Reader Q&A: What do you consider essential pantry items?

Photo of my spice drawer isn't pretty but it gets the job done

My spice drawer

  Big Grey QDo you have a shopping list of what the essentials are when stocking a pantry? I’m exactly the kind of person you wrote for: not a terribly bad cook, but unsure and insecure in the kitchen. I loved The Kitchen Counter School and am inspired to try on my own, but I’m not sure what staples I should have on hand. Please help!Gean

AHey Gean, I turned to my food friends on Facebook and posed the question to them. What appears below is a complete list offered by more than a dozen good home cooks and professional chefs. What this shows is that there is no definitive list; a pantry reflects your palate. If you’re keen to learn to make various Asian foods, your pantry will be different than if your tastes run to Italian or French. I’ve never Piri Piri on hand but I couldn’t live without good mustard.

It’s always best to start buying anything for your pantry in small quantities, notably oils. Pay attention to what you actually use before you opt for the “economy” size. Fi. nd a place that sells herbs and spices in bulk; it will save money and avoid waste

Pantry items in regular type were recommended by one or more cooks. Items listed in bold were recommended by two or more cooks. Items listed in bold underline were recommended by even more cooks — and reflect my own personal thoughts on standard essentials.

baking powderApples
baking powder
baking soda
a basil plant
bell peppers
chicken brothboxed beef stock
boxed organic/homemade chicken stock
boxed/homemade vegetable stock
cannedcanned legumes beans (like black, cannelloni, garbanzo, kidney and pinto)
canned tomatoes
canned tuna (also salmon, chicken)
tuna fish isolaten on whitecanola oil

cheese on a wooden tablecheese (too many to list)
chili powder
(or dried chilies)

Sea saltcoarse sea salt
Creole seasoning
Chocolatecurry sauces
dark chocolate
fish sauce
??????????????????flour (gluten-free if needed)
garlic powder
whole clovesginger
grape seed oil
whole or ground allspice
whole or ground cloves
hoisin sauce

Small piles of various herbsItalian herb spices
Jarlsberg cheese
kosher salt

fresh lime and lemon isolated on whitelemons
dijon mustardmirin
mustard (particularly Dijon)
olive oil
Pasta Varietiesoyster sauce
pasta (dried, gluten-free if needed)

peanut butter

peanut oil
pepper (fresh, with a grinder)
shutterstock_96191657pine nuts
Piri Piri
potato chips
ramen noodles
Wooden bowl with rice and Chinese chopsticksred chili flakes
rice and whole grains (quinoa, oats, barley, etc.)
rice noodles
salted radish
sea salt grinder
soy sauce
star anise
Brown Sugarsugar (I’m partial to brown, agave syrup and stevia)
Szechuan pepper
Frischer Thymian Thai basil
Thai chiles
Thai rice
shutterstock_113796766tomato paste
tomato puree
tomato sauce

Bottles with oil and vinegarVinegars (including black, red wine, rice and balsamic)
whole black peppercorns
Worcestershire sauce
Zip Lock bags

So what’s in your pantry that you can’t live without?

On a similar theme:



Filed under Cooking Tips, Kitchen Counter Cooking School

7 responses to “Reader Q&A: What do you consider essential pantry items?

  1. Max Jodeit

    Essential for me: nutmeg seed and a good grater!

  2. Jennifer B.

    I don’t know if this counts, but milk, whether it’s cow’s milk or almond milk. Also, mayonnaise? Although we use veganaise now and it’s the best!

    • Kathleen Flinn

      Oh, that’s good. I think it’s so obvious no one thought of it. I started using Veganaise this summer and now it’s a staple in our fridge. When I need mayo, I just make it from scratch. It only takes a few minutes.

  3. jamielifesafeast

    Yes, yes and yes. A great list! I’m trying now to think what I always make sure I have that isn’t on your list! Maybe add pickles to go with those olives? Jellies and jams, too – not only great for a quick breakfast or snack but you can throw together a crostata in a snap if you need a nice pastry for breakfast, brunch or snack.

  4. Bay leaves, and the nutmeg already mentioned.

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s