What are your favourite recipes that use no fresh ingredients?
June 15, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

What are your favourite recipes that use no fresh ingredients?

I would like to assemble a list of delicious recipes for meals that require no fresh ingredients.

The ingredients I'm thinking of are things like tinned goods, long-life vegetables (like potatoes and onions), dried food, noodles/pasta, dried herbs and spices etc. Ingredients that you'd normally consider perishable (like milk/eggs) are OK, as long as they are available in packages/forms that can be stored for a long time without refrigeration (e.g. UHT milk/dried egg powder).

Basically, imagine you're waiting out the zombie apocalypse, or supplying a field expedition that needs to survive for a few months without getting bored of food options.

So, MeFites, what are your favourite recipes that match these criteria?
posted by jonesor to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
Black Bean Soup

3 cans of black beans
1 or 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles (depending on how spicy you want the soup to be)
1 T cumin powder

Puree one can of black beans in a blender until smooth. Mix all ingredients in a pot on the stove or crock pot until heated through.

If possible, serve with sour cream or guacamole.
posted by wwartorff at 7:42 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Coconut Milk Rice and Beans

1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of rice
1 can of kidney beans
spices, if possible

Cook the rice in coconut milk and then add the kidney beans. Add any desired spices.
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade is what you're looking for. She mainly cooks with bacon bits, funfetti cake mixes, and things that come in a can.
posted by raztaj at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2010

Spaghetti with clam sauce:

Boil your dried spaghetti. This is extremely complex but I'm sure you can figure it out.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, heat a few cloves of minced garlic and a high quality can of clams (reserve the juice) in either some butter or olive oil (I like to do half and half) for about two minutes. Add oregano, red chili flakes, salt, pepper, and the clam juice, and let it reduce for about three minutes. Add a little cream or milk, or maybe a little flour mixed into some stock to help add body to the sauce.

Toss to coat the pasta. Grate your long-lasting block of Parmesan cheese over it while it's still hot.

(This was pretty much the first thing I ever learned how to cook, after cinnamon toast and hot chocolate from scratch.)
posted by Mizu at 7:50 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jasmine Rice with Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry

1 can of coconut milk
1 can of sliced mushrooms
1 can of sliced bamboo shoots
1 can of sliced water chestnuts
1 can of baby corn
1 tsp (or more) of thai red curry paste
Any other edible meat or vegetables that survived the nuclear zombie apocalypse

Warm up some oil, add the red curry paste till it is smoking, add all the vegetables and stir till they are coated well with the oil and spices. Add coconut milk and simmer. Serve with jasmin rice.

Jasmin Rice

1 cup of rice
1.5 cups of water

Add water and rice to saucepan, and bring to boil. When it begins to boil, turn it down to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, rice is done in 10 more minutes.
posted by hariya at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2010

Pasta putanesca! You can google recipes but it's basically:
canned tomatoes
anchovies (jarred or canned)
kalamata olives
red pepper flakes

An alternative is tuna spaghetti

1 can tuna
lemon juice
red peppers
posted by vespabelle at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm always linking to this Minestrone. If you use canned veggies instead of the frozen green beans (which I've done with great success) then it is completely non-perishable. I always leave out the frozen spinach too.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily add to it but even just the way it is it is very tasty and filling. I usually add rice to it, and it's really good if you add some shredded rotisserie chicken or summer sausage. I've also added zuchinni and other in season veggies. I always keep the basic ingredients on hand for a quick meal for when I'm sick or just really tired.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2010

Pasta with pesto and tinned peas (and bacon/ham if you eat that kinda thing). Pasta-pesto-dried mushrooms. Pasta-dried mushrooms-dried chillis-oliveoil. (Indeed, my shopping can be somewhat haphazard, and I expect I'd be dead by now if it wasn't for pasta-pesto-X dishes).

Soymince is a great standby - add to tinned tomatoes, onions and oregano for a pseudo-bolognese; add to tinned tomatoes and carrots, top with instant mash, voila! vegetarian shepherds' pie.
posted by handee at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2010

Pilaki, this recipe specifically.

You can leave out the parsley (or use dried), and use canned tomatoes (2 15-oz. cans is the right amount). Other ingredients are dry beans, carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic, which all keep a pretty long time. (I usually use jarred minced garlic and often frozen chopped onions to save chopping time.)

It's extremely delicious as a normal thing, not just as a "pantry foods" dish.

There's a book out there called "A Man, A Can, A Plan" which is mostly meals made from cans of Campbell's Soup. Some of them involve, like, chicken breasts, or frozen hash browns, but a lot of them just involve beans and tomatoes and other canned goods.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:08 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I made gumbo with shrimp and sausage that you could make entirely from cans. I believe it was based off of this. Shrimp comes in tins, or you can find dried shrimp at the local Asian grocery. The sausage can be replaced with something like jerky. Skip the peppers and celery, onions last forever, and (at least where we live) the only okra available is in cans. Everything else is pretty long-lasting.

In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking of things that can't be found in some ultra-preserved form. You'd be most hard-up finding delicate leafy vegetables and non-dried meat.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2010

10 years ago Real Simple had an article titled "Pantry Dinner's" and I use many of these recipes to this day. You might have to substitute some of the few fresh items (canned carrots for fresh etc) Here are my favorites:
Chickpea Orzo

Serves 4 Hands-On Time: 20m Total Time: 35m

* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 1 medium carrot, finely diced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
* 5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
* 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
* 2 tablespoons chili sauce


1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. Sauté the onion, carrot, and garlic with the curry powder and thyme until onion is soft. Add the orzo and sauté until the pasta is lightly browned.
2. Stir in the chicken broth, chickpeas, and chili sauce; bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the stew 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the orzo is fully cooked. (The stew should be a little brothy, not dry.)

By Susan Quick, May 2000

Serves 4 Hands-On Time: 15m Total Time: 30m

* 2 (14 3/4-ounce) cans red or pink salmon, drained
* 1 1/4 cups dry bread crumbs
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1 large egg, beaten
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 cup capers, drained
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
* 2 cups instant brown rice
* 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, optional
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* kosher salt
* lemon slices


1. Remove skin and large bones from salmon. Combine in a bowl with 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg, Worcestershire sauce, capers, and tarragon, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix together well and form into 12 small patties. Coat salmon patties in remaining bread crumbs.
2. Cook rice according to package directions. Leave covered and set aside while you cook the salmon cakes.
3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Sauté patties in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
4. Toss rice with the parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, and kosher salt to taste. Serve with salmon cakes and lemon slices.
posted by momochan at 8:28 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The classic! Green Bean Casserole (just replace milk with evaporated milk...or no milk at all)
posted by General Malaise at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2010

My mom's "Homemade Soup" is a surprisingly tasty vegetable soup that got our family through a lot of tough times when I was a kid. It makes enough to feed a family of 4 for a couple-few meals and freezes well, too.

1 can of corned beef
1 large can tomato juice or V8
2 cans Veg-All
1 can shoepeg white corn-partially drained
1 can diced tomatoes.

Mix it all together and simmer for at least half an hour. Sometimes she'd add alphabet pasta in toward the end; any other small, quick-cooking dried pasta should work, too.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:52 AM on June 15, 2010

Pasta tossed with marinated artichokes and grated cheese.
posted by jgirl at 10:38 AM on June 15, 2010

Do onions count as not-fresh? They keep for months, usually.

If so, muhjadarrah gets my vote - lentils (the green french kind are best) and rice (I like brown) with onions sauteed in lots of olive oil. I like this recipe.

If onions don't count, lentils and rice with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper is still lovely. Add some canned tomato, too.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

vegetarian chili? a few cans of tomatoes, some spices, maybe an onion if you've got it, and some cans of beans would be a very basic recipe. add cans of chiles and stuff if you want to get fancy. it's not texas cookoff chili, but i'm sure it's passable.
posted by kerning at 10:45 AM on June 15, 2010

Do you think of onions as "fresh"? If you're like me and you think of them as pantry items, then pasta fagioli qualifies...

Sweat half an onion in some olive oil with some dried oregano
Throw in a ~15 oz can of cannellini beans
Heat through to absorb the onion flavor
Crush a ~15 oz can of good whole peeled tomatoes in your hands
Add tomato pulp and can juices to pan
Add 1 cup soup-size pasta (I use ditalini; anything small will work)
Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding water to make desired consistency
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

There's unlimited ways to make it fancier I guess, but really, i don't think there's many simpler recipes on earth!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 11:21 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Tuna noodle casserole - consists of cooked noodles, 2 cans of mushroom soup, canned tuna and canned peas. You can add onion and garlic powder for flavor.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:19 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have dehydrated mashed potatoes: Potato Pearls.
My favorite dish is Shepherds Pie (vegetarian) with frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes, the onion is once again the only thing I don't get from the freezer or a can, and really dehydrated onions would work just as well.
I googled a recipe for you: it's not mine, but it's not that different.
posted by krieghund at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pita, summer-sausage, and cheese (a hard cheese can last 3 weeks unrefrigerated) sandwiches. Not sure if cucumber falls within the parameters but they good for adding some juice and texture.
posted by hubs at 2:29 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shit on a shingle:

4½ oz. dried beef
2 cups milk (powdered milk in your case)
2 tbs. butter
¼ cup flour
Salt and pepper
6 slices bread
Melt butter in pan, add dried beef. Cook 2-3 minutes to brown. Add flour and mix with dried beef . Add milk (reserve ¼ cup for later), salt & pepper. Bring to boil. Add remaining milk to thin to your desired likeness. Serve over toast.
posted by hubs at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2010

Boil water.

Frozen escargot with garlic-parsley butter already packed into the shells (these are available at my local fish market), in the oven for 10 minutes at 410º.

Linguine, in boiling water. When it's done, into bowl. Pour escargot butter from shells into bowl, then pull escargot from shells and add them, then any liquid that's in the bottom of the shells. Toss with salt and freshly-finely-ground pepper.

Serve, with a little pecorino grated over.
posted by nicwolff at 2:38 PM on June 15, 2010

Oh, no refrigeration? You should have said up front... Never mind! (Everyone else, enjoy!)
posted by nicwolff at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2010

Tuna-Cannelini bean salad - (one tin of the best tuna you can afford, one can beans, olive oil) - is generally best with some red onion and fresh lemon juice and maybe some parsley, but not at all bad with vinegar and capers instead.
It's my go-to no-cook, no-shop meal-in-2-minutes.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:46 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of great ideas in this Chowhound thread
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:00 PM on June 15, 2010

I love the 'farmers platter' it's basically whatever pickled relishes and canned stuff layed out like an appetizer plate.
I usually put down some hummous (can be found canned in your local mid-east market) baba ganoush, olives, pickled peppers, pickles whatever, saurkraut. Then i lay all of this down on some wasa crackers or some of those giant swedish cracker breads, yum.

Wash it all down with a nice bunker temperature bottle of red and you've got your self a sophisticated euro style meal
posted by iondiode at 4:37 PM on June 15, 2010

Easy vegan chocolate cake, its an interesting one this as the vinegar and baking soda react to give bubbles in the cake you would normally expect to find from eggs and so everything can be kept in the store cupboard. Bit of Harold McGhee wizardry going on here. Its very very good, bit like a brownie but WAYYYY more palatable than it sounds. Definitly a keeper.

* 2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
* 2 cups organic cane sugar
* 1 cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
* 2/3 cup organic canola oil
* 2 teaspoons organic white vinegar
* 2 cups cold water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, or place liners in 2 muffin pans for 24 cupcakes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the vanilla extract, oil, vinegar, and cold water.

Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. The mixture will be quite wet, but this is okay.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. For cupcakes, the baking time is 24 to 26 minutes.

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Easiest-Chocolate-Cake-354010#ixzz0qy5kKymz
posted by camerasforeyes at 4:49 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mother-in-law's Chicken Pot Pie is always a hit when it's a bit frosty and there's nothing much in the fridge

1 can of low sodium Campbells cream of chicken
1 can of low sodium mixed veggies
1 can of Swanson white breast chicken meat
1 ready made pie crust (not frozen)

No draining vegetables. Break up chicken with a fork. Season to taste.

Put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes @ 360-375.
posted by arishaun at 6:21 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tomato Lentil Soup!

3 x 400g Tins of Crushed Tomatoes
1 cup of red lentils
Stock, from a cube. Yes, I know. Use it anyway. If you really can't, TetraPak'd stock. Massal Veggie is good.

ALSO GOOD! -One Onion, -Two Carrots (Root veggies. Last ages.)

GREAT IF YOU HAVE IT - Parmesan Cheese and a preserved meat, like Lup Chong, Salami, Proscuitto, or even bacon. Not Spam (No hate on it, it's the wrong style, we're talking fatty, spiced meat that's air-safe)

If there's an ingredient you don't have, leave out the concerned steps.
  • Dice onion and carrot and soften in oil
  • Add tomatoes without draining, stir and bring to a boil
  • Add the stock. If using liquid stock, add the lentils. Otherwise, boil them separately
  • After 30 minutes the lentils are cooked, the soup is broken down. Stir in the Lentils
  • Fry the meat in very thin slices until crispy.
  • Top bowls of soup with cheese and/or meat
Cooking the lentils in the soup can lead to very mushy/dissolved lentils. If you want them more substantial, cook them by themselves in another pot and just stir through.
posted by Quadlex at 10:20 PM on June 15, 2010

Much better than it sounds, & super-easy: 6 can chicken tortilla soup.
posted by easilyamused at 11:44 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Fresh" salsa made from canned tomatoes.

And what my friends call desert soup:
- Water
- A good bit of soy sauce
- Vegetarian soup stock
- dried mushrooms
- rice noodles
posted by talldean at 6:05 AM on June 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far! These are great - just the sort of thing I'm looking for!
There's always room for more though, so keep 'em coming!
posted by jonesor at 6:09 AM on June 16, 2010

I'm going to have to put one unvote for Sandra Lee's semi-homemade. For one, it's just about not making it from scratch, so she uses grocery perishables constantly. But more importantly, her recipes are awful.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:47 PM on June 17, 2010

Pasta Salad With Peas and Tuna

450 g package of pasta (bowtie, rotini, or farfalla all work well)
2 tins of premium tuna in oil (flaked, preferably, so you don't have to flake it yourself)
1 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup lemon juice (if you don't have a fresh lemon, the bottled stuff works just fine)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta until al dente. One minute before you're going to drain it, Add the peas in the cooking water. Drain pasta and peas and combine with tuna and oil. Mix in a 1/4 cup of lemon juice (or more, to taste). Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. If you have a bottle of capers you can add some of those too.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:40 PM on June 19, 2010

Chickpea Tahini Casserole. I always make it without onions and it's still great. It's also a really versatile recipe, you can experiment with other types of beans/nut butters. Serve with canned green beans.
posted by davar at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2010

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