cacio e pepe pasta
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Five ingredient recipes are great, but if even that sounds daunting, don’t despair: you can cut it down to three ingredients and still have a delicious dessert, side, or even a three ingredient main dish for a truly easy meal.

Three. It’s a magic number. The occupancy of Jack Tripper’s apartment (don’t tell Mr. Roper). The worst “Godfather” installment. 

But in this case, it’s the maximum ingredients (with exceptions for water, salt, and pepper—let’s be reasonable here) required to make a variety of delicious recipes. That’s right, the mind-blowing selections featured below are prepared with only three components, which makes them ideal during a time when grocery shopping is particularly stressful. Not only do they deliver on flavor, by keeping things minimal you’ll save on money, cooking time, and clean-up.

Three-Ingredient Desserts & Treats

3 Ingredient Crème Brûlée

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Beyond how easy it is to prepare, this crème brûlée hack is a make-ahead dish. Prep the custard in the afternoon, refrigerate, and when you’re ready to serve a fancy dessert later that evening, just gently caramelize sugar in a small pan, pour, and you’re golden. Get the 3 Ingredient Crème Brûlée recipe.

Dalgona Coffee


Like 3 Ingredient Crème Brûlée, this caffeinated beverage inspired by South Korean Dalgona candy earned viral status on TikTok. Instant coffee, sugar, and milk (plus hot water) are all that’s needed—well, maybe a camera to capture your creation in all its frothy glory. Get the Dalgona Coffee recipe.

Two-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

easy banana ice cream (vegan, no ice cream machine, healthy ice cream)

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This frozen delight is essentially blended bananas (no dairy is added) so vegans can feel free to indulge. Foster-ize with a drizzle of caramel sauce and consider adding a sprinkle of fleur de sel—a little goes a long way. Get our Two-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream.

Toasted Cashew and Bacon Brittle

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Beyond the nuts and pork, sugar, water, and salt are all it takes to make this crunchy confection. Make sure you own a reliable candy thermometer to ensure optimal consistency.  Get our Toasted Cashew and Bacon Brittle recipe.

Lemonade

how to make the best fresh homemade lemonade

Chowhound

Don’t settle for the artificial stuff. Just as its name suggests, this recipe is oh so easy to prepare. Simply combine simple syrup, water, ice, and an obscene amount of lemons (grow a tree in your backyard or make friends with someone who has one), and you’ll be quenching your thirst all summer long. Since water doesn’t officially count as an ingredient, throw in some iced tea or perhaps a shot or two of vodka to hit the ingredient trifecta. Get our Easy Lemonade recipe.

Three-Ingredient Mains

Cacio e Pepe

cacio e pepe pasta

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Parents of picky eaters, pay heed. Cacio e pepe  is a simple crowd-pleaser that not only appeals to a skeptical youngster’s unsure palate but is also a satisfying meal for adults. Think of it as the peppier, upscale version of buttered noodles. Get our Cacio e Pepe recipe.

Related Reading: 3 Easy Pantry Pasta Recipes

Baked Cracker-Crusted Chicken Fingers

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Here’s another family-friendly favorite that’s so easy to make you can put your kids on (supervised) cooking duty. The chicken is coated in crunchy whole-wheat crackers and then baked, which makes this a healthier but no less tasty alternative to your standard fried finger. Get our Baked Cracker-Crusted Chicken Fingers recipe.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Soy Marinade

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Keto followers can get onboard with this Asian-inspired chicken dish. A minimum four hour bath in soy and garlic will infuse your thighs with plenty of flavor. Noodles or rice are optional. Get our Grilled Chicken Thighs with Soy Marinade.

Grilled Sweet Chili and Lime Shrimp Kebabs

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Shrimp on the barbie get an extra kick with a brush of sweet chili sauce. A squeeze of lime at the finish adds welcome brightness (and you can skip the cilantro). Get our Grilled Sweet Chili and Lime Shrimp Kebabs recipe.

Ham and Cheese Quesadillas

ham and cheese quesadilla recipe

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This meaty, melty ‘dilla will take you back to the time in high school when you couldn’t decide between taking Spanish or French. Apparently the best solution was a combination of both. Now the question is: Which cheese is speaking your language? Get our Ham and Cheese Quesadillas recipe.

Pizza Dough Gnocchi

pizza dough gnocchi (what to do with pizza dough, pizza dough hacks)

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Pizza dough offers plenty of versatility Case in point: this chewy gnocchi which is finished with marinara sauce and grated parmesan. It’s basically a pizza pie in a bowl. Get our Pizza Dough Gnocchi recipe.

Eggs in a Nest

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Eggs in a Nest. Toad in a Hole. Whatever you want to call it, this slice of toast with an egg center is a great way to start the morning—or end the day. Be careful to ensure your yolk is runny so the bread can sop up all that liquid gold. Get our Eggs in a Nest recipe.

Three-Ingredient Side Dishes

Crispy Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Crispy Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus recipe

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At its peak in spring, asparagus is delicious roasted but even better when wrapped in cured pork. (Bacon is a totally acceptable substitute if you don’t have prosciutto.) Serve it as an appetizer or a side. Get our Crispy Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus recipe.

Roasted Broccolini

roasted broccolini

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The thin, tender florets on broccolini are well suited for the oven treatment. The stalks slightly soften but still have snap, and when gently brushed with olive oil, the leaves develop a satisfying crispiness. Although they’re just fine without it, consider adding a squeeze of lemon for extra zing. Get our Roasted Broccolini recipe.

Jalapeño Poppers

salsa verde jalapeno popper recipe

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and these happy hour favorites are calling out your name. Peppers. Cream Cheese. Salt. Boom! Yeah, yeah. We know they’re really good deep-fried, but that’s an unnecessary hassle at home when they’re so easy to make in the oven, not to mention way healthier and still damn tasty. Get our Easy Jalapeño Poppers recipe.

Related Reading: 13 Jalapeño Poppers to Spice Things Up

Perfect Baked Potatoes

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There’s a baked potato. And then there’s a perfect baked potato. Follow these steps to achieve spuds nirvana, then consider taking things to the next level with a fully loaded baked potato bar. Get our Perfect Baked Potatoes recipe.

Deviled Eggs

spicy deviled egg recipe

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For a tasty one-ingredient snack, you can’t go wrong with a hard-boiled egg. Even better, add a touch of mayo and sprinkle of paprika for a devilish upgrade. Get the Deviled Eggs recipe.

Related Reading: 7 Devilishly Spicy Deviled Eggs

Three-Ingredient Extras

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

The Perfect Ricotta Cheese

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Other than salt, there are only three ingredients required to make ricotta from scratch. But, you will need some extra hardware including cheesecloth, a fine mesh strainer, and an instant-read thermometer. The investment is worth it to have fresh, fluffy cheese for your toast, pizza, or lasagna. Pass the stuffed shells. Get our Homemade Ricotta Cheese recipe.

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Fall Herb Butter

herb compound butter with blue cheese

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While there’s an abundance of fall herbs in, well, fall, you’ll easily be able to find these year-round at your grocery store. Pick out a couple of your favorites, mince and mash with room temperature butter. Spread it on bread or let it melt atop a sizzling seared steak. Either way, make a large batch because it keeps in the fridge for as long as unseasoned butter and freezes well, too. Get our Fall Herb Butter recipe.

David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.
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