I think your next best meal is only as good as what’s in your pantry, so today I’m talking kitchen essentials! There are spices and condiments that I always have on hand just in case. For busy nights when you’re looking for a quick meal you should make sure that you have a fully stocked pantry.
So first things first, your pantry should match your flavor profile and cooking style.
If you’re new to cooking or not quite sure how to stock your kitchen’s pantry, ask yourself these questions based on the types of foods you order at restaurants:
- Am I all about the spicy foods?
- Do I gravitate towards sweet glazes on savory foods?
- Do I like citrus, vinegar or fermented flavors?
Based on your answers to those questions, you can put together a killer pantry that best suits you. If you’re a couple, family or a house full of roomies you might need to get a little of everything to make everyone happy. For example, I love tangy, sour foods whereas every time I splash a bit of vinegar on something on the stove Tim pops into the room with a grimace and says “What is that smell?”. So be flexible if you have lots of people to feed : )
Below are some of my absolute favorite pantry items. I think they’ll liven up any kitchen and they’re essential to making delicious meals in a flash!
When it comes to spices there are a range of spices that go from sweet to spicy that you can choose from. Tip: Don’t be afraid to use sweeter spices in savory dishes
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- Cinnamon: It’s sweet and traditionally used for baked goods like pumpkin pie but it’s especially good in ground meat and poultry.
- Check out my Spiced Baked Turkey Meatballs as an example of savory cinnamon dishes.
- Cocoa Powder: Another sweet staple for desserts but I especially like sprinkling it on steak or lamb (most red meats really) along with some salt and pepper for a smokey, delicious crust!
- Dried Oregano, Thyme or Rosemary: These herbs are great for poultry or for that Fall feeling. They’re the perfect spices for comfort food like soups, roasted meats or veggies.
- Ground Ginger: This is the perfect blend or sweetness and spicy-ness. I like adding a dash of ginger to oatmeal just as much as I like tossing it on broiled fish or roasted root vegetables.
- Smoked Paprika: This is one of my all time favorites! If you’re craving smoky BBQ flavor but don’t have a grill (#apartmentliving am I right?), smoked paprika will do the trick. It also adds a great red color; sometimes I add a tbs of it to rice for flavor and color!
- Turmeric: As far as spices go turmeric is pretty mild in flavor. It serves as a great base for other flavors like ginger and garlic.
- It also has an amazing yellow glow for pretty foods like my Turmeric Baked Tilapia.
- Curry Powder: It’s no secret, I love Jamaican curry powder because it’s what I grew up on. Even the mild version has a nice heat to it. I linked my favorite brand here.
- Try curry powder out in my Curry Chicken Burgers!
- Cayenne Pepper: If you’re looking for some serious heat, definitely use cayenne in spice rubs and marinades. Remember less is more with cayenne.
- Don’t feel like you need to use it only with savory foods. It’s also great with chocolate like in these Spicy Chocolate Avocado Mousse Cups
Oils, Vinegar’s and Condiments:
These little goodies are perfect for balancing any dish. Surprisingly enough something tart like citrus or vinegar can help round out the flavor of sauces and dressings.
- Olive Oil: I literally use this in everything! Whether you need a mild cooking oil or a base for salad dressing, olive oil will be your new BFF. Nearly all of my recipes use olive oil, take a stroll through.
- It’s a thicker oil so it makes great dressings and marinades that don’t harden or separate.
- Coconut Oil: This is the best multipurpose oil out there!
- Got dry skin? Use coconut oil as lotion.
- Need vegan or dairy free baking options? Since it can firm up in the fridge, coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in cookies and cakes.
- Tip: I wouldn’t recommend using it in cold foods because the cold will make the oil solidify; for cold foods, use olive oil
- Apple Cider Vinegar: This is great for adding a bit of tang to cold food like salad dressing. It can also be mixed with a plant based milk to make vegan buttermilk
- Tip: You can use it in hot foods, but note that the vinegar will turn greens brown; they’re still edible (and tasty!) just not as pretty
- Buy apple cider vinegar “with the mother” (should say it on the bottle) if you want the added probiotic benefit
- Tomato Paste or Sauce: I always keep tomato paste or sauce on hand for a quick pasta sauce dish. Sometimes you just need a little red sauce, am I right?
- Coconut Aminos: I’ve fallen in LOVE with coconut aminos. It tastes like a cross between balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and honey. It’s great in glazes for meat like this Sweet and Spicy Glazed Salmon or really in anything you would normally use soy sauce for.
Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit:
If you’re looking to add crunch or make a vegan cream sauce in no time, these should be your go-to’s.
- Cashews: Because of their smooth texture, cashews are perfect for vegan cream sauce or “cheese”. If you soak the nuts, strain and blend them you can have a creamy sauce or spread in no time
- If you’re going dairy free or vegan check out some great cashew options in this guide on How to live your BEST dairy free life!
- Almonds: If you’re looking for extra crunch on salads or want to add a healthier crispy crust on breaded chicken, this is it
- These Grown-Up Coconut Crusted Chicken Nuggets are a perfect use for almonds
- Dried Cranberries, Apricots or Golden Raisins: A little sweetness in savory foods can really balance out the flavor. Consider adding dried fruit to salads, meat stews or couscous.