I think there's a tendency for winter cooking to get pretty complicated—simple salads often get replaced by elaborate stews, pastas, and other heartier fare. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I want to be able to cook a simple meal even during the colder months. Often that means simple roasted vegetables, but what about when you want something a little more interesting? Fortunately, winter lends itself to easy 5-ingredient cooking just like summer does if you know what you're doing. From pressure chicken cooker stew to warm broccoli salad to cheesy pastas, we've got 20 five-ingredient recipes to prove that cooking in winter can be just as easy as in any other season.
Chicken Colombian Chicken Stew With Potatoes, Tomato, and Onion
This Colombian stew is pressure cooking at its simplest—just throw in chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and a couple of bay leaves and turn on the cooker. You don't even need to add stock or water because the chicken and vegetables release plenty of flavorful juices under pressure.
5-Ingredient Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Our ultimate fried chicken sandwich isn't a wildly complicated recipe, but if you want something easier we have you covered. We use two tricks to keep this recipe down to five ingredients—self-rising flour already has baking powder mixed in and gives the chicken a great crust, and we make double-use of the jar of pickles by using the pickles themselves as a condiment and their juice as a brine.
Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
You really only need two ingredients (tortillas and cheese) to make a delicious quesadilla, but if we have room for three extra ingredients we might as well use them. Here that means cooked chicken breast, pickled jalapeño, and cilantro, but also try our recipe with spinach, black beans, and chipotles in adobo. Either way, mix all the ingredients with the shredded cheese so that the filling stays intact as the quesadilla cooks.
Classic Pulpo Gallego (Galician Octopus Tapa)
Pulpo gallego is a Galician tapas classic made by cooking octopus until tender and serving with olive oil, salt, and Spanish smoked paprika. I like to add onion and garlic to the pot (or better yet, pressure cooker) with the octopus, but you can leave it out if you want the dish to have a simpler flavor.
Broiled Salmon With Chili-Lime Mayonnaise
Broiling is one of the easiest ways to cook a salmon fillet—the intense heat lets you brown the exterior of the fish without overcooking it. To be even gentler on the fish you can coat it with a flavored mayo like we do here—the mayo browns and leaves the salmon underneath perfectly tender.
Japanese Mentaiko Spaghetti (Pasta With Spicy Cod Roe and Butter Sauce)
This Japanese-Italian fusion pasta is as easy as it is hearty. Besides the spaghetti all you need is mentaiko (spicy cured pollack roe), light soy sauce, unsalted butter, and nori. Mentaiko freezes well, so next time you find yourself at a Japanese grocery, stock up and be ready to make this whenever the craving strikes.
Charred Broccoli Salad With Sardines, Pickled Shallot, and Mint
One of my favorite easy lunches any time of year, this salad pairs nutty charred broccoli florets with olive oil–packed canned sardines, quick-pickled shallot, and fresh mint. Slice the shallot and get it into red wine vinegar before you start the rest of the prep and it will be perfectly pickled by the time the broccoli is ready.
Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth)
This simple Japanese side is made by blanching leafy greens (spinach works well) and marinating them in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and dashi. Because the dashi is such a major part of the dish's flavor we recommend making it from scratch—it only takes a couple of minutes and doesn't push this recipe over the 5-ingredient limit.
Other Meats Sous Vide Leg of Lamb With Black Olives
Looking for something a little heartier? This leg of lamb is elegant enough to be a dinner-party centerpiece but still only requires a couple ingredients. We roll the lamb with black olives, parsley, and garlic before cooking it sous-vide to a perfect medium and searing quickly in a hot skillet.
Tonkatsu or Chicken Katsu (Japanese Breaded Pork or Chicken Cutlets)
Katsu—fried pork or chicken cutlet—is a comfort-food favorite across Japan. It's made with a simple panko breading and always served with thick, sweet katsu sauce. Making your own sauce would definitely break our ingredient limit, but to be honest nothing you make at home will be better than Bull Dog anyways.
Vegetarian Roasted Carrots With Black Sesame Dressing
It often takes no more than simple dressing to make roasted vegetables shine. Here that means serving roasted carrots with a deep, earthy black sesame dressing. Along with some bright lemon juice and parsley, the bitter sesame paste wonderfully complements the sweet carrots.
The Lazy Cook's Black Beans
Dried beans are a staple of my diet in the winter since they're cheap, versatile, and filling. They are also super easy, as evidenced by this four-ingredient recipe. All we use to flavor the beans (besides kosher salt) is garlic, onion, and an orange, the latter of which we simmer whole to add both a citrusy sweetness and a subtle bitterness.
Roasted Kabocha Squash With Soy Sauce, Butter, and Shichimi Togarashi
The combination of soy sauce and butter is used in Japan to flavor all sorts of things, from fried rice to beef to McDonald's French fries. Here we spike it with a sprinkling of the Japanese seven-spice blend shichimi togarashi and use the mixture to flavor roasted kabocha squash. You can make the sauce on the stovetop, but a microwave is easier.
Fast and Easy Pasta With Blistered Cherry Tomato Sauce
Fresh tomatoes aren't usually part of my winter diet, but cherry tomatoes are pretty good all year so I keep this recipe in rotation even when summer is long gone. We cook the tomatoes until they burst and release their juices. Rich in pectin, those juices emulsify with olive oil to create an incredibly easy sauce. Looking for other easy tomato-based pastas? Check out our bucatini all'amatriciana and penne arrabbiata.
3-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
I promise that after you learn this recipe you'll never buy a box of macaroni and cheese again—with just three ingredients (equal parts macaroni, evaporated milk, and cheese), this is actually even easier than Kraft. While some similar recipes call for cooking the pasta in milk, we use water to prevent scorching.
Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti With Black Pepper and Pecorino Romano)
Perfect for lunch or a midnight snack, cacio e pepe is made with spaghetti, olive oil, butter, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese. The cheese, olive oil, and a little starchy water from cooking the pasta all emulsify into a creamy sauce in minutes.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Pasta doesn't get much simpler than this—the sauce is made with nothing more than olive oil and sliced garlic (plus a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want to get crazy). As with cacio e pepe, the secret is using the starchy pasta water to make a sauce.
Pasta al Limone
At its heart, pasta al limone is basically lemon-spiked fettuccine alfredo—it starts with the same base of butter and Parmesan, with the citrus adding a brightness that we love on a cold day. We cook lemon zest into the sauce and finish with fresh juice—we don't say how much because it's really just a matter of taste.
Dessert Eggless Chocolate Mousse
This recipe came into existence partially by accident—we were trying to make chocolate condensed milk, but the starch in the cocoa thickened the mixture into something closer to a pudding. Rather than throw it out and start again, we folded in some whipped cream and wound up with a remarkably intense chocolate mousse.
Marbled Ganache for Easy Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Marbled chocolate strawberries seem like a fancy dessert, but all they require is a simple ganache (or rather, two simple ganaches). The only trick to the recipe is to remember that dark and white chocolate need different amounts of cream to reach the right consistency—we use a 2:3 chocolate:cream ratio for the former and a 3:2 ratio for the latter.