The Best Dishes to Make With 5 Ingredients or Less

Paleo Tuna Pasta I Heart Umami-2
Paleo Tuna Pasta, I Heart UmamiCourtesy image

Who says you can’t make an incredibly impressive meal with just a few ingredients? We asked chefs and bloggers to share their go-to quarantine meals that only require five ingredients or less. (The following recipes assume you have salt and pepper, basic spices, cooking spray, soy sauce, and olive oil in your kitchen, so we won’t be counting those towards the tally.) Read on, and get ready for a fuss-free feast. Looking for more cooking inspiration during quarantine? You’ll dig these easy slow cooker recipes.

Lemony Tuna Pasta

ChihYu Smith, founder of I Heart Umami, has our mouths watering with this quick-to-assemble dinner. “This super easy canned tuna pasta recipe with lemon, capers, and parsley is light, refreshing, and packed with lean protein,” says Smith. “You can swap fresh herbs for semi-dried herbs from the pantry, use sun-dried tomatoes (soaked in oil) or pitted olives to replace capers, or add baby spinach to the warm noodles for extra fiber and vitamins.” Get creative with this “everything but the kitchen sink”-style pasta and experiment until you find your go-to combination.

ChihYu Smith of I Heart Umami’s Lemony Canned Tuna Pasta

Makes 4 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes 


6 oz. spaghetti
1 can (5 oz.) tuna, in oil no salt added
1 large garlic, crushed or grated
Zest of one whole lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2-3 tsp capers, drained
Optional: ¼ cup fresh parsley or dill, chopped

How to make it:

1. Bring a big pot of water to boil and lightly salt the water. Cook the spaghetti, following the package instructions.

2. In the meantime, in a large heat-proof bowl, lightly mash the tuna with ingredients from garlic to capers. Set the bowl on the stovetop next to the pasta boiler pot.

3. This will warm up the tuna and the spices in the bowl gently and the tuna stays moist.

4. Add the cooked spaghetti into the tuna bowl. Toss and add the herbs, if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5 ingredient enchiladas
Courtesy image

5-Ingredient Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas

Talia Koren, founder of Workweek Lunch, shares this satisfying recipe where the whole is more impressive than the sum of its parts. “Enchiladas are the perfect easy meal to whip together when you’re bored of your old standbys. All you need is tortillas, enchilada sauce (you could even doctor up marinara for this), spinach, black beans, and cheese,” says Koren. Based on what you have in your pantry, feel free to switch in another kind of beans for black beans.

Talia Koren of Workweek Lunch’s 5-Ingredient Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas

Makes 3 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 15 oz. cans of black beans (rinsed and drained)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle powder
6 cups of spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 cup of shredded cheese
1 10 oz. can of enchilada sauce
6 medium tortillas
Cooking spray
Optional: 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

How to make it:

1. Preheat your oven to 400° F.

2. Add the oil to a skillet over medium heat, followed by the black beans (both cans, rinsed and drained). Add salt and pepper to taste, cumin and chipotle powder/chili powder. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, until the beans get a little soft. Then add the spinach and cover the pan to let the spinach steam and cook down, about 5 minutes. Stir the spinach and beans together, then add 1 Tbsp enchilada sauce and 3/4 cup shredded cheese. Stir it all together and turn off the heat.

3. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour 1/2 of the remaining enchilada sauce inside the pan and spread it around the bottom with a spatula.

4. Assemble the enchiladas: You’re making 6 total enchiladas (2 per serving) so add about 1/3-1/2 cup of filling to each tortilla. Add filling to the middle and roll up the tortilla, then place it seam down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat the process 5 more times.

5. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas, followed by the remaining cheese (1/2 cup). Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until you can see the sauce bubbling a bit.

6. Let the enchiladas cool for 15-20 minutes, then carefully divide them between three meal prep containers. Top with cilantro if using.

Bacon and Veggie Fried Rice

Ah, fried rice, perhaps the ultimate comfort food dish that doesn’t require a laundry list of ingredients. “I like this recipe because it’s so versatile. You can substitute the vegetables or bacon for any other vegetable or meat you have on hand, and the recipe still works,” says Chef Ron Hsu, executive chef and partner of Lazy Betty in Atlanta, Georgia. “As long as you have some cooked rice, this dish can be made in a single sauté pan and be executed in under 10 minutes.”

Ron Hsu of Lazy Betty’s Bacon and Veggie Fried Rice

Makes 2 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes


2 cups cooked Jasmine rice
2 eggs
¼ cup broccoli florets
½ cup sliced carrots
¼ cup diced bacon
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt and Pepper, to taste

How to make it:

1. Follow the cooking instructions on the Jasmine rice package. Set aside and allow to cool.

2. In a hot sauté pan, scramble the eggs in 1.5 Tbsp of canola oil and set aside to cool. It’s OK if the eggs are still slightly runny.

3. In the same sauté pan over medium heat, add the remainder of the oil and add the bacon. Allow some of the fat to render from the bacon.

4. Add the broccoli and carrots. Sauté the veg for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

5. Add the rice and fry for another 1 minute.

6. Add the soy sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

7. Add the egg back and slightly break up the egg; cook for another 15 seconds. Serve and enjoy.

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio (Credit Sam Marvin)
Sam Marvin

Brussels Sprouts With Pistachios

“This customer favorite dish from Echo & Rig is the perfect simple side to make at home during quarantine. Relying on pantry staples and a few readily available produce items, it offers the perfect balance of freshness from the brussels sprouts leaves, acidity from the lemon, richness from the butter, and crunch from the pistachios,” says restaurateur and chef Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig in Sacramento and Las Vegas. In lieu of pistachios, feel free to swap in other nuts you have on hand.

Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig Brussels Sprouts With Pistachios

Makes 2 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes


2 oz. olive oil
1 oz. whole skin off pistachios chopped
12 oz. brussels sprouts; leaves only
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 tsp unsalted butter
1 lemon, juiced

How to make it:

1. Heat sauté pan over medium heat.

2. Add brussels sprout lives, pistachio, salt and pepper.

3. Saute until leaves begin to soften but are still bright green; about 2 minutes.

4. Add butter and melt to coat.

5. Squeeze lemon juice and toss.

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