One thing I’ve learned over the years is that keeping a well-stocked kitchen pantry makes cooking a whole lot easier. This way, you always have your staples you can throw together in a pinch. I like to keep the following items in my pantry at all times and will do an inventory every time I make a grocery list. That way, when I get close to running out of one thing, I know to add it to the list so I’m never left wondering what I have at home while I’m shopping.
I’ve broken my Kitchen Pantry Essentials list into five main categories. While there are lots of other “nice to haves” for the pantry, the following will get you through 90% of what you need, which is a good base, in my opinion. Keep in mind, however, that your kitchen essentials may differ based on what types of food you normally prepare.
Spices are a great way to add versatility and flavor to your meals without a lot of work (or ingredients!). The spices below are not only the ones I use most often, but are also the ones that have the most bang for their buck. Expect to use kosher salt and black pepper in almost any dinner. Then, depending on what you’re making, the different combination of the spices and herbs will create a completely different final flavor — anywhere from American, Mexican, Asian, to Italian.
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper (peppercorns and grinder)
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- Ground ginger
- Ground nutmeg
- Ground cloves
The dried herbs below can be used together or separately to create dynamic depth and flavor to a meal. While fresh herbs are great, they may not always be around in your garden or in your fridge.
- Bay leaves
Baking, Sweeteners & Oils
This portion of the essentials list incorporates everything you’d need from the pantry to make basic breads and cakes. Plus, flour is great to use for coating meats when frying, thickening sauces, and making rouxs as well. Honey, brown sugar and granulated sugar are must haves for their different flavors and textures. If you don’t bake often or make frosting, powdered sugar might not be as necessary in your pantry. Balsamic vinegar and oil are vital for making the most basic of salad dressings, plus both vegetable oil and olive oil can be used on the stove or in baking.
- All-purpose flour
- Olive oil
- Vegetable oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla extract
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cocoa powder
- 1-2 packets of active dry and/or rapid rise yeast
These canned goods are very helpful to have on hand – they help bring together a quick sauce or add some flavor and moisture to a variety of meals.
- Tomato paste
- Tomato sauce
- Diced tomatoes
- Chicken stock
Pastas, Grains & Starches
This group is very helpful in turning a simple protein or vegetable into a meal. A go-to meal we often have consists simply of a box of noodles, some ground beef or Italian sausage, some spices, and tomato sauce.
- Dried noodles (1+ box of spaghetti, penne, or linguini noodles)
- White or brown rice, uncooked
- Panko breadcrumbs
Did I miss anything? What else might you add to your essentials list?
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