Our 10 favourite no-cook ingredients and how to use them

  • By
    Natalie Hardwick - Writer - bbcgoodfood.com

Think all our recipes involve turning on the hob? Think again. We have plenty of substantial suppers that require no cooking whatsoever.

Our 10 favourite no-cook ingredients and how to use them

Weeknights can be a bit hectic – when your priorities are getting kids to bed, meeting friends, working late or just needing to put your feet up, cooking can be the last thing on your mind. But the path to repletion is shorter than you think   – we have dozens of dishes that require assembly only. The secret lies in the ingredient choices, so go for those that are pre-cooked, plus look out for characterful seasonal saviours and think creatively about flavour combinations. We’ve picked some of our favourite storecupboard basics that’ll make the “no-cook” brief a lot easier – and have serving suggestions to boot.

10 star ingredients for making no-cook suppers 

Prawn noodle saladRice vermicelli noodles

These low-fat, glassy noodles are so thin they don’t require cooking – just leave them to soak in boiling water for a few minutes. Once soft to your liking, rinse them under cold water to stop them from sticking together. They can then be tossed in an Asian-style dressing, or just soy and citrus, to provide a sound foundation for whatever ingredients you have available. Cooked prawns, lots of herbs, shredded vegetables and spring onions work well.

Try in… Prawn & pink grapefruit salad

Flatbread pizzasFlatbreads

Source thick, floury Middle Eastern-style wraps and use as a base to a ‘pizza’. Spread with a dip such as houmous, taramasalata, tzatziki or guacamole, then add matching toppings. Cheese is a must – crumbly feta and creamy goats cheese work well un-melted – then add salad, meat or fish and herbs. Not something the residents of Naples would approve of, but delicious nonetheless.

Try in… Flatbread pizzas     

Salmon saladHot-smoked salmon

It’s now common to see hot-smoked fish fillets nestled in supermarket fridges next to their cold-smoked counterparts, but the two are entirely different entities. We love traditional smoked salmon for its salty flavour and silky texture, but hot-smoked salmon is ideal for when you want the bite of cooked fish, without having to do the hard work. It’s ideal in sandwiches, in wraps or flaked into salad. It's worth seeking out hot smoked trout too, as well as vacuum-packed peppered mackerel fillets.

Try in… Hot-smoked salmon & grapefruit salad


Green gazpachoSpinach

Whether you wilt it under boiling water, shred it finely into salads or use blitzed into a dip or soup, raw spinach has the edge over cooked. Use a whole bag as a base to a green gazpacho – combine with cucumber, avocado, a lot of herbs and yogurt for a seriously cool summer soup.

Try in… Green gazpacho    


Thai chicken saladCooked chicken

The selection of pre-cooked chicken pieces available in supermarkets now ranges from premium whole breasts to flavoured bites. Better still, you’ll have a little left over from a home roasted chicken. Whatever chicken you have to hand, shred it finely and add to broths, salads, sandwiches and more.

Try in… Thai chicken salad

Jewelled couscousCouscous

Versatile, thrifty and staple of students everywhere – most cupboards will have a packet of couscous tucked away somewhere. Don’t boil it into oblivion – as the grains are so microscopic, they just need rehydrating. Place in a bowl and pour over boiling water to completely submerge, then add a cover and leave it to steam. Once the water has been absorbed, dot in butter or olive oil, then fluff with a fork ready to be festooned with herbs, vegetables, cheese, spices and more.

Try in… Jewelled couscous


Vietnamese summer rollsRice paper

Working on the same principle as rice vermicelli noodles, these Asian wraps need only to be soaked. Transform them from hard discs into light, fresh, fat-free summer rolls stuffed with prawns, vermicelli noodles and salad. For a real Southeast Asian flavour, add mint, coriander and Thai basil, then serve with a pungent dipping sauce.

Try in... Vietnamese prawn summer rolls

Bulghar wheat tabboulehBulghar wheat

Despite being coarser than couscous, bulghar wheat can be treated in the same way, although check the packaging. It’ll need covering with water for a little longer – 30 minutes should do the trick, giving you time to get on with chopping nuts, fruit, cheese and herbs to make a classic Middle Eastern tabbouleh. Serve with mezze such as falafel, houmous and olives.

Try in… Fruity tabbouleh

Sugar snap pea saladSuper salad

Avoid having to boil eggs or potatoes, cook fish or grill meat and make your salad completely no-cook – just look for ingredients that are in their prime. We have a version for every season:

Summer: Sugar snap pea, avocado & orange salad
Autumn: Tangy carrot, red cabbage & onion
Winter: Clementine, feta & winter leaf salad
Spring: Smoked trout salad with fennel & beetroot

CevicheLime juice

Who needs an oven when the astringent quality of citrus juice means it can ‘cook’ fish – try Peruvian ceviche out for size if you don’t believe us. This isn’t one to try if you’re in a hurry as this recipe requires an hour and a half to turn the fish from raw and translucent to cooked and opaque – but we reckon you could keep yourself occupied in that time. Try it with white fish, such as haddock, pollack or seabass.

Try in… James Martin’s ceviche

Do you have a no-cook supper you turn to on busy nights? We'd love to hear your ideas... 

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.

Comments

Show comments

We’d love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?

Be the first to comment on this recipe…

Questions

Tips