What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan store cupboard comfort meals?
November 14, 2023 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Trying to eat more out of the cupboards for budget reasons, rather than either making lots of big meals with lots of ingredients or ordering takeout when I can’t think what to cook. I also batch cook so I do get my vegetables. I always have rice and pasta and cans of beans and a pretty well stocked spice cupboard. I eat burrito bowls, pasta with pesto, cannellini beans on toast and baked in tomato sauce with cheese a lot - looking for more similar recipes which use store cupboard items.
posted by chives to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Apologies for addition - in case it’s not clear, open to different things and looking to expand that small list of ingredients, not just looking for more things I can make with those.
posted by chives at 2:51 PM on November 14, 2023

When we're too tired to cook, we often make what we call "beans and sauce": a jar of pasta sauce and a can of chickpeas, heated together in a saucepan. With a little more creative energy one can throw in a bunch of spinach or kale torn into pieces. Also good with added feta cheese, or over any kind of bread or crackers.
posted by heatherlogan at 3:05 PM on November 14, 2023 [14 favorites]

Best answer: The Marcella Hazan tomato sauce is the first thing that comes to mind. It needs onions and butter which aren't cupboard ingredients but still likely things you'll have at home.

I make a vegetarian chili that is pretty easy with frozen mirepoix, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and taco seasoning. You can optionally add frozen corn to it. It's a really low-effort meal that is quite good.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:06 PM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

A good one is vegetarian pastitsio - it's easy to add vegetables to.
posted by coffeecat at 3:11 PM on November 14, 2023

Best answer: Our go-to: Fry slices of tubed polenta, then add to the same pan a can of tomatoes, a can of beans, a can of chiles. If you have cheese and/or an egg to add to the pan = better, and if you have a dollop of Greek yogurt on hand to top it off = even better.
posted by ojocaliente at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2023 [8 favorites]

Best answer: i make a lot of not especially authentic but still very delicious thai curry:
- 1 can thai curry paste, preferably maesri brand
- 1 can coconut milk
- shelf-stable extra-firm silken tofu
- bok choy or big handfuls of kale

heat the curry paste and coconut milk together, add the tofu and simmer until heated through, add bok choy or greens at the very end. if you like, you can sauté onions and ginger in the curry paste with a touch of extra oil before adding the coconut milk, but it tastes great either way. sometimes i add bamboo shoots or baby corn as well. serve over rice.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 3:49 PM on November 14, 2023 [9 favorites]

Idk where you are, but if you live near a large Caribbean population, you can get frozen yuca in most grocery stores. A 4-5 pound bag cooks in a little over an hour, mostly unattended (sweet yuca is the less toxic type of manioc and it needs to be kept boiling for 30 mins and then drained — no water changes), and is a great fiber & starch base to like a weeks worth of meals for two people.

It’s good under beans, greens, and whatever. A typical way to make it is to boil it, drain it, and then chop it up with a big spoon, adding sautéed onions with mojo (you could literally sub a vinaigrette).

I know that sounds like a lot, and if you can’t get yuca, well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But if you can, it’s like one try to learn to prepare it and then you make it once a week and eat it for days.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:54 PM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My always-in-the-cupboard ingredients include instant yeast (or active dried yeast) and all-purpose flour, along with the BudgetBytes recipe for Thin and Crispy Pizza Crust. (No rise required, though I typically do let it rest for a bit.) You may even be able to make "mixes" with this recipe (put the flour, salt, and instant yeast in individual containers, then add water to mix it up). I've never tried making mixes with it since it's so fast, but I think it would work. (Bonus if you keep some cornmeal on-hand for your baking tray—the cornmeal gives it a nice texture.)

Anything you make with a saucy consistency could conceivably be baked on top: it's a great way to use up that awkward bit of sauce leftover from pasta night or odds and ends of cheeses.

Alternatively: dried fruit, nuts, and crackers are great for an impromptu cheeseboard when combined with hardboiled eggs and any fruit you have left in the fridge!
posted by lavenderhaze at 3:54 PM on November 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

My favorite pasta e ceci recipe: https://smittenkitchen.com/2017/10/quick-pasta-and-chickpeas-pasta-e-ceci/
posted by somedaycatlady at 4:23 PM on November 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Tomato salad with crispy chickpeas - I made this out of curiosity because it uses mayonnaise for frying the chickpeas, and I usually only make the chickpeas part now. The mayo seems to be a good vehicle for the flavors.

Foul mudammas - also made this out of curiosity because I've never had canned fava beans. Thought it was pretty good, though I'm sure making them from scratch must be better. Then it turns out the Mediterranean grocery has like four shelves of types of canned fava beans, so I should really make it a couple more times just to try them out, obviously..

Chana Saag - this is another convenience dish for me due to canned chickpeas + frozen spinach + coconut milk. Personally I think you can double the curry powder, but I guess that depends on your curry powder. Paneer a nice addition if you can get it.
posted by automatic cabinet at 4:30 PM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

I love using dry goods from my local Asian market for this! You can stock up on a few different categories and then always have a quick meal all (or mostly) from your cupboard. You can do stir-fry, soups, braised dishes, all with just a few ingredients.
Bean curd rolls (eg these)
Kao fu/ baked gluten (eg this)

dried salted greens/kelp
dried mushrooms (eg these)
pickled veg (e.g radish or cowpea)

Noodles, rice, other grains. I stock a few kinds of each to keep up variety.

Add in some sauce from jar in the fridge and you're mostly done! I like chu hou, hoisin, fermented blackbean/garlic, but there are a zillions of of options to try out. You can obviously use up cooked leftover veg, fresh tofu, etc. If some of you are interested in eggs they can really flesh out a quick stir fry or soup. More shelf-stable proteins that I like to use: TVP and Soy Curls.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:16 PM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Mujadarah is great.

White beans and kale on toast. (Fine without the kale. If you do eggs you can add one on top.)

This is not actually falafel but it’s good, avocado spread is optional.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:19 PM on November 14, 2023

Chickpea piccata on polenta in a tube. Nice if you can add some fresh arugula as your veg, but otherwise is very pantry-friendly.

I often make pudla or socca as a pantry meal. I like to fry onions, tomato and frozen peas before adding the batter to the pan, but whatever veg odds and ends are around will do great. I eat it with sweet chili sauce or chutney and usually have some baby carrots or cucumber slices on the side.

Chana masala is also a great cupboard meal. Many bean stews and curries are. Another option is this Spanish chickpea stew from serious eats that only needs fresh onions, garlic and ginger (it calls for fresh spinach but I use frozen for it).
posted by snaw at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Make some pickled shiitakes in advance (it's a quick pickle, so no canning, and from dried, i.e., pantry item). Then you have them to add to everything for the next couple of weeks. Most importantly, some ramen noodles (plain, or something like soy/scallion, i.e., not strongly flavored), a spoonful of chili crisp, some chopped up shiitakes, and then you slide a fried egg on top. Bonus vegetables: you can just throw some bok choy leaves in with the ramen while it boils, adding maybe one minutes to cook time. Bok choy is one of the longer-lived vegetables in the fridge; boiling is not the ideal prep for it, I expect, but it gets the greens in. 20 minutes, but only because the water for the ramen has to boil.

Generally speaking, you might want to think in terms of preparing one or two higher-quality components on the weekend to give a lift to the quick weekday dishes. For example, sometimes I'll make chickpeas from dry so I have a container full to use in the pasta e ceci recipe above and then some other recipe. Or quick-pickle something else. That kind of thing.
posted by praemunire at 7:01 PM on November 14, 2023 [5 favorites]

Back in the day, I used to make ersatz Spanish rice by cooking a handful of rice in a can of stewed tomatoes. When I was feeling really fancy, I'd melt some cheddar cheese on top at the end. Quick, easy, and yummy.
posted by DrGail at 7:57 PM on November 14, 2023

Best answer: The Rancho Gordo people re-released an Italian bean-cuisine cookbook recently, and I've been all up in that - there are a number of beans-with-pasta recipes in there. My VERY favorite isn't exactly vegan (it uses bacon), but there are many, many which are some variant on "beans sauteed with a mirepoix and maybe a little tomato, tossed with pasta of some kind".

The Rancho Gordo web site also has a lot of recipes, many of which use already-cooked beans so you can use what you've got in the cans. And yes, you can filter by vegetarian diet in their search page.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 PM on November 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really like this berbere lentil stew. I buy premixed berbere spice instead of mixing my own. I also use dehydrated onions, which I keep in the cabinet (for some reason, getting grocery delivery meant a LOT of moldy onions, so I just started buying the dehydrated kind - they're very easy to use and work great in soups and stews). I serve this over rice.
posted by FencingGal at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, with the pandemic complicating grocery shopping, I started keeping chopped peppers, carrots, and celery in my freezer at all times. This greatly expands what I can cook without needing to shop.
posted by FencingGal at 8:13 PM on November 14, 2023 [5 favorites]

Pantry to me equals one-pot, and this is my favorite one where the pot is a rice cooker. Cook brown rice with butter and broth for the liquid. Add put dried cranberries or currants in with the dry rice at the beginning; they rehydrate while the rice is cooking.

You can do various spice things; I'm pretty boring and just use ginger, garlic powder, salt and pepper, but oregano and cinnamon would give it more of a Greek flavor.

Then when the rice is done, I add a big handful of toasted slivered almonds and another big handful of feta cheese. This with a pile of whatever vegetables are available for roasting (sweet potatoes, broccoli, or cauliflower are my favorites) is a go to meal when I'm not feeding the picky child.
posted by gideonfrog at 8:51 PM on November 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

chickpea coconut curry. Fry an onion in some coconut oil, add a lot of curry powder of whatever hotness you like (some tomato paste is optional here), add a drained can of chickpeas plus whatever other vegetables you want, let them cook in the spices and get soft, add a can of coconut milk, simmer a bit and correct seasoning serve over rice if you have it, without if not.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:33 PM on November 14, 2023

Lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea soup, is a good pantry staple because it doesn’t require that many ingredients but you can top it with anything. Stale bread of course, but olives are good, or capers.

We’ve also had fun trying lots of different dals, which involves a lot of different lentils and beans, as well as different spices than the usual. Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India has, like, 27 different dal recipes in it.
posted by graphweaver at 10:55 PM on November 14, 2023 [3 favorites]

Corn Quinoa Black Beans. That's a recipe that uses salsa, but mine (which I can't find) is basically an onion, quinoa cooked in broth, black beans, frozen corn, with cumin and cilantro and lime juice. There are a million recipes out there, but it's so good I'm not even vegan. It's GF too!
posted by rhizome at 12:25 AM on November 15, 2023

Nachos. Especially good if you've got half a portion of something else left over that needs something substantial to go with it...
posted by offog at 2:58 AM on November 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Try other types of noodles, like soba noodles. There is cilantro in the recipe, but we make it often without, because cilantro keeps to badly. But we always have green onions in the fridge. The author offers some nice variations, and I'll add peanuts to those. Peanuts are a great pantry staple for lots of things.

One more lentil stew: I always have Puy lentils or similar in my pantry, both dry and in tins. To make a quick and very nourishing stew, finely chop an onion or two green onions (and a carrot, if you have one), and sauter until the onion is translucent. Add finely chopped or crushed garlic, according to your personal preference, I like a couple of cloves, let them become softer but NOT COLORED, not even golden. Add a tbsp of tomato paste or half a tin of crushed tomatoes. Season with whatever dried herbs you like, for this I prefer thyme and bay leaf. When the fragrance comes out of the herbs, after like 30 seconds, add tinned lentils with the liquid from the tin, or if it is one of those tins with minimum liquid, add water or vegetable stock. Let cook for 20 minutes. Add more liquid if needed. Season to taste with salt, pepper and perhaps a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon. Drizzle with EVO and serve. It is really good and tasty like this, but you can add in what ever you have at the bottom of the crisper drawer: a potato, a bit of a root vegetable, some celery, the drawer's the limit. Actually, I will now go out and make that for lunch.
posted by mumimor at 3:58 AM on November 15, 2023 [4 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed for offering a non vegetarian/vegan option.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:01 AM on November 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

We do what we call Italian stir fry pretty often—pasta with a topping of white bean or chickpeas, a bit of tomato sauce or paste, and whatever fresh or frozen veg need to be cleared out. Common additions are spinach, mushrooms, onions, olives, broccoli, peppers, or pretty much anything I’m not sure what to do with or am tired of looking at—it’s not precisely all from the pantry but it does cut down on waste.

We also like lentil soup with barley—cheap to make, protein-laden, tasty, and faster than most bean soups. While the lentils and barley cooks, I usually make cornbread.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:02 AM on November 15, 2023

Response by poster: thanks for some great suggestions - have best answered the ones I’m most likely to try (should have mentioned that I hate chickpeas, but some of these recipes seem easy to substitute another bean)
posted by chives at 5:10 AM on November 15, 2023

Best answer: Ooh, thank you for mentioning you don't like chickpeas since I was gearing up to offer some more chick-pea-oriented ideas.

However, that said - I'm going to point you at Rancho Gordo again, for the beans this time. They're bougie, but HOLY HELL are they worth it, and they have a much bigger variety of beans. Yes I know they're dried, but you can use this as a sort of DIY pantry-stocking move - instead of buying canned beans, you can get a pound of one of their beans, cook the whole pound up, and then split them up into freezer-safe two-cup containers and freeze them. And now you have some pre-cooked beans sitting in your freezer ready to go. One pound of dried beans will yield about 6 cups cooked - which is about 3-4 cans. Hell, do that even if you're using dried beans from the grocery store.

If you're uneasy about cooking beans or you've had bad luck doing so, you can try a slow cooker - about 8 hours on low should do the trick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 AM on November 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

If you keep eggs in the house, rice and eggs is delicious and can handle a lot of experimentation. Cook rice, take beaten eggs, throw them in the hot rice, and the egg cooks fast. Then throw cheese, herbs, canned beans, really whatever you want.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:37 AM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh! I don't know if you also allow for fish in your diet (some vegetarians are more accurately pescatarians), but if you do, a can of salmon on top of a bed of rice with some soy-sauce-type seasoning makes a cheat's version of a Japanese salmon-rice bowl. I swear I saw someone once also suggest splashing a little green tea on top of it too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on November 15, 2023

Mujadaara (lentils and rice seasoned with cumin, garlic, and salt) is a go-to here.
I try to keep around frozen veg, vegetable broth, canned baby corn, canned water chestnuts, and a Thai curry sauce for a quick throw-together meal.
I also will keep around enough to make vegan chili. This Instant Pot recipe works well, but I also add 1T of cocoa powder to it and use TVP that I've reconstituted in hot veg broth as the meat substitute.
posted by plinth at 7:17 AM on November 15, 2023

Best answer: No-one mentioned risotto? For ages it was our family's favorite pantry meal. I use dried porcini mushrooms like in this recipe, and add the re-hydration liquid to the vegetable stock. If you don't use wine, a bit of vinegar at the beginning of cooking will do the job. (Though I prefer to use hard, aged cheese through and through, doesn't have to be Reggiano Parmigiano which isn't vegetarian, and obviously, I'll use a vegetable stock in a vegetarian meal).

Also congee.
posted by mumimor at 7:22 AM on November 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

I make a vegetarian version of the America's Test Kitchen Pasta e Ceci recipe. I use 2 bags of frozen mirepoix straight into the pot, minced garlic, 4 undrained cans of chickpeas, a can of Rotel or diced tomatoes, vegetable stock to cover, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and let it go for 10 minutes. Then add a box of ditalini and cook until just under al dente, a minute or two under the time on the box. Ideally, the pasta will absorb all the liquid and what you're left with is a creamy sauce, but if it doesn't it's not that big a deal.

Two people have asked me to teach them to make it. Among the people I make it for they call it, "The Deets." It has the advantage of being a one-pot, 30-minute meal. It will feed 6 if you used a full box of pasta. I half it when I make it just for myself and still have enough for leftovers the next day and some to freeze as well.

The Serious Eats and Smitten Kitchen versions are very different, but also sound good and use only pantry ingredients.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:43 AM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Vegetarian not vegan, but I do a the stove-top mac & cheese from Smitten Kitchen. It's a great base to chuck other bits and bobs into/onto/next to.
posted by vunder at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Red lentil soup is great. (Here's a recipe.)
posted by metonym at 3:55 PM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I see someone beat me to mejadra, so I'll add a tip for making it *from the pantry*. You can be pre-cooked fried onion or fried shallot from anywhere that sells Asian grocery items. Those times you can't be arsed making caramelised or crispy onion from scratch, just use premade. Super handy for sprinkling over other dishes to give them a lift too.

Also will note that you don't need to soak lentils so they are very worthwhile to have on hand dried, both for mejadra and for the many dhal and lentil soup recipes out there.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:49 PM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nigel Slater's Butter Beans With Mustard And Tomato is one of our go-to store cupboard options (assuming the cupboard has mustards and black treacle, which I think is molasses in the US?).
posted by fabius at 4:36 AM on November 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

"Black treacle" is SORT of like molasses - in the US, molasses is a close enough substitute. I'm not as sure that "butter bean" is commonly known either (at least, I've never seen it called thus here in the US) - that's a lima bean.

That said - I'm a certified bean freak and Rancho Gordo stan who is going to bookmark that Butter Beans with Mustard and Tomato recipe myself; so OP, if someone else's vote of confidence convinces you, there it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:58 AM on November 16, 2023

If you have an instant pot, this is a very easy and tasty soup that can be made with stored items if you keep frozen peppers/onions stocked at all times, like I do. It could also be made on the stove. With decent bread (which can also be kept in the freezer and lightly toasted before eating), it's filling enough for a meal.
posted by randomnity at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2023

One thing that worked for me when I (a carnivore) had to cook a month's worth of vegetarian main meals was listing out the proteins, starches, and "flavour families" that all the eaters liked. Then I could look at that while I brainstormed, which made me less likely to forget some of the options. "Well, we had poached eggs and spinach on toast yesterday and tofu before that, so probably a pulse today. A lentil dahl and rice? Or beans and rice? Beans and potatoes? Hm, we haven't had anything Spanish-ish for a bit, so beans in a tomato sauce with lots of sweet peppers and paprika, with little boiled potatoes? Yeah, that sounds good."
posted by Shark Hat at 3:55 PM on November 16, 2023

Coming back in to add the laziest homemade burrito. It's originally from (I think - I'm dredging this up from the 90s) Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

In a skillet, heat 1 can corn, 1 can black beans, 1 standard-sized jar of salsa and one brick of frozen spinach until everything's suitably hot. Roll up in a flour tortilla. You can add extra toppings like avocado or saute onions and garlic before adding your other stuff to the pan, but it's good as-is and is ridiculously easy.
posted by snaw at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2023

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