How to use canned vegetables when you've run out of fresh
Adding canned callaloo, artichokes and okra to your grocery list is a very good idea
You may be settling just fine into pantry cooking and getting increasingly adept at stretching out the time between grocery runs. But for me, it's the running out of fresh produce that eventually gets me to the store again, even though I'm cutting the tops off carrots and beets and storing washed and spun lettuce in an air-tight container to make them last.
Which is why I'm starting to stock more canned and jarred vegetables in my pantry — along with dried beans and pulses — so I'll always have vegetables to swap into meals when my fresh supply gets low. This may seem antithetical to the fresh ingredients I usually urge you to cook with this time of year, but we're living in strange and uncharted times where even a trip to the grocery store can cause you more stress.
Plus what could be easier than cooking with canned vegetables, just open them up and rinse them well before eating or adding to recipes. But don't throw out that oil if you're using jarred vegetables; you can use that for salad dressings. To help get you excited about picking up more canned vegetables on your next grocery trip, here are a ton of ideas on how to use them.
Canned baby corn
Toss sliced baby corn and diced cucumber together for a simple salad. (If you're without cucumber, frozen, shelled edamame makes a great substitution for this colourful dish.) Or use baby corn in almost any stir-fry, pairing it with other canned vegetables like water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, or jarred roasted red peppers.
Dice them up for a pink-tinged egg salad sandwich, or leave them whole and add them to any salad if you have greens on hand. They're also just fine on their own when tossed with olive oil and salt; serve them alongside roasted onions with a sprinkling of fresh dill if you've got it 'em.
Use up canned artichokes in this White Bean, Garlic and Artichoke Dip.
Keep canned artichokes on hand for using in dips, soups, or as a topping for pizza. Look for them in the jar as well and sub them in for fresh artichokes in any salad. My favourite canned artichoke salad is one made with arugula and goat cheese in a simple lemon vinaigrette, topped with candied orange or lemon peel if I'm feeling fancy.
Canned bamboo shoots
Add bamboo shoots to a pork or tofu stir-fry, to salads, or any curry, especially a coconut-based Thai green curry (look up any recipe online).
Canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
Make a quick sauce for tofu, fish or chicken using these flavourful chilies, here's how. Soften an onion in oil, and add some red chili flakes, minced garlic during the last two minutes of cooking, when the onions are starting to brown. Sprinkle in a pinch of dried thyme, add a bay leaf and add three whole canned tomatoes cut to bite-sized. Add roughly 1 ½ tablespoons of finely chopped chipotles, along with a lot of (jarred!) capers and a generous splash of their brine. Simmer this all until it reduces into a spoonable sauce, and top your protein with it.
Use up jarred sun-dried tomatoes in Steven's Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza.
Stock sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil so you'll always have something to top your pizza or sandwiches with. Or puree them in your food processor with mayonnaise or thick yogurt along with other seasonings for a flavourful dip. Make a vinaigrette and add chopped sun-dried tomatoes to it, before tossing sweet potatoes in it to roast.
Pair these crunchy canned vegetables with frozen or canned spinach to make a creamy spinach dip. Or riff on your favourite stir-fry by adding them in place of any or all of the fresh veggies you don't have.
Canned mixed vegetables
The most common mix of vegetable you may come across is peas, corn, and carrots, which are generally pretty adaptable when you're desperate for some vegetables. Stir them into a cheesy pasta sauce or turn them into a colourful Indian-inspired side dish. Here's how: toast cumin seeds in hot oil and fry a bit of onion in the spiced oil until soft. Add garlic and ginger (which you can also find jarred), and cook a couple more minutes. Add a splash of passata or diced fresh tomatoes if you have them. Cook that down until soft, adding water if your pan gets dry, then tip two jars of mixed vegetables into the mixture, cook for a few minutes more and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Swap in canned mushrooms in this Beef and Barley Soup.
You can swap in canned vegetables in many recipes that call for fresh, as long as the recipe requires you to cook the vegetables because they are already soft. Keep them on hand for eggs, soups, or stroganoff.
Beans — but the green or wax variety
We probably don't have to tell you to have canned chickpeas of kidney beans on hand, but consider grabbing jarred or canned green beans too. They add texture to a wrap by spread with hummus. Or just add them to your mixed bean salad.
Look for canned young green jackfruit in brine or water and make vegan tacos or barbecue "pulled pork" sandwiches. Jackfruit's texture mimics meat and absorbs punchy sauces well — jackfruit curry is a go-to in some Indian and Sri Lankan kitchens. You'll find lots of vegan recipes online, as well as instructions for cutting the jackfruit properly for the best 'meaty' texture.
Use canned callaloo in this Meatball Soup with White Beans and Greens.
Callaloo is a popular green in Caribbean and Southeast Asian cooking. Look up a recipe online, or swap this flavourful leaf in whenever a recipe calls for cooked spinach, like in strata, or meatball soup.
Swap in canned corn for these Crab and Corn Fritters.
Sure you may have a package of frozen peas, but you may want to start saving your freezer space for actual meals. Canned peas work just as well in most recipes that call for fresh and frozen. Or turn them into a vibrant spring dip for crackers by cooking the peas in a little chicken stock along with garlic and shallot until soft. Turn off the heat, add a handful of whatever herbs are growing on your windowsill, and puree the dip until smooth in your blender.
Jarred red cabbage
Make a German-style braised cabbage dish by simmering jarred cabbage with a bay leaf and an apple, and a bit of red wine vinegar and bacon fat if you have it. Look up a recipe online to get the ratios right, then serve this as a side dish to sausages or another protein.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but is treated like a vegetable in savoury cooking. Make lucious ackee and saltfish, or vegan scrambled eggs — both recipes you can find online.
Swap in pickled eggplant in this Tuna and Fennel Sandwich.
Look for jars of pickled eggplant in the Italian section of a supermarket, and use them in any sandwich, or even in place of the fennel in this tuna sandwich recipe.
Mixed pickled vegetables
Otherwise known as giardiniera, you'll find this near the pickled eggplant in an Italian market or well-stocked supermarket. Drain the brine and stir the mixed pickled veggies into pasta salad, or chop them up fine to make a burger spread when you're out of lettuce and tomato.
Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.