We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Save Time (and Money!) with These 3-Ingredient Dinner Ideas

A tri-fold of pesto noodles, a chicken and broccoli casserole, and a chicken Caprese salad.
A Couple Cooks/Life in the Lofthouse/Food & Wine

Getting dinner on the table every night can be a challenge. Whether you’re short on time, ingredients, or money, these quick meals can be pulled together with only three ingredients.

How often have you finished a long work day and dragged yourself into the kitchen for dinner only to stare at the fridge for 20 minutes before ordering takeout? Even if you enjoy cooking, creating a composed meal often takes a lot of time and effort. Takeout from your favorite restaurant is easy, but those costs add up quickly. We’ve compiled a list of 3-ingredient dinners to save you time, money, and sanity.

Some of these recipes rely on prepackaged ingredients to give plenty of flavor and variety. Some also call for add-ons like spices that don’t count toward the 3 ingredients because you likely have them on hand. You’re also free to add anything to these dishes if you have the time and feel like it’s missing something, but we’re sure you’ll like them on their own!

Chicken and Broccoli Bubble Up

A casserole dish with a mixture of chicken, broccoli, and biscuits inside.
Life in the Lofthouse

This recipe successfully pulls together a protein, vegetable, and carb for a satisfying meal. It calls for frozen broccoli in cheese sauce which adds lots of flavor packed into a single ingredient. However, you can turn this into a 4-ingredient dinner by combining plain broccoli with cheddar cheese if you don’t have the prepackaged version on hand.

To make this dish, slice your chicken breast into small pieces and cook in a skillet over medium heat until no longer pink. Cook the broccoli in cheese sauce in the microwave or according to the package’s directions. While those are cooking, cut the biscuit dough into small pieces and spread them evenly on the bottom of a greased casserole dish.

Pile the chicken and broccoli on top of the biscuit dough and bake until the dough is cooked through. The final result is cheesy, comforting, and delicious.

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Two sweet potatoes filled with shredded chicken and barbecue sauce.
The Comfort of Cooking

Sweet potatoes are creamy, filling, and full of nutrients. They can be added to sweet or savory dishes, and this one goes savory with shredded chicken and barbecue sauce.

The recipe is as simple as roasting sweet potatoes in the oven and stuffing them with the meat and sauce. You can cook your chicken any way you want, but the easiest would be to cook it in your crockpot or Instant Pot before shredding. You can also buy precooked chicken to save any more time. Your favorite barbecue sauce completes the meal and goes perfectly with the sweetness of the potato. Stir the chicken and sauce together before filling your potatoes and top with extra sauce if you want.

To make this dinner more well-rounded, throw a handful of spinach or kale into your chicken and barbecue sauce mixture to add a veggie to your dinner.

Pesto Spaghetti

Someone pulls spaghetti out of a bowl with tongs; A bowl of pesto covered spaghetti.
A Couple Cooks

Pesto is the perfect way to make a bright and refreshing meal. This dinner can be whipped together in less than 20 minutes by boiling spaghetti and tossing it with pesto and parmesan cheese.

To avoid dry, gummy pasta, reserve a cup of your pasta water after it has cooked. When you’re coating the pasta with your pesto, add some of the pasta water to keep your dish silky smooth.

Homemade pesto is the obvious choice here, but that’s a heck of a lot more than three ingredients. Storebought is totally fine, but the quality of this ingredient can vary greatly between brands. Try a few different kinds until you find your favorite go-to.

Avocado Chicken Salad

An avocado chicken salad in a crescent roll sandwich.

This recipe is simple to make and way healthier than your typical chicken salad. Avocado replaces mayonnaise, but you’ll barely notice the difference. Combine with fresh cilantro and some seasonings, you’ll get that same creamy texture with better-for-you fats.

This recipe recommends using a store-bought rotisserie chicken in your dish. These usually come seasoned so you’ll get more flavor by going this route. However, you’re free to make your own shredded chicken and season it however you’d like to.

This chicken salad can be enjoyed on its own or spread between two slices of bread for a tasty sandwich.


A bowl of chili with cheese on top.
I Heart Naptime

Chili is a staple in budget cooking, but most recipes call for a dozen or more different ingredients. This recipe relies on three key components: beans, tomatoes, and ground meat. Chili beans come preseasoned and diced tomatoes in green chilis pack a spicy punch.

Even though this meal is simple, it’s surprisingly flavorful and delicious on its own. It’s also easy to modify if you’re missing any of your favorite chili ingredients. Just throw in whatever spices, beans, or vegetables you have to amp it up.

When experimenting with different ingredients, try to keep the ratio of 1 can of beans to 1 pound of meat to 1 can of tomatoes. This will give you the best consistency and balance of flavors.

Ravioli Lasagna Casserole

A casserole dish with ravioli and cheese inside.

When you think of a quick and easy dinner, your mind doesn’t typically turn to lasagna. And sure, when you’re carefully layering various cheeses and meat between sheets of pasts, it can take a long time. This recipe uses store-bought ravioli for a fun lasagna-like meal that takes minimal prep and cooking time.

All you have to do to make this comforting dinner is layer a package of frozen ravioli with cheese and pasta sauce. The end result is a dinner that’s part-ravioli, part-lasagna, and totally delicious.

Chicken Caprese Salad

A bowl filled with grilled chicken, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese balls.
Food & Wine

Caprese salad is a traditional Italian dish made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil. It’s usually seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil, although you’ll often see balsamic vinegar drizzled on top for extra flavor.

This chicken Caprese salad hack keeps the flavors of the original, adds chicken for a protein boost, and keeps the ingredient list down to three items. How? This recipe calls for marinated mozzarella balls in place of freshly sliced cheese. With only one ingredient you get mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, and lots of spices depending on the variety you choose.

This salad is refreshing and perfect for a light lunch or dinner.

Smothered Burritos

A burrito smothered in sauce and cheese.
Spicy Southern Kitchen

Bring frozen burritos to the next level by transforming them into cheesy, saucy pockets of flavor with a couple more ingredients. This recipe is extra easy by utilizing your slow cooker. The hardest part is putting the ingredients together!

You can customize this recipe by selecting any frozen burrito you want, whether that’s a standard bean and cheese or a beefed-up meaty version. Enchilada sauce works the best with smothered burritos, but you can use taco sauce or another Mexican variety if you prefer a different taste.

Serve these on their own or with Mexican rice and some roasted veggies.

Genius Cauliflower Soup

A bowl of cauliflower soup sits on a table.

This soup is great for people on a very tight budget or those looking for a simple but satisfying meal. You might be skeptical about how much flavor a soup made with cauliflower, onions, and water can have, but don’t knock it until you try it. Caramelizing the onions in olive oil adds a depth of flavor that pairs beautifully with the nuttiness of the cauliflower.

You can season this soup to your heart’s content but wait until the end to do so. It packs more flavor than you think it will and you probably won’t need to add anything when it’s finished. Serve with a slice of toasted or crusty bread for the perfect weeknight meal.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?