A comically small, strangely arranged or poorly outfitted kitchen should not condemn you to a lifetime of fried eggs and takeout. Nor should an ill-prepared rental kitchen mean you miss out on deliciousness. If you’re just starting to cook, or even if you’ve been doing it a long time, you’re bound to find yourself cooking in a kitchen that tests your ingenuity. You’d be amazed by what can be accomplished with a single pan or bowl, a little creativity and a can-do attitude.
The New York Times Cooking recipes below — which look ambitious when served but are surprisingly easy to prepare, calling for few utensils and in some cases little to no cooking — are exercises in doing a lot with less so that you can eat well regardless of where and how you’re cooking.
Three steps, two bowls, one delicious salad and zero cooking? This recipe from Kay Chun is the real deal. Simply boil some water in a kettle to soak the bulgur as you slice the vegetables and whisk together the vinaigrette, and you’ll have a substantial lunch or a hearty side dish prepared in just 30 minutes.
For a fluffy rice dish, which works just as well as an entree as it does as a side dish, look to this recipe from Ali Slagle, inspired by Greek prasorizo. Beans, rice and vegetables arrive on the table all at once in a single 9-by-13-inch pan, saving you effort and cleanup, and providing a well-rounded meal in the process.
recipe: Baked Rice With White Beans, Leeks and Lemon
In a dreamy Nancy Meyers kitchen, a Sunday morning of pancake-making is a leisurely pursuit. But here, back in reality? You have to make your ‘cakes one at a time because you don’t have a griddle and the room is getting smoky and boy, it’d be nice to have a vent hood and, oh no, now the smoke alarm is going off . Sound familiar? For you, there’s this standout recipe from Jerrelle Guy. Skip the food processor entirely by simply shredding the cold butter into the dry ingredients using a box grate, a smart tip from the comments.
A lively tuna salad can still be thrown together with even the dredges of a poorly stocked fridge and pantry. With a jar of kimchi, a can of tuna, a few celery stalks on their last legs and a few seasonings, you, too, can have this tangy and substantial salad from Ali Slagle. Eat it over last night’s rice, a packet of cooked ramen noodles or snack-size seaweed sheets for an easy-to-eat lunch.
recipe: Kimchi Tuna Salad
Yewande Komolafe could teach a class in thoughtfully streamlining dinner so that all the components end up together in a single pan. Here, a briny, citrusy topping of halloumi, chopped lemon, walnuts and shallot marinates as you sear the chicken skin. The chicken briefly makes a pit stop on a plate so that you can add the couscous, and then the meat is tucked among the pasta so that it can all simmer in some broth and the rendered chicken fat until cooked through and tender.
recipe: Skillet Chicken With Couscous, Lemon and Halloumi
An unreliable stovetop or a stifling kitchen can be all the motivation one needs to invest in an Instant Pot. With a compact pressure cooker on the counter top, you can easily prepare this comforting lentil and rice stew from Samantha Seneviratne without breaking a sweat. After five minutes of sautéing and 15 minutes of low-pressure cooking, the khichdi will be ready for a drizzle of ghee, a dollop of yogurt and a showering of cilantro.
recipe: Instant Pot Khichdi
To be honest, this salad from Eric Kim can be prepared anywhere in your home with a sink. A mix of lettuce greens and herbs are dressed with an umami-rich mix of garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, olive oil, dill and a pinch of sugar for balance. “This is maybe the best salad dressing I have ever made,” one reader wrote in the comments.
A long ingredient list can seem overwhelming, but this flavorful recipe from Melissa Clark is significantly breezier than it may appear. Really, it’s a two-ingredient dish — tofu and snap peas — jazzed up with a sauce whisked up using mostly pantry staples. And to make the recipe, you’ll need little more than a bowl for the sauce and a skillet for searing and stir-frying. It’s all about perspective, baby!
recipe: Hot and Sour Seared Tofu With Snap Peas
Baking bacon yields evenly crisp strips without the stovetop splattering, every time. Here, Ali Slagle provides two foolproof ways to greatness: Arranging the bacon on a foil-lined sheet pan, or setting a wire rack on top of the sheet pan and then placing the bacon on top. The second method yields greater crunch — but leaves you with one more tool to wash. Dealer’s choice!
recipe: Oven Bacon
This Puerto Rican classic is the perfect way to reinvigorate day-old rice with minimal effort or pans. In Von Diaz’s version, she replaces the more traditional ham or tocino with bacon fat, which still imparts a porky flavor—and is a great way to use up any rendered grease left behind on the sheet pan from oven bacon.
A single-step recipe? Everyone says, “Thank you, Ali Slagle!” Here, familiar elements of Greek baked feta and fried cheese dishes are on display, alongside jammy cherry tomatoes and oven-crisp chickpeas. Just dump the ingredients onto a sheet pan, roast and eat immediately with pita, greens or yogurt.
recipe: Sheet-Pan Feta With Chickpeas and Tomatoes
“What kind of magic is this?” ask one reader in the comments of this recipe. And we’ll tell you: It’s the magic of Melissa Clark wielding a sheet pan. The method here will leave you with perfectly cooked salmon in just 15 minutes, every time, and all you have to do to clean up afterward is crumble up the aluminum foil and toss it.
recipe: Broiled Salmon With Mustard and Lemon
Making a batch of quick and easy burritos from Kay Chun is an investment in your future: Make this recipe once, and you’ll be eating well for a week, minimizing the amount of time you have to spend in a kitchen you don’t love. The refried beans, which start by sautéing chopped onion and bell pepper, and the final griddled burritos are cooked in the same pan to really streamline things.
recipe: Bean and Cheese Burritos
If the state of your countertops discourages you from pursuing recipes with a ton of prep, you’ll be thrilled by this weeknight dinner from Samantha Seneviratne. Mince one shallot and a single garlic clove, and you’re ready to begin cooking. The final product, with it’s luscious sauce, will taste like it came out of a well-equipped restaurant kitchen.
If an air fryer is the star of your kitchen, you should absolutely be cooking brussels sprouts in it. That delightfully crunchy texture often found at restaurants is achievable at home, and Melissa Clark will show you how with this recipe. The golden brown sprouts are tossed in a syrupy balsamic vinegar for a side dish that’s tangy and just barely sweet.
recipe: Air-Fryer Brussels Sprouts With Garlic, Balsamic and Soy
No cutting board, no problem. Alexa Weibel requires zero — yes, zero! — shopping in her recipe for silky, saucy pasta (the optional nori topping can absolutely be crumbled over the noodles). This dish is the epitome of unfussy, as you need only one pot and five ingredients to make it happen. You could, of course, add some vegetables, but for the sake of simplicity, stick to the no-chop kind! Frozen edamame, peas or prechopped broccoli would all be tasty additions.
recipe: Five-Ingredient Creamy Miso Pasta