18 Pantry Staple Recipes Your Kids Will Actually Eat
Figuring out what to cook for dinner that your kids won't turn their nose up at on a normal night can be a struggle. Throw a global crisis into the mix and your mealtime stress level likely just multiplied by 10. These 18 recipes you can make from pantry staples are ones your kids will actually eat, and might just help get you through those nights when you'd rather order a pizza.
But what can you make with all of those canned vegetables, dry beans, and pasta you stocked up on during your last trip? Turns out, you actually can make several decent meals that your kids will enjoy just as much as their beloved dino-shaped nuggets. (Probably. I make no promises. But they will at least eat them, and that's something.)
Some of these recipes are from food blogs and some were submitted by parents who can attest to their kids successful plate-clearing when served these meals. Most take minimal kitchen skills to pull off and they use normal, standard ingredients you probably already have on hand. (No specialty jars of sundried tomatoes here!) There's a lot of can-opening, pasta-boiling, and stirring involved, but to make a meal out of pantry staples that your kids will actually eat, it's definitely worth the effort.
1. Winter Vegetable Soup
The base of this vegetable soup recipe uses canned diced tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, canned chickpeas, canned vegetable stock, and pasta — all things you likely have in your pantry. For the vegetable part, A Pretty Life In The Suburbs recommends you use whatever you have on hand if you don't have the exact same fresh veggies on hand. So use this recipe to clear out that crisper drawer and keep your kids fed and happy.
2. Chili Mac
This recipe for Chili Mac is super simple and includes only three ingredients — one box of pasta, a can of chili (with or without beans), and a can of white hominy or corn. Mom Dana tells Romper that elbow or bowtie-shaped pasta are the best pastas to use, but that any shape will do for this delicious meal.
"Cook pasta till al dente, drain, mix in chili and hominy, top with shredded cheese if you'd like, and dinner is served. We usually add a side salad or raw veggies to round it out," Dana says.
3. Pinto Beans & Rice
April, a mom of three kids ages 6, 14, and 15, says that cooking dry pinto beans with link sausage and rice is an easy way to keep her whole family satisfied. Simply cook pinto beans per package directions, add sausage while simmering to let the beans soak up their flavor, and serve over whatever kind of rice you have handy.
4. One Pot Mushroom Rice
If you do have a few fresh veggies laying around or a bag of frozen mushrooms stuffed in the back of your freezer, this recipe for One Pot Mushroom Rice from Damn Delicious is easy to put together using pantry staples. Combine brown rice and vegetable broth with mushrooms, garlic, onion, and spices for a tasty vegetarian dinner that comes together in less than an hour. Plus, there's only one dish to clean afterward.
5. Taco Beans
What do you get when you add taco seasoning to several cans of beans and simmer them on the stovetop? Taco beans, and they're delicious.
Open several cans (two to three) of beans — pinto, black, navy, red, whatever you have. If you have some onions or peppers on hand, sauté them on the stove until translucent. Drain the beans, rinse them, and then add them to a big pot on the stove with taco seasonings and your sautéed veggies if you have them. Cook until beans are warm and serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, or anything you like on a taco. They're even tasty without any toppings or chips, just eaten plain with a spoon.
6. White Bean & Tuna Salad
This recipe for White Bean and Tuna Salad on the food blog Mel's Kitchen Cafe is a quick and easy way to use two of your pantry staples in one meal. Combining canned tuna and canned white beans with lemon juice, olive oil, red onion, and a bit of hot sauce (which you can adjust to taste for your kids) creates an easy tuna salad that can be enjoyed with crackers, on toast, or by itself. This would also be a great recipe for kids to help out with when they're bored since it's basically all prep-work and barely any measuring required.
7. Chickpea Salad
Canned chickpeas are a pantry staple that are easy to prepare, healthy, and delicious. Anne's basic chickpea preparation is as simple as it gets.
"When I'm in a pinch, I like to rinse a can of chickpeas and toss it with chopped parsley (lots), minced garlic, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt, and pepper. It comes together quickly, is pretty zesty, and if I'm not going to see anyone in the near future, I go heavy on the garlic."
8. Southwest Rice & Bean Salad
The basic combination of rice and beans can be done so many different ways. This recipe by Mel's Kitchen Cafe for Southwest Rice and Bean Salad puts a flavorful spin on basic ingredients with a tangy sauce. All you need is some cooked rice, canned beans, canned corn, cooked chicken (the canned variety works), and a few spices, and you've got a delicious meal ready and waiting for your kids to devour that can be served warm or cold — hooray for leftovers!
9. Chicken & Rice
Samantha, a mom of two, offers her simple pantry staple recipe for chicken and rice for all of the parents struggling to find just one thing their kids will actually eat in their cupboard. "Take one can of cream of chicken soup, fill the can with milk after you dump the soup, and mix it with cooked rice and cooked chicken." She says that she "will also add a plop of cream cheese if I have it" and that if you don't have any cooked chicken, canned chicken will work just as well.
10. Norwegian Pancakes
"We make Norwegian Pancakes, which are basically crepes," Amanda, a mom of two, tells Romper. She says the recipe can be adjusted to feed as many people as you need it to, but the base ingredients are an equal ratio of 1 egg, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 stick of butter, and a pinch of salt.
Mix it all up and pour it in a pan like you would a pancake, and cook until light brown on each side. "Then, you can put literally anything in it," Amanda says. "Want sweet? Add Nutella and banana. Want savory? Add smoked salmon and cream cheese, or ham, spinach, and tomato."
11. Chickpea Pasta Soup
This soup feels so fancy, but in reality, it's more like a "clear out your pantry" recipe. Chickpea Pasta Soup from How Sweet Eats combines a bag of pasta, a can of chickpeas, canned tomatoes and tomato puree, vegetable stock, onions, and spices to create a hearty soup. You can pretty much guarantee that your entire house will smell divine while this soup simmers on your stovetop.
12. Oatmeal Cookies
Everyone needs sweets during quarantine, right? Kaitlin's recipe for oatmeal cookies is one your kids can make with you and then gobble up fresh out of the oven. "Mash up mushy bananas, mix with oats, add cinnamon, raisins, etc. Bake at 350 for like 20 mins and you've got easy oatmeal cookies."
13. Coconut Chickpea Curry
Keeping your family vegan and gluten free during the current pandemic could prove difficult as grocery stores struggle to re-stock your favorite products. However, if you have a can of chickpeas, canned tomatoes, a can of coconut milk, and some curry spices handy, you can make this recipe for Coconut Chickpea Curry from Jessica In The Kitchen to keep your family's dietary needs on track.
14. Tuna Mac
"I literally take a can of tuna, drain it, and then add it to a box of cooked macaroni and cheese," Crystal, mom to one teenage daughter tells Romper. "I call it Tuna Mac and my daughter has eaten it her entire life without complaint."
Easy, simple, and to the point. Crystal says she sometimes throws in a can of peas "for good measure" if she has them, but that just the tuna and the macaroni is definitely enough on its own.
15. Fried Rice
This fried rice recipe from Gimme Some Oven is an easy way to use up any vegetables you have laying around the kitchen right now. Basically you combine cooked rice (cold rice works best, according to the blog) and whatever chopped vegetables you have on hand with garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and stir fry everything into a pan of deliciousness. It's easy, healthier and cheaper than takeout, and this particular recipe also includes a few scrambled eggs to pump up the protein factor.
16. Buttered Pasta
Do you have pasta in your pantry, but no sauce? Anne says to use butter — lots of butter.
"Boil any kind of pasta (egg noodles or bow-tie are my usual go-tos). As soon as it reaches the desired consistency, toss it with a few pats of butter, salt and pepper. The more butter, the better. If you're feeling fancy, sprinkle with minced garlic, chopped parsley, and/or crushed red pepper."
17. Ramen Tahini Bowls
Kaitlin's recipe for Ramen Tahini Bowls is what she calls "just jazzed up ramen noodles" and involves adding ingredients to that package of ramen in your pantry to round it out and make it more of an actual meal and less of a college kid's microwaveable late night snack. She says you can add ingredients like chicken, avocado, frozen vegetables, or a soft boiled egg — basically, use what you've got!
18. Pomodoro Sauce
You can eat pomodoro sauce over pasta, lentils, or risotto, and it is delish with roasted vegetables if you have them. This easy recipe is quick to put together with a few pantry staples.
"Heat up a little bit olive oil or knob of butter, throw in few cloves of chopped garlic, and pour in a can or peeled or crushed tomatoes for an easy pomodoro sauce. If you don't have fresh herbs, you can sprinkle in dried parley or basil to add more flavor," Kaitlin tells Romper.