The better your kitchen is stocked, the more choices you will have at dinnertime. Here is a list of 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast. Most are shelf-stable, but a few require refrigeration.
10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast
- Canned or aseptic pack beans: versatile and convenient. Beans like chickpeas, kidney, cannellini and black beans add protein and nutrients to salads, pastas, quinoa or rice dishes and soups. Puree them to make dressings, sauces, and dips. For veggie burgers, mix with cooked rice or quinoa, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, or nuts. Mash, shape and bake until crisp on the edges. The recipe here is one of my favorites – if you try it, post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and tag me!
- Bottled/Jarred pasta sauce: great for a quick and easy pasta meal (avoid hidden sugar by reading labels!) To make sauces taste fresh, sauté minced garlic in olive oil, add the sauce and simmer. Season with dried herbs like cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. Top with fresh basil. A splash of wine can deepen flavor further.
- Quick-cooking grains and pastas: rice noodles, kelp noodles, konjac noodles, quinoa, pre-cooked brown rice, chickpea pasta, soba (buckwheat) noodles. Toss with olive oil or sauce. Cold noodle salads with peanut sauce, sliced veggies, and torn basil. Add to broth with a baby spinach for a quick soup.
- Oats: Blend oats with water to make creamy oat milk. Mix with an equal amount of water before bed and you will have breakfast ready to go. Roll oats with nut butter and hemp seeds to form snack balls.
- Cooked polenta: available in a log shape that you can open and slice. Great topped with marinara sauce, chili or sautéed greens and veggies. Polenta can be cut into crouton shapes, baked until crispy and used as a crunchy topper for salads and soups!
- Hemp hearts: Neutral, almost nutty tasting plant protein with healthy omega-3 fats and micronutrients. Blend with water for hemp milk or a smoothie base. Make dips and dressings by blending with a little water until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs for a variety of flavors! Sprinkle on salads. Mix with herbs and sprinkle on pasta for a cheese alternative.
- Boxed coconut milk: I love boxed coconut milk for a couple of reasons. First, it is easy to separate the coconut cream from the coconut water. Coconut cream makes a quick dessert topping sweetened with a little stevia or maple syrup. Make a yogurt substitute by mixing coconut cream with a squeeze of lemon juice and the contents of a probiotic capsule. The versatility does not stop there. Coconut milk can be blended with any fruit you have on hand to make a simple smoothie. It is a great addition to a lemony broth for noodles; just add a sprinkle of chili pepper for a Thai inspired noodle dish! Add curry powder and a bit of plain tomato sauce for a delightful curry sauce that you will want to lick off the spoon! (The brand I linked is my favorite – no additives or preservatives.)
- Coconut wraps: A shelf-stable pantry alternative to tortillas. Make burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas. Use them for wrap sandwiches, layered casseroles, or super thin and crispy pizzas.
- Jarred artichoke hearts: These tender veggies have great flavor and can elevate a dish from familiar to fancy! Drain, rinse, and eat. Add them to pasta, salads, or toss with beans to make a simple meal.
- Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, cashews… Add these to salads. Blend with beans for a creamy dip or dressing. Chop fine and add to veggie burger mix for better texture. Make nut milk. Blend with broth and white beans for a creamy soup. Chop and mix with minced mushrooms, onion, and taco seasoning for an easy raw taco “meat.”
Build Your Pantry
Take the stress out of mealtime. Start building your pantry. Adding shelf-stable items that are versatile can make mealtime a breeze. It is also a comfort to have staples on hand that are not only nourishing but also tasty. Start with these 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast. Check back for the next blog in this series that will share fridge and freezer basics.
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