Five Fridge and Pantry-Friendly Dishes from Around the World to Make with Kids

Take your tastebuds on a trip to Spain, Mexico, China, the Middle East and France with these recipes for tortilla española, sopa de tortilla, golden fried rice, shakshuka and crêpes for dessert.

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Exploring global cuisines can seem exotic, yet inaccessible when you have little ones with selective taste buds at home — pizza and nuggets, anyone? — but it doesn’t have to be!

Cooking and eating foods from around the world is a great way to spark curiosity about other cultures and languages in kids. It also helps them see all the ways in which we are all similar, no matter where we come from, and can even expand their tastes, too. What better way to start exploring the world than with a few quick and easy recipes from Spain, Mexico, China, the Middle East and France that can be thrown together with a few ingredients you probably already have in your fridge and pantry!

Keep exploring:

  • Talk to your child about when, where, why and how they think these foods were created. Ask them to think about these questions when it comes to some of their favorite foods, then explore the answers together!
  • After you make these recipes, ask your child to find out more about the country or region their favorite recipe came from. Then, try to learn more about that culture together, and maybe find some more recipes from that area.

Tortilla Española

Serves 8 — and makes for a great egg sandwich on crusty bread the next day.

A small white skillet with an egg pancake in it over a stove
Eggs might seem like a breakfast-only food, but did you know tortilla española is eaten at any time of day in Spain? | Victoria Gonzalez

Tapas are small bites eaten at bars and restaurants between meals (or sometimes instead of them) to accompany drinks and socializing among friends, family, neighbors and even strangers! They can be hot or cold and range from sophisticated bites of jamón Ibérico with manchego cheese to comforting tortilla española and crunchy patatas bravas. An average tapa bar serves around three dozen kids of tapas per day!

It can be nerve-wracking to invert the tortilla onto a plate on your first try, but even if it gets stuck or broken, remember that it will still taste delicious and practice makes perfect! You’re dealing with hot oil though, so there’s no shame at all in asking an adult to help out with that part.

Also, here’s a video that shows exactly how it’s done: 

Tip: Leftover french fries are great to use in this recipe! Just chop them up and add them to the eggs.

Ingredients

2 cups oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
2 medium potatoes (about ¾ lb.), peeled, cut into ¾” pieces
8 eggs

Procedure

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally and adding around a tablespoon of water every so often to keep the onions from sticking, until they turn soft and golden brown, around 30 minutes. Put the onions into a bowl and wash the pan.

While the onion cooks, place potatoes and the remaining oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the oil bubbles a bit. Lower the heat to medium and cook potatoes until they are tender but still pale, around 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving the oil and set them aside. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the fried potatoes, browned onions, ¼ of the reserved potato oil, salt and black pepper to taste and mix with a fork.

Place around 3 tbsp. reserved potato oil in the skillet you used for the onions over medium heat until the oil is shimmering.  Add the egg mixture, wait a couple of seconds and move the eggs around with a rubber spatula and lift at the edges of the tortilla so the raw eggs slide to the bottom. As it cooks, wiggle the skillet a little and run your rubber spatula around the edges to make sure the tortilla isn’t stuck to the pan. Cook until the edges and bottom feel set but the center is still just a little runny. 

Set a plate that’s larger than your skillet on top of it. Confidently and swiftly invert the tortilla onto the plate and slide it back into the skillet to finish cooking until the underside is golden and the center feels set, around two minutes.

Slide the tortilla onto a clean plate, cut into eight wedges and enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from Café De La Concha, San Sebastián and Bon Appétit 

Sopa de tortilla

Serves 4

Also commonly known as “sopa Azteca,” meaning Aztec soup, this dish originated in prehispanic Mexico in the state of Tlaxcala, which, roughly translated from the Náhuatl word tlaxcalli, means, “place of tortillas” or “place where tortillas abound,” which sounds like a perfectly lovely place indeed. 

A plate of red broth with fried tortilla strips and avocado on the top
Fried strips of tortilla are a classic topping for sopa de tortilla, but broken up tortilla chips work wonderfully. | Victoria Gonzalez

Ingredients

½ onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tbsp oil
6 cups chicken stock
2 tomatoes, chopped 
1 fresh, chopped Anaheim pepper or dried, seeded pasilla chile
1 sprig of fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime (in a pinch, lemon juice is just fine)
Salt and black pepper
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, optional
Garnishes to taste: tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips, sour cream, avocado slices, crumbled cotija cheese, hot sauce and more lime juice.

Procedure

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic and onions. Sauteé until they soften. Add the chopped tomato and pepper and cook, stirring around occasionally, until the vegetables soften. Place the veggies in a blender with 2 cups of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Return to the pot and add remaining chicken stock, shredded chicken, lime juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to medium-low and let it all simmer for around 15 minutes. 

Spoon onto bowls, top with garnishes and devour!

Golden Fried Rice

Serves 4

We’re not exactly sure when someone in China decided rice was a good vehicle for food scraps — our best guess is that it happened in the city of Yangzhou, where lots of rice is grown, during the Sui dynasty (A.D. 589–618) — but boy, was it a good idea. You can now find versions of fried rice all across Asia, from Indonesia to Thailand,  and beyond, even in Mexico! This is a basic recipe, but it accommodates other things beautifully. Feel free to add veggies like peas, celery, carrots, zucchini, and corn niblets, as well as leftover chicken, raw shrimp, or anything else growing old in the fridge. 

Be careful of oil splatter! Have an adult handy when frying the egg whites.

A plate of fried rice with colorful vegetables
Fried rice is a great way to use leftover rice. | Victoria Gonzalez

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
Salt
Vegetable, chili or toasted sesame oil
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 ½ inch knob of ginger, minced
4 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
Half an onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 chopped carrots, optional
6 chopped asparagus spears, optional
½ cup corn niblets, optional
2 chopped zucchini, optional

Procedure

Do ahead: Place the water, rice and salt in a saucepan and set it over medium heat to boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, until water is absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to steam for 15 more minutes. Set aside until cold, preferably for a few hours in the refrigerator. 

When rice has cooled, place in a bowl and mix with the egg yolks. Try to break up clumps so every single grain is coated in egg yolk. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use a fork to mix the egg whites with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oil of your choice. Set a large pan or wok over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the egg whites and cook until set, moving them around with chopsticks or a spatula. Set the eggs aside. 

Wipe out the pan and add another tablespoon of oil and heat until it’s shimmering. Add ginger and toss around with a spatula for around 30 seconds, or until you can smell it. Add the onion, garlic and scallion whites and stir until the mixture is fragrant, around 30 more seconds. Add the last tablespoon of oil and the rice to the pan, gently pressing it down. After a few seconds, stir it around so it gets toasted evenly, for around three minutes. Add all the veggies, if using, and stir around for a couple of minutes until the veggies are cooked but still a little crunchy. Add the sugar and soy sauce and toss it all together. Add broken up egg whites. Toss again, top with the scallion greens and serve.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit 

Shakshuka

Serves 8

Appropriately meaning “all mixed up” shakshuka originated somewhere in North Africa or the Ottoman Empire, as immigrants from those areas, who were not doing too well financially, emigrated to Israel and the surrounding areas and created the filling and affordable — not to mention yummy — casserole out of eggs and veg. There are many variations, but this version is a classic. Not feeling like eggs? You can sub canned chickpeas instead. Crusty bread is a must for sopping up the rich tomato sauce.

Top view of a skilled filled with eggs in tomato sauce, topped with chopped cilantro
Shakshuka | Victoria Gonzalez

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 chopped red or green bell peppers
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
3 tsp paprika, optional
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander, optional
1 tsp salt
4 cups tomato purée or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
8 eggs
Garnishes: 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, sliced thinly, optional and a small handful of chopped fresh cilantro.

Procedure

Place half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, salt, and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft but not brown, around 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and sugar. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is reduced by around one-third, 10 to 15 minutes approximately. Add the remaining oil and stir. 

Make 8 little divots in the sauce, one for each egg. Carefully crack the eggs in each divot, turn heat down to low, cover and cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny, around 5 minutes. Uncover, top with cilantro and sliced pepper and serve, scooping out eggs from the pan.

Recipe adapted from “ZAHAV: A World of Israeli Cooking” by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook

Crêpes

Makes around 12 6-inch crêpes

Originally made out of buckwheat, a high fiber wheat variety, crêpes became popular in Brittany, France around the 12th century. The ones we enjoy today, made of white flour, were introduced in the 20th century as white flour became more affordable. Being perfect containers for all things sweet or savory, it’s no wonder they caught on!

A plate of crêpes filled with fruit marmalad
You can fill your crêpes with whatever you like! | Victoria Gonzalez

Ingredients

1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup cold milk
2 eggs
A pinch of salt
¾ cup flour
2 tbsp melted butter, plus more for the pan.
Topping of your choice: Jam, chocolate hazelnut spread, bananas, berries, etc. Or go savory with a classic cheese and ham combo.

Procedure

Do ahead: Place all the ingredients in a blender, cover and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and blend for five more seconds.Transfer to a measuring cup with a spout. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. 

To make the crêpes: Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add a tsp of butter, swirling it around so it coats the entire bottom of the pan. Heat until the butter melts, foams, subsides and is just beginning to smoke slightly. Remove the pan from heat with your right hand and turn it slightly to your bottom left side, around 20 degrees, and use your left to pour about ¼ cup of batter slightly off center and to the left. Quickly tilt the pan in all directions so that the batter evens out into a thin circle. This should only take around three to five seconds. Return the pan to the heat and let the crêpe cook for around 45 to 60 seconds. Jerk the pan back and forth to loosen the crêpe, then lift the edge with a spatula. If the underside looks light brown, it’s ready to be flipped; you can do this with a spatula, by holding the crêpe edges with your fingertips to flip it over or, if you’re feeling brave, by flipping it in the air. Watch examples below:

Flipping in the air:

Flipping with a spatula:

Leave the other side in the pan for around 30 seconds, until it’s a light, spotty brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter. 

To serve, top each crêpe with a tablespoon of your favorite filling, fold into a triangle and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.