Pantry Cooking Doesn’t Need to Be Boring

Man looks bored with his dinner
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“We have food at home” is the most boring sentence on the planet. It’s so lame that it’s the subject of a viral meme. It is the response of the health-conscious, budget-conscious parent to the child who wants fast food. And, let’s be honest: it’s the inner adult voice that keeps us on track with health and budget goals when we’d rather take a break from cooking. I don’t know about you, but under the current guidelines to go food shopping no more than once a week, telling myself “we have food at home” is hard. It’s exhausting. One thing cooking from the pantry doesn’t need to be, however, is boring.

Let’s get multicultural.

There are some basic ingredients that get a huge play in different cuisines all over the world. If there’s a staple you rely on, chances are good that you can find recipes from several other cultures that use it. Mix your staples with another culture’s spice and seasonal vegetables, and you can get a completely different dish. Chickpeas are a phenomenal example of this.

Hummus Masabacha

Hummus Masabacha

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Hummus is a more well-known chickpea dish. This Middle Eastern variant, my personal favorite, keeps some of them whole.

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Buffalo Chickpea Salad Wrap

Buffalo Chickpea Salad Wraps

One Guiding Stars iconOne Guiding Stars indicate good nutritional value. Hello, New York. Chickpeas can sub in for chicken in any chicken or tuna salad, honestly.

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Chickpea & Date Tagine

Chickpea & Date Tagine

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Tagines hail from Morocco, and pair tart tomato with sweet dates and spices for a rich dish that's out of this world over couscous.

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Coconut Chickpea Curry

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Curries are gorgeously varied across many cultures. Chickpeas work as your protein in pretty much all of them.

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Mixed Vegetable Pakoras

Mixed Vegetable Pakoras

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. This is a shoutout to chickpea flour, which you can make at home if you're got a powerful food processor.

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This list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s possible with chickpeas alone. When you go hunting outside of your cultural comfort zone with whatever ingredient you’ve got in your pantry, that stale old dish you’re sick to death of making and eating can take a vacation. The Guiding Stars recipe database isn’t a definitive guide to global cuisine, but we have made an effort to include diverse offerings, so it’s a solid place to start.

Let’s mix up the dance card.

Rice and beans are a classic culinary ‘ship. Many cultures have a huge variety of ideas for serving these two ingredients together, so even within the pairing, you can have a lot of fun. That being said…if you’re getting bored of rice and beans, maybe they need to see other ingredients.

Light Valencia Paella

Light Valencia Paella

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Paella is a rice dish that can work with many vegetables or proteins and need not include beans.

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Acorn Squash with White Beans & Sage

Acorn Squash with White Beans & Sage

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Beans can be an excellent partner to all varieties of squash.

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Again, these examples barely begin to poke at the endless possibilities that arise from splitting up a matched set. Used to eating oatmeal with fruit and sugar and nuts? Try it with braised greens, a poached egg, and some hot sauce. Whatever combos you lean on in your kitchen, break them up and let them date around the pantry.

Let’s mess with the temperature.

Anyone who has talked with me about food more than once has probably picked up on the fact that I don’t like gazpacho. Cold, savory soup? No thanks. Smoothies, however, have to be cold. Sweet, warm smoothies? Nope. That being said, millions of people love both of these things. And I have been known to eat a buttered cheese sandwich when I’m in the mood for grilled cheese on a hot day. That’s not a choice that would earn Guiding Stars, but if you’re going to eat a “sometimes” food, choose what you enjoy, right?

My broader point is that eating a traditionally hot food cold or vice versa fundamentally changes the way we experience a dish. Sometimes that’s not great, but it’s a simple and powerful level for making a boring food new again.

Grilled Tomato Gazpacho

Grilled Tomato Gazpacho

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Flavor-wise, this is the best gazpacho I've ever tasted.

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Hot or Cold Chai Smoothie

Hot or Cold Chai Smoothie

One Guiding Stars iconOne Guiding Stars indicate good nutritional value. This hot smoothie is more like chai than a smoothie, but filling enough to be a light meal.

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