Three. It’s a magic number. The number of wishes from the genie in the bottle. The types of medals at the Olympics. The best Harry Potter movie installment (arguably).
But in this case, it’s the maximum ingredients (with exceptions for water, salt, and pepper — let’s be reasonable here) required to make a variety of delicious recipes.
That’s right, the mind-blowing selections featured below are prepared with only three (count ’em!) components, which makes them ideal any time grocery shopping is particularly stressful. Not only do they deliver on flavor, but by keeping things minimal, they’ll save on money, cooking time, and clean-up.
So let’s dive into your new favorite, couldn’t-be-easier meals. They’re as simple as 1, 2, 3.
3-ingredient main dishes
Cacio e pepe
Parents of picky eaters, pay heed. Cacio e pepe is a simple crowd-pleaser that not only appeals to skeptical youngsters’ palates, but is also a satisfying meal for adults. Think of it as the peppier, more upscale version of buttered noodles.
Baked cracker-crusted chicken fingers
Here’s another family-friendly favorite that’s so easy to make you can put your kids on (supervised) cooking duty. The chicken is coated in crunchy whole-wheat crackers and then baked, which makes this a healthier but no less tasty alternative to your standard fried finger.
Get our baked cracker-crusted chicken fingers recipe.
Grilled chicken thighs with soy marinade
Keto eaters can get on board with this Asian-inspired chicken dish. A minimum 4-hour bath in soy and garlic will infuse your thighs with plenty of flavor. Noodles or rice are optional.
Get our grilled chicken thighs with soy marinade.
Grilled sweet chili and lime shrimp kebabs
Shrimp on the barbie gets an extra kick with a brush of sweet chili sauce. A squeeze of lime at the finish adds welcome brightness (and you can skip the cilantro).
Get our grilled sweet chili and lime shrimp kebabs recipe.
Ham and cheese quesadillas
This meaty, melty ‘dilla will take you back to the time in high school when you couldn’t decide between taking Spanish or French. Apparently the best solution was a combination of both. Now the question is: Which cheese is speaking your language?
Get our ham and cheese quesadillas recipe.
If you don’t count salt, this homemade gnocchi has just two ingredients: whole wheat pastry flour and Russet potatoes. Not bad for when you’re watching your grocery budget! Add a simple jarred sauce and dinner is served.
Get the 3-ingredient gnocchi recipe.
Egg in a nest
Eggs in a nest. Toad in a hole. Whatever you want to call it, this slice of toast with an egg center is a great way to start the morning — or end the day. Be careful to ensure your yolk is a little runny so the bread can sop up all that liquid gold.
3-ingredient side dishes
Crispy prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
At its peak in spring, asparagus is delicious roasted, but even better when wrapped in cured pork. Bacon is a totally acceptable substitute here if you don’t have prosciutto. Either way, the meat mummy treatment makes even out-of-season stalks taste good.
Get our crispy prosciutto-wrapped asparagus recipe.
The thin, tender florets on broccolini are well suited for the oven. The stalks slightly soften but still have snap, and when gently brushed with olive oil, the leaves develop a satisfying crispiness. Although they’re just fine without it, consider adding a squeeze of lemon for extra zing.
Get our roasted broccolini recipe.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and these happy hour favorites are calling out your name. Peppers. Cream cheese. Salt. Boom!
And yeah, we know they’re really good deep-fried, but that’s an unnecessary hassle at home when they’re so easy to make in the oven, not to mention way healthier (and still damn tasty).
Get the jalapeño poppers recipe.
Perfect baked potatoes
There’s a baked potato. And then there’s a perfect baked potato. Follow these steps to achieve spuds nirvana, then consider taking things to the next level with a fully loaded baked potato bar.
Get our perfect baked potatoes recipe.
For a tasty one-ingredient snack, you can’t go wrong with a hard-boiled egg. Even better, add a touch of mayo and sprinkle of paprika for a devilish upgrade.
Homemade ricotta cheese
Whole milk, salt, vinegar or lemon juice — that’s all that’s required to make ricotta from scratch.
That said, you will need some extra hardware, including cheesecloth, a fine mesh strainer, and an instant-read thermometer. The investment is worth it to have fresh, fluffy cheese for your toast, pizza, or lasagna. Pass the stuffed shells!
Get our homemade ricotta cheese recipe.
Fall herb butter
Though these herbs are technically seasonal to fall, you should be able to find them year-round at your grocery store. Pick out a couple of your favorites, then mince and mash with room temperature butter.
Spread the tasty mixture on bread or let it melt atop a sizzling seared steak. Either way, make a large batch ‘cuz it keeps in the fridge for as long as unseasoned butter and freezes well, too.
Get our fall herb butter recipe.
3-ingredient desserts and treats
3-ingredient crème brûlée
This crème brûlée hack is a make-ahead dish perfect for dinner parties. Prep the custard in the afternoon, refrigerate, and when you’re ready to serve a fancy dessert later that evening, just gently caramelize sugar in a small pan, pour, and you’re golden.
Get the 3-ingredient crème brûlée recipe.
Like 3-ingredient crème brûlée, this caffeinated beverage inspired by South Korean Dalgona candy earned viral status on TikTok. Its 15 minutes of frothy glory on social media may be over, but it’s still a fun treat to whip up when you can’t get to your favorite coffee shop. Instant coffee, sugar, and milk (plus hot water) are all you need.
Get the dalgona coffee recipe.
2-ingredient banana ice cream
This frozen delight is essentially blended bananas (with no added dairy) so vegans can feel free to indulge. Foster-ize with a drizzle of caramel sauce and consider adding a sprinkle of fleur de sel — a little goes a long way.
Get our 2-ingredient banana ice cream recipe.
Toasted cashew and bacon brittle
Nuts, bacon, and sugar are all it takes to make this crunchy confection (we’re letting water and salt slide since they’re always on hand). Make sure you own a reliable candy thermometer to ensure optimal consistency.
Get our toasted cashew and bacon brittle recipe.
Don’t settle for the artificial stuff. Just as its name suggests, this recipe is oh-so-easy to prepare. Simply combine simple syrup, water, ice, and an obscene amount of lemons, and you’ll be quenching your thirst all summer long.
Since water doesn’t officially count as an ingredient, throw in some iced tea or perhaps a shot or two of vodka to hit the ingredient trifecta.
Great meals, sides, snacks, and desserts don’t have involve a mountain of ingredients to be a work of art. And these days, with grocery prices through the roof, it’s nice to know you can whip up something tasty with just a trio of elements. These 3-ingredient recipes prove the old adage that, sometimes, simple is best.