How to Stock Your Pantry and Fridge for No-Cook Meals
No-cook meals can be a saving grace on days you don't feel like spending long in the kitchen. If whipping up a dish is looking more like a chore, or you don't want to heat up your home during the summertime, no-cook meals can be the solution. As a bonus: many no-cook meals also double as excellent leftovers, which can make tomorrow's lunch easy, too.
Keep this list of no-cook ingredients handy. Then, next time you're grocery shopping, add a few to your cart and start brainstorming the best ways to use them in your no-cook dinners. From tacos to veggie bowls, you'll soon find making meals without the aide of an oven or stove is easier than you'd imagine.
All wrapped up and ready to go straight from the grocery store, rotisserie chickens are a no-cook staple. With tender white and juicy dark meats, it's easy to prep by shredding, slicing, or chopping.
Add it to salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, or lettuce cups for easy no-cook dishes. You can customize the flavor to match your dish with a quick drizzle of sauce or sprinkling of spice blends.
Try it: Ranch Chicken Tacos
Pasteurized Lump Crab Meat
Already pre-cooked, pasteurized lump crab meat can be an easy way to add seafood options to the table without turning on an appliance. Stir it together with creamy sauce to create an easy crab salad for sandwiches, put a scoop on top of gazpacho, or sprinkle some into salads for a boost of flavor and protein.
Prosciutto is an easy way to add umami to your no-cook dishes. This dry-cured Italian ham is super salty and savory, making it ideal for amping up the flavor of more bland recipes. Cut prosciutto into strips for sandwich filling and to act as a salad topper, or wrap it around some no-cook ingredients (like melon wedges or avocado slices) to create a unique appetizer.
Canned tuna may notorious for being a less-than-stellar ingredient, but it all depends on what you buy. Stick to high-quality canned tuna fillets packed in olive oil for a delicious no-cook option. Flake it with a fork for tuna salad (ideal for sandwiches or crackers to dip), or slice up the fillets to add bulk and protein to other dishes.
Beans may be the most versatile protein option on this list. Having a few varieties of helpful legumes in your pantry can make no-cook meals a cinch. Try puréeing beans then using them to create sandwich spreads, thicken up soups, or flavor tostadas. Or keep them whole to be tossed into salads or stuffed in wraps.
Often overlooked for its cousin, canned tuna, canned salmon is an equally delicious pantry staple. Use it to create a simple salmon salad — just mash with a little mayo, Dijon mustard, and relish — that can then be scooped onto beds of greens, put into pita bread, or spread on crackers and veggies as a snack.
No-Cook Flavor Boosters
No-cook meals can sometimes come across as bland. Since you can't caramelize, sear, or sauté ingredients, these recipes are occasionally missing the oomph of extra flavor that comes from cooking. But that's where flavor boosters come in; these helpful ingredients amp up any boring dish with ease.
Start with citrus, both the zest and juice. This adds color and flavor to dishes. Give a dose of umami to meals by opting for a dash of fish sauce, nutritional yeast, or soy sauce. If you're missing the smokiness of a grill, sprinkle on a little smoked paprika or liquid smoke.
Boring dishes can be saved with a bit of salty tanginess courtesy of capers, pickles, or olives. Then there's nature's natural flavor boosters, herbs, which can be added to dips and sauces, or simply chopped and placed on top dishes for extra flavor and color.
Try it: Real N'awlins Muffuletta
No-Cook Texture Boosters
No-cook recipes often come out with a lack of crunch. Avoid a monotonous texture by opting for nuts, seeds, and fresh produce that change things up.
Choose options that don't require toasting, like peanuts or sunflower seeds, for a nutty taste and distinct crunch. When it comes to fresh ingredients, chopped apples or jicama can be a crispy addition to salads, while chopped water chestnuts or shredded cabbage are excellent in Asian-inspired bowls or salads.
Try it: Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad
Of course no-cook meals are going to be heavy on the produce. (It's a good way to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily meals.) Chopped, in-season vegetables can be the base for dishes like bowls, salads, or sandwiches. But there are two forerunners when it comes to no-cooking options: Zucchini and avocados.
Try it: Zucchini Spaghetti alla Marinara
With the help of a spiralizer, zucchini can be a great no-cook alternative to pasta. These zoodles can then be the base for a fresh sauce or tossed in with classic pasta salad ingredients for a no-cook option. Try them with pesto, no-cook marinara, or even an Asian-inspired peanut sauce.
Naturally rich and filling, avocados add creaminess to dishes without any cooking required. Mash for an easy sandwich filling, blend into soups for a velvety base, or simply chop and toss into salads.
Sandwiches and wraps are both easy no-cook options, but neither are complete without some type of creamy spread. These hearty condiments can add a base of flavor to dishes, from creamy to tangy to spicy, all with no cooking required.
Whether you make it yourself or buy it from the store, hummus is a welcome addition to no-cook meals. Add a Mediterranean flair to meals with a dollop, or smear it on bread as a rich mayo alternative.
Try it: Arugula and Hummus Mini Pizzas
Yes, a PB&J is technically a no-cook meal, but nut butters can do so much more. Mix and match between different types of nuts and sandwich fillings, such as cashew butter and curried chicken or pecan butter with cheese and prosciutto. For the best tasting nut butters, check with your local grocery store to see if there's a "grind your own" section.
Salsa & Guacamole
From soft tacos to tostadas, there are plenty of no-cook meals that benefit from a scoop of salsa or guacamole on top. These can easily be purchased at the grocery store, or made at home with the help of your favorite knife or a quick whirl in the food processor.
Grains are the base for a number of delicious meals, but they often require cooking. That rules them out as a no-cook dinner, right? Wrong. Instead of cooking dry grains, opt for hassle-free pre-cooked grains and grain-based foods that only require soaking before eating.
Light and fluffy bulgur is a beloved grain that plumps up when soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour. Then it's ready to be used as a base for grain bowls and breakfast porridge, or it can be seasoned then stuffed into fresh veggies like tomatoes and bell peppers.
Very thin rice noodles (also known as mai fun or mei fun) just need a 15-minute soak in water to be ready to slurp. It can then be made into noodle salads, tucked into spring rolls, or tossed with your favorite sauce for a no-cook noodle bowl.
Try it: Spicy Rice Noodle Salad
No-Cook Wrappers and Bases
No-brainers for no-cook options, sandwiches and wraps simply require some bread or a tortilla. But if you're looking to change things up, you don't have to rely on bread alone to have a great meal. Try these other options for a bit of variety.
Rice paper is an easy wrapper for delicious and beautiful fillings. Just soak them for 15 to 30 seconds in warm water until pliable, then fill with your ingredients, and roll it up. Stay traditional, and fill with Asian-inspired ingredients, or make a bold move with new flavors like rotisserie chicken, barbeque sauce, and fresh corn.
Try it: Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls
Crispy and crunchy pre-cooked tostada shells can be picked up in the Hispanic section of most well-stocked grocery stores. Layer one up with toppings like pinto beans, rotisserie chicken, shredded veggies, salsa, and guacamole to create a filling, yet simple, dish.