If you follow me on Instagram, particularly Insta Stories, you know that Adam and I cook dinner at home most nights — and that is 100% thanks a bit of meal planning and a handy list of go-to pantry essentials to keep on hand.
While I’ll stop by Trader Joe’s or Eastern Market a couple of times a week to pick up meat and fresh veggies, having these go-to pantry essentials on hand is key to being able to cook dinner easily and without a whole lot of thought.
OUR GO-TO PANTRY ESSENTIALS TO KEEP ON HAND
At the beginning of the week, I’ll often write down a few recipe ideas and take a quick inventory of what we have in the pantry (also, the fact that we now have a pantry is the most amazing thing in the world). More often than not, all we have to pick up are the main ingredients — cooking is so much less intimidating when you’re not staring at a list of 25 ingredients that you need to buy just to get started.
So, make note of these go-to pantry essentials to keep on hand and you’ll (hopefully) never find yourself in a cooking pinch — and maybe you’ll even end up inspired to cook more!
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE’S THE LIST…
BASIC PANTRY ITEMS
- Canned Clams: I’m starting off with the item you may not have already. I love canned clams because you can use them to make a simple and sophisticated pasta or pizza with little effort.
- Pimentos: Always be prepared to make pimento cheese.
- Roasted Red Peppers: I throw these in pasta, chili, Asian-inspired dishes, on pizza.
- Canned Tomatoes: Particularly in the winter, there are few crockpot dishes that wouldn’t benefit from a can of tomatoes.
- Canned Tomato Sauce (not marinara!): Keep plain tomato sauce on hand to serve as a base for a delicious homemade sauce. Seriously, there’s no excuse to buy Prego.
- Rice: While I don’t use it often, rice comes in handy during the fall and winter when I’m making crockpot meat dishes.
- Quinoa: Toss it in salads to add a bit of protein and weight.
- Almond Butter: I’m not a big peanut butter fan, but I always have almond butter on hand.
- Nuts: We always have almonds and peanuts for snacking, trail mix, salad, and more.
OIL, VINEGAR, AND MORE
- Apple Cider Vinegar: You’ll stop using bottled salad dressing if you have this vinegar on hand.
- Red Wine Vinegar: A little tangier than apple cider, this is a great vinegar to have when your dish needs a bit of zest.
- Balsamic Vinegar: I don’t love balsamic in dressing, but I always add a dredge of it to pasta sauces. Plus, is there anything more delightful than a crusty bread with balsamic and oil?
- Cooking Wine: Don’t use the good wine in a recipe.
- Broth: Not only do I use broth in multiple recipes a week, but it’s great to add a splash to moisten leftovers.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This goes without say.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil adds a layered flavor when you’re baking — try it in brownies, pancakes, etc.
- Maple Syrup: Keep a real maple syrup in the pantry as an alternative sweetener for baking. And, of course, for weekend mornings.
- Lemon and Lime Juice: These are never the star of the show, but you’ll use them in cocktails, Mexican dishes, dressings, etc.
SPICES AND SEASONINGS
- Salt: I like to keep a chunky sea salt, as well as a fine Kosher salt in the pantry.
- Peppercorns: Opt for the peppercorns that you grind rather than already ground.
- Roasted Red Pepper Flakes: I’m guilty of using these in everything.
- Miscellaneous Spices to Keep on Hand: Cumin, Ginger, Oregano, Basil, Chili Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon
PANTRY BAKING ITEMS
- Oats: I love overnight oats, but these are also great for healthier takes on muffins.
- Cocoa Powder: I include a bit of cocoa powder (antioxidants, right?!) in oatmeal, smoothies, etc.
- Sugar and Flour: We don’t often use sugar and flour, but they’re both a necessity to have on hand.
- Vanilla Extract: There are a surprising number of healthier recipes that call for vanilla extract (energy balls, granola, overnight oats, etc.)
- Chocolate Chips: I’m guilty of throwing chocolate chips in everything…trail mix, toast with peanut butter and banana, etc.)
- Canned Pumpkin: While I’m not a pumpkin fanatic, I do love making a pasta sauce or a dessert with canned pumpkin on occasion.
- Minced Garlic: Look, I know Anthony Bourdain once said those who use pre-minced garlic don’t deserve to use garlic. BUT, when you’re in a pinch and garlic is the one thing that might punch up your dish, you’ll be glad you had it on hand.
- Kerrygold Butter: Once you use this Irish butter, you’ll never go back (I also happen to be a butter fiend, so…)
- Eggs: I’m never without eggs and soft-boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy breakfast or lunch.
- Milk: Yes, we drink real 2% milk, but I also always have almond milk on hand.
- Cheese: Both shredded cheese and nice cheese are must-haves in our fridge at all times.
- Bacon: Want a quick and easy way to make a weekend morning feel special? Bacon. Have a dish that needs a bit more flavor? Bacon.
- Cured Meats: Whenever you have impromptu guests, cured meats and cheeses with a few nuts sprinkled about are an easy way to make it look like you put major effort in.
- Crystal Hot Sauce: This is the hot sauce I put on everything — it’s thin, vinegary, and the best.
- Sriracha Hot Sauce: I’m not a Sriracha devotee, but it has its place in certain dishes.
- Duke’s Mayonnaise: THE only mayonnaise worth buying (jk, I love all mayo, but this is the best).
If you’re into cooking, what’s on your list of pantry essentials to keep on hand? Are there any classics that I’ve missed? I’d love to know what I should try if I haven’t!