While I stay away from processed foods as much as possible, I do rely on a core set of pantry staples to help me get dinner on the table every night (my definition of cooking from scratch has its limits—I don’t have the time or the means to press olives into oil or ferment anchovies into fish sauce!).  I was asked to do a post on pantry staples, and these are mine.  Everybody has his or her own list of necessities, and this is by no means the only (or best) way to go.  But with these staples, you will always have something to eat for dinner.  A quick pasta sauce with canned tomatoes, a bean stew, tuna crostini (a.k.a. tuna melts).  Stir-fries, pizza and baked goods are only an a few fresh ingredients away.

Pantry staples

I’ve divided the list into “the essentials” and “the extras.”  The essentials are the core items on my shelves—the black jeans and sweaters of my pantry.  The extras are things that add special flavor and/or nutritional boosts to my dishes—the bright scarves and accessories.  Did I miss anything?  In the fridge I also always have some good raw milk cheeses on hand, along with farmer’s market eggs, organic butter and ghee (for cooking and slathering on bread) and various milks (whole milk for Ella, coconut or almond milk for James and I).  What are your go-to staples?

Pantry Staples

With these items you can whip up hundreds of dishes, either on their own, or with vegetables and/or meat. 

The Essentials

  • Inexpensive extra virgin olive oil: For sautéing vegetables and meats
  • Good quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (the cloudy stuff): For dressings and drizzling over dishes
  • Virgin coconut oil: For cooking (medium-heat sautés), baking, topping oatmeal and porridge, smoothies
  • Grapeseed oil: For high-heat sautés and frying
  • Toasted sesame oil: For dressings, stir-fries, dipping sauces
  • Balsamic vinegar: For dressings, roasting vegetables, marinades, finishing sauces
  • Raw Apple cider vinegar: For dressings, finishing sauces
  • Red wine vinegar: For dressings, marinades, finishing sauces
  • White wine vinegar: For dressings, marinades finishing sauces
  • Rice vinegar: For dressings, marinades, stir-fries
  • Mirin: For stir-fries, marinades
  • Tamari or soy sauce: For Asian dishes, dressings, drizzling over vegetables before or after cooking, marinades
  • Red curry paste: For curries, soups
  • Canned Coconut milk: For stir-fries, dressings, sauces, soups
  • Hot sauce and Sriracha: For seasoning dishes (e.g. adding spunk to eggs, pasta, tacos, stir-fries)
  • Dijon mustard: For dressings, sauces, rubs, sandwiches
  • Pasta of various shapes and grains (whole wheat, quinoa, regular): For, well, pasta
  • Quality canned tuna and/or sardines: For salads, sandwiches, pasta
  • Canned anchovies: For sauces, dressings (or, if you’re like me, snacking 🙂 )
  • Canned whole tomatoes: For quick pasta sauces, soups, stews, braises
  • Canned and dried beans: For salads, side dishes, taco fillings, pasta
  • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, farro, millet, amaranth, barley, etc): For salads, side dishes, stuffings, breakfast porridge, granola
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc): For snacks, salads, baking – store in fridge
  • Nut butters: For sandwiches, smoothies, baking, sauces
  • Flour (all-purpose and whole wheat): For baking, pizza crusts, bread
  • Baking powder and baking soda: For baking
  • Sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, sugar): For baking, dressings, marinades
  • Dark chocolate: For snacking, baking
  • Spices (sea salt, Kosher salt, black pepper and seasonings such as curry powder, cumin, chile powder, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.): For soups, sautés, baking, dressings
  • Quality bread: For sandwiches, paninis, salads, side dishes, breadcrumbs – store in freezer

The Extras

  • Extra Virgin nut oils (walnut, hazlenut, etc): For dressings, drizzling over dishes
  • Flax oil: For dressings, oatmeal, baking
  • Chia, Hemp and Flax seeds: For breakfast porridge, smoothies, baking, desserts, snacks
  • Whole grain mustard: For dressings, sauces, rubs, sandwiches
  • Seaweeds (nori, dulse, kombu): For salads, infusing soups (they add nutrition without flavor), breakfast porridge (I sprinkle some flakes in our oatmeal, and nobody has a clue), sushi
  • Alternative Grain Flours (amaranth, millet, coconut, almond, teff, etc): For baking, tart crusts,
  • Alternative sweeteners (stevia, coconut sugar, palm sugar): For baking, dressings, marinades, and adding sweetness to breakfasts/smoothies/etc.
  • Dried fruit: For snacks, granola, stuffings, salads, baking, breakfast porridge
  • Coconut flakes: For snacks, granola, baking