Skip to content

The Easiest Meals That Use 5 Ingredients or Less

Here's how to make the cheat version of 20 delicious meals.
root vegetables

When "What should I make for dinner?" starts to turn into "Do I even have time to make dinner?" the next challenge is whether you'll even actually have a tasty, healthy meal.

We've all been there. You're browsing Pinterest or going through your cookbooks for easy, quick recipes to make for dinner this week. And there it is! A beautifully staged picture of black cod with a delicate miso glaze sits atop a steaming bed of saucy mushrooms and bok choy. And then you look at the ingredient list… Dashi? Mirin? Sake? You reluctantly turn the page. "That's not going to happen."

Besides working a 9-5 (read: 8-6) and just barely managing to squeeze in workouts, there's usually little time or energy left for cooking—and certainly none for running up and down supermarket aisles to pick up dozens of ingredients. With that in mind, resisting the urge to pick up salty, greasy take-out that won't do your body—or your health—any favors wasn't hard to do. Until now.

We've rounded up 20 of the most delicious, nutritious, and drool-worthy dinners from our favorite bloggers, and we present to you our cheat versions. Below, you'll find the have-this-report-to-me-by-tomorrow coconut curry halibut and the I'm-too-sick-to-cook minestrone, among many others. They each call for a mere five ingredients (plus staples like oil, salt, and pepper at times) and are super easy to make. Just follow each blogger's instructions as you typically would—using our five ingredients—and you'll be on your way to a smaller waist (and your comfy bed) in no time. And to cut down your dinner prep time, check out these 20 One-Minute Dinner Hacks That Save Tons of Time.

1

Flank steak + cilantro + garlic + white vinegar + Russet potatoes

Grilled skirt steak
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from How Sweet It Is.

For our cheat version: We've simplified the chimichurri to just four ingredients: cilantro, garlic, white vinegar, and olive oil (and season with salt and pepper). We had to sacrifice using brown sugar in the marinade so we could get in some extra starch, but you can just marinate the steak in the chimichurri and also use it to top it off. Roast some potatoes on the side by dicing up peeled russet potatoes and adding them to a pot of salted water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Toss with garlic, oil, salt, and pepper, and roast the potatoes in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

And if you love cooking, sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!

2

Rice + onion + eggs + soy sauce + frozen mixed veggies

fried rice
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Cooking Classy.

For our cheat version: Just pick up a bag of frozen mixed veggies in the frozen food aisle and you've cut 5 ingredients down to 1! Most vegetable bags will have peas, carrots, corn, and green beans, but we couldn't leave out the onion. This vegetable is one of the top sources of quercetin, a flavonoid that increases blood flow and activates a protein in the body that helps regulate glucose levels, torches stored fat, and keeps new fat cells from forming. If you want, you can sub the onion for garlic, ginger, or even mushrooms to fill out your five ingredients.

RELATED: Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

3

Chicken + onions + peppers + seasoning + whole-wheat tortillas

chicken fajitas
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Simply Recipes.

For our cheat version: Simply Recipes' recipe is, unsurprisingly, really pretty simple. To save yourself from rummaging through your spice drawer—or having to shell out cash on individual spices—just grab a premixed spice blend like McCormick's Perfect Pinch Mexican to season your chicken, and you'll have dinner on the table in no time.

When you're picking up peppers, go for a medley of red, yellow, and orange and leave the green on the shelf. The warmer-colored peppers have almost three times more beta-carotene (the colored pigments that provide vitamin A) and one and a half times more immunity-boosting vitamin C than their green counterparts.

4

Spaghetti squash + onion + sausage + mozzarella + herb tomato sauce

spaghetti squash two half slices shredded
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Nutmeg Nanny.

For our cheat version: When you're at the supermarket, look for an Italian-spiced, herby tomato sauce to cut down on having to add seasoning during the cooking. Because tomatoes and peppers are very similar in terms of nutrition and nutrients, we left out the peppers from the original recipe but kept in the onions to add a little bite and sweetness.

Using spaghetti squash instead of pasta is one of our favorite pasta tips to stay skinny because its glycemic index is lower than spaghetti and it's higher in micronutrients like vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium.

5

Pork + chipotle + orange marmalade + green beans + sweet potatoes

Pork tenderloin
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Minced.

For our cheat version: Spice things up (and boost your metabolism) with this spicy pork tenderloin. Because we don't have enough ingredients to make a marinade, we're happy blogger Minced provides us with a great brine step. Using just water, salt, and a little of the orange marmalade, the brine allows the meat to absorb liquid, which makes it more flavorful and juicier after it's cooked. Before you grill the tenderloin, throw a sweet potato into a 425-degree oven for an hour. Poke holes into it with a fork, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and wrap with foil. For the green beans, boil in salted water for four minutes, drain and season with oil, salt, and pepper.

6

Cod + miso glaze + mushrooms + garlic + baby bok choy

miso glazed cod on a white plate
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Closet Cooking.

For our cheat version: You can buy ready-made miso glaze at the store so you don't have to fuss about buying ingredients like sake, mirin, and miso paste that you might otherwise never use. As for the sauté, use oil, water, and part of the miso glaze, along with garlic, to boost the flavor of your veggies.

While bok choy is a good source of vegetarian iron, it's unique in comparison to other iron-rich sources like potatoes and watermelon because it's also high in vitamin C, the vitamin necessary for the proper absorption of iron into your bloodstream. For the same reason, strawberries and kale make a great pairing to make your smoothies healthier.

7

Chicken + lemon + brown rice + oregano + cherry tomatoes

Lemon chicken
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Recipe Tin Eats.

For our cheat version: Marinate the chicken as directed, just without the garlic; For the rice, substitute the chicken broth for water. After you've put the dish in the oven, remove the lid to bake for another 10 minutes and add some red cherry tomatoes that have been drizzled with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that increases after cooking and processing. Lycopene is associated with a cache of health benefits, including decreasing the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

8

Salmon + asparagus + lemon + dill + garlic

seasoned salmon filets
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Cooking Classy.

For our cheat version: This recipe makes cleanup a breeze: Just throw everything in tin foil, bake, and eat! Not much for us to do here, just read this recipe and you're good to go.

By our rankings, salmon is one of the most nutritional fish for weight loss—that is, if you stick with pink salmon over the farm-raised Atlantic kind. This piece of seafood is loaded with omega-3s, a fatty acid that fights off metabolism-slowing inflammation, and muscle-building protein.

9

Quinoa + arugula + butternut squash + pecans + scallions

quinoa and arugula salad bowl
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Naturally Ella.

For our cheat version: For a sweet and light meal, try this quinoa and arugula salad. We left out the extra honey to coat the butternut squash because the squash is certainly sweet enough on its own.

While you might think the protein content is severely diminished without the called-for feta cheese, think again. Quinoa is chock full of the stuff, boasting all 9 essential amino acids as well as plenty of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats and satiating fiber. That's why it's one of our 25 Best Carbs to Uncover Your Abs.

10

Eggs + sausage + onion + peppers + 3-cheese blend

bacon eggs and vegetables scrambled in bowl
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction.

For our cheat version: Making a frittata is a great way to use any leftover veggies in your kitchen. If you've got none, run out to the store to pick up these five ingredients. We replace the milk with water for our version (which makes ours a frittata rather than a quiche) and combine the cheeses by just picking up a bagged cheese blend.

Eggs are a great source of protein and choline, a nutrient that helps with proper cellular function and acts as a building block for our cells. What's better, this B vitamin shuts off the genetic switches that cause your body to bank fat around your liver.

11

Pesto + pasta + Parmesan + tomatoes + chicken

Pesto sauce
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Pinch of Yum.

For our cheat version: Instead of making your own, buy some store-bought pesto with a short shelf life (so you know it's not packed with preservatives). Other than that, this recipe is good to go! We like to ramp up the protein content by adding some pieces of shredded rotisserie chicken. Adding chicken or any one of these Best Proteins for Weight Loss will help boost satiety and help you build lean muscle mass.

12

Halibut + curry paste + spinach + lime + lite coconut milk

Halibut
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Alaska From Scratch.

For our cheat version: While you might think all curry dishes should be saved for take-out, with the proper ingredients (yes, those listed above!), you can eat your favorite dish in the comfort of your own home. The curry broth is just made up of red curry paste, light coconut milk, lime juice and rind, and water. Keeping the lime in the recipe helps cut the fat and brighten up the dish with the acid content. Its rind is also rich in D-limonene, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

13

Canned tomatoes + pesto + zucchini + garlic + cannellini beans

Healthy minestrone with pesto
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Go gourmet: Follow our recipe for minestrone.

For our cheat version: Even we could use some editing! If this minestrone looked daunting to you at first with its myriad of veggies, we found a way to cut it down. We just used zucchini—a serious superfood that is a great source of cancer-fighting, eye-protecting, and muscle-strengthening antioxidants alpha- and beta-carotene—along with canned whole tomatoes, beans, and garlic.

Sauté garlic and zucchini with olive oil. Crush tomatoes and add reserved juices along with the beans and their liquid. Simmer for five minutes and then season with salt and pepper. Top with a dollop of pesto, and enjoy! Wondering about which zucchini to take home? Here are 35 Ways to Pick Perfect Produce Every Time.

14

Chicken + ginger + rice + teriyaki sauce + frozen stir-fry veggies

Many stir frying in a wok
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Cooking Classy.

For our cheat version: Frozen veggies to the rescue! These medleys are frozen at their peak, so they're typically concentrated with nutrients and are a great thing to always keep in your kitchen. (Healthy cooks do it.) Instead of making your own, grab a bottled teriyaki sauce, like Soy Vay's Veri Veri Teriyaki, from the supermarket. Nothing can beat the taste and bloat-banishing capabilities of fresh ginger, though, so we opted to leave that in.

15

Spaghetti + egg + bacon + garlic + Parmesan

healthy zucchini carbonara
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Damn Delicious.

For our cheat version: Pasta carbonara is one of the simplest, easiest meals to make, which is why we didn't have to change anything in this recipe. It's basically like a bacon egg and cheese sandwich but in pasta form. Yum!

16

Peppers + cilantro + quinoa + pepper jack + cowboy salsa

Stuffed red bell peppers
Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Damn Delicious.

For our cheat version: With just some skillful shopping, you can whip up Damn Delicious's quinoa stuffed peppers using only five ingredients. Grab a "cowboy salsa" with beans, corn, and tomatoes to substitute the salsa, beans, onion, and corn. It'll also be prepared with loads of spices, which means there's no need to add your own.

We couldn't leave out the cilantro, though. This herb not only brings a hint of green to your dish, but it also brings its detoxifying properties. Cilantro is a natural chelator—which means it can help rid your body of toxic heavy metals—and can thus diminish stored fat and lessen the appearance of cellulite.

17

Squash ravioli + butter + sage + prosciutto + Parmesan

butternut squash ravioli with pecans
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

For our cheat version: Upon first glance, you might have never thought this recipe was doable on a Wednesday night. Well, with our ingredient hacks it is! Lucky for you, you can just pick up frozen butternut squash ravioli at the store. Leave out the bread crumbs and just follow the recipe for browning the butter and prosciutto. Add sage leaves and remove from heat. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and eat up!

Besides being one of the healthiest foods for women, sage is a velvety herb that brings a depth of flavor and countless anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

18

Ground turkey + bun + spinach + feta + garlic

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Foodie With Family.

For our cheat version: This recipe is good to go! We love the idea of adding sautéed spinach and feta cheese into this turkey burger. Because turkey is a very lean meat (only 7% fat), adding the cheese and veggies gives it some extra moisture and fat. The spinach also ups the fatigue-crushing iron content that turkey burgers lack in comparison to beef burgers. Turkey is just one of the Best Weight-Loss Paleo Foods!.

19

Pizza dough + onions + spinach + bacon + mozzarella

Healthy spinach sausage pepper pizza
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Cooking Classy.

For our cheat version: When your pizza is loaded with iron-rich spinach, endurance-boosting onions, and mouthwatering (not to mention teeming with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats) bacon, sign us up. To make this white pizza, follow all of the directions but leave out the extra white sauce; using the mozzarella as a base should be enough.

20

Pork shoulder + corn tortillas + taco seasoning + avocado + oranges

pulled pork tacos topped with avocado and cotija cheese served with lime wedges and corn
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Go gourmet: Follow the full recipe from Recipe Tin Eats.

For our cheat version: If you're worried about eating the carnitas at Chipotle, you can make the delicious dish at home with this five-ingredient fix. For the rub, just use a standard, natural taco seasoning mix (not anything that contains artificial chemicals like maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, or partially hydrogenated soybean oil). When adding the pork to the slow cooker, follow directions as written, just without the extra vegetables.

To build the tacos, just add some carnitas onto a corn tortilla and top with diced avocado. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, healthy fats that have been found to help cell-damaging free radicals and prevent heart disease.

And for more ways to up your kitchen game, don't miss these 52 Life-Changing Kitchen Hacks That'll Make You Enjoy Cooking Again.

0/5 (0 Reviews)
Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more