Keep these essential ingredients on hand and in mind. You can combine them in creative ways to yield deliciously quick and healthy weeknight meals.
We've identified 20 ingredients that get our creative juices flowing, from fresh, superconvenient products like bagged baby
spinach, to go-to pantry standards like organic canned black beans, to high-flavor spice-rack heroes like smoked paprika,
which gives a bacon-y savor to foods while adding zero calories and zero saturated fat.
With this list of gold-standard quick-cooking ingredients in hand, we also provide 20 easy recipes perfect for busy nights. We hope these inspire you to stock your own pantry and experiment further. Fast, fresh, and healthy can be something else, too—fun.
Boil-in-bag brown rice is one of the quickest ways to get more whole grains in your diet.
Use for: rice pilaf, rice salad, soups, and stews
Yes, it's possible to riff on the flavors of Spain's most famous dish and make a delicious Quick Paella! Boil-in-bag brown
rice makes a fast, nutty, and nutritious foundation.
View Recipe: Quick Paella
Canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes save you the time and effort of seeding, chopping, and peeling fresh tomatoes.
Use for: marinara sauce, bruschetta, salsa
A robust topping of turkey sausage, onions, diced tomatoes, and peppers crown this satisfying Chicago-style pizza. French
baguette halves mimic the traditional deep-dish crust—a real timesaver.
View Recipe: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pizza
Canned organic black beans offer options for main dishes and sides, and going with organic ensures there's minimal added salt.
Use for: black bean cakes, filling for tacos or burritos, salsa
Using six of our top quick ingredients, Quick Black Bean and Corn Soup is ready in less than 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop
of Greek-style plain yogurt to counteract the spicy chile paste.
View Recipe: Quick Black Bean and Corn Soup
Frozen shelled edamame (soybeans) are a superconvenient way to add color, texture, and protein to most any dish.
Use for: salads, (pureed) dip or spread, whole-grain salads
Frozen shelled edamame makes a hearty addition to this summer staple.
View Recipe: Edamame Succotash
Couscous is one of the easiest and most versatile starches you can find.
Use for: salads, stuffing roasted veggies like zucchini, serving with Moroccan tagines and other stews
These wonderful Mediterranean ingredients combine with quick seafood to produce Greek Couscous with Shrimp. Yogurt adds a
View Recipe: Quick Greek Couscous with Shrimp
Canola mayonnaise has far less saturated fat than conventional store-bought mayo.
Use for: marinades, flavored sandwich spreads, dips
The delicious, rich ingredients in mayonnaise—oil, eggs, and vinegar—work miracles on more than just sandwiches. Try this
fridge-door staple in creative ways from custom dips to marinades.
View Recipes: Mayonnaise Dips, Marinades, and More
Smoked paprika packs a huge punch of flavor—and you don't need to fire up a grill.
Use for: replacing the smoky flavor of bacon, dry rubs on oven-roasted meats, stews, and chili
Smoked paprika gives pork chops a smoky flavor without having to grill. Accompany with an easy side: refrigerated potato wedges
tossed with garlic powder, ground red pepper, and salt, and roasted until crisp.
View Recipe: Smoked Paprika Pork Chops with Bell Pepper and Corn Relish
Frozen corn kernels allow you to skip corn shucking and cutting the kernels from the cob.
Use for: cream-style corn, salsa, corn bread
Is there anything more prosaic than frozen corn? But when it's given a zing from the paprika, combined with other toppings
like cherry tomatoes and black beans, and all laid onto supermarket pizza dough: voilà, Tex-Mex Confetti Pizza, a crowd-pleaser.
View Recipe: Tex-Mex Confetti Pizza
Grape tomatoes add a quick splash of color and flavor.
Use for: pasta tosses, salads, garnish
You're reading the recipe correctly: There are green grapes in this dish. Their juicy, crisp, and bright sweetness complements
the tomatoes and provides a nice contrast to feta's creamy tang. Besides the pan-grilled asparagus shown, any green vegetable
sautéed or grilled with a little garlic, salt, and pepper makes a good side―try spinach, broccoli, or even kale.
View Recipe: Bow Ties with Tomatoes, Feta, and Balsamic Dressing
Fresh pasta cooks in half the time it takes to cook dried. Here we focused on fresh ravioli.
Use for: soups, baked casseroles, appetizers
We're suckers for a bit of pan-fried goodness, and panko plus ravioli delivers. Use your favorite ravioli—we like cheese or
spinach filling. Serve with garlicky broccoli rabe or wilted greens, such as chard or kale.
View Recipe: Quick Crisp Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Large eggs: There's simply no quicker protein, and they're just so versatile.
Use for: binder in patties and meatballs, salad topper, thickening and enriching sauces and salad dressings, or bulking up fried rice
The simplest supermarket ingredients make a Garden Omelet that works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even faster: Buy presliced
View Recipe: Quick Garden Omelet
Plain 2% reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt is luscious, smooth, and rich, not chalky like traditional plain yogurt.
Use for: dips, sauces, marinades
Make your own tzatziki sauce out of Greek-style yogurt, fresh dill, and red wine vinegar to accompany grilled pork chops.
Serve with pita wedges: Cut two pita rounds in half, and cut each half into quarters and toast.
View Recipe: Greek-Style Pork Chops
Pitted kalamata olives add a rich, meaty, and unique flavor to any dish they grace.
Use for: tapenade, pasta dishes, roast with chicken or vegetables
This dish uses components of the classic salade niçoise—tuna, olives, and green beans. By using two of our top quick ingredients,
pitted olives and couscous, the one-dish meal comes together in no time.
View Recipe: Niçoise-Style Couscous Salad
Refrigerated red potato wedges are ready to cook straight out of the bag.
Use for: potato salad, roasted potato sides, soup
Thanks to a bevy of frozen and refrigerated veggies, this chowder comes together quickly but has fresh flavor and is packed
with nutrition. The go-to ingredients here are refrigerated red potato wedges (ready to cook straight out of the bag), frozen
corn kernels (saves you from shucking and cutting corn from the cob), and frozen shelled edamame (which add color, texture,
and protein to this dish). Blending half the corn with chicken broth creates a creamy base so you need less half-and-half.
View Recipe: Quick Corn and Edamame Chowder
Bagged baby spinach saves you the time and trouble of removing the stems.
Use for: pizza topping, pasta dishes, wilted for a green side dish or salad
Bagged baby spinach helps this main-dish salad come together in a flash. Substitute leftover cooked salmon for the sliced
smoked salmon, if you prefer.
View Recipe: Summer Farfalle Salad with Smoked Salmon
Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) is every bit as convenient but tastes better than bland dry breadcrumbs. Panko also gives foods
a supercrisp crust.
Use for: filler for meatballs, crab cakes, and the like; breading for oven-fried shrimp or fish fillets; casserole toppings
The tang of soy and spice of chile combine to yield a tasty, quick Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts. The creamy mayo helps panko
crumbs cling to the chicken while you pan-fry it to a crispy finish.
View Recipe: Quick Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts
Presliced fresh cremini mushrooms allow you to simply dump and stir.
Use for: sauces, casseroles, stuffings, or fillings
We made over this classic beef-and-noodles dish by cutting 30% of the calories and more than half the total fat. Presliced
mushrooms saves you time at the cutting board.
View Recipe: Beef Stroganoff
Lower-sodium soy sauce adds depth and flavor to a wide range of dishes, not just Asian foods.
Use for: fajita and other marinades, roasting veggies, dipping sauces
Adding just a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce to the pork at the end of cooking gives the dish just enough of that salty,
savory "umami" flavor to balance the sweet mango. Enjoy these fajitas with lime wedges and Mexican beer.
View Recipe: Pork Fajitas with Mango
Chile paste (sambal oelek) is an all-purpose hot sauce.
Use for: marinades, vinaigrettes for steamed vegetables, scrambled or poached eggs
The base of the sauce, a simplified version of harissa, is sambal oelek chile paste combined with cumin, coriander, and minced
garlic. Serve with green beans and potato wedges.
View Recipe: Roast Leg of Lamb with Chile-Garlic Sauce
Fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth is indispensable for fast cooking.
Use for: poaching liquid, sauces, braising and stewing liquid
Poaching the chicken in broth makes the chicken juicy and tender. It also deepens the flavor of the broth, which is then used
to cook the couscous for this healthful and easy one-pot meal.
View Recipe: Couscous Chicken Salad