“A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.”

Thomas Keller

Cooking with only your pantry items is a fun and innovative challenge! Plus, it’s a way to make sure you’re not wasting food and, in a pinch, can still cook a great meal.

Being a vegetarian I had a lot of veggies 🥗 in my refrigerator and I chose to mix rice 🍚 with veggies to create fried rice.

Fried rice is commonly made by stir-frying cooked rice with vegetables, meat, seafood, or eggs, along with different seasonings and sauces. The best part of this dish is that you can customize it to suit your individual taste and preference. By the way, fried rice is a terrific way to use up leftover rice and vegetables, making it a practical and economical meal option.


The quantity of each ingredient can be modified according to personal taste.

Pantry items (Mostly vegetables from pantry items)
Vegetables of choice combined with rice
  • French beans (finely chopped)
  • Green pea
  • Cauliflower (finely chopped)
  • Rice- 1 cup
  • Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • Potatoes (finely chopped)
  • Carrot (finely chopped)
  • Green onion (finely chopped)
  • Paneer (cottage cheese)/Tofu (finely chopped)
  • Green capsicum (finely chopped)
  • Onion (thinly sliced)
  • Ginger (finely chopped)
  • Garlic (Thinly sliced)
  • Green Chilli (sliced)
  • Oil
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Salt
  • Red chilli powder
  • Turmeric powder
  • Fenugreek leaves
  • Water

Fried rice recipe

There are many ways to cook this dish, but I chose one of the easiest. This is a basic recipe which can be customized in multiple ways so you don’t get bored with it. Check out the step-by-step process below.

The rice

Let’s start with rice. The first thing to do is to take a cup of rice and rinse it at least five times to get rid of excess starch and then soak it for 15-20 minutes. Once soaked, rinse again and add to boiling water till cooked. Drain the excess water with the help of a strainer and keep the cooked rice aside.

The vegetables

Chopped vegetables (pantry items)
Chopped vegetables

While the rice cooks, chop all the ingredients you need for this recipe. I had a lot of vegetables on hand so that’s what I used, but you can also use shrimp, chicken, pork, or eggs as per your taste.

The frying

Heat 3-4 (depending on the number of vegetables) tablespoons of oil in a wok on high flame. Add cumin seeds and wait till you hear a spluttering or popping sound. Add garlic, ginger and green chillies to it and sauté till golden brown and aromatic. Afterwards, add sliced onion and chopped green onion. Combine well and add salt. I have added one tablespoon, but you can add it according to your taste.

While the onions are turning golden brown, add red chilli powder, turmeric powder (optional) and crushed fenugreek leaves. Mix well and wait till the onions are cooked.

Now you have two options; the first is to enjoy the crunchiness of the vegetables. If you wish to retain the crunchiness, fry for 5-10 mins until the raw flavour is gone and set aside. You can also add different sauces like soy sauce at this stage. I used a lot of vegetables, so I decided to go with the second option of fully cooking the vegetables hence, I added 1-2 cups of water to the wok and mixed it well. Either way, make sure all the ingredients are well-combined.


If you choose to add water, then make sure you are closing the lid. Wait till the vegetables are fully cooked and the water is evaporated. Take the cooked rice and add them to a big bowl. Once the vegetables are cooked, add them to the rice and combine them well.


Fried rice made of pantry items (Pantry items)
Fried rice served with curd

Once you have mixed everything together, add some to your dish and garnish with chopped coriander. You can eat fried rice alone or serve them with a side. I used fresh curd but, you can also use yogurt, manchurian, clarified butter (ghee) or soup.

Taking this challenge helped me learn that I can cook delicious and nutritious meals with just pantry items. It taught me to be more mindful of what I already have at home and to be more resourceful. With a little creativity, I made a tasty dish without having to go to the store. It’s worth noting that having a few staple ingredients and lots of spices on hand really goes a long way in making a meal in a pinch.

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, give it a go and cook with only your on-hand pantry items and share the results with us on Instagram at ShareIGNITE.

Header photo courtesy of Christopher Alvarenga from Unsplash.

Don’t forget to drink water while cooking. Read here to know why.

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