52 Essential Genius Recipes for Beginners & Busy Cooks

Start here for the simplest, smartest cooking.

June 22, 2023
Photo by Rocky Luten

Fifteen-minute dinners from the pantry. Shakshuka and ragú you can make ahead to take the angst out of having friends over. Shortcut recipes filled with things you don’t have to do, like babysit beans, slow-scramble eggs, peel squash, or knead bread dough.

These are the sorts of Genius recipes that welcome beginners and soothe busy cooks. Below are 52 essentials, broken down by needs from speedy workday breakfasts to no-special-equipment desserts (there are loads more like them in the Simply Genius cookbook, with extra riffs, how-to photos and illustrations, and tips for fixing the oopses). Share with graduates, newlyweds, weary new parents, and all those in your life who could benefit from such magical intel—then tuck them into your back pocket, too.

Speedy Workday Breakfasts

1. Lady & Pups's Magic 15-Second Creamy Scrambled Eggs

This one goes out to anyone who’s ever told you custardy scrambled eggs have to be slow-stirred for at least 15 minutes. Try 15 seconds. Food52 Resident Mandy Lee adds a little potato starch to the mix to ensure "speed, and creaminess, all together," as she writes.

2. Canal House's Pimentón Fried Eggs

Fried eggs without a flip, and as many flavor possibilities as you have spices in your pantry or random herbs in your fridge.

3. Cocoa Almond Oatmeal From Samantha Seneviratne

Samantha Seneviratne teaches us that any oatmeal will cook down quicker and creamier in a nonstick skillet—and not leave a sticky pot soaking in the sink. But this is the variation you might not be able to quit. (Don’t miss the comments section.)

4. Tahini Pistachio Granola From Jenné Claiborne

This revolutionary granola from Jenné Claiborne bakes in 15 minutes, with only one stir. Here’s a clue: You’ll see no oil in the ingredients—only tahini.

5. Avocado Tartines With Banana & Lime From Apollonia Poilâne

You’re just going to have to trust us on this one. Bananas and avocado? Shockingly perfect together. And no, with the lime, honey, and chile flakes, you really won’t need salt.

Fun Weekend Breakfasts

6. The Kitchn's Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes

Many will tell you the fluffiest pancakes come from separating eggs, whipping the whites into a foamy cloud, and folding them gently into the batter. But a) this is a lot to take on at 8:00 a.m. and b) the batter often starts tall and proud but, by the end of a big batch, deflates like a melted milkshake. Great news: This recipe requires only stirring in the egg whites at the end. The cakes are just as fluffy as if you’d whipped them (I checked).

7. Andrew Feinberg's Slow-Baked Broccoli Frittata

"Instead of cooking the eggs quickly in a hot oven," Andrew Feinberg says, "I cook them slowly in a low oven and the result is a very custardy and creamy texture that traditional frittata do not have." It's confusing that we didn't think of this before.

8. Scrambled Red Shakshuka From Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley

One way to stop feeling anxious about poaching eggs? Don’t! In the shakshuka of Sami Tamimi’s childhood in Palestine, the eggs were gently scrambled right into the sauce. Cooked this way, they resist overcooking and practically shout when they’re done.

9. Banana Bread Scones From Samantha Seneviratne

These scones have all the comforts of banana bread, with more crunchy edges and fluffy, chocolate-pocketed middles. Plus, since they bake fast and don’t need to cool long, they’re ready in about half the time.

10. Aretha Frankenstein's Waffles of Insane Greatness

You can make these featherlight waffles the moment you want them, unlike the overnight yeasted kind. Your insurance against runaway gluten and tough, chewy waffles: a little cornstarch in the batter.

Make-Ahead Lunches (& Dinners & Snacks)

11. Momofuku's Soy Sauce Eggs

Smart meal-preppers keep these soy sauce-marinated eggs—a riff on the Japanese ramen shop staple ajitsuke tamago—in their fridge for sturdier, more savory rice and noodle bowls, sandwiches, salads, and snacks.

12. Rich & Creamy Beans From Rachel Roddy

That sack of dried beans in your cupboard you just keep...not cooking? This well-behaved oven technique, based on a Tuscan tradition, will essentially do it for you (and make them especially creamy and flavorful). This method works even without soaking your beans; it may just take a bit longer.

13. Slow-Roasted Chicken With Extra-Crisp Skin From Lindsay Maitland Hunt

Tender, rotisserie-like meat, with the crispiest skin imaginable—thanks to one of the wilder Genius tricks we’ve seen. It’s very hard to overcook and very easy to carve, eliminating the most stressful parts of roasting a chicken.

14. Deb Perelman’s Winter Slaw With Farro

With a big batch of cooked farro or other whole grain on hand, you don’t need to eat the same hefty grain salad every day. Instead, sprinkle just enough of the grains to add texture to other salads and sides that tip the proportions toward vegetables of all kinds.

15. Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah

Getting started making your own bread doesn’t sound so off-limits when you’re told not to knead, but to simply fold—right?

Quickest-Possible Dinners

16. Tony Kim's “Cacio” e Pepe

In traditional cacio e pepe, dry, grated pecorino Romano and starchy pasta water notoriously don’t gravitate toward one another easily. But a swirl of miso, butter, and chicken stock do—effortlessly—and make a very fine impression on the real deal.

17. Spinach & Cilantro Soup With Tahini & Lemon From Samin Nosrat

You’ll first notice the vibrant color of this soup, which looks a lot like green juice, if green juice was allowed to keep its structural integrity. But the color doesn’t let on that it cooks nearly instantly, with no flour or potatoes to bulk it up (only tahini).

18. The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers

One of the most famous burger-making myths: Never smash the patties down or the juices will run free and they'll turn dry and tough. But! Smash your burger to maximize crisping while the meat and fat are still cold, and there won't be any juices (yet) to lose.

19. Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci

The barest ingredients create maximal comfort in this soupy stew—quickly, and with all water, no stock necessary. The keys are plenty of olive oil, well-caramelized tomato paste, and garlic toasted until it’s browned and nutty.

20. Melissa Clark’s Stovetop Mac & Cheese

With all the ease of cracking open a box and shaking out the foil packet, in 15 minutes you can instead have a gooey cheddar sauce that tastes like real, sharp, molten cheese.

21. Grace Young's Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork

Once you’ve prepped a handful of ingredients, this recipe will be done in under 10 minutes, the kitchen will stay cool, and dinner will be delicious—thanks to some of Grace Young’s surprising stir-fry tricks.

22. Gabrielle Hamilton's Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Mayo, yes, mayo, is the secret to tastier, faster, less-likely-to-burn grilled cheese sandwiches. It won't char or stick to the pan, and it crisps up more evenly too.

More Good Dinners in Under an Hour

23. Pad Thai From Kris Yenbamroong

At Night + Market, chef Kris Yenbamroong’s pad Thai uses ingredients you’d find at most supermarkets—not because it’s easier, but because that's how his grandma Vilai has always done it and it’s how he wants pad Thai to taste.

24. Louisiana Barbecued Shrimp From Toni Tipton-Martin & B. Smith

Louisiana barbecued shrimp isn’t actually barbecued, but it is a magical sort of dish that's both deeply flavorful and lightning-quick to cook, once you’ve spent a few minutes revving at the spice drawer.

25. Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter

This is the most famous tomato sauce on the internet (and probably the most famous before the internet, too). You won’t need to chop or sauté a thing; you only need tomatoes, an onion split in half, and butter.

26. Crispy Yangnyeom Chickpeas With Caramelized Honey From Eric Kim

All the joys of Korean fried chicken—without the frying (or the chicken). Memorize Eric Kim's sweet-spicy yangnyeom sauce and you won't want to stop at chickpeas.

27. Not Just Another Chicken Caesar Salad From Ali Slagle

This salad's brilliance starts with a dressing that’s also a marinade (that you don’t have to leave to marinate, or even wipe off before searing), and incorporates a slew of other tricks that will redefine what you look for in Caesar salad.

Hands-Off Dinners

28. Sally Schneider's Slow-Roasted Salmon (or Other Fish)

Slow-roasting makes for tender, not-the-least-bit-dry fish that happens to be hard to overcook. And slow-roasting is a misnomer; your dinner will usually be done in 15 minutes.

29. Sheet-Pan Gnocchi With Chili Crisp & Baby Bok Choy From Hetty McKinnon

This is the most flavorful, joyfully textured sheet-pan dinner, thanks to heavy-hitting ingredients, paired brilliantly by Hetty McKinnon. Packaged gnocchi make up the crisp-chewy base, a spoonful of chili crisp knocks out the seasoning, and scallion sour cream cools and brightens it all.

30. Yi Jun Loh’s One-Pot Coconut Water ABC Soup

Coconut water makes a surprisingly apt substitute for rich bone broths (that happen to be vegan). This swap will quickly give a backbone to any soup or stew, but this ABC soup—the Malaysian version of a classic, simple chicken soup—is a great place to start.

31. Canal House's Chicken Thighs With Lemon

The secret to the crispiest chicken thighs? Leave the chicken alone, skin-side down, in an only modestly hot pan, flipping once. The skin renders and becomes impossibly crisp, and will sate even your most intense fried chicken cravings.

32. Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach's Pork Shoulder Ragu

Why cube and tediously brown hunks of meat for a braise when the goal is for it to fall to smithereens by the end? Andy Ward and Jenny Rosenstrach call this the "Instant Dinner Party" because you can make the ragu entirely ahead, but your time spent actively cooking is nearly instant, too.


33. 5-Minute Hummus From Zahav Restaurant

This recipe proves that you can make excellent hummus at home in much (much) less time than it would take to go buy a tub at the store.

34. Shishito-Style Green Peppers From Michele Humes

Shishito peppers can be pricey and tricky to find, especially when they’re not in season. This clever, swift-cooking stand-in—the humble green bell pepper—is neither, and will quickly become your new go-to quick green side.

35. Renee Erickson's Sautéed Dates

These crackly, molten dates are just about the easiest party snack you can muster from the pantry, and a very good match for a bubbly drink.

36. José Pizarro's Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

If you boil baby potatoes in a wide, shallow pan in a single layer, with no lid and a lot of sea salt, you’ll find yourself with a head-turning new appetizer.

37. Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole

Roberto Santibañez crushes only enough of the avocado to render it dippable, but leaves the rest intact, bathing it in a vividly flavored chile sauce. This guacamole will make you both an absolute guacamole snob and a very popular host.

Mix & Match Sides

38. Butternut Squash With Chile Yogurt & Cilantro Sauce From Yotam Ottolenghi

Here’s the easiest way to peel and cube a butternut squash: Don’t peel and cube a butternut squash. Yotam Ottolenghi never does—he just slices them in rugged hunks and positions their skins to blister against the hot pan.

39. Baked Sweet Potatoes With Maple Crème Fraîche From Nik Sharma

A surprisingly simple technique (steam, then roast, all in one pan) makes sweet potatoes the best version of themselves.

40. Molly Yeh's Roasted Potatoes With Paprika Mayo

The key to the finest roasted potatoes? Boiling in salty water first seasons the potatoes all the way through and brings some of the potatoes’ gelatinized starches to the surface, so they get even crispier in the oven.

41. Vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice From Andrea Nguyen

Even though it was one of only two seemingly non-negotiable ingredients, coconut milk was always gumming up Andrea Nguyen’s coconut rice, so she ditched it. To the rescue: coconut water, plus a couple spoonfuls of virgin coconut oil to bring back richness without all the heft.

42. Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

Adam Roberts once called this “The Best Broccoli of Your Life” and promised that at least one person liked it more than steak. He wasn’t wrong.

43. Canal House's Marinated Zucchini

This is the summer side you can make whenever you have 15 minutes, then completely forget about. With the zucchini first seared and relaxed, the marinade seeps in more quickly and thoroughly than had things gone the other way.

44. Stuart Brioza's Mushrooms in Pickle-Brine Butter

Unless you're approaching the proportions used for pickles, brine is just a contained burst of acid, salt, and mulled spices and seasonings that together work magic in the background (here, on mushrooms).

45. Toro Bravo's Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette

Austere as this salad might seem, it has a trick that will make you better at making salads: Infuse the vinegar with chopped red onion for an hour, then quietly remove it. The dressing is left with a richer, more complex flavor, and will taste downright expensive.

46. Crook's Corner's Green Peach Salad

How to make good on even rock-hard peaches, with just a shake of sugar and salt to gloss them up, plus some brightening olive oil, fresh mint, and black pepper.

No-Special-Equipment Desserts

47. Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies From Tara O’Brady

Unlike in the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag, Tara O’Brady pulls butter straight from the fridge and melts it for a denser, chewy-crispy cookie (that happens to be easier to make the moment you want one, without an electric mixer).

48. Blueberry-Thyme Yogurt Cake from Dorie Greenspan

This yogurt cake is so simple, in France it’s typically measured by scooping up flour, sugar, and oil right in the yogurt container. Pinching the citrus zest and herbs into the sugar is a Genius trick to send good smells floating through your batter, your kitchen, and, ultimately, your cake.

49. Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars From Karen DeMasco

Despite their hunky, granola-like ingredient list and simplest-possible technique, these crumbly bars have the lightness of a fine, sandy shortbread cookie. Any combination of jams and nuts will work, and give this delicate granola bar-ish template new character.

50. Dori Sanders’ No-Churn Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

This recipe from Dori Sanders only asks you to juice, zest, and stir. The lemon juice naturally thickens the cream, and you get a smooth, scoopable sweet-tart ice cream—no ice cream maker needed.

51. Ovenly's Secretly Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

This incidentally vegan cookie can rest entirely on its own soft, chewy, caramelly-crisp, chocolate-puddled merits. As a bonus, there are no wacky ingredient substitutes here, only omissions.

52. Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

This sweet-salty twist on a classic North Carolina lemon pie is as lazy and beachy as summer should be, thanks to a crust of buttery crushed Saltine crackers and a scattering of flaky salt on top.

What’s your favorite Genius recipe? Tell us in the comments!
Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."