No-Cook Pantry Essentials
Protein: Rotisserie Chicken and Pasteurized Lump Crab Meat
From protein, to whole grains, to spreads and sauces, there's a plethora of options to keep on hand for no-cook recipes. These are relatively easy-to-find ingredients that won't require a trip to any specialty stores.
Rotisserie Chicken: Easy to grab-and-go from the grocery store, rotisserie chickens are a no-cook dream. The chicken is already cooked and tender, making it easy to slice, shred, or chop. It makes a wonderful addition to salads, sandwiches, lettuce cups, or bowls. Change the flavor to match your meal by throwing on a sauce or spice blend.
Pasteurized Lump Crab Meat: One of the few seafood options that doesn't suffer from being pre-cooked, pasteurized lump crab meat can help throw together a meal in no time. Sprinkle it atop gazpacho, make a crab salad to stuff into a sandwich, or add as a protein source for tossed salads.
Protein: Prosciutto and Canned Tuna
Prosciutto, a dry-cured ham from Italy, is a paper-thin sliced umami-bomb. Salty and ultra savory, it brings that distinct pork flavor to many dishes. It can be torn into strips for putting on top of salads or in sandwiches, or wrapped around a variety of foods (try avocado or mozzarella cheese) for a salty twist.
Canned tuna sometimes gets a bad reputation, but if you choose a high-quality type packed in olive oil (that is sustainably fished), then it is a great choice for no-cook meals. It can be flaked for tuna salad, which easily goes into a sandwich or atop crackers for a snack, or sliced and added to other dishes.
Protein: Canned Beans and Canned Salmon
An ever versatile ingredient, canned beans in the pantry ensure that you can have a no-cook meal on your table in minutes. Beans can be pureed to be added to soups, spread on sandwiches, or dolloped on tostadas. Keep them whole to easily toss into veggie or grain salads.
Another seafood option, canned salmon is a good protein source and an equally great pantry staple. Salmon salad (made with a mix of relish, mayo, and Dijon mustard) can be added to salads for lunch or dinner, or spread on crackers for easy appetizers or snacks.
Since a no-cook meal means no searing, caramelizing, or sautéing, it's sometimes hard to achieve full-bodied flavor in dishes. This can easily be solved by an assortment of flavor boosters.
Umami-packed products like fish sauce, soy sauce, or nutritional yeast do wonders. Citrus is great for adding a fresh burst of both color and flavor. If you're looking for smokiness, smoked paprika or liquid smoke adds dimension without requiring you to fire up the grill. Vinegar-packed foods, such as capers, olives, or pickles can add awesome tang. And lastly, don't forget about herbs. Whether it's adding cilantro to fresh pico de gallo or basil to a no-cook pesto, herbs can save even the blandest of meals.
Another obstacle that many no-cook dishes face: a lack of crunch. To keep the texture diverse, choose fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds to add different mouth feels.
Sunflower seeds and peanuts don't require toasting to add great flavor and crunchiness. For a fresher option, matchstick-cut jicama or apples, along with shredded red cabbage and chopped water chestnuts are all wonderful options to add some satisfying crunch without having to heat up the stove top.
No Cook: Produce
Fresh produce is a given when it comes to no-cook dinners. Chopped veggies are wonderful building bases for salads, sandwiches, or bowls. Though there's two vegetables that particularly stand out when it comes to no cooking: Avocados and zucchini.
Avocados are a fantastic option to add creamy richness without requiring one bit of cooking. Blend to make a luscious soup base, mash for sandwiches, or use as a healthy fat and protein source in salads.
Zucchinis are the no-cook alternate to pasta. Zoodles (zucchinis that have been put through a spiralizer) can easily hold-their-own against their wheat-based cousins. They work well with pesto, marinara, or even try an Asian flair of peanut sauce.
No Cook: Spreads
No sandwich or wrap is complete without some type of spread. Whether creamy, spicy, tangy, or all three, spreads really add a base of flavor to dishes that you can't skip. Thankfully, even when it's too hot to cook or you need to throw together lunch fast, many spreads don't require cooking.
Hummus is a no-brainer. Rich and thick thanks to tahini and a drizzle of olive oil, it adds a Mediterranean flair to meals. Customize by adding different herbs and spices.
Nut butters on a sandwich can be as basic as making a PB&J, or as unique as pairing pistachio butter and turkey. Mix and match to find your favorite combos. For the freshest taste, check your local grocery store to see if they have a "grind your own" section.
For any Tex-Mex meal, salsa and guacamole are a must. Load up burritos with freshly chopped pico de gallo and lime-y guacamole. Both can easily be prepared with a little knife work or pulse in the food processor.
No Cook: Whole Grains
Whole grains are something we love in regular meals, but many of them require longer cooking times. To cut down on time and save you the hassle of actually cooking, choose grains and grain-based foods that only require soaking.
Bulgur is a magical whole grain that plumps up and softens after soaking for 30 minutes to an hour in warm water. This makes them a great option to be a base for grain bowls, stuffing vegetables like zucchini or bell peppers, or even as a type of porridge for breakfast.
Very thin brown rice noodles (also known as mai fun) only require soaking as well, for a quick 15 minutes. Use as a base for noodle salads, toss with peanut sauce and rotisserie chicken, or just keep it simple and add a dash of low-sodium soy sauce.
No Cook: Wrappers and Bases
It's hard to beat a sandwich or wrap when it comes to easy preparation. Throw in whatever you want, smash on the other piece of bread or roll it up, and viola! You're lunch is ready. If you don't want to just stick with bread-based meals when making no-cook dishes though, you have several options.
Rice paper is a super simple choice for wrapping up delicious fillings. Soak for 15-30 seconds in hot water until soft, and then roll it up. You can stay classic and fill it with Asian ingredients, or go bold and try something new like buffalo chicken with chopped celery and buttermilk ranch. Choose brown rice paper to get an extra serving of whole grains in your meal.
Tostada shells are a tasty base for many meals. Stack on toppings like rotisserie chicken, fresh vegetables, guacamole, and salsa for a filling and delightfully simple dish.