How to make the tastiest meals with cheap cupboard essentials

Cooking from the larder

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Don't have time to go food shopping? No problem! It's amazing how many great dishes you can conjure up from store cupboard staples, without needing access to fresh ingredients. These are our best recipes you can make from pantry and freezer essentials, from crowd-pleasing pasta dishes, curries and soups to tasty desserts.

Corn fritters

<p>from my point of view/Shutterstock</p>

from my point of view/Shutterstock

Corn fritters, made with canned sweetcorn, make a great breakfast, brunch or light meal. They make a quick and easy savoury base for poached eggs and salmon, or if you're more limited with fresh foods, serve with fried corned beef or tomato chutney. If you don't have fresh eggs, dried egg white powder, which can be reconstituted, will do the job of binding the mixture together before frying.

Get the recipe for corn fritters here


<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Hummus is the perfect spread to whip up for a tasty lunch. If you don't have fresh lemon juice, you can use lemon juice from a bottle. Jazz it up with some puréed red peppers from a jar, or a purée of frozen broad beans. Cracker thins or breadsticks are great to dip into this chickpea and tahini dish.

Get the recipe for hummus here

Salmon fish cakes

<p>Chris Bavin/DK</p>

Chris Bavin/DK

A can of salmon is a very useful store cupboard item, especially when it comes to making fish cakes. If you're limited, use frozen mashed potato or canned ready-cooked potatoes rather than making fresh mash. Our recipe uses smoked salmon and smoked mackerel, but you can substitute the same weight of canned salmon, or mix it up with some canned sardines.

Get the recipe for salmon fish cakes here

Pasta puttanesca

<p>Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock</p>

Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock

With not a fresh ingredient in sight (unless you have fresh herbs in the garden), pasta puttanesca is the ultimate store cupboard recipe. It's best with a long pasta, like spaghetti or linguine, and all you need for the sauce is canned tomatoes, capers, olives, anchovies, dried chilli flakes and olive oil.

Get the recipe for pasta puttanesca here

Thai red pepper soup

<p>Time to Eat/Michael Joseph</p>

Time to Eat/Michael Joseph

This spicy Thai-inspired soup uses jarred roasted red peppers and red curry paste, and is topped with spicy seeds. The topping requires an egg white, but you can swap this for oil or egg white powder. Served with bread, crunchy flatbreads or crackers, it's an easy, nourishing meal.

Get the recipe for Thai red pepper soup here

Potato and mushroom bake



For this potato bake, you can swap fresh cream for a can of condensed mushroom soup, thinned with the same quantity of milk (from powder then reconstituted, if you need to). Chop up some canned ham or flake some tuna, then layer it with thinly sliced canned potatoes, pouring the soup over each layer. If you have any fresh herbs in the garden, add those too. Bake in a hot oven until browned and bubbling.

Tarka dahl

<p>Indian in 7/Kyle Books</p>

Indian in 7/Kyle Books

Tarka dahl, meaning spiced lentils, is a nourishing, high-protein dish that you can serve with rice. Lentils are a brilliant store cupboard saviour, and you can find prepared garlic and ginger pastes in the supermarket too. If you don't have any fresh coriander, dried will do the job. Substitute fresh chilli for chilli flakes, and you're on your way to a great meal.

Get the recipe for tarka dahl here

Tomato pasta sauce

<p>Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock</p>

Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Sweat down onions – remember, you can find them frozen or in a can if needs be – then add canned tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, dried oregano or dried mixed herbs. Season well with salt and pepper. Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened. If you want more protein, add cooked lentils or re-hydrated soya mince. Serve it with any dried pasta you have in the cupboard.

Veggie bean chilli

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

With cans of different beans in the cupboard, combined with a can of tomatoes or passata, you can have a high-protein meal on the table in no time at all. You could combine kidney beans, black beans and white beans – whatever's available. Add the rinsed beans to fried onions or carrot. If you have some grated cheese in the fridge, even better. Try our recipe, which you can adapt to what you have.

Get the recipe for black and kidney bean chilli here

Tuna burritos

<p>Nataliya Armamasova/Shutterstock</p>

Nataliya Armamasova/Shutterstock

There's a wide variety of combinations you can try for a tasty burrito, even from the store cupboard. Mix drained tuna with sweetcorn, black beans and kidney beans. Add a flavoursome kick with some sriracha sauce or chilli sauce. You could also mix in thawed sliced onions from the freezer. Before rolling, spread a little mayonnaise on the wraps.

Chickpea curry

<p>Nina Firsova/Shutterstock</p>

Nina Firsova/Shutterstock

This spicy and fragrant curry feeds four with just three cans of chickpeas and a can of tomatoes, plus dried spices from the cupboard. Instead of the fresh ginger, you can use ginger paste from a jar – and if you've got any fresh vegetables that need using up, just chuck them in. Serve with rice or, our personal favourite, poppadoms.

Get the recipe for chickpea curry here

Tomato risotto



A risotto with a twist, this version is baked in the oven and needs just one stir. It's made with passata and served with a home-made winter pesto, but you can use any sort of pesto from a jar. The Parmesan crisps that go with it are divine.

Get the recipe for tomato risotto here

Beans and potato pie

<p>Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock</p>

Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

A true comfort food dish! You can use all kinds of beans, including baked beans, to make this sweet potato mash-topped pie. You could also use frozen white potato mash, or mash up a can of potatoes if you don't have anything fresh to hand.

Get the recipe for beans and potato pie here

Spaghetti with garlic and chilli

<p>Ramon grosso doliera/Shutterstock</p>

Ramon grosso doliera/Shutterstock

A fab 10-minute dish where fresh ingredients can easily be substituted. A jar or tube of garlic purée comes in very handy and, while you can use fresh chilli, dried chilli flakes work just as well.

Get the recipe for spaghetti with garlic and chilli here

Mushroom risotto



You can make a brilliant mushroom risotto using dried mushrooms. To serve four, using 500g (1lb 2oz) risotto rice, you'll need to soak 75g (3oz) dried mushrooms in hot water. Porcini are the best, but they can be pricey, so use a mixture if you like. Strain after 15 minutes through a sieve, keeping the water as stock. Sauté the mushrooms before adding to the risotto. Follow our recipe as a guide.

Get the recipe for mushroom risotto here

Corned beef hash

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Even if you don't have fresh potatoes, you can use peeled potatoes from a can and whip up a hash. Fry chopped potatoes with corned beef and onions until you have a crisp texture. Then add just enough tomato ketchup or passata to coat everything, a good slug of Worcestershire sauce, and 1tbsp grain, Dijon or English mustard. Pop it under the grill until crisp. Serve with extra tomato ketchup on the side.

Jackfruit curry

<p>Haarala Hamilton/Pavilion Books</p>

Haarala Hamilton/Pavilion Books

Jackfruit comes ready-prepared in a can, so this spicy curry, with tomato passata and coconut cream, needs only 10 minutes of preparation. It has a good kick of chilli, ginger and garlic (again, you can use a prepared jar). It's served on a bed of rice, but you could enjoy alongside any grain you have, such as quinoa or bulgur wheat.

Get the recipe for jackfruit curry here

Bean and pasta broth

<p>Anastasia Kopa/Shutterstock</p>

Anastasia Kopa/Shutterstock

When you're in need of a healthy, nourishing meal, a bean and pasta broth really hits the spot. Use whichever canned beans (or even chickpeas) you have in the cupboard. Our recipe uses vegetable stock, which would be even more warming if you replaced half the stock with tomato passata. If you don't have macaroni, use any small pasta shape you have to hand, such as fusilli or orecchiette.

Get the recipe for bean and pasta broth here

Stir-fried noodles

<p>Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock</p>

Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock

It's quite a challenge to make a tasty stir-fry without fresh meat, fish or fresh vegetables – but we've hit on a winner. Try combining tofu with canned beansprouts and cashew nuts. Add a few teaspoons of toasted sesame oil just before serving, with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. You could incorporate some thawed frozen peas or broad beans too.

Pasta and chickpea stew

<p>Jack Monroe/Bluebird</p>

Jack Monroe/Bluebird

A rather ingenious recipe using 100% store cupboard items, including a can of spaghetti hoops! For this take on the classic Italian dish, pasta e fagioli (which literally translates to pasta and beans), you could substitute the hoops with the same amount of cooked macaroni. It's a recipe the kids will love, although you may prefer to omit the chilli at the end.

Get the recipe for pasta and chickpea stew here

Curried lentil and tomato soup

<p>Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock</p>

Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Soup, fortified with hearty lentils, is a wholesome meal in a bowl. For four, fry an onion, then add jarred garlic paste and ginger – 1 tsp of each. Add 1-2 tbsp medium curry powder or paste. Stir well, then add 200g (7oz) red lentils, plus a can each of chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. Simmer gently until the lentils are cooked, and season with salt and pepper. If you have fresh coriander or mint, add it at the end. Thsi one freezes brilliantly.

Check out more of our freezer-friendly recipes here

Marmite (yeast extract spread) spaghetti

<p>Natali LaRush/Shutterstock</p>

Natali LaRush/Shutterstock

You'll need just three ingredients for this comforting dinner: spaghetti, yeast extract spread (like Marmite) and butter or oil. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter or oil with yeast extract spread. Then add the cooked pasta with some pasta water to the buttery, tangy mixture, and coat. Serve immediately, with some Parmesan if you like.

Frozen pea risotto



One of the best standby recipes for when there's not much in the house is a frozen pea risotto. Use our risotto recipe as a base, and add around 200g (7oz) thawed frozen peas. You could even purée half the peas to stir in at the end, or mix and match with frozen broad beans or canned asparagus spears.

Get the base risotto recipe here

Fish curry... or make it veggie

<p>Katerina Belaya/Shutterstock</p>

Katerina Belaya/Shutterstock

If you have white fish or prawns in the freezer, you can easily rustle up a Southern Indian-style coconut curry. No fish? Make up the base curry sauce from our fish curry recipe, but instead, add 100g (3.5oz) cashew nuts, soaked in water for 30 minutes, and chopped drained pineapple from a can. Towards the end of cooking, add a handful of dried curry leaves.

Get the recipe for coconut fish curry here

Tuscan tomato soup



This rich, warming soup is made from canned tomatoes, which are cooked slowly to bring out the sweetness. Use croutons from a packet if you don't have any bread to hand. Fresh basil is a lovely addition, but it's fine if you don't have any.

Get the recipe for Tuscan tomato soup here

Soda bread

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Soda bread is incredibly easy to make. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6. Mix 150g (5oz) wholemeal flour with 150g (5oz) plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp salt. Make a well in the centre, then add 1 tbsp treacle and 300ml (10fl oz) buttermilk, or reconstituted milk from powder. If you’re using normal milk, add a squeeze of lemon juice to activate the bicarbonate of soda. Knead briefly into a round and flatten into a 4 cm (1.5 in) disc. Put on an oiled baking sheet. Press a cross in the top, brush with milk and bake for 25-30 minutes. You could add mixed seeds or a few raisins.

Tuna and bean salad

<p>Nelli Syrotynska/Shutterstock</p>

Nelli Syrotynska/Shutterstock

Make the most of the canned beans in your cupboard by creating a salad complete with tuna and a sharp, mustardy vinaigrette – a perfectly healthy and filling lunch. Whisk together 1 tbsp Dijon mustard with 2 tbsp red wine, or white wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in olive or sunflower oil until you have a thick dressing (around 6 tbsp oil). Season well. If you have any sliced onions to add, even better. You could mix in some pitted olives, chopped gherkins or capers too.

Pasta with sardines

<p>P Kyriakos/Shutterstock</p>

P Kyriakos/Shutterstock

A can of sardines makes a great sauce for pasta. Once your onions are soft, add a drained can of sardines and cook them gently until they break up and melt, before adding a can of chopped tomatoes. You could also add a couple of anchovies to the sardines, or try the sauce with wedges of polenta. Cook the polenta with vegetable or chicken stock, spread onto a baking tray to cool, then slice and fry in oil.

Piña colada bread

<p>Jack Monroe/Bluebird</p>

Jack Monroe/Bluebird

This is sunshine in a cake, made with coconut milk and canned pineapple. Our recipe makes a large cake, but you could freeze half or use any leftovers for toasting. It's made from a yeasted dough, so you'll need to allow time for it to rise.

Get the recipe for piña colada bread here

Peanut butter puddings

<p>Planted/Kyle Books</p>

Planted/Kyle Books

Peanut butter, chocolate and caramel – how can you resist? You'll need a little butter or margarine for this recipe, as well as some Aquafaba, the drained liquid from a can of chickpeas. The puddings are accompanied by a chocolate sorbet, which makes this recipe a real treat. It's the warm caramel sauce poured over that's the icing on the cake!

Get the recipe for peanut butter puddings here

Fudgy espresso chocolate brownies

<p>Susanna Blåvar/Sphere</p>

Susanna Blåvar/Sphere

This moreish recipe contains neither dairy nor eggs, so it's a perfect store-cupboard bake. You don't even need to use coffee if you're not too keen on it. It's a simple mixture that takes just 15 minutes to put together.

Get the recipe for fudgy espresso chocolate brownies here

Blueberry and macadamia cheesecake

<p>Alistair Richardson/Michael Joseph</p>

Alistair Richardson/Michael Joseph

You might not believe it, but you don't need soft cheese to make this divine cheesecake. Macadamia nuts or cashews are blitzed with coconut oil and a few other ingredients for the filling, which is poured onto a nutty coconut base. It's then frozen for a few hours before serving. If you have frozen blueberries for the sauce, fantastic. Otherwise, make a purée of dried apricots.

Get the recipe for blueberry and macadamia cheesecake here

Slow-baked chocolate cookie



This is a recipe for slow-cooker lovers. It makes one large cookie that will feed six, and uses simple store cupboard ingredients. If you have ice cream in the freezer to serve it with, even better.

Get the recipe for slow-baked chocolate cookie here

Salty caramel cake

<p>Vegan: The Cookbook/Phaidon</p>

Vegan: The Cookbook/Phaidon

An easy cake that's ready in 20 minutes – what more do you want? Plus, no eggs or butter are needed! The recipe calls for almond butter, but this cake is equally tasty when made with peanut butter instead.

Get the recipe for salty caramel cake here