Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Friends come over for wine and two bottles in, there’s a collective craving for something sweet. The only problem? No one brought dessert and no one’s raising their hand to make a trip to the store. Or maybe you’ve had a hard day at work and could use a relaxing night in. The last thing you want to do is drag yourself to the grocery store, so you end up eating popcorn for dinner. These are the moments when it’s vital to have the kitchen stocked with pantry essentials.
You too can save the day with a well-stocked pantry! When you’ve got a go-to pantry staples list, you’re setting yourself up for spontaneity in the kitchen without having to constantly run to the grocery store. Yes, it can be difficult or confusing to identify which staples will always come in handy. But based on our roster of recipes we return to time and again, we’ve created a list of essential ingredients that will keep you ready for any off-the-cuff needs. Make sure you bookmark it for the next time you hit the store.
You’ll want to make sure that you’ve got a range of pantry essentials on hand so that you can make whatever dish you’re craving without having to run out at the last minute. Oils, vinegar, spices, dry ingredients, canned beans, and more—we’ve got you covered with a full range of pantry staples that you’ll turn to again and again.
Scroll on to see our pantry essentials and tips on how to use specific ingredients!
Herbs and Spices
Salt. Salt is a key ingredient in just about every recipe—it enhances flavor, pulls out moisture in veggies, strengthens gluten in flour, and so much more. Not to mention it tastes pretty amazing on top of a chocolate chip cookie.
Red pepper flakes.
Oil, Vinegar, and Sauces
Olive oil. In all cooking and baking, you need some kind of fat. My favorite for cooking is usually an extra virgin olive oil, perfect for sautéing, sprinkling over avocado toast, and everything in between.
Vinegar. Adding acid to a meal will immediately brighten your meal and take it to the next level, not to mention, it is the base of all homemade salad dressings (1 part acid to 2 parts fat/oil is the trick!) and it can turn milk into buttermilk—hello, homemade biscuits!
Honey. Or your preferred sweetener (sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc.) because if you want to be able to make sweets on the go, you’ve got to have a sweetener.
Sriracha. Add a dash of this tangy, spicy sauce to any rice bowl, egg dish, or pretty much whatever you want and it adds instant flavor, heat, and that something that immediately makes a dish taste more complex.
Butter. My favorite fat for baking is organic butter, specifically Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Unsalted Butter, but if you’re vegan or dairy-free, I would recommend a basic cooking oil or coconut oil. Not everyone puts butter in the fridge, but regardless, it’s one of our must-have pantry essentials.
Eggs. Eggs are so versatile, and I truly can’t imagine life without them. You can fry them for a B.E.L.T, scramble them into fried rice, bake them for breakfast egg bites, make lemon curd, fill in the blank. With how frequently I like to eat eggs, I make sure that I’m getting cage-free, organic eggs.
Fresh Parmesan. Yummm… that’s all. Put it on whatever you want or eat it by itself and you’ll be happy.
All-purpose flour. Flour is the base of most easy-to-whip-up desserts and breakfast items, so it’s pretty necessary! If you’re gluten-free, I’d recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour and oat flour (it works well in pancakes and waffles!).
Dry pasta and grains. Dried pasta or grains are super important because they beef up whatever meal you’re making. I can get creative with pasta, but if you’re gluten-free or not a pasta lover, feel free to replace it with something like rice or couscous.
Canned Whole Tomatoes. A basic pasta and tomato sauce meal can make anyone happy, so I like to have these on hand to make a tomato sauce at any time, it’s as simple as that! It’s a must-have pantry essential.
Beans and Chickpeas.
Fruits and Veggies
Onion and garlic. Having either or both of these items on hand will help create depth of flavor in whatever you’re making, plus, most savory recipes call for at least one of them.
Apples. Always having a little fruit on hand is a game-changer. You can cut up apples for a salad, or sauté them with butter and cinnamon for a treat.
Frozen berries. Frozen berries can easily be added to muffins or turned into a compote that you can add to oatmeal or put on top of pancakes.
Brussel Sprouts or Red Cabbage. Veggies that will last for a while without spoiling are key at my house. Brussel sprouts are my absolute fave—I blanch them and then sauté with lemon juice and salt and they can go with protein for an instant dinner. Red cabbage is also a great option—chop it up and add it to a salad, on top of tacos, or in fried rice.
I’d love to hear: what pantry essentials do you always have on hand?
This post was originally published on July 22, 2019, and has since been updated.
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