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5-Ingredient Recipes for Busy Cooks

Simple recipes and speed-cooking tips for everyday meals.
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Does this ever happen to you?: You're interested in trying a new recipe, but then you notice that it calls for a long list of 15 or more ingredients. And suddenly, you’re just not that into it anymore.

For everyday cooking, most of us (even those who like to cook) have an unspoken limit on the number of ingredients we're willing to hunt down for a recipe. Five seems to be the magic number for many people. So I've come up with a few 5-ingredient recipes, plus some tips on how to keep your recipes simple.

The trick is to use food products that can stand in for several ingredients at once. Some examples:

  • A good-quality bottled salsa, marinara, or enchilada sauce. Bottled salsa can take the place of five or more ingredients, like tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic, apple cider vinegar, salt, mild red chilies, and spices. Marinara sauce can replace eight or more ingredients, like tomato puree, diced tomatoes in juice, olive oil, onions, sugar, salt, garlic, basil, pepper and oregano.
  • Seasoning blends like Mrs. Dash Original Blend or pumpkin pie spice. Instead of 10 or more ingredients (like onion, black pepper, parsley, celery seed, basil, bay, marjoram, oregano, savory, thyme, cayenne pepper, coriander, and cumin), use a salt-free seasoning blend like Mrs. Dash. Pumpkin pie spice can replace cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves.
  • A light bottled salad dressing, sauce, or marinade, like light raspberry walnut vinaigrette and teriyaki sauce. Salad dressing can sub for six or more ingredients, like vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, raspberry juice, walnuts, salt, garlic, and onion. Teriyaki sauce can replace nine or more ingredients, like soy sauce, sugar, soybean oil, garlic, sesame seeds, ginger, white vinegar, salt, sesame oil, and onions.
  • Canned soup, like 98% fat-free cream of chicken, can replace five or more ingredients, like chicken stock, water, wheat flour, cooked chicken meat, and salt. 
  • Italian-style breadcrumbs can pinch-hit for five or more ingredients, like breadcrumbs, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Frozen prepared items. Instead of green peppers, onions, and potatoes, use O’Brien hash browns. And phyllo dough or prepared pie crust can sub for three or more ingredients like flour, cooking fat, salt, and water.
  • Flavored egg substitute can sit in for three or more ingredients. For example, instead of eggs, chopped bell peppers, onions, and spices, use Southwestern Style Egg Beaters. Cheese & Chive Egg Beaters can replace eggs, cheddar cheese, and chives.
  • Mixes. Pudding or pie filling mixes, stuffing mixes, noodle or rice mixes, and cake, muffin or brownie mixes can simplify your recipes. For example, instead of five or more ingredients like flour, sugar, cooking fat, baking powder, and flavorings, use a cake or brownie mix.

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