40 Basic Recipes Every Cook Should Know by Heart

Updated: Feb. 10, 2022

Every home cook should be able to make some basic recipes without opening up a cookbook. Here’s our recommended list.

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French Toast

We discovered this easy French toast recipe in Mexico. We couldn't figure out what made the French toast so delicious until we learned the secret was vanilla. Since then, we've added a touch of vanilla to our waffle and pancake recipes, and it makes all the difference. —Joe and Bobbi Schott, Castroville, Texas
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Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

My father is very opinionated, especially about food. This recipe received his almost unreachable stamp of approval. I have yet to hear a disagreement from anyone who has tried it! —Melissa Taylor, Higley, Arizona
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Fruit Salad

This appealing fruit salad is a lovely addition to breakfast, lunch or even supper. Light and refreshing, it's perfect alongside egg bakes, sausages and other hearty staples you find on breakfast buffets. —Millie Vickery, Lena, Illinois
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Hearty Chili

This chili may be already chock-full, but we love to build it up even more with toppings like pico de gallo, red onion, cilantro and cheese. —Mallory Lynch, Madison, Wisconsin
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Basic Buttercream Frosting

After trying a few buttercream frosting recipes, this easy vanilla buttercream frosting takes the cake with its unmatchable homemade taste. With a few simple variations, you can come up with different colors and flavors. —Diana Wilson, Denver, Colorado
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Homemade Guacamole

I always judge a Tex-Mex restaurant by its guacamole. And although it's simple to prepare, it can go wrong oh, so easily. I've spent many years perfecting mine, to the point where I think it's better than most restaurants. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Cobb Salad

This skinny version of Cobb salad has all the taste and creaminess with half the fat and calories. You can skip the coleslaw mix and use all lettuce, but I like the crunch you get with cabbage. —Taylor Kiser, Brandon, Florida
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Garlic Bread

Ever wonder how to make garlic bread? This homemade garlic bread is the answer! Minced fresh garlic is key to these flavor-packed crusty slices, which our big family would snap up before they even had a chance to cool. —Grace Yaskovic, Branchville, New Jersey
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Mashed Potatoes

I wouldn't dream of making my favorite chicken recipe without making these potatoes, too. —Jennifer Shaw of Dorchester, Massachusetts.
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Yogurt Parfaits

Get the morning started right with this super simple four-ingredient parfait. Try chunky or flavored applesauce for an easy variation. —Rebekah Radewahn, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
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Fajitas

I can't remember when or where I found this oven-baked fajitas recipe, but I've used it nearly every week since. We like it with hot sauce for added spice. —Amy Trinkle, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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French Fries

Yes, you do want fries with that—especially these crispy, golden fries, full of garlic flavor and just a little bit of heat. —Steve Westphal, Wind Lake, Wisconsin
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Scrambled Eggs

When our son, Chris, wants something other than cold cereal in the morning, he whips up these eggs. Cheese and evaporated milk make them especially good. They're easy to make when you're camping, too. —Chris Pfleghaar, Elk River, Minnesota
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Applesauce

Here's a comforting, home-style treat that never loses its appeal. Dish up big bowlfuls and wait for the smiles! —Marilee Cardinal, Burlington, New Jersey
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Snack Mix

I eat this tasty treat just as much as (if not more than) the kids! Have fun with it by adding other goodies into the mix, like nuts, cereal, pretzels and more. —Jeff King, Duluth, Minnesota
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Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Heat up your indoor grill to make these ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich recipes. They're delicious served with soup! —Debbie Murray, Fort Worth, Texas
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Flaky Pastry Crust

This all-butter pie crust makes a flavorful, flaky pie. It is easy to handle and bakes to be golden brown and beautiful—just like Mom's! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Roasted Broccoli

Sure, it’s simple and healthy but, oh, this roasted broccoli is also delicious. Cutting the stalks into tall trees turns the ordinary veggie into a standout side dish. —Holly Sander, Lake Mary, Florida
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Simple Snack Dip

Ranch dressing mix flavors this easy dip packed with shredded cheese. It's perfect paired with pretzels. Be forewarned, though—it's hard to stop eating once you've started! The beer cheese dip can be made with any type of beer, including nonalcoholic. I've taken it to many parties and I am always asked for the recipe. —Michelle Long, New Castle, Colorado
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Hard-Boiled Eggs

In the kitchen, it's important to start with something simple, like how to cook hard-boiled eggs. Use this egg recipe in plenty of dishes, or eat them plain for a quick protein fix. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Breaded Chicken

How do you get so much flavor out of a five-ingredient-or-fewer recipe? Ranch dressing is the key! Enjoy this simple dish on busy weeknights or with company for special occasions. —LaDonna Reed, Ponca City, Oklahoma
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Steak Diane

When I want to provide a memorable dinner but don't want to spend hours in the kitchen, this is the recipe I rely on. I've used it many times on holidays or other occasions for a quick, impressive main dish. We relish the savory steak Diane sauce. —Pheobe Carre, Mullica Hill, New Jersey
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Parmesan Baked Potatoes

It always amazed me that this simple recipe could make potatoes taste so good. Mom liked to make them for Easter because they were more special than ordinary baked potatoes. —Ruth Seitz, Columbus Junction, Iowa
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Homemade Vinaigrette

Balsamic vinaigrette is a classic, versatile dressing. A variety of savory seasonings gives this recipe a tangy kick. It's the perfect complement to a bed of fresh greens. —Edgar Wright, Silver Spring, Maryland
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Roasted Cauliflower

A standout cauliflower side is easy to prepare with just a few ingredients. Crushed red pepper flakes add a touch of heat. —Susan Hein, Burlington, Wisconsin
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Simple Roast Chicken

This tender chicken is a real time-saver on a busy weekend. A simple blend of seasonings makes it a snap to prepare, and it smells heavenly as it roasts. —Marian Platt, Sequim, Washington
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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Don’t be afraid to bring out the roasted Brussels sprouts. Mellowed with mustard sauce, they may just delight even the most skeptical folks. —Becky Walch, Orland, California
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From-Scratch Pesto

Homemade pesto always makes a thoughtful hostess gift. Mix things up with this parsley pesto variation. It's delicious served with pasta or in one of these recipes using pesto. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Baked Salmon

I often make this very moist and flavorful baked salmon for company because I can have it ready in less than half an hour. This salmon with lemon is well complemented by rice or a green vegetable and a tossed salad. —Emily Chaney, Penobscot, Maine
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Quesadillas

My son doesn't eat meat, so I created this recipe as a way for me to cook one meal for the family instead of two. It's so easy, my toddler grandson helps me make it! —Tina McMullen, Salina, Kansas
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Risotto

Once a week I create a new recipe for my blog, An Officer and a Vegan. I first made this risotto when I needed something cheerful and comforting. It would be fantastic with asparagus, zucchini or summer squash, but use whatever veggies are in season. —Deanna McDonald, Grand Rapids, Michigan
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BLT

Here’s my twist on the classic BLT. Creamy avocado, balsamic mayo and crisp salad greens make this version legendary in my book. For a lighter take, I often use turkey bacon. —Ami Boyer, San Francisco, California
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Chicken and Pasta

My grandmother made chicken wings and served them over rice. To speed things up, I cook lemony chicken breasts and serve them over capellini pasta. —Aileen Rivera, Bronx, New York
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Omelet

The first bite of creamy filling lets you know this isn’t any old omelet. Make it once, and we suspect you’ll be fixing it often. —Anne Troise, Manalapan, New Jersey
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Fresh Fruit Smoothie

We love the perfect blend of sweet and citrus in this refreshing smoothie. It's so easy to throw together, I often find myself making one for breakfast or a midday snack. — Jamie King, Duluth, Minnesota
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Roasted Vegetables

When I can't decide what vegetable to serve at dinner, I turn to this oven-roasted medley that features brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots and butternut squash. It pleases everyone around the table.—Betty Fulks, Onia, Arkansas
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Roasted Green Beans

I first tasted roasted green beans in a Chinese restaurant and fell in love with the texture and flavor. This is my Americanized version and it's always a big hit at our holiday table. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Simple Tacos

We eat meatless meals a few times a week, so I replaced the beef with nutty brown rice to bulk up these tacos. Sometimes I also like to swap in quinoa for the rice. —Kristin Rimkus, Snohomish, Washington
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Chicken Stir Fry

Stir-fry noodles on a cooking show caught my eye. I ran with the idea and loaded mine with veggies. Now it’s our favorite hurry-up meal. —Beverly Norris, Evanston, Wyoming
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Flavored Butter

This is such a delicious butter spread for afternoon tea or with a dessert bread. Just mix it up and get ready for the compliments. —Mary Bates, Cleveland, Ohio