5 Ingredients or Fewer

5-Ingredient (or Fewer!) Meals to Get You Back in the Cooking Game

Fuss-free recipes that pack a big punch.

February 10, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

Have you ever been in a cooking rut? When days go by and you just can’t bring yourself to make an honest meal, instead ordering in or eating out or cobbling together odds and ends and calling it dinner? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. I certainly have. Thankfully these ruts don’t last very long before I’m inspired by a perfect roast chicken or eager to try the internet’s latest viral recipe. And when I’m ready to get back into the swing of things, I jump straight into the kitchen.

For me, that's where everything begins, from whipping up a hearty breakfast to get me out the door or prepping lunch for the week, to wrapping up the day over a quiet dinner. My time in the kitchen doesn’t mean elaborate or complicated feasts (not always, at least!). Most nights, I just want an approachable meal that requires as little effort—and as few ingredients—as possible. Which is where these recipes come in. They’re simple without feeling uninspired, they only need a handful of ingredients (five or less— not counting salt, pepper, and cooking fat), and they help get me back into tip-top cooking shape.

Go ahead and give 'em a whirl, and revisit them the next time you find yourself in a cooking rut.

Grab Your Fork & Knife

A recipe that has it all: It's simple, fast, delicious, and good lookin,' too. Butter makes the skin extra-crispy, while the saltiness of the miso is balanced by the sweetness of the honey.

A garlicky marinade is the secret to this juicy, flavorful pork tenderloin.

A no-flip version of the classic Spanish potato-and-egg dish. Finish it off with a quick spin under the broiler, and dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) is served.

Skirt steak's new best friends? Fish sauce, brown sugar, lime, and garlic.

Throw 4 ingredients into a bag with chicken, and let the marinade do its thing overnight.

Best in a bowl

An easy-as-heck soup to keep on repeat all fall and winter. Roast root vegetables (in this case, carrots) with celery and onion. Then blend the charred results with water and lots of mellow white miso. That’s it.

The New York Times gave the world this magical recipe back in 1999—with just three ingredients and 15 minutes, you can conjure dinner out of thin air.

Instead of pasta and tomato sauce, consider saucing your rice. This 4-ingredient dish is just as comforting—plus, it tastes even better with an egg on top.

A take on a classic Roman pasta, this version features zucchini, which helps thicken the sauce and makes it extra-luscious.

Goat cheese adds bright, tangy flavor to this cozy dish. Up the ante with a handful of fresh herbs, or top with leftover roasted vegetables or shredded chicken.
An extremely untraditional riff on the Italian aglio e olio. Instead of garlic, we’re using scallions. Once you start treating scallions like a leafy green—from charring in a skillet to roasting on a sheet pan—it’s hard to stop.

Sandwiches & Such

The superlative version of everyone's favorite anytime meal. This template is wonderful as is, or you could build up from there. Consider: watery-crisp ribbons of veg, nutty and seedy sprinkles, fluffy herbs, an oozy egg.

Fluffy, custardy scrambled eggs meet all-American grilled cheese.

This BLT loses the mayo but keeps the flavor, thanks to bacony toasted bread.

Here’s your ticket to pear-adise: three slices of bacon, two different cheeses, and one juicy pear sandwiched between flour tortillas.

What's your best post-holiday recipe? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Pauline R. January 6, 2019
Katie thank you for putting these recipes together, I can see at least two of them on my menu this week. Thank you for the inspiration and best wishes for 2019
Nancy K. January 6, 2019
Also thought this was a vegan site. Would appreciate vegan ideas as well. Thank u
JG January 6, 2019
I was hoping to see some vegan 5-ingredient dishes.
JG January 6, 2019
Thank you for the link, I make a similar tomato soup include sauteed cilantro stems and then a cilantro topping when served. I will try this one because I like the idea of thickening it with bread.
Stillmeadowlark January 6, 2019
Love your ideas and the whole shall I say minimal (aka uncluttered) postings. Just forwarded this episode to five friends, who all feel best in the kitchen. Keep up your good job.