September 7th, 2017

In My Pantry

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Being a food blogger, I’ve learned over the years to have certain items on hand at all times. Many of them are pantry basics, and other items may surprise you. This list includes my favorite pantry items and brands. You never know when the urge to bake a cake will strike, so it’s best to be prepared. 

Olive Oil: I go through olive oil like crazy! I use it every single day, unless we eat out. Bertolli Extra Virgin is my olive oil of choice.

Flour: Although I use all-purpose most often, I also like to have cake flour, whole wheat and bread flour on hand. And you can’t go wrong with King Arthur flour. 

Spices: Having a collection of high quality spices is a pantry must. Admittedly my collection takes up an entire cupboard. But if you’re just starting your spice collection, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and paprika are great first additions. And don’t forget the peppercorns and a pepper grinder!

Salt: In addition to your collection of spices, you’re going to want a good supply of salt in your pantry, including sea salt, kosher salt and fine salt.

Vinegar: Assuming you already have the basics like distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar, a good pantry also has balsamic (my personal favorite), as well as red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and rice vinegar.

Chocolate: Of course I’m going to have a chocolate stash! And yes, it’s an essential–for eating and baking. I like to keep all kinds of chocolate in my pantry–baking chocolate, semi-sweet, dark chocolate and milk chocolate chips, melting chocolate, plus some Ghirardelli Squares just for eating!

Vanilla Extract: This is one ingredient where I definitely recommend splurging for the real stuff. Sure, pure vanilla extract costs more than an imitation, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in your cooking and baking.

Cocoa Powder: I recommend Dutch process cocoa powder for most baking needs. It results in a much richer, darker chocolate flavor. But it doesn’t hurt to have regular cocoa powder on hand either. 

Yeast: Yeast is a must-have pantry staple for any serious baker. I use for all kinds of bread, including dinner rolls and naan bread–and of course, homemade pizza dough. Remember, yeast is on of those things where the expiration date really is important. I find I can extend the shelf life of yeast by keeping it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder: Either one or both of these ingredients are a must when baking cookies, cakes, bars and quick breads. Just pay close attention to the expiration dates. Expired baking soda or baking powder can definitely impact how your baked goods turn out.

Sugar: Good old granulated sugar is a must in any pantry, but I also like to keep a supply of brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, and even sparkling sugar on hand (it’s perfect for adding a bit of sparkle to cookies, muffins and other baked good). 

Honey: Honey is a great alternative sweetener to sugar in many recipes, and also an important addition to many sauces and marinades. It’s one of my favorite pantry ingredients because it practically lasts forever. If you find your honey has crystallized, don’t despair. It’s still perfectly good–just let it sit for a while in a bowl of warm water and it’s as good as new.

Rice: We eat rice several times a week, so I’ve got a huge stockpile in my pantry! I recommend storing several kinds of rice, including white rice, basmati or jasmine, and brown rice. There are no limits to the possible side dishes you can create if you have rice on hand.

Pasta: We go through even more pasta than rice at my house, so I always have at least a dozen varieties in my pantry. Of course, the possibilities for what kinds of pasta to store are practically endless, so take note of what you use most often and keep those varieties handy. For us it’s penne, rigatoni, elbow macaroni, spaghetti, linguine and orzo, to name a few.

Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are handy for coating chicken and other fried foods, topping casseroles and macaroni and cheese, and also adding bulk to things like meatloaf and meatballs. I like to keep both seasoned Italian breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs in my pantry. For longer shelf life, I sometimes store them in my freezer.

Chicken Broth: Another pantry must have (or vegetable broth if you’re vegetarian). Chicken broth will work in almost any recipe that calls for broth or stock, although I do like to keep beef broth handy too. I recommend a low-sodium version. You can always add more salt if your recipe needs it.

Rolled Oats: Whether your making overnight oats, oatmeal cookies or looking for a gluten-free option for adding bulk to meatloaf and meatballs, old fashioned rolled oats have a place in every pantry. I like to keep some quick cooking oats on hand too.

Peanut Butter or Almond Butter: This is a pantry staple at my house–my boys take peanut butter sandwiches to school every day. Nut butters are also handy to have for baked goods, and even Asian inspired sauces.

Canned Beans: I keep an extensive variety of canned beans in my pantry, including black beans, pinto, cannellini and garbanzo. There are endless uses for canned beans, from dips and hummus, to soups, stews, chilies and Tex-Mex fare. They’re a must have in any well stocked pantry.

Salsa: Besides the fact that a chips and salsa craving could strike at any time, salsa is a great way to add flavor to Tex-Mex dishes, and a must when you’re serving tacos, enchiladas or burritos. We use green salsa more than red at my house, so I like to stock up on both varieties.

Canned Tomatoes: Another pantry must have for any home cook! I recommend storing a variety of canned tomatoes, including fire-roasted diced, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and even jarred pasta sauce. Good old Prego Traditional is the pasta sauce of choice at my house.


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