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18 Dinners to Make When Your Pantry's As Empty As Your Stomach

It is 7 P.M. You haven’t been to the grocery store since last week, you are famished, and you have no ideas. You have two options:

  1. You can panic at the steep downward trajectory of your blood sugar and get takeout. (Been there. This is a perfectly reasonable response.)
  2. You can open up the cabinets and treat what you find like your personal Chopped basket of ingredients. Onions? A can of chickpeas? A wan tomato? A jar of green sauce? (Or even sparser—garlic, eggs, water?) Challenge accepted.

The latter kind of dinner, the soup-from-a-stone kind, is sometimes the most satisfying. You’ve wrung everything you possibly could from your little kitchen and fed yourself well. Should you need a little inspiration—well, we bet your pantry and the dregs of your refrigerator could produce at least a few of the following 18 recipes:

  • Chickpeas + onion + pinches of turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne + cilantro:
Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas
Joan’s on Third’s Curried Chickpeas
by Ali Slagle
  • Canned tomatoes + onion + red pepper flakes + water + basil:
Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup
Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup
by Genius Recipes
  • White beans + garlic + water + parsley:
Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley
Marcella Hazan’s White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley
by Genius Recipes
  • Canned tomatoes + onion + butter (bonus points if you add cooked pasta):
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
by Genius Recipes
  • Black beans + onion + celery + a little rum:
Black Beans and Rum (for Poor Poets and Others)
Black Beans and Rum (for Poor Poets and Others)
by Kate Kenderish
  • Cornmeal + water—just top it with whatever leftovers you have! (Or maybe some equally pantry-sourced tomato sauce?):
Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile
Carlo Middione’s Polenta Facile
by Genius Recipes
  • Garlic + stale bread + paprika + water + eggs:
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
by Marian Bull
  • Whatever potatoes you have + handful of cilantro or whatever green thing’s wilting in your fridge + peas (they could be frozen!):
Roasted Potatoes with Green Sauce
Roasted Potatoes with Green Sauce
by Cle-ann
  • Leftover rice + scallions + kimchi + gochujang + sesame oil + soy sauce:
Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Fried Rice
by Allison (Spontaneous Tomato)
  • Eggs + literally anything you find in the fridge:
How to Make Any Frittata in 5 Steps
How to Make Any Frittata in 5 Steps
by Kenzi Wilbur
  • Pasta + white beans (or whatever protein you’ve got on hand) + lemons + capers + shallots or onion + white wine:
How to Piccata Anything
How to Piccata Anything
by Marian Bull
  • Potatoes + green chiles + ground coriander + ground cumin + onion + garlic + a little yogurt and cilantro (if you have them) to serve:
Deborah Madison's Potato and Green Chile Stew
Deborah Madison’s Potato and Green Chile Stew
by Genius Recipes
  • Carrots + lentils + red wine vinegar + mustard + za’atar + feta:
Carrot, Lentil, and Feta Salad
Carrot, Lentil, and Feta Salad
by Christopher Kibler
  • Pasta + butter + onions + Madeira (but you could use sherry or Marsala or stock instead, if that’s what you have!). And if you have thick yogurt, too, you can make this:
Braised Onion Sauce
Braised Onion Sauce
by Kenzi Wilbur
  • Rice + eggs + onions + coconut milk + garlic + turmeric + chili powder + tamarind paste (or, if you don’t have it, a little brown sugar mixed with lime juice):
Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry
Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry
by Kenzi Wilbur
  • Carrots + ginger + onion + garlic + stock:
Roasted Carrot Soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
by Reeve
  • White beans + tuna + (red) onion + eggs + lemon + parsley or scallions or both + dukkah (or another spice mix you love!):
White Bean and Tuna Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs and Dukkah
White Bean and Tuna Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs and Dukkah
by olive
  • Lentils + butter + curry powder + coconut milk + onion + garlic:
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter
by Sarah Jampel

What do you make when the pantry’s bare? Give us your best ideas in the comments.

This article originally appeared on September 17, 2016. We’re re-running it now in light of winter storm season (and sparse pantries).

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