15 Budget-Friendly Dinners Using Pantry Ingredients

One of the best ways to be budget mindful is to cook out of your pantry. We all have a go-to stash: rice and dried pasta, dried and canned beans, canned tuna and salmon, canned vegetables, and usually plenty of potatoes, onions, and garlic. Add some pantry basics like broth, oils, and spices, and you are well on your way to a wonderful meal without hitting the grocery store. These 15 budget-friendly pantry recipes lean hard on staples you probably already have on hand—and whatever you might be missing is easy and inexpensive to pick up. Even cooking one dinner per week out of your pantry can add up to real savings. Here's what to make out of your pantry tonight!

closeup of halves of bell pepper stuffed with beef, sausage, and rice with tomato sauce
Photo: KGora
01 of 15

Lentil Soup

Overhead view of two bowls of lentil soup
Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Dried lentils are a wonderful protein-packed legume, with the added benefit of not needing soaking before cooking. When made into soup with some simple fresh aromatics, they are hearty and satisfying. If you want your soup a bit creamier, you can puree a couple cups of the finished soup and stir it back in.

02 of 15

Red Lentil Curry

Red lentils are really a style of split pea, and since they have been hulled before drying, they cook super fast. This dish only takes 10 minutes to prep and 40 to cook, so you can put it on as soon as you get home from work and have dinner ready for your family by the time you have changed and walked the dog. Serve over rice for a complete meal.

03 of 15

Vegan Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry

Need a great pantry dish for vegans? Look no further than this sweet potato chickpea curry, which is luxurious and satisfying enough to please even the meat eaters at the table. Serve over rice, or with naan or pita breads for sopping up all the spicy sauce.

04 of 15

Black Bean Chili

close up view of Black Bean Chili topped with cheese in a white bowl

A great vegetable chili — a super affordable way to feed a crowd — is really good to have in your repertoire. This recipe calls for fresh corn and tomatoes, but you can sub in canned versions when they are out of season or if you have them in your pantry.

05 of 15

Spicy Tuna Rice Bowl

This Asian-inspired rice bowl pairs equal amounts of rice and tuna by weight to ensure that the one-pot meal is a perfect balance of protein and carbs. Make a double batch and eat leftovers cold over chopped lettuce for a great lunch salad.

06 of 15

Black Bean Tacos

close up view of Black Bean Tacos with tomatoes and avocados on a plate
Buckwheat Queen

Taco Tuesdays get an affordable pantry makeover by featuring canned black beans cooked in a rich sauce of canned green salsa and savory spices. No time to pick up tortillas? Serve over lettuce for a taco salad, or pile into baked white or sweet potatoes.

07 of 15

Vegetable Fried Rice

looking down at a large bowl of vegetable fried rice

Fried rice is an ideal way to use up leftover rice, but this dish is so good, you will want to make rice fresh just to cook it! This recipe features quick-cooking brown rice for a great texture along with plenty of vegetables in the mix, including frozen peas. If you want to up the ante with protein, stir in some scrambled eggs or strips of omelet at the end.

08 of 15

Salmon Patties

Having canned salmon in your pantry is a wonderful and affordable way to get more fish into your diet without breaking the bank. These patties come together start to finish in 25 minutes, making it a perfect after-work meal. You can serve with rice or potatoes, on top of a salad, or even put on buns for a version of salmon burgers.

09 of 15

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Photo by: Tammy. Photo by: Tammy

Ask any Italian what they cook when they need something fast and easy out of the pantry, and chances are they will say spaghetti aglio e olio. Pasta in garlic-scented oil topped with Parmesan cheese can be a main dish or a side and is perfect in its simplicity. The key is not to rush the toasting of the garlic: if it burns, the dish will taste acrid and unpleasant.

10 of 15

Black Bean and Couscous Salad

We love to keep couscous in the pantry — needing only a steep in boiling water to bring it to life, it is the fastest carb to prepare. Add in some canned and frozen vegetables and a punchy lime vinaigrette and you have a salad that eats like a meal.

11 of 15

Chef John's Stuffed Peppers

Chef John's Stuffed Peppers
Photo by KGora.

If you have rice, onions, and canned tomatoes in the pantry, Italian sausage in the freezer, and some bell peppers in the crisper drawer, you are a half hour away from popping some killer stuffed peppers into your oven. Have any leftovers after dinner? Chop them up and make a hash, and top with fried or poached eggs for a hearty breakfast.

12 of 15

Spanish Rice Bake

A great savory casserole to serve up on a brisk fall or winter evening, this one-dish pantry wonder only needs a little salad on the side to turn into an amazing dinner. This recipe stretches one pound of ground beef and some pantry ingredients into a meal that can serve 4-6 people.

13 of 15

Simple Tomato Soup

Have a craving for tomato soup but no cans of soup in the cupboard? If you have canned tomatoes, you are 30 minutes away from fresh homemade soup that cries out for a grilled cheese for dunking. This is so easy to make, you may never go back to canned tomato soup again.

14 of 15

Chana Masala (Savory Indian Chickpeas)

looking down at a skillet of Chana Masala

Indian cookery has always made the most of beans and pulses (the technical name for the part of the legume we generally eat), and this dish of spiced chickpeas is everything you could hope for in an affordable pantry supper. Serve over rice or with naan or pita, or pile into baked white or sweet potatoes.

15 of 15

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

low angle looking at a black bean veggie burger
dotdash meredith food studios

Canned black beans are the base for a veggie burger that is so simple to prepare, you might have bought your last frozen patty. Want that frozen convenience? Make a double batch, form and freeze uncovered until solid, then wrap in plastic wrap and stash in a freezer bag. Grill straight from frozen and just add a couple minutes cooking time.

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