21 three-ingredient recipes to save the day

Stuck with an end-of-the-month grocery situation? We’ve got some great ideas for recipes of starters, mains and desserts that require only three ingredients. (We do assume that you have at least some olive oil, salt and pepper in your pantry, though.) Happy cooking!


Bacon, the duct tape of the kitchen. Stock photo.

Bacon-and-tomato pasta

Fry some bacon and add chopped tomatoes or a tin of tomatoes and simmer until sticky and thick. Toss with your cooked penne or fusilli and serve. (Bacon is the duct tape of the kitchen, after all.)

Banana pancakes by Meal Makeover Moms

Banana pancakes. Photo by Meal Makeover Moms.

Banana pancakes

Forgo the flour with this easy recipe. Mash up one medium banana with a fork, add two beaten eggs and an eighth of a teaspoon of baking powder. The batter is quite liquid, but firms up nicely when you drop dollops onto a very hot griddle pan. (If you wanted to break the boundaries of only three ingredients, you could add vanilla essence or honey, or sprinkle the pancakes with chopped nuts or chocolate before flipping over in the pan.)

Cacio e pepe

This pasta dish showcases how simple and delicious Italian can be. Toss your cooked and drained spaghetti with lots of grated pecorino, black pepper and a splash of leftover boiling water. Done!

Caprese salad by Alexis Lamster

Caprese salad. Photo by Alexis Lamster.

Caprese salad

Layer slices of tomato with fresh basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella for a salad that resembles Il Tricolore, the flag of its origin. Drizzle in olive oil before serving.

Cheat's pizza

Cheat’s pizza. Stock photo.

Cheat’s pizza

Roll out some defrosted puff pastry, dot it with halved cherry tomatoes (or tomato sauce from a jar) and sprinkle with mozzarella before baking for 35 to 40 minutes.

Chicken bake

Place chicken breasts in a casserole dish, top with basil pesto and lots of rosa tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes.

Chilli poppers

Drain a jar of pickled jalapeño chilli halves. (The locally made Peppadew brand is great.) Spoon cream cheese into each half, season and place a slice of cheddar on top. Pop under the hot grill for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Chocolate cigars

Cut rectangles of from a few layers of phyllo pastry and lay a stripe of chopped-up chocolate or Nutella along one of the shorter ends. Tuck in the sides, roll up, and brush with a beaten egg before baking until golden and gooey inside.

Energy bars

Pulse equal amounts of dates, nuts and dried fruit in your food processor. Scrape the mixture into a paper-lined pan, press to set, and slice them up. Dates are the staple, but you can experiment with the nuts and fruit. Try almonds with cherries or apricots, pecans with cranberry, or walnuts with apple and cinnamon.

A photo posted by Melanie (@lain_d_syn) on

Fancy two-minute noodles

Ditch the sachet of carcinogens and instead add a splash of soy sauce, sliced spring onions and chopped coriander leaves to your noodles.

A photo posted by C H A N T E L (@lifeaschantel) on

Gnocchi with blue cheese and cream

While you boil your bag of premade gnocchi (you can also substitute with pasta), bring a cup of cream to a simmer in a saucepan over a medium heat. Crumble in the blue cheese and allow it to melt. Pour over your gnocchi or pasta and serve.

Instant arrabbiata

For a meaty spaghetti sauce, fry a chopped onion, add 500g mince and brown. Pour in a carton of arrabbiata sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. If you feel like seafood, fry some prawns until they’re pink. Add arrabbiata sauce and heat through. Stir through your linguine and serve.

Microwave chocolate sauce

Warm up milk in the microwave with 70% dark chocolate and a sprinkle of caster sugar. This is like haute Ice Cap; it sets hard as it hits the ice cream.

  A photo posted by Samantha Carrera (@sbcarrera) on


Loaded potatoes

Boil or bake a bag of baby potatoes until they’re almost done. Halve them, scoop out some of the flesh and mix it with cream cheese (or a sprinkling of grated cheddar) and some bacon bits. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells and pop them into the oven and bake until browned and hot.

Pasta with goat’s cheese and basil pesto

A favourite at Eat Out HQ is a pasta sauce made with basil pesto, egg yolk, parmesan cheese and lemon juice and zest, but this version is even easier. Toss your cooked pasta with a chopped up log of goat’s cheese and a few spoons of basil pesto.

  A photo posted by Bryan Kong (@bryan_kong) on

Scary soft-drink sauces

People seem to have survived eating these dishes; we remain sceptical. You could try the one method of braising a pork shoulder in root beer and barbecue sauce, or the combo of chicken braised in Coca Cola and soy sauce.

Simple tomato sauce

Place two cups of fresh tomatoes (or two cans) into a pot, along with a few tablespoons of butter, half an onion (to be removed later), and some seasoning. Simmer for 45 minutes. Pour over pasta or use as a base on pizza. Here’s the original famous recipe.

Spinach and blue cheese roulade

Shred fresh spinach and blanch. Spread over defrosted puff pastry and crumble blue cheese (or feta) over. Roll up in a long sausage and bake in the oven at 180°C until golden brown. Cut in 2cm thick wheels and serve warm.

Thai chicken curry

Fry chopped chicken in non-stick pan and add a sachet of red or green curry paste. Cook for one minute and add a can of coconut milk. Simmer for five minutes and serve.

A photo posted by Mags Ch. (@magsch) on

Vegan ice cream

This creamy vegan delight requires just two cans full-fat coconut milk, half a cup of honey or sugar, and two tablespoons of cornstarch. Pour one and a half cans of the coconut milk into a saucepan and warm over a low heat with your honey or sugar until it’s dissolved. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining coconut milk, and pour it into your warm mixture. Allow it to simmer and thicken for another five minutes on medium heat. It’s now ready to be frozen and churned. (Read the full recipe here.) If you’re going to break the three-ingredient rule, vanilla essence is a tasty addition, or you could add fruit coulis for extra colour and flavour.

Peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies. Stock photo.

Wheat-free peanut butter cookies

These beauties are a winner for the wheat intolerant. Mix one cup of peanut butter, one cup of sugar and one egg. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet and press with a fork (if you can be bothered to make the pretty pattern). Bake at 180°C for 6 to 8 minutes, taking care not to overbake. They’re best when warm and slightly soft inside.

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