Easy 3-ingredient recipes you can pull off no matter how exhausted you are

It's the magic number.

David Klein Editorial Assistant / Chowhound
David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chowhound, CBS Local, Mashable and Gawker.
David Klein
5 min read

Five-ingredient recipes are great, but if even that sounds daunting, don't despair: You can cut it down to three ingredients and still have a delicious dessert, side or even a three-ingredient main dish for a truly easy meal.

Three. It's a magic number. The occupancy of Jack Tripper's apartment (don't tell Mr. Roper). The worst Godfather movie. 

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 components, which makes them ideal during a time when grocery shopping is particularly stressful. Not only do they deliver on flavor, by keeping things minimal you'll save on moneycooking time and cleanup.

3-ingredient desserts and treats

3-ingredient creme brulee


Beyond how easy it is to prepare, this creme brulee hack is a make-ahead dish. 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 three-ingredient creme brulee recipe.

Dalgona coffee

Like three-ingredient creme brulee, this caffeinated beverage inspired by South Korean dalgona candy earned viral status on TikTok. Instant coffee, sugar and milk (plus hot water) are all that's needed -- well, maybe a camera to capture your creation in all its frothy glory. Get the dalgona coffee recipe.

14 successful and terrible attempts to make dalgona coffee at home

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2-ingredient banana ice cream


This frozen delight is essentially blended bananas (no dairy is added) 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 Chowhound's two-ingredient banana ice cream.

Toasted cashew and bacon brittle


Beyond the nuts and pork, sugar, water and salt are all it takes to make this crunchy confection. Make sure you own a reliable candy thermometer to ensure optimal consistency. Get Chowhound's toasted cashew and bacon brittle recipe.

Fresh lemonade


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 number of lemons (grow a tree in your backyard or make friends with someone who has one), 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. Get Chowhound's easy lemonade recipe.

3-ingredient mains

Cacio e pepe


Parents of picky eaters, pay heed. Cacio e pepe is a simple crowd-pleaser that not only appeals to a skeptical youngster's unsure palate but is also a satisfying meal for adults. Think of it as the peppier, upscale version of buttered noodles. Get Chowhound's cacio e pepe recipe.

Read more at Chowhound: 3 easy pantry pasta recipes

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 Chowhound's baked cracker-crusted chicken fingers recipe.

Grilled chicken thighs with soy marinade


Keto followers can get onboard with this Asian-inspired chicken dish. A minimum four-hour bath in soy and garlic will infuse your thighs with plenty of flavor. Noodles or rice are optional. Get Chowhound's grilled chicken thighs with soy marinade.

Grilled sweet chili and lime shrimp kebabs


Shrimp on the barbie get 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 Chowhound's 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 Chowhound's ham and cheese quesadillas recipe.

Pizza dough gnocchi


Pizza dough offers plenty of versatility. Case in point: this chewy gnocchi, which is finished with marinara sauce and grated parmesan. It's basically a pizza pie in a bowl. Get Chowhound's pizza dough gnocchi recipe.

Eggs 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 runny so the bread can sop up all that liquid gold. Get Chowhound's eggs in a nest recipe.

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 if you don't have prosciutto.) Serve it as an appetizer or a side. Get Chowhound's crispy prosciutto-wrapped asparagus recipe.

Roasted broccolini


The thin, tender florets on broccolini are well suited for the oven treatment. The stalks soften slightly 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 Chowhound's roasted broccolini recipe.

Jalapeno poppers


It's 5 o'clock somewhere and these happy hour favorites are calling out your name. Peppers. Cream cheese. Salt. Boom! Yeah, 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 Chowhound's easy jalapeno poppers recipe.

Read more at Chowhound: 13 jalapeno poppers to spice things up

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 Chowhound's perfect baked potato recipe.

Deviled eggs


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. Get the deviled eggs recipe.

Read more at Chowhound: 7 devilishly spicy deviled eggs

3-ingredient extras

Homemade ricotta cheese


Other than salt, there are only three ingredients required to make ricotta from scratch. But, 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 Chowhound's homemade ricotta cheese recipe.

Fall herb butter


While there's an abundance of fall herbs in, well, fall, you'll easily be able to find these year-round at your grocery store. Pick out a couple of your favorites, mince and mash with room temperature butter. Spread it on bread or let it melt atop a sizzling seared steak. Either way, make a large batch because it keeps in the fridge for as long as unseasoned butter and freezes well, too. Get Chowhound's fall herb butter recipe, or try another flavored butter.