Sometimes the chaos of life calls for an all-day cooking project — an artfully arranged ombré gratin, a braided challah or a big pot of Sunday sauce — something to busy your hands and settle your spirit. But most days, what you need is an easy meal: a dish that is simply prepared, if not simple in flavor, and that won’t let you down. This year, as inflation pushed food costs to new highs, the ingredients also couldn’t cost a lot. These are just the kind of recipes New York Times Cooking readers clicked on most in 2022. With the exception of a few special project dishes — we’re looking at you, Thanksgiving! — they are all easy, economical and exciting recipes to live your messy, beautiful life by. (Find our 50 most popular recipes here.)
J. Kenji López-Alt adapted these silky, seven-ingredent noodles from Helene An at Thanh Long restaurant in San Francisco. The recipe calls for 20 smashed garlic cloves, so it’s a recipe and a stress reduction exercise in one.
Readers loved this one-pot dish from Kay Chun for its adaptability and ease — and had plenty to say about it. (They left more than 500 notes on the recipe.) They also used chicken breasts (or even chickpeas or seitan) instead of thighs, basmati rice in place of short-grain, or broccoli instead of bell pepper, and were more than happy with the cozy results.
Recipe: Sticky Coconut Chicken and Rice
It’s hard to improve upon a classic Thanksgiving dish like stuffing, but Eric Kim did just that by testing 20 different recipes in search of this ideal version. Take it from Alicia: “This is the best Thanksgiving recipe I have ever tried in my life. And I also test drove five recipes myself before trying this one. Bravo!”
Recipe: Thanksgiving Stuffing
Jarred red curry paste, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and tomatoes make up the fragrant base of this comforting vegan soup from Yewande Komolafe. The creamy broth is poured over bowls of silken tofu and topped with fresh herbs for a vibrant, filling meal.
Rick A. Martínez smartly combines Tajín, a Mexican seasoning made from dried, ground red chiles, sea salt and dehydrated lime juice, with agave syrup, orange juice and zest, chipotles, adobo and garlic to make a glossy sauce for grilled boneless chicken thighs. If you don’t have a grill, you can roast the chicken in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.
Recipe: Tajín Grilled Chicken
Many a reader wowed their Thanksgiving guests this year with Alexa Weibel’s gorgeous vegetarian ombré gratin, made with layers of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beets, potatoes and store-bought phyllo pastry sheets.
Recipe: Ombré Gratin
Mayo, that pantry stalwart, is the secret ingredient in this turkey recipe from J. Kenji López-Alt. By combining thick mayo with fresh herbs and slathering it all over the turkey, the herbs stay in place, and the egg in the mayo encourages browning, so you get an evenly seasoned and burnished bird without much fuss.
For crunchy tofu, skip the messy frying, and instead, coat tofu cubes with a mix of cornstarch and oil, then roast until crisp-edged and impossible to stop eating. For a complete sheet-pan meal, balsamic-glazed cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic and red onions roast alongside your tofu.
This 15-minute salty, sweet and tangy ground chicken and green bean stir-fry was adapted from the “Night + Market” cookbook by Kris Yenbamroong and Garrett Snyder. Feel free to use ground turkey in place of chicken, or sweet basil instead of Thai or holy basil.
Readers sure do love a one-pot chicken dish, and this one from Yasmin Fahr is no exception. Inspired by a dinner of ginger fried rice and garlicky stir-fried greens served at Uncle Lou, a Cantonese restaurant in New York, it’s mild and comforting, interesting and nuanced.
“My kids deemed these the best pancakes that they have ever eaten.” What more is there to say about these soft and sweet pancakes from Genevieve Ko?
Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Frozen dumplings come to the rescue in this superfast soup from Hetty McKinnon. Miso, ginger, garlic and turmeric create a flavorful base to which frozen dumplings, noodles, baby bok choy and broccoli (or another vegetable of your choice) are added for a full meal.
Recipe: Dumpling Noodle Soup
Just when you thought fettuccine Alfredo couldn’t get any better, Genevieve Ko went and proved us all wrong by adding chile crisp and spinach for a 30-minute, no-chop dinner that hits all of the spicy, creamy and umami notes.
This classic Italian sauce from Ali Slagle is rich with shredded pork shoulder, Italian sausage and meatballs. Simmer it on the stovetop or in the slow cooker, but however you prepare it, definitely serve it over pasta alongside a green salad and a hunk of good bread. It makes a lot, but freezes well, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor weeks from now.
The best of summer produce — corn, tomatoes, basil and cilantro — come together in this extremely simple salad from Genevieve Ko. Some readers got creative by adding avocado, feta, black beans and so on, but it’s also perfect just the way it is.
Eric Kim’s lush meal of seared scallops and brussels sprouts glazed in a Dijon-, lime- and maple-based sauce is really something special. Serve it with crusty bread, over white rice or risotto, or both.
In Ali Slagle’s version of the classic Neapolitan dish, pasta and lentils cook together in one pot so the pasta releases starches that thicken the sauce. What results is a surprisingly creamy and luxe economical pantry meal. Green lentils are ideal here, but brown will work, too. (They just might fall apart a bit more.)
This version of pad kee mao was adapted from Hong Thaimee, a chef in New York who grew up in Bangkok. It uses plenty of fresh garlic, basil and chiles, and calls for a Dutch oven instead of a wok. Use whichever protein you like: ground pork or chicken, shrimp, mussels or calamari, or cubed extra-firm tofu.
Recipe: Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)
In Kay Chun’s wonderfully adaptable fried rice recipe, cubes of tofu are cooked in a combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger and sugar, absorbing the flavors like tender little sponges. Use any mix of vegetables you like; cabbage, bell peppers and mushrooms are all excellent choices.
Recipe: Tofu and Broccoli Fried Rice