Please believe me when I say I understand how tempting and easy it is to way, way overdo it in the keeping your kitchen stocked department. I might even pass for a minimalist were you not to take a peek in my cupboards and refrigerator, at which point the cat is very much out of the bag. Hi, my name is Maryse and I’m addicted to buying more groceries and kitchen supplies than a single person could ever possibly need.
In an attempt to try and get a handle on this little problem, I’ve recently taken up challenging myself to make meals that skimp on the surplus without sacrificing quality or flavor. And, as it turns out, there are plenty dishes in which five ingredients are all you need to make a totally top-notch dinner. (For the record, I don’t count staples like salt and pepper or cooking fats like oil and butter and ingredients, those are just necessities of life.) Check out nine favorites.
I’m a big fan of dishes that make cooking cheap and easy without tasting cheap and easy. Case in point: classic Italian risotto. Five basic ingredients—rice, chicken, broth, onion, a little white wine, and grated Parmesan—plus a good, strong stirring arm are all it takes to treat yourself to a luxury-grade dining experience. This lusciously creamy, cheesy dish is the definition of restrained elegance (basically a rice version of the equally awesome Cacio e Pepe pasta), and a hearty, filling meal at that. And this is only the blank canvas version, imagine the possibilities on those nights when you get to splurge for six, seven, or even eight ingredients. Get our Basic Risotto recipe.
Frozen peas show off their prime time potential in this bright, mind-blowingly easy vegetarian soup. As is the case with any successful minimalist meal, the key is being smart about selecting supporting characters; you’re casting for function and flavor. Here, fresh mint packs a punch of bold, bright freshness to complement the sweet peas, while a simple baking potato helps provide thickness and texture (no heavy cream needed!). Get the recipe.
Here’s a clever idea for how to stretch the bounty from one five-ingredient-or-less dinner into another. Shred the leftovers from last night’s finger-lickin’-good roast chicken and throw it in a pot to simmer with some white beans, chicken broth, salsa verde, and ground cumin. And there you have it: fifteen-minute chicken chili. And just in time for football season too. Get the recipe.
I can’t think of a better ingredient duo to carry a small team to victory than butter and garlic. The powerhouse pair are basically the culinary equivalent of having a really great dance partner, they make whoever they’re paired with 10 times better. In this recipe, for example, they’re the Johnny to shrimp’s Baby, lifting the shellfish up to delectable heights. Serve over rice or tossed with pasta. Get our Shrimp Scampi recipe.
Fall into the spirit of the season with this autumn-inspired variation on the creamy, cheesy pasta classic. Try playing up the flavor of the pumpkin purée with crunchy brown butter breadcrumbs or crushed pecans. Get the recipe.
It may not get the top billing in the seafood department the way salmon and swordfish do, but cod is a great choice for those times when you’re buying on a budget. The moist, flaky fish soaks up flavor like a sponge—in this case a sweet-spicy coconut milk, ginger, and green curry broth—not to mention the baking-in-liquid technique used here is a foolproof method for those “but I always overcook fish” naysayers. Get the recipe.
There is nothing hellish about yolky baked eggs in a juicy, chunky, red pepper-flecked tomato sauce. Trust. Sop it all up with a fat, crusty piece of toast (seasoned with garlic and olive oil for extra dramatic effect) and really savor the sin of this perfect breakfast-anytime dish. Get our Eggs in Purgatory recipe.
Pork and apples, a match made in sweet and savory heaven, becomes even more desirable in this clever set-it-and-forget-it application. After six hours in the crock, not only is the meat pull apart-tender, but the thick slices of apple and onion come out the way any sensible person would choose to eat their fruit and veggies: Basted in pork fat. Get the recipe.
Sure, you could easily cook up a tasty, simply marinated steak or basic burger and stay under the five ingredient cap. But neither really quite feels like a complete meal, right? Instead, satisfy your craving for beef with this meaty noodle dish that takes the Cliff’s Notes route to sauce by using canned cream of mushroom soup. Get the recipe.