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8 Non-Perishables That Belong In Every Kitchen (And How To Turn Them Into Meals)

All the under-$5 essentials you need in your kitchen — plus exactly what to do with them.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

Having a well-stocked pantry is the first step towards cheap and easy cooking. 🥫

But it's sometimes hard to know what to make with all those cans of beans that populate your kitchen shelves.

So here are some tips and recipes to help you cook with common (and inexpensive) pantry items. They're tailored to eight of the most-used staples in our kitchens: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, canned tuna, coconut milk, white beans, anchovies, and canned tomatoes. Save this list! 📝


Lentils are a great source of fiber, iron, and protein.

They're also cheap, versatile, and a delicious addition to salads, stews, and grain bowls. There are several types of lentils, and it's good to know a little about each of them so you can prepare them well.

Brown and green lentils: These are the most common varieties. They cook quickly (20-30 minutes) and tend to get pretty creamy. They're great in stews and soups, as well as dips and spreads.

Red lentils: These also cook very quickly (about 20 minutes) and get soft and creamy. They're great in curry and dal recipes. You can also use them in dips and they can act as a thickening agent in soups and stews.

French lentils: These have a thicker skin and take longer to cook (at least 40 minutes) and they usually retain more texture and don't get as soft. So they're a perfect addition to salads or grain bowls.

Black beluga lentils: They're the ~prettiest~ and most flavorful, IMO. Like French lentils, they tend to have a thicker skin and their shape will remain intact, making them another great option for salads and grain bowls. If you cook them longer, they'll get softer and you'll be able to use them in soups and stews. Best of both worlds!

1. Dal

Alexandra Stafford /

Dal is a timeless classic — and this version is an ideal starter if you've never made it before. You only need a handful of ingredients and the whole thing only takes 20 minutes. The original recipe calls for red split lentils, but if you want to get more creative, add some French lentils too.

Get the recipe: Curried Lentils With Coconut Milk

2. Sweet Potato and Lentil Chili

A really nice alternative to the classic bean chili, the recipe also happens to be vegan. (But still protein-packed thanks to the lentils!)

Get the recipe: Sweet Potato and Lentil Chili

3. Five-Ingredient Lentil Falafels

You don't have to stick to stews and curries when you cook lentils. For these falafels, make sure to use green, brown, or red lentils as you want to achieve a creamy texture on the inside.

Get the recipe: Five-Ingredient Lentil Falafels

This very refreshing salad is a great use for French lentils.

Get the recipe: Lentil Salad with Zesty Lemon Dressing

5. Lentil Burgers

Alex Lau /

Featuring a vegetarian patty that's soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Get the recipe: Lentil Burgers

6. Spicy Lentil Nachos With Three Cheese Sauce

Lentils are often used a healthy staple — but they can also be gloriously indulgent.

Get the recipe: Spicy Lentil Nachos With Three Cheese Sauce


Like lentils, chickpeas are protein-packed, delicious, and versatile.

The main question? Whether you should get them dried or pre-cooked in a can. Chickpea purists will tell you that dried is the only way to go. And for recipes where chickpeas are the absolute star of the show (like hummus), dried chickpeas do provide better texture and richer flavor. The dried variety is also cheaper.

But their required overnight soak is a real hassle many don't want to deal with — and rightfully so. Besides, canned chickpeas can be very good too and they have something extra going for them: aquafaba. It's the magical liquid left in the can, and it doubles as an egg-substitute in many vegan recipes.

7. Crispy Jalapeño Chickpeas

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

It doesn't really get much easier than these crispy chickpeas, which you can eat as a snack or use as a topping for salads, stews, and curries.

Get the recipe: Crispy Jalapeño Chickpeas

8. Pasta e Ceci

You only need garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, chickpeas, and pasta to make this ridiculously good Italian classic.

Get the recipe: Pasta e Ceci

9. Chickpeas With Cilantro-Lime Dressing

A fresh salad that you can make ahead and eat for lunch throughout the week.

Get the recipe: Chickpeas With Cilantro-Lime Dressing

10. Chana Masala Rice Bowls

You can eat this Indian showstopper for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Get the recipe: Chana Masala Rice Bowls

11. Green Pea and Chickpea Falafels

Sarah E Crowder /

If you want to go the traditional road, here's a recipe for classic falafels. But you can also get a little crazier and add some green peas to the mix for a nice change of flavor.

Get the recipe: Green Pea and Chickpea Falafels

12. Zahav's Hummus

Bobbi Lin /

🚨Alert: This is THE best hummus recipe we've ever tried. 🚨

Get the recipe: Zahav's Hummus

13. Easy Vegan Aquafaba Mayo

Aquafaba is that magical juice in cans of chickpeas, and here's a guide that explains everything you need to know about it. You can use it as an egg substitute in tons of recipes, including vegan mayo.

Get the recipe: Easy Vegan Aquafaba Mayo

14. Vegan Chocolate Mousse With Aquafaba

You can also use it to make a super fluffy vegan chocolate mousse. We repeat: magical. 😋

Get the recipe: Vegan Chocolate Mousse With Aquafaba


Black beans are super rich in fiber, protein, and magnesium — making them the most nutritious bean of all.

And they're much cheaper than any meat, so they're the perfect option for a protein-packed meal. They also double as a smart substitute in baked goods.

15. Instant Pot Chili

(Or, here's a non-Instant Pot version for those who haven't yet succumbed to the craze.)

Get the recipe: Instant Pot Chili

16. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito

A super satisfying and yummy lunch.

Get the recipe: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito

17. Black Bean Burgers


Black bean patties are one of the most popular alternatives to meat. They're also pretty easy to make.

Get the recipe: Black Bean Burgers

You can also use rice instead of quinoa.

Get the recipe: Cuban Chicken and Black Bean Quinoa Bowls

19. Black Bean Breakfast Tacos

The kind of breakfast that gives you the energy to power through any day.

Get the recipe: Black Bean Breakfast Tacos

20. Flourless Black Bean Brownie Muffins

Black beans in chocolate muffins might sound odd, but they get super creamy and batter-like — and it absolutely works.

Get the recipe: Flourless Black Bean Brownie Muffins


Canned tuna is yet another great budget-friendly source of pantry-staple protein.

It's a solid addition to many dishes, from lunch sandwiches to hearty pasta. Our main tip when choosing canned tuna is to pick one packed in olive oil, not water. This will bring even more flavor to your recipes.

21. Open-Faced Tuna Salad Sandwich

Capers bring a nice briny punch to this perfect weekday lunch.

Get the recipe: Open-Faced Tuna Salad Sandwich

22. Lighter Tuna Casserole

A comfort food classic made a little healthier with the use of fresh veggies and a lighter creamy sauce.

Get the recipe: Lighter Tuna Casserole

23. Niçoise Salad

Kelli Foster /

This beloved southern French salad is both very filling and super easy to make.

Get the recipe: Niçoise Salad

24. Tuna Pasta With Olive Oil and Garlic

Tuna is a great addition to tomato sauce but can also work wonders on its own with little bit of olive oil and garlic.

Get the recipe: Tuna Pasta With Olive Oil and Garlic

25. Tuna Melt

Grilled cheese meets tuna salad.

Get the recipe: Tuna Melt


Coconut milk is a true pantry MVP, used in both sweet and savory recipes.

But not all coconut milks are created equal, and for richer texture and flavor, we recommend picking a full-fat version. If you want to know what brand to choose, this is a helpful guide.

26. Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry

Coconut milk is the base to so many curries and soups. This is a great example, but you can also try this chicken curry or this Thai coconut curry noodle soup.

Get the recipe: Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry

27. Chicken Satay With Peanut Sauce

You can also use coconut curry as a marinade for your meats. Here the chicken marinates for two hours in a mixture of coconut milk, soy sauce, curry powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and fish sauce.

Get the recipe: Chicken Satay With Peanut Sauce

28. Coconut Rice

Marie Telling / Tasty

If you want to take your rice game to the next level, start here.

Get the recipe: Coconut Rice

29. Creamy Coconut Lime Mojito

One of the many reasons why coconut milk is so great? Cocktails.

Get the recipe: Creamy Coconut Lime Mojito

30. Toasted Coconut Breakfast Porridge

Coconut milk is also the secret to making this quinoa porridge super creamy and flavorful.

Get the recipe: Toasted Coconut Breakfast Porridge

31. Coconut Whipped Cream

The best vegan alternative to whipped cream.

Get the recipe: Coconut Whipped Cream


There are several types of white beans: cannellini, baby lima, navy, and great Northern.

Ad although they each have their own slight specificities in taste and texture, they're pretty interchangeable in recipes. They're a great way to add texture to a dish — and their mild taste makes them an ideal blank canvas.

A super quick and easy lunch that'll keep you full and satisfied for the rest of the day.

Get the recipe: Ten-Minute White Bean Artichoke Basil Toasts

33. Sun-Dried Tomato, Kale, and White Bean Skillet

Beans and greens = always worth reaching for.

Get the recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato, Kale, and White Bean Skillet

34. Marcella Hazan's Stewy White Beans

A famous classic that's made super flavorful thanks to a garlicky broth and a ton of Parmesan on top.

Get the recipe: Marcella Hazan's Stewy White Beans

This may look fancy but it only takes half an hour to make. If you want to speed up the process even more, use store-bought Caesar dressing.

Get the recipe: Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad With Herbed White Beans


People either love them or hate them, but if you're in that second group, you already know anchovies are king.

That's because in many recipes, anchovies are used to add depth of flavor to a dish without actually overtaking it. (That's why many people who hate anchovies on their own still love Caesar salad, even though the little fishes are one of the key ingredients.)

Our most useful tip? Get the ones in jars rather than tins. They're easier to use —pick out a few, stash the rest in the fridge — and taste better overall.

36. Charred Asparagus With Citrus and Anchovies

Alex Lau /

Roasted vegetables are nice and all, but top them with anchovies and lemon juice and you're in for a restaurant-worthy treat.

Get the recipe: Charred Asparagus With Citrus and Anchovies

37. Pasta Puttanesca

David Lebovitz /

With anchovies, capers, olives, and peeled tomatoes, this dish is an efficient way to cook down your pantry.

Get the recipe: Pasta Puttanesca

38. Roberta's Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad

You know you can't go wrong with this one.

Get the recipe: Roberta's Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad

39. Pissaladière

James Ransom /

Alright, so this recipe is for the true anchovy lovers out there. A French specialty, it's basically a pizza topped with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives. And it's AMAZING. (For a low-effort version, use store-bought dough.)

Get the recipe: Pissaladière

40. Anchovy Vinaigrette

Joe Lingeman /

By now, you get the gist: Anchovies add flavor to any dish. So it's no surprise it works so well in a vinaigrette. Use this for salads or as a dressing for artichoke hearts or roasted asparagus.

Get the recipe: Anchovy Vinaigrette


Canned tomatoes are essential for any pasta lover.

Especially the peeled variety — because who has time to peel tomatoes anyway? These work in so many different recipes — from shakshukas to tomato soups. If you're wondering which brand to buy, here's a helpful guide.

41. Shakshuka

Joe Lingeman /

The best homemade brunch of your life is just one can of tomatoes away.

Get the recipe: Shakshuka

42. Margherita Pizza

The best peeled tomatoes also lead to the best pizza sauce, and for that they deserve all our love.

Get the recipe: Margherita Pizza

43. Vegetarian Bean Chili

Laura Murray /

The best thing about this chili? It's topped with lots of Fritos.

Get the recipe: Vegetarian Bean Chili

44. Grilled Cheese and Cream of Tomato Soup

Cozy comfort in a bowl.

Get the recipe: Grilled Cheese and Cream of Tomato Soup

45. Spaghetti With Red Sauce

Lauren Zaser /

This is where the worlds of anchovies and canned tomatoes collide to give you the ultimate red sauce.

Get the recipe: Spaghetti With Red Sauce