4 Drought-Friendly Recipes to Try on World Water Day

Our meals matter when it comes to saving water: if we choose a tofu dish over a beef dish, for example, we can save about 1,500 gallons of water per pound. Choosing tea over coffee saves about another 900 gallons of water per pound.

There are plenty of easy and smart ways to slash water consumption, but it’s easy to miss hidden water usage in the foods we pick. March 22nd is World Water Day, which makes it the perfect opportunity to up our game when it comes to saving water and whip up some low water-footprint dishes.

Luckily, celebrity chef Nathan Lyon was willing to share some of his mouth-watering “drought-friendly” recipes.

The “Growing a Greener World” host’s goal is to create recipes that use the least amount of water possible. He told NPR:

“Instead of looking at a bowl of strawberries, I look at that bowl of strawberries and think, wow, that’s like 20 gallons of water right there [...] I just want these recipes to start a dialogue that people aren’t having right now.”

The following recipes are just a few of the many available for free on his cooking blog. For more information on how your food choices impact your water consumption, check out “How Much Water is Used to Make Your Food” and “20 Ways to Save Water at Home.”

Scroll down or jump to a specific recipe by clicking on the links below:

Happy World Water Day and happy eating!



Roasted Eggplant Caponata

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)
  • 7 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, divided
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced small (1 cup)
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and diced small (1¼ cup)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped roughly
  • 1 cup green olives, pits removed and chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 7 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and sliced very thinly
  1. Adjust two oven racks to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of oil, and season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out the eggplant in one layer onto two parchment paper-lined sheet pans. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the sheet pans from the oven, stir the eggplant, then place the sheet pans back in the oven, this time on opposite racks. Bake 15 minutes more, until the eggplants are lightly colored and cooked through.
  4. After the eggplant has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir the diced onion with ¼ cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and lightly caramelized.
  5. Next, stir in the garlic, cumin, ground fennel, and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  6. Add the diced fennel and the bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, capers, olives, vinegar and baked eggplant. Cook until the caponata has thickened, approximately 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley and basil.


Spring Pea Soup with Furikake (or toasted sesame seeds)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (10-ounce) block frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small (1 ½ cups)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato (1/2 pound), peeled and diced medium
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 10 medium mint leaves
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Nori Komi Furikake, for garnish (If you don’t have this, use toasted sesame seeds)
  1. In a small saucepan bring water to a simmer. Add the spinach and stir until it can be easily separated with a fork. Drain into a strainer over the sink, and cool with cold water. Once cool, squeeze out as much of the water from the spinach as possible and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the diced onion to the saucepan and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  3. Add the diced potato, vegetable stock, and thyme to the saucepan, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes until the potato is cooked through.
  4. Stir in the peas and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spinach.
  5. Using an immersion blender or blender, puree until smooth.
  6. Add lemon juice and mint leaves. Puree until smooth, thinning with a splash of water if it looks too thick.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper or additional lemon juice as needed.
  8. Serve in bowls and sprinkle over Nori Komi Furikake (or toasted sesame seeds)


Herby White Sweet Potato Focaccia

Yields: 1 18×13-inch sheet pan of focaccia

  • 1½ pounds white sweet potato
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cups warm water (115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 6 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Nonstick spray
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil, divided
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (4 cups)
  • 20 large cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped (½ cup)
  • ¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves, rough chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, rough chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, rough chopped
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place ¼ cup of kosher salt in a pile in the center of a sheet tray and rest the sweet potato on top of the salt mound.
  3. Place sheet tray in the oven and roast sweet potato for 2 hours.
  4. Remove sheet tray from the oven. When the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, slice the sweet potato in half and scoop out flesh to fill 1½ packed cups roasted sweet potato. (Enjoy any leftover sweet potato as a delicious snack!)
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add warm water and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and stir to combine. Let rest for 15 minutes, until mixture gets very foamy.
  6. Add 1½ cups packed (warm, but not hot!) sweet potato, flour, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the bowl.
  7. Spray the hook attachment with nonstick spray to coat and attach to mixer.
  8. Mix on low for 5 minutes. Check on dough at this point. Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary. If dough is wet, add additional flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the flour absorbs the excess moisture. Mix for an additional 5 minutes until a smooth ball is formed.
  9. In a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the inside of the bowl. Transfer dough ball from stand mixer to the large oiled bowl and roll the doll around to coat the dough evenly with oil.
  10. Cover the large bowl with plastic wrap and put the bowl in a warm place in your house. Let rest until the dough ball doubles in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  11. While bread is rising, make the onion garlic topping mixture.
  12. Place a medium (3½ quart) sauce pan over medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons oil, onion and 1½ teaspoons salt. Stir to combine and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the onions are soft.
  13. Remove lid and add garlic, chopped herbs and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, until all the water evaporates and the onions start to caramelize. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  14. Evenly coat the bottom and sides of an 18×13-inch sheet tray with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  15. Lightly dust a work space with some flour. Turn dough out onto workspace. Gently stretch the dough into a rectangular shape. (Photo below)
  16. Transfer the rectangular dough into the oiled sheet tray. Using your fingertips, gently spread dough evenly to fill the sheet tray. Let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  17. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  18. Evenly sprinkle remaining ½ teaspoon salt over the dough.
  19. Spread the onion / garlic / herb mixture evenly over the dough. Dot/ firmly press your fingertips into the entire surface of the dough to create small “potholes” in the dough. (Evenly space the “potholes” throughout the dough, about 1-inch apart from each other.)
  20. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges of the bread are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.


Spicy Mango Ginger Popsicle

Yields: 6 popsicles

  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups sweetened mango puree or pulp

Combine lime juice, sugar, ginger juice and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add mango puree and stir to combine. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

All recipes reprinted with permission from Chef Nathan Lyon


Photo Credit: All images used with permission by Nathan Lyon.


David C
David C3 months ago

I'll take the 20 pts, but I will admit the focacia looks good

Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ

Thanks for sharing

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you

Janet B
Janet Babout a year ago


Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago


Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago


William C
William C2 years ago

Thank you.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O2 years ago

This article should explain aquifer irrigation, like North America irrigating wheat crops which are exported to Asia, thus exporting fossil water that can't be replaced and lowering the water table. In this context it's a problem.