10 Minimalist Recipes for the No-Fuss Chef

Love cooking but hate when complicated recipes consume your entire night? Here are ten minimalist recipes, which call for only five or fewer ingredients—plus salt and pepper.

Emily Jones, Writing for
3-minute read

Have you ever come across mouthwatering recipe, only to realize its ingredients list is longer than the Great Wall of China? Cooking aspirations may crumble beneath the weight of seemingly ceaseless spices, condiments, and garnishes. Thoughts may even turn to the—gasp!—dreaded microwavable TV dinner.

But finding a simple and savory recipe doesn’t have to be like creating the Eighth Wonder of the World. There are lots of monumental recipes requiring minimal ingredients. Here are a selection of “minimalist” recipes, calling for five or fewer ingredients (and occasionally salt and pepper to taste):

1. Eggplant Marinara

Eggplants, olive oil, tomato sauce, pecorino romano, and mozzarella (plus salt and pepper to taste) are all you need for this cheesy, delightful dish. It’s like pizza, but seemingly healthier, because, well, eggplant is a vegetable.

2. Cold Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes

For a lighter alternative, try this summery dish. The name of the recipe is almost as long as the ingredients list. Once you’ve got the angel hair, corn, and tomatoes, just find some balsamic vinaigrette and basil (plus salt and pepper to taste).

3. Fettuccine Alfredo

Angel hair has a richer, heartier cousin, and he’s also easier—to cook, that is. Aside from fettuccine, the recipe only calls for butter, heavy cream, and parmesan (and, of course, salt and pepper to taste).

4. Grilled Pompano with Lime and Olive Oil

According to recipe contributors Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, pompano has a subtleness of flavor that needs little seasoning, and a balance of firmness and tenderness that lends itself well to grilling. All you need, aside from the title ingredients, are extra virgin olive oil and parsley (and — OK, OK, you get the point: salt and pepper).

5. Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Potatoes

Plus milk and scallions. In this recipe, even the required culinary equipment is minimal: after cooking, scooping, and mixing the potato with the other ingredients, the potato skin serves as a pocket for the mashed mixture. It’s like a DIY hot pocket.

6. Classic Potato Latkes

If you prefer your potatoes fried, rather than baked, try this recipe. Potatoes, onions, eggs, flour, and oil are all you need to whip up potato pancakes traditionally served for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

7. Jammin’ Sugar Cookie Thumbprints

These thumbprint cookies are egg-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, tree nut free, vegetarian, and also, shockingly, salt and pepper free. Instead, sugar, unsalted butter, flour, and fruit preserve (or, alternately, fruit curd, peanut butter, Nutella, or dulce de leche) make for cookies so jammin’ that your friends will be jelly.

8. Dark Chocolate Sorbet

Intended for more mature audiences, this dessert is concocted from sugar, water, cocoa powder, salt, and either dark rum, Grand Marnier, cognac, or amaretto. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t miss out: you can use your freezer instead.

9. Kulfi Indian Ice Cream

For a more PG variation on ice cream, try kulfi. Chef Anupy Singla explains how kulfi is “denser, creamier...chewier” and more solid than traditional ice cream because it isn’t whipped. The epitome of sugar, spice, and everything nice (whole milk, cardamom, sugar, almonds, and pistachios), you’d be nutty not to like it.

10. Baked Figs with Cinnamon and Honey

Plus brandy or rum. Serve with mascarpone, ice cream, or creme fraiche for a fifth ingredient. Or, if you’re feeling ambitiously minimalist, don’t.

So there you have it. The list of recipes you just read is twice as long any of their individual ingredient lists. You can do it. The ingredients may be minimalist, but your enjoyment is sure to be massive.