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21 Baking Projects Made With Just Pantry Staples

April 21, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Regardless of where you live, it’s safe to assume you’re inside more than usual inside these days. You’re vacuuming that hard-to-reach spot under the couch. You’re sorting through the back of the pantry (yikes, these canned tomatoes expired in 2006). You’re in a staring contest with your dog.

You need a baking project, am I right?

It’s inspiring to realize that most baked goods—be it a quick batch of biscuits or a multi-day loaf of sourdough—don’t require much more than pantry staples. I’m talking flour, butter, and a few other pantry and fridge-regulars like sugar, yeast, baking powder and soda, eggs, and dairy.

Here are 21 baking projects with a short-ish ingredient list, with each category organized from the shortest or simplest ingredient lists to ones that ask a little more of you. If you’re a regular baker, you probably already have everything you need.


A Note on Substitutions

As we all limit trips to the store, now more than ever is time to welcome the art of the substitute. Here are some good-to-know tips for baking:

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Top Comment:
“This was the best baking article ever, stuffed with substitution tips, ratios, essential recipes and light-hearted humor. I’m sending it to my daughter and several friends, and printing it out to tape to my pantry door and highlighting the instructions. Thank you!”
— Dorie
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Butter: Coconut oil is typically a 1:1 swap for butter, as is vegan butter. Vegetable and olive oil can also be used to replace butterfat (keep in mind that commercial butter is about 80 percent butterfat; oil is 100 percent fat, so you may first want to try a bit less oil than the amount of butter needed). Keep in mind that butter freezes well, so you could stock up (respectfully—don’t buy 50 pounds and clean out the store) the next time you shop.

Eggs: From silken tofu to mashed banana, if you’ve ever made a vegan recipe you know eggs are quite easy to replace in baking. In my experience, the best are flaxseed or chia seed-eggs: Mix 1 tablespoon of either seed with 2 tablespoons of water and let sit for 5 minutes to get gelatinous. Instant egg! Here’s a list of even more egg replacements—spoiler alert, save the liquid from all those cans of chickpeas you’re eating.

Milk and other dairy: Nondairy milks, such as almond, soy, and oat, can all be used instead of dairy milk in a pinch. Out of buttermilk? You can mix lemon juice or vinegar into dairy or nondairy milk to sour it. Yogurt, sour cream, labneh, and crème fraîche are more or less interchangeable in baking.

Flour: This one is tougher, but still possible. Whole-wheat and all-purpose flour can be mixed together or even swapped entirely for one another, but with caution—check out this guide first. Out of flour for now? Here are tips for how to make a recipe gluten-free.

Have more substitution questions? Ask away in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer!


Breakfast Basics

1. 3-ingredient Pancakes

What can you make with an old frozen (and defrosted) banana, the last of your almond flour, and a couple eggs? Six perfectly golden-brown pancakes. You can also swap in other finely ground nuts for the almond flour, or even ground oats.

2. Best Basic Buttery Biscuits

Warm, flaky biscuits and a big cup of coffee—is there any better way to start the morning? If you don’t have milk, you can sub in cream, buttermilk, or even thinned out yogurt.

3. Foolproof Cream Scones

These simple scones rely on white whole-wheat flour for a subtle nutty flavor, but all-purpose works just fine.

4. English Muffins

Chewy English muffins slathered with jam and butter for breakfast? Uh, yes please. No bread flour? All-purpose should work in a pinch. If you don’t have semolina for dusting, use cornmeal or just a bit more of whichever flour you used in the recipe.

5. No-Fail Cornbread

You probably have everything you need to make this slightly sweet cornbread that’s just as welcome at breakfast as it is at dinner. Try whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose here, or even oat or chickpea flour. Thinned out yogurt, cream, or buttermilk can replace the milk, and melted butter or coconut oil can be used if you don’t have shortening.

6. Croissant Rolls

Admittedly croissant rolls require a bit more attention than your average breakfast—but it’s hard to imagine a better weekend project.

7. Best Vegan Waffles

These Genius waffles call for silken tofu instead of eggs and coconut oil instead of butter, because vegans have pantry staples too.


Savory Staples

8. Simple Fresh Pasta

Eggs, flour, salt—that’s literally all you need to make pounds and pounds of fresh pasta.

9. Stovetop Flatbread

Flatbread can be as simple as flour, yeast, and water (and a couple other ingredients you probably have in the pantry). Char in a cast-iron skillet and use anywhere you’d find a tortilla, naan, or pita. Whole wheat, bread, or chickpea flour can be used in this recipe, and if you’re out of sugar, you could try honey.

10. No-Knead Peasant Bread

If you’ve never made bread before, start here. This Genius Recipe requires no starter, no kneading, and just a few hours—not days.

11. No-Knead Sourdough

Sourdough newbies should know that while the bread takes a decent amount of time to prepare, it’s totally doable (and requires no yeast!). If you already have sourdough starter, you can begin right now. If you don’t, you can make your own.

12. Scallion Pancakes

Crispy and chewy all at once, make scallion pancakes tonight. No scallions in the fridge? Any herbs will do.


Simple Sweets

13. Pie Dough

This dough—just butter, flour, and water—can be the base of so many wonderful pies, from sweet chocolate cream and apple crumble to savory pot pie and quiche.

14. Pie Crispies

You could make pie dough for a pie, but you could also make one exclusively for a stash of pie crispies, which is what happens when you punch out the buttery dough into circles and bake them like cookies.

15. 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

These easy-peasy oatmeal cookies call for tahini in addition to brown sugar and oats, but if you have another nut or seed butter, that’ll work too.

16. Bien Cuit Shortbread

This five-ingredient shortbread is simple enough to make once a week. Keep on hand for when you need a snack now. No raw sugar on hand? Use granulated, skip the topping, or try a small sprinkle of flaky sea salt instead—the salt really makes the butter flavor of the shortbread pop.

17. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

Say you have no flour, but you do have chocolate, coconut milk, and salt—you can make truffles. These are flavored with peppermint extract, but a splash of whatever extract you have on hand (vanilla! orange! almond!) will do.

18. Best Cocoa Brownies

These brownies earned their Genius Recipe badge for requiring no melted chocolate (let’s be honest, you’ve already eaten your stash of 70%—or is that just me?). Instead, cocoa powder does all the heavy lifting.

19. Ovenly’s Secretly Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

These pantry-friendly chocolate chip cookies (no eggs! no butter!) are the ultimate comfort food. Full stop.

20. Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookie-decorating is one of the best stay-at-home projects for kids and adults alike. If you’re out of cinnamon, try a pinch of allspice, cloves, or cardamon—or skip altogether. You can also omit the vanilla extract without much flavor compromising (if you have another extract like almond, mint, rose, or orange hanging around, why not try it?).

21. Coconut Custard Macaroons

Super-simple macarons are chewy, coconutty, and oh so satisfying. Grab a couple extra cans of sweetened condensed milk for stirring into coffee, smearing on toast, and gently cooking into dulce de leche.

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Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.

1 Comment

Dorie April 23, 2020
This was the best baking article ever, stuffed with substitution tips, ratios, essential recipes and light-hearted humor. I’m sending it to my daughter and several friends, and printing it out to tape to my pantry door and highlighting the instructions. Thank you!