15 best pantry staples for healthy meals

Lifestyle & Wellness

These 15 pantry staples for healthy meals will help you make fun, nutritious and inexpensive meals at home! Make a million different meals with these pantry staples that are great for a variety of diets.

Having a stocked pantry can be a powerful tool in the fight to build simple, nutritious and fun meals! Plus, isn’t it the worst thing when you’re trying to make a recipe and realize you don’t have one of the ingredients in your pantry?! Or when you’re stocked up on things like beans or random things and don’t know what to do with them. This pantry staple list is here to help!

We are currently facing the corona virus pandemic here in the U.S. and practicing social distancing to avoid spreading the virus and helping to flatten its curve. While it’s an unknown time for my family, friends and the entire world, I thought I would put together this list in the hopes that it helps you make some nice meals with what you have in your pantry while you are staying home too at this time.

In the midst of so much uncertainty and anxiety in the world, I always like to look at the positive and try to make the best of every situation. When life gives you lemons, you know? Well when life tells us to stay home and eat what’s in our pantry, I’ve got the meal ideas you should consider making!

In the spirit of limiting trips to the grocery store, grab some of these pantry staples next time you’re going to the store or ordering groceries online so that you’re prepared to make simple and healthy meals with what you have!

15 best pantry staples for healthy & simple meals

  1. Canned black beans or pinto beans
  2. Canned chickpeas or white beans
  3. Canned tomatoes
  4. Canned pumpkin puree
  5. Chicken or vegetable broth
  6. Quinoa, brown rice, or farro
  7. Oats
  8. Nuts
  9. Canned tuna or salmon
  10. Tortillas
  11. Salsa
  12. Lentils (any variety!)
  13. Nut butter
  14. Crackers
  15. Marinara Sauce

balanced pasta bowl

what you’ll need:

  • box of pasta (wheat, chickpea or lentil will work)
  • 2 cups greens like spinach, arugula, or kale
  • 1 cup veggies like zucchini, peppers, cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • marinara sauce
  • cheese (optional)
  • spices of your choice

how to make it:

Pasta acts as a blank canvas for more nutrition in this recipe! Cook pasta according to package directions. Get the veggies and greens washed and prepped. I recommend sautéing the greens until they’re slightly wilted. Combine and top with marinara sauce, cheese and spices like Italian seasonings, garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes.

bean quesadillas

what you’ll need:

  • tortillas
  • pinto beans or canned pumpkin
  • black beans
  • spinach
  • cheddar cheese
  • garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

how to make it:

Spread pinto beans or canned pumpkin on one side of the tortilla (about 1-2 tbsp.). Top with garlic powder, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, plus about 1/2 cup of rinsed and drained black beans.

Add cheese and spinach and press to warm up in a mini panini grill or sauté on a pan until slightly crispy. Top with salsa, guacamole and enjoy!

chili of your choice

what you’ll need:

  • black beans
  • pinto beans
  • pumpkin puree
  • canned tomatoes
  • vegetable broth
  • tomato paste
  • peppers (optional)
  • onion
  • garlic / garlic powder
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt & pepper

how to make it:

Get the full recipe for my chili here. While this version calls for ground turkey, you can swap it for can of black beans and pinto beans for a more pantry-friendly version.

salmon or tuna cakes

what you’ll need:

  • canned salmon or canned tuna
  • oats
  • 1 egg
  • mustard
  • lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • turmeric
  • salt & pepper

how to make it:

Grab the full recipe here, and yes you can definitely use canned tuna instead of salmon!

salmon oat cakes

plant-based veggie grain bowl

what you’ll need:

  • quinoa, farro or brown rice
  • sweet potato or butternut squash
  • greens like kale, lettuce, spinach or arugula
  • almonds or nuts of your choice
  • cheese like parmesan or feta (omit for a dairy free option)

how to make it:

Cook your grain of choices according to the package directions. Prepare the veggies and greens you are using by washing and chopping. When the grains are cooked toss everything together and top with nuts and cheese. As you can see this recipe is super interchangeable. There’s no hard rules except for making sure you have at least 2 types of veggies in there!

lentil tacos

what you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 can of cooked lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • tortillas
  • guacamole/salsa
  • jalapeno
  • cilantro

how to make it:

Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat. Stir in olive oil, garlic, and shallot. Cook until fragrant.

Slightly reduce heat, then stir in tomatoes, water, lentils, and taco seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes until lentils are done.

Assemble tacos by adding lentils, lettuce, and any other veggies into a tortilla. Top with guacamole, salsa, or hot sauce jalapeños and cilantro.

cracker/nut crusted chicken tenders

what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb package boneless chicken tenders
  • crackers (these are my favorite from Simple Mills)
  • pumpkin seeds or nuts
  • 1 egg
  • honey
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper

how to make it:

Grab the full recipe here including a recipe for healthy honey mustard sauce that is perfect for dipping them into.

cracker crusted chicken tenders

kitchen sink pasta salad

what you’ll need:

  • pasta ( I like to use chickpea pasta here, like Banza
  • kale
  • peppers, carrots, olives, artichokes or other similar veggies you have on hand
  • olive oil
  • tahini
  • apple cider vinegar
  • maple syrup
  • lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • parmesan cheese

how to make it:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Wash and chop about 2 1/2 cups of veggies you have on hand (in my version I used kale, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and olives).

In a small bowl make the tahini dressing by whisking together 1/4 cup tahini, 1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup, juice of half of a lemon, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, salt and pepper, and 2-3 tbsp. water to thin it out so that it’s the consistency of salad dressing.

Toss the pasta with the veggies and pour the dressing over it so that it coats the whole thing. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

kitchen sink pasta salad ingredients
kitchen sink pasta salad with creamy tahini dressing

chickpea pizza

what you’ll need:

  • chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • olives and or artichokes
  • cucumber
  • avocado (optional)
  • feta cheese
  • red wine/balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • oregano
  • garlic powder

how to make it:

Grab the full recipe for the chickpea salad here and simply add to a pizza crust to make this a greek pizza!

mediterranean chickpea salad with cucumbers, feta, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and carrots

chickpea pumpkin blondies

what you’ll need:

  • chickpeas
  • peanut butter
  • maple syrup
  • pumpkin puree
  • vanilla
  • pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • chocolate chips

how to make them:

Grab the gluten and dairy free recipe for chickpea pumpkin blondies here. Don’t have pumpkin? Don’t worry! You can leave it out for an equally delicious treat!

gluten and dairy free chickpea pumpkin blondies

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15 best pantry staples for healthy meals
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  1. So happy to have discovered your website and all of your fabulous recipes. it is so beautifully organized. your recommendation for Staples to have is so so good. Now during isolation I can’t go to the library to print any recipes so I have handwritten many of them and it was worth the effort. thank you thank you