla.Jazz up frozen stuffed shells or manicotti. Make an easy dinner by pouring a can over frozen stuffed shells or manicotti and toss the whole thing in the oven to cook. Make sloppy Joes.Pretend like you’re a kid again and make a big batch of vegetarian version of sloppy Joes for the whole family.  Blend into salsa. Be that person who makes their own salsa by dumping a can in a blender with cilantro, red onion, garlic, jalapeños, and lime juice. Use in place of broth when making risotto. Broth is the usual cooking liquid to use when making risotto, but using canned tomatoes instead is an easy way to change it up.  Make tomato soup. Either go classic or opt for my preferred method: Roast the tomatoes before blending for more depth of flavor.  Add to mac and cheese. Drain a can of diced tomatoes and stir them into boxed or homemade mac and cheese to jazz it up. Simmer with beans and cheese for a quick dinner. Make a pantry dinner by simmering a can of tomatoes with a can of beans and adding some cheese, if you have it. You’ll definitely want to eat this with crusty bread. Make your own ketchup. Homemade ketchup tastes so much better than store-bought and comes together easily in a slow cooker. Use as a base for a casserole. When in doubt, make a casserole, since a whole lot of recipes call for a can. Make a dipping sauce for grilled cheese.Simmer a small can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce with a little fresh or powdered garlic until it reduces a bit and thickens. Then use it as a dip for grilled cheese. Make tikka masala curry sauce. Skip ordering from your favorite Indian restaurant and make tikka masala curry at home.  Roast and pile on toast.

Drain a can of whole tomatoes, roast them in the oven until they’re nice and hot and caramelized, then pile them on toast for lunch or a light dinner.  Make a one-pot pasta.

Cook pasta together with a can of tomatoes for a flavorful one-pot dinner. Use it for awesome homemade lasagna.

Spend a weekend afternoon making lasagna from scratch and you definitely won’t be mad you did.

9. Spices like Sea salt & Black/white Pepper, Onion powder, Basil, Garlic powder, Chili powder, Cumin, Parsley, Turmeric, Cinnamon are essential for everyday cooking. Feel free to add/omit your choice of spices for your pantry.

10. Vegetable stock and broth

A flavorful stock is the key to successful vegetarian cooking. Stock and broth; two essential pantry items for any home cook. Though you can often “get away” with using water, having good stock or broth on hand can be the difference between a good and great recipe. I love to use vegetable broth or stock for soup, stew and to cook Mexican and Chinese fried rice. While most vegetable broths are, indeed, vegetarian, do read the label or contact the manufacturer to make sure no chicken was added to the broth during processing.

11. Oil & Vinegar

Oil is required for nearly all cuisine dishes. When it comes to cooking with oils, do you have to choose between cooking for taste or cooking for health?  When it comes to the performance and flavor, not all cooking oils are created equal. These days, the shelf of the cookingoil section of the supermarket is a crowded spot but choose oil wisely. I usually stock olive oil, peanut oil for most of my Indian cooking and grape seed oil for dressings.

Adding a splash of something acidic, like vinegar, tends to brighten the flavors of almost any dish. But don’t limit yourself to one variety. Like wine, vinegars each have distinct personalities from mildly sour rice wine vinegar to boldly sweet Italian balsamic. Once opened, use vinegar up within six months.

12. Long lasting vegetables like onion, potato, sweet potato, carrot, and beet are my favorite to stock. Onion and potato has great shelf life. Carrot and beet stays great up to a month in refrigerator.

13. Ginger, Garlic & Lemon, Lime

Without garlic and ginger, any cooking would not be the same. Apart from imparting a great aroma to the food, they also aids in digestion. The bright flavor of citrus gives a sweet-tart tang to our main dish, side dish, drink and dessert recipes. Just one squeeze can transform a recipe!

14. Condiments.

Stock up on condiments so you’re prepared for any recipe. Condiments include ketchup, mustard, mirin, and bbq sauce can bring instant flavor to any boring dish. Besides ready, store bought condiments, I prefer to make some at home like salsa (refrigerate well for up to 3 weeks), Indian chutneys (freeze well for up to 3 months or refrigerate up to a month) and pickles.

15. Dairy and non-dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are essential for many recipes. I stock variety of cheese as they tend to have longer expiry dates.

These are just suggestions and can be customized to your need. I hope you enjoyed this post. Happy cooking!