Stock Your Kitchen & Pantry Well
Having a well-stocked kitchen is the secret to cooking success. Everything from your pantry staples and freezer items to your kitchen gadgets will change the way that you cook on a daily basis. I’m opening up my kitchen to share my favorite pantry, fridge and freezer items, as well as all of my kitchen countertop appliance must-haves and favorite tools. Some of my favorite off-the-cuff meals have been made with simple pantry items. Having good quality, basic tools, appliances and ingredients on hand at all times means that you can have more fun in the kitchen, and it also allows you to be creative and substitute ingredients or cooking techniques if needed. In my pantry, I like having a selection of international specialties like Asian sauces, Italian chili paste, pasta and capers, several different types of flours and sweeteners, a huge selection of vinegars, plus a well-stocked fridge and freezer. Here is a list of what I try to have in my kitchen at all times:
IN MY PANTRY
Baking Powder & Baking Soda:
These two items are essential for baking, and they’re not the same. They can both last up to six months on your shelf before needing to be replaced. You can test them to make sure they are fresh. For baking powder, add a generous pinch to a small cup of boiling water. It should bubble immediately if it’s fresh. For baking soda, add a generous pinch to a tablespoon of white vinegar. It will bubble if it’s fresh.
Beans & Lentils:
We eat a lot of beans and lentils in our house; they’re a great source of protein and can be added to so many dishes, or they can be whipped up into an easy dip. I have both canned beans like chickpeas, black beans and cannellini beans in my pantry, as well as dried lentils.
These are essential for making any type of cutlet, and they add great texture to soups and salads as a toasted topping. Panko are my favorite store bought breadcrumbs because their texture is light and extremely crunchy.
I know that this might seem random, but adding potato flakes to your breadcrumbs for a cutlet topping or making a simple crust for fish with potato flakes is a game changer. It will make the exterior coating extremely light and crunchy. You can also make last minute mashed potatoes with them. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand.
Shaved large coconut flakes, sweetened and unsweetened flaked coconut. All are good to have on hand for baked goods and international dishes.
Crackers, Chips & Pretzels:
I have little boys, so obviously we have a pantry filled with these items. But having assorted crackers, chips and pretzels on hand is great for a last minute cheese board, and crushed crackers, chips and pretzels also make a fantastic coating for cutlets or fish. Perfect if you’ve run out of breadcrumbs and didn’t notice!
I recommend having good quality all-purpose flour in your pantry, as well as whole wheat flour, oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour and chickpea flour. I use all of these often to make my chicken cutlets healthier or my banana bread a little bit more nutritious. You can see how I use these flours throughout my recipes. P.S. in the US, King Arthur Flour makes a great white whole wheat flour if you don’t want to buy a darker whole wheat flour.
Everything from jasmine and wild rice to quinoa, polenta, farro and oats for baking.
There are so many good spice companies, who provide everything from stand-alone spices to beautiful blends. Here are a few of my favorite US spice companies:
Oaktown Spice Shop
The Spice Lab
Diamond Crystal kosher salt is my standard, go-to cooking salt. When cooking for my family, I often use fine Himalayan pink salt, and I always use either Maldon flaky sea salt or Jacobsen flaky salt for finishing. I also really love this Flower Petal Salt from Farmhouse Lab in Marin, CA. It’s stunning sprinkled on goat cheese, salad, or seafood. It makes everything look and taste pretty. And black Cyprus salt is a gorgeous, statement salt that really pops on light colored dishes.
Everything from Ami Ami Foods dukkha inspired toppings to Everything Bagel seasoning and furikake (I like the Trader Joe’s version because it doesn’t have sugar). I love having these things on hand to quickly elevate a dish.
Nuts & Seeds:
We eat a lot of nuts in our house, and I love to create recipes that include them. They add healthy protein and a nice crunch. Raw cashews, almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and hazelnuts are all fantastic for snacking, tossing in salads, and topping off dishes. Nuts.com, Trader Joe’s and Costco are the best places to go in the US for nuts and seeds.
Pasta & Noodles:
There are so many noodles in my house! We love pasta. Everything from classic shells and rigatoni to imported Italian fuscilli corti bucati, plus couscous & rice noodles. In my opinion, Lotus Foods makes the best rice noodles.
I have everything from basic refined sugar, confectioners’ sugar and brown sugar to coconut sugar, maple sugar and vanilla bean sugar in my pantry. The maple sugar and vanilla bean sugar are specialty items and I use them sparingly because they’re expensive.
Onions & Shallots:
I like to keep both red and white sweet onions in my pantry at all times, as well as shallots, which are fantastic in everything from roasted dishes to salad dressings.
Having whole garlic bulbs on hand means that I can roast the bulb whole or peel it into cloves. I like having both garlic bulbs and fresh peeled garlic in my kitchen for versatility and speed. Whole garlic bulbs definitely add a lot to a dish when roasted.
Dried Fruit & Freeze Dried Fruit:
I have an assortment of dried fruit that I use on everything from cheese boards to roasted dishes and baked goods. I also keep several types of freeze dried fruits in the pantry like strawberries and blueberries. They’re fantastic for baking, flavoring and coloring frostings. Their lack of moisture is really helpful, specifically for coating or sprinkling on chocolate, and making frostings or anywhere you don’t want excess moisture.
Winter Squash & Potatoes:
Potatoes are such an easy, versatile side dish. They can be roasted along with a protein for an easy, sheet pan meal or puréed until silky. And if we’re in the fall or winter months, I always have butternut squash, a few delicata squash and a spaghetti squash on hand to make quick, comforting meals. The squash will last in a cool, dark pantry for at least a month, and up to 3 months in the right conditions.
Broths and Bouillon:
Broths are essential for creating soups, stews, sauces, etc. I like to use boxed chicken and beef broth, but for veggie broth I prefer to use bouillon or powder. The Swiss and Germans make the best, and this is a great brand.
I use coconut milk in everything from curries to sweets. I recommend buying full fat coconut milk, and I try to find a brand that doesn’t have guar gum as a thickener. I also like having coconut cream in my pantry, it’s thicker and a little bit richer, and is great in sauces and frostings. Trader Joe’s sells really good organic coconut milk and cream without guar gum, and so does Native Forest brand.
I like to substitute nut milk for cow’s milk in some baking recipes, and in my coffee in the morning. Plus I love the fact that it’s shelf stable. My current favorite brand is Elmhurst, because it’s just nuts and water. No weird ingredients or thickeners. And it’s sold in a paper carton, not plastic.
I recommend having good quality raw honey, agave and pure maple syrup on hand at all times. I also have date syrup and pomegranate molasses in my pantry for everything from pancake toppings to sweeteners for salad dressings and baked goods. Just Syrup is a great brand.
I love hot sauce, especially Yellowbird because they have great flavors and only use natural sweeteners like dates and carrots in their organic blends, and Dave’s Gourmet Crazy Caribbean for its unique tropical notes. I also like Sriracha, Tobasco and Frank’s RedHot.
The two main oils that I cook with are avocado oil, which is the healthiest, neutral flavored oil that you can cook with, and olive oil which is great for salad dressings, marinades, sauces and baked goods. Avocado oil has the highest smoke point (500°F/260°C), which means that it’s great for pan frying and even deep frying, as well as baked goods and dressings. I also use coconut oil on occasion, when I want coconut flavor.
Having an assortment of vinegars in my pantry is key. Apple cider, rice, champagne, sherry, red wine and balsamic are all there.
I love having an assortment to choose from, anything from tangy, mustardy Carolina style to sweet and smoky Kansas City style.
Similar to soy sauce in color with savory, umami qualities, but it’s also gluten-free and made with coconut blossom nectar, so it’s also sweeter. If you’re substituting coconut aminos for soy sauce in a recipe, reduce or remove the sweetener if the recipe calls for one.
One of my favorite flavor enhancers. It adds a little punch of salty brine to food, and it’s essential for cooking Thai and Vietnamese inspired dishes.
Not all marinara sauces are the same. There are a lot of really bad sauces on the market. The best Marinara sauce in the US is Rao’s, it’s bright and fresh tasting and has no preservatives or weird ingredients.
Soy Sauce and/or Tamari:
A great way to add a salty, savory note to any dish. Tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce.
Vanilla Extract & Paste:
I like to make my own vanilla extract, but I also run out often and need to buy more. I add vanilla extract to ALL baked goods, and I use vanilla bean paste when I want a stronger flavor. Plus the little black seeds add a hint of drama to any dish. Heilala, made from sustainable Tongan vanilla beans, is my favorite brand.
CANNED & JARRED CONDIMENTS
Calabrian Chili Paste:
I love having both red and green Thai curry pastes on hand at all times, as well as Indian masala curry paste. You can whip up a delicious meal in minutes with some curry paste and coconut milk.
Dijon, whole grain, deli mustard. They all have important roles to play in dressings, marinades, sauces, and sandwiches.
Sambal Oelek (Chili Paste):
A southeast Asian inspired condiment; it adds a little pop of heat and acid to any dish.
Aji Amarillo Paste:
A Peruvian pepper paste made from Aji Amarillo peppers, it adds citrus notes and a little heat to any soup, sauce, dip or marinade.
A Korean pepper paste made from soybeans and red peppers, it adds a unique, sweet, spicy, nutty flavor to soups, sauces, dips and marinades.
A hit of the sea. Every kitchen needs sardines.
Jams & Preserves:
Perfect for cookies, breads, pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, cheese boards, just about anything.
I put nut butters into smoothies, overnight oats, baked goods, sauces, marinades and even some salad dressings.
A Middle Eastern sesame seed paste that is fantastic in everything from baked goods to salad dressing. It adds a nutty flavor to any dish, and is high in healthy fats and amino acids.
Chipotle Peppers in Adobo:
Smoky, spicy Mexican peppers in a velvety red sauce. The combination of heat and smoke makes these perfect for Mexican dishes, BBQ sauces, chilis and soups, and braises.
Roasted Red Peppers:
Great for salads, dressings, sandwiches, etc. When you have no other food in your pantry, these peppers can become a silky pasta sauce.
We’re big pickle lovers in our house. Cornichons are a personal favorite, and something that I put on every cheese board. My boys love them too. Good bread & butter pickles are great for sandwiches and pasta salads.
Having canned tomatoes in your pantry means that you can make dinner in 15 minutes. I like to have whole San Marizano roma tomatoes, diced San Marizano tomatoes and Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes in my pantry at all times. I look for Italian brands like Cento when buying San Marizano tomatoes. Plus tomato paste is a vital ingredient when you need to add a hit of tomato flavor to a dish.
I’m not a huge tuna fan, but my husband is, and there is no doubt that tuna makes a high protein, healthy, quick lunch. His favorite brand is Blue Harbor.
IN MY KITCHEN
I’m a big cheese fan and so I always have an assortment in my fridge. My go-to’s are: Parmesan & Pecorino (always save their rinds for soups and stocks), ricotta, ricotta salata (a pressed, salted, firm ricotta that you can grate), sharp cheddar, cream cheese, mascarpone, Manchego, some kind of goat cheese, and aged gouda, like Beemster from Holland.
I like having unsalted butter on hand for baked goods, because I want to be able to control the level of salt. And then of course salted butter for slathering on toast, plus anytime I’m pan searing protein.
Good quality eggs make all the difference. All of these recipes call for large eggs.
I like to have both plain, whole milk Greek yogurt and coconut yogurt like Cocojune in my fridge at all times. Yogurt is a great way to add healthy fat and protein to your morning meal, sauce or dip. Plus you can always sub yogurt for sour cream in recipes. And I’m a smoothie lover and I make one almost every morning with yogurt.
FRUIT, VEGETABLES & HERBS
Basil, parsley, dill, oregano, thyme, tarragon, cilantro – I always have at least one bunch of herbs in my fridge. My absolute favorite is basil.
I love buying baby avocados because they’re the perfect size for one serving – no need to wrap up half for later. I leave them on the counter until they’re almost ripe, and then I stick them in the fridge. That way, I can pull out one at a time and they’re usually perfectly ripe. They will keep for at least a week in the fridge before starting to over ripen.
Carrots will last for at least a month in the fridge and are great in soups and shaved on salads, plus kids love them.
Celery will last for several weeks in the fridge and is helpful when you want to make a quick tuna salad or 30 minute soup.
Fresh ginger, if left unpeeled, will last for up to a month in your fridge. If the ends are slightly moldy you can just cut them off and peel the ginger root, and it’s usually fine inside. I use ginger in everything from meatballs and sauces to salad dressings and baked goods.
Peeled Garlic Cloves:
We go through a lot of garlic in our house, and while I like having dried garlic bulbs in my pantry, I also like having a bag of already peeled cloves in my fridge. It helps to make my life easier when I’m trying to quickly make a soup, sauce, slow cooker meal or salad dressing. We eat a lot of garlic in our house.
Fresh Leafy Greens:
Lacinato kale (also called Dino kale) or baby kale, arugula, butter lettuce, romaine and spinach are usually on rotation in my fridge.
Lemons, limes & clementines. Adding acid, like citrus juice, to a dish is extremely important to make the flavors sing. I put lemon zest and juice into almost every salad dressing and marinade that I make. Clementine zest is great for a hint of orange flavor, and they have a lot of juice for such a tiny fruit. Clementine juice is great in baked goods, dressings, sauces and marinades when you want a hint of orange flavor. Plus they’re great for kids’ lunches and snacks too. And if it’s Meyer lemon season I always have Meyer lemons in my fridge. Nothing beats their fragrant zest and slightly sweet juice.
Prosciutto & Salami:
Both classic prosciutto and smoked prosciutto, as well as a fun assortment of salamis for cheese boards, salads, flatbreads, etc. We also love the Creminelli salami minis for kids’ school lunches.
I always have both good quality bacon in my fridge, as well as turkey bacon. I look for brands that don’t use nitrates when curing because my kids love bacon and I want to feel good about feeding it to them. My current favorite is North Country Smokehouse, based in Claremont, New Hampshire.
FRESH SAUCES & PICKLED THINGS
I love making pesto, but I’m also happy to buy good quality, fresh pesto in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. If unopened, it keeps for several weeks, if not longer. Once opened, you need to use it pretty quickly, as the pesto usually doesn’t have any preservatives. Pesto is great on anything from eggs to pasta, and it makes an easy weeknight chicken or seafood marinade.
Pickled Red Onions:
Making pickled red onions is incredibly easy. And they last for months in your fridge and add a punch to soups, salads, eggs, and anything else that you can think of.
I like to make my own pickled jalapeños but store bought ones are good too! They add a little spicy, acidic kick to almost anything.
Homemade salad dressings are my jam. I have lots of recipes on my site; make a few and keep them in jars or glass bottles in your fridge. They will last for at least a month.
IN MY FREEZER
Having a well-stocked freezer is just as important as having a well-stocked pantry. It can get you through the most desperate cooking situations. Plus items in your freezer can last for months, which comes in handy when you really don’t want to go to the grocery store. And if you end up having an impromptu party, a well-stocked freezer can be the secret to your success.
Spinach, Butternut Squash, Peas & Riced Cauliflower:
These are my favorites. Frozen corn is great if you make a lot of soups.
MEAT & SEAFOOD
Ground Chicken, Lamb & Beef:
Easy to defrost and great for pasta sauces, soups, sheet pan meals, etc. If you forget to pull it out of the freezer to defrost in advance, put it in an airtight waterproof bag and submerge the bag in a bowl of warm water. Keep changing the water as it cools and the meat defrosts, until the meat is fully defrosted.
Chicken Breasts & Thighs:
A staple for anything from cutlets to braises.
I recommend buying wild caught frozen shrimp. It can be defrosted quickly in a colander with lukewarm water running over it.
CARBS & DAIRY
For french toast, breadcrumbs, croutons, etc.
This is the secret weapon that will allow you to make a quick, impressive dessert or savory tart in no time. My favorite brand is DuFour.
Having frozen gnocchi on hand means that you can have dinner ready in 15 minutes flat. They’re delicious in soups, sauces, braised dishes and roasted.
For everything from smoothies, cocktails and desserts to a special treat for my kids – they think frozen blueberries are as good as ice cream.
Obviously! No more needs to be said here…
MY STAPLE TOOLS & APPLIANCES
Makes life easy by braising anything. You can set it and forget it. Great for making beans as well.
Helpful when you’re in a hurry and want a slow cooked meal. Just like the slow cooker, it’s also great for cooking dried beans.
Yes, it’s a little bit of a luxury, but what’s better than a fluffy, hot off the griddle waffle? It’s an easy way to make quick breakfasts that look impressive. Also, try putting a bunch of tater tots in your waffle maker. You’ll end up with the most delicious, crispy potato waffle.
For healthier baking and “fried” foods. They also cook foods really quickly, unlike a larger traditional oven.
I have multiple microplanes and I use them ALL. THE. TIME.
One of my favorite gadgets, it can purée soup in a pot, quickly emulsify salad dressing, make sauces creamier, basically blend things with ease. It’s much easier than transferring ingredients to a blender.
An extremely useful tool, it slices fruits and vegetables incredibly thinly, incredibly quickly. The only drawback is that it’s also very sharp, and therefore easy to cut yourself on. Don’t ever use it without the protective guard.
Baby Off-Set Spatula:
One of my ride-or-die tools, I use them for everything from flipping pancakes to frosting a cake.
So useful for so many things. I line baking sheets with it to make them non-stick, and I also line cake pans with it so that they unmold easily.
Ice Cream Scoops:
I have several sizes and recommend having at least two. One quarter size for mini meatballs, little scoops of ice cream, silver dollar pancakes, etc, and one larger one for regular ice cream scoops, evenly distributing frosting on a cake, fritters, etc.
This is the tool that will change your life if you like to cook meat. My favorite thermometer is linked.
KitchenAid all the way.
I have a very powerful food processor called a RobotCoupe that is wonderful, but also not necessary for the average home cook. I recommend having a more basic version, like a Cuisinart or KitchenAid brand. A food processor is essential for making certain sauces, hummus, whipped cheeses like feta or burrata, tart dough, and even chocolate frosting.
The key to the fluffiest mashed potatoes!
Pots & Pans:
I’m obsessed with Caraway. I love their non-toxic non-stick coating and their pretty colors.
Silicone Baking Molds:
They just make getting muffins or cakes easier to remove. And they come in lots of fun shapes.
I have two types and use both. The hand-held juicer for a quick squeeze and the glass reamer when I need a lot of juice for a drink or baked goods.
Essential for flipping fish, but also great for flipping pancakes, burgers, fritters, etc.
Made of metal, spiders are perfect for deep frying anything and blanching veggies. They’re also essential in Asian cooking.
This ensures that your baked goods will turn out well every time because you can weigh out your dry ingredients. I promise, it will make all the difference.
A good box grater just makes cooking life easier. Apples, zucchini, cheese…you name it, it’ll be easier to grate if the box grater is sharp.
Having good, rimmed baking sheets is incredibly important for everything from cookies and cakes to easy weeknight dinners.
I use wire racks when cooling baked goods, to drain anything that I fry (I set one above a baking sheet to catch the drippings), and to roast meats or veggies when you want a crispy exterior all the way around. The wire rack will allow for airflow under the rack and it helps to make a 360° crust.