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Jan 14, 2010 04:51 AM

Hot "pantry" dinners that aren't pasta...

So, in the interest of getting weeknight dinners on the table when I'm crushingly busy with work and other commitments, I've been trying to arm myself with a list of dishes I can make entirely out of my pantry for these evenings when I've forgotten to shop or plan ahead.

But, I'm finding that my list skews heavily towards pasta: pasta with clams, with artichokes, with shrimp, etc.

Help me break out of my rut, please.

And, I use the expanded definition of pantry, which includes anything I can keep in my freezer and defrost quickly and things that keep a long time in the fridge, such as eggs or parm cheese.

Also, especially this time of year, I lean towards wanting HOT meals. So, no dinner salads and such...

Thank you!


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  1. I often make grits & top with lots of things from the fridge/ freezer, using up leftovers. Grits are great under- leftover bbq pork, chicken in any form, any kind of shrimp, eggs anyway, roasted veggies. It's such a comfort food & takes only 10 minutes to cook (I cook longer than the package that says 5 minutes- I find 10 minutes of regular stirring does nicely, sometimes adding a bit more water as I go along. And, make it with 1/2 water & 1/2 milk for nice & creamy grits!).

    2 Replies
    1. re: tall sarah

      Agreed. Quick-cooking grits are a pantry must-have for me.

      Grits made with parm and cream are amazing topped with spicy shrimp. Grits with cheddar and a pinch of cayenne and topped with poached eggs? YES!

      Frittatas, fried rice (made with pre-cooked frozen rice), blackened fish, cuban black beans with coconut rice, any biryani, thai fish curry, risotto -- all with ingredients from pantry and freezer. Rice/bean combos are probably the easiest straight from the pantry. And you can either freeze your mirepois or buy pre-prepped mirepois from the freezer section. That's a real timesaver, IMO, with not a lot of quality loss.

      1. re: LauraGrace

        recipes please for the biryani and the risotto. thanks.

    2. For a quick, Thai-flavored pantry meal, sautee about 1/4 cup onion until translucent in canola or peanut oil, throw in pre-cooked chicken strips, chopped fresh basil (if you have it) a can of coconut milk, a can of straw mushrooms, a can of bamboo shoots, chicken stock to get to desired volume, then stir in red curry paste to taste. Right before serving, throw in a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves and garnish with more basil and/or chopped peanuts.

      You can make it less soupy and serve over rice, as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: weezycom

        That's a favourite in our house too. I make something similar with tofu or shrimp, cabbage for veg and throw in some of those shelf stable udon noodles for the big eaters. But then I lighten it up with lite coconut milk and chicken broth. Its actually a good meal meal for balancing the different sized appetites in our house.

        1. Red beans and rice. I always have a couple of cans of kidney beans and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning on hand. Sauté onions and celery for crunch first. Some sausage or ham rounds things out nicely.

          We like brown rice which can take a while to cook properly, so I make up large batches and freeze it in two cup servings. If you let the rice cool completely and then store it as air tight as possible it keeps nicely in the freezer. I have one of those Food Saver gadgets but putting it in a bread/food bag (the kind that closes with a twist tie not a ziplock) and squeezing the air out works too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mandycat

            We like brown rice too, but is does take sooo long I thought I would try the microwave recipe on the Mahatma Brown Rice bag. Tt comes out PERFECTLY everytime in my microwave. I use a round, flat bottomed casserole sigh. It still takes 25 minutes, but I just start it first. I was so happy this worked so well!

            1. re: SparkleKristy

              I used brown basmati rice this week which took 25 minutes on the stovetop. Might be worth checking out if you can get it. I liked it more than normal brown rice, too.

              Not that anyone will care a year after the fact!

          2. My "pantry meals" all used to revolve around pasta. Now I've cut down on the pasta intake so this question is on my mind, too.

            I love any excuse to make beans and franks. We add some onion, pepper, garlic and a little soy sauce to the mix and simmer as long as we can.

            You say you keep cheese in the house. We keep all sorts of cheese, and good bread, in the house all the time. All you need for a good hot meal is to put together the cheese and bread, put it in the oven, and heat up some soup on the side.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shaogo

              If the beans are "bbq" style from a can, adding a good T mustard (any) will cut the sweet somewhat and add another layer of flavor.

            2. Last night I made a soup (not soupy) with week old escarole.. ditto parsnips, carrots, leeks, 1/2 diced onion, garlic, chicken broth, left over lentils. Started with diced pancetta, threw in diced root vegetables, S & P & red pepper flakes and let that sweat. Washed and ribboned the escarole and threw that in along with the broth and l/o lentils. Brought to a boil then simmered the concoction for about 20 minutes, while I fried some seasoned cubed Italian bread for croutons. We sat down in less than an hour. There's not a drop left.