There is something about a well-stocked pantry that soothes the weary soul. What better than to be secure in the knowledge that you have everything necessary for a sudden cookie craving and an impromptu camping trip? Stockpiling kitchen essentials allows for ease in all your home cooking adventures. We suggest organizing these items according to shelf life and usage. Place longer lasting foods toward the back of the pantry, with items you use the most closer to the front. Every six months or so, go through your spice rack to check expiration dates and dispose of older jars, so you don’t end up with a 20-year-old canister of cloves. Below is a list to keep on hand for last-minute dinner parties, late-night snack attacks and more.
STOCK & BARREL
Evergreen, ever useful pantry basics to stock up on.
Extra-virgin olive oil for use in both salad dressing and cooking over heat; vegetable oil for frying; coconut oil for high-heat cooking and any number of cold cooking uses; sesame oil for salad dressing and other non-heated dishes.
Apple cider vinegar for pickling; red wine and balsamic for salads; sherry for sauces; and rice wine vinegar for all of the above.
Pasta, Rice & Grains
Pasta, rice, and grains are great to have on hand, particularly if you have hungry, unexpected guests and you need to make a little go a long way. (Hint: four one-pound boxes of angel hair pasta will feed a table of six; a bag of brown or basmati rice will cover a week’s worth of stir-fries for two people).
Dried Fruit, Nuts & Seeds
Dried fruits add a nice dash of sweetness, such as blueberries in muffins or raisins in a Moroccan-style couscous. Nuts and seeds are great for sprinkling onto most anything, from morning yogurt to salads, or on their own as a quick and healthy snack. Nuts last longer in storage tins or, better yet, the freezer. Check the expiration date on nut butters (usually around two to three months unopened and three to six months in the fridge) to know whether they’ve gone rancid and be sure to pop the jar in the fridge once opened to prolong shelf life.
Coffee & Tea
Perhaps the most crucial of pantry staples. When do you not need a mug of coffee or a cup of tea after a big night out or to serve guests who pop by unexpectedly?
Staples to satisfy a late-night sweet tooth or a last-minute breakfast in bed.
Baking Powder, Baking Soda & Cream of Tartar
All the basics for whipping up a cake.
Add to cookies and even granola. (If the recipe calls for unsweetened melted chocolate, best to go with a bar.)
Stir into hot milk, sprinkle over cakes, or mix into shakes.
Stock classic white flour and wheat flour, or almond and other nut flours for gluten-free recipes.
Each variety is unique to the region from which the honeybees hail. Sweeten hot beverages, serve alongside cheese plates, or lick straight from a spoon if you feel a sore throat coming on (honey is an excellent antibacterial).
Pure Vanilla Bean Extract
Adds subtle sweetness to your confections.
Keep granulated, confectioners’ or brown sugar handy. (You can prevent from clumping in more humid climes by adding a few coffee beans to the container.)
SPICE IT UP
Must-haves for the spice rack that give your meal added depth and flavor:
Rub over meats before cooking to bring a Cajun kick to your meal.
Spice up a Mexican-style hot chocolate or a Middle Eastern lamb tagine.
For your hot spiked apple cider and Easter ham.
Most common in South Asian dishes, the dried seed of the cilantro plant makes a delicious addition to soups and sauces.
One of the main ingredients in curry powder, with a slightly bitter taste and high oil content, this seed pairs well with heartier stews.
The Indian dish staple.
A key ingredient in most major cuisines—and a powerful medicinal—that can be roasted whole with meat and veggies, minced fine into salad dressings, chopped and simmered as a base for soup, sauce, and more.
Add to teas, smoothies, muffins or savory dishes, like a Chinese-style stir-fry.
Herbes de Provence
A blend of all the good stuff—rosemary, thyme, oregano, plus aromatic lavender—to enhance grilled meats, tomatoes, and veggie dishes the French way.
For holiday goodness, whether grated into pumpkin pie, baked squash, or eggnog.
Because no pasta sauce or lasagna is complete without it.
Lighter on spice and sweeter in taste than other chili-based powders, but still capable of making those eggs devilish.
A powerful palate cleanser that refreshes a savory dish even in dried form.
Red Chili Pepper Flakes
Sprinkle on an open-faced avocado sandwich, roasted brussels sprouts, or kale salad.
Robust enough to flavor steaks, roast chickens, grilled salmon, and more.
Salt & Pepper
An everyday seasoning that merits a splurge, whether Pink Himalayan or regular sea salt, black peppercorns, or the more exotic green peppercorn variety.
A delicate Mediterranean herb that goes well with scrambled eggs, omelets, and poached white fish.