Pantry Essentials: Food Items You Should Always Have in the Kitchen

  • Contributing Food Editor:: Clara Artschwager
  • Contributing Food Editor:: Shari Press

It’s a new year and we guarantee a good number of you (ourselves included!) vowed to cook more in 2013. After bookmarking a few recipes from your favorite cooking blogs, cookbooks, and our food features, you’re ready to get to work in the kitchen. Sure, you’ll need to pick up a few key ingredients each time you try your hand at a new recipe, but make sure you keep the kitchen stocked with these pantry essentials. We turned to contributing food editors Clara Artschwager of Chaneling Contessa and Shari Press of The Daily Dish to put together a list of items you should have on hand in the kitchen at all times. Whether you’re doing a little grilling or whipping up your first roast chicken, you’ll find that you have the basics needed to make it happen. We can attest, there’s nothing more discouraging than having to take a second trip to the grocery store.

You can download and print our Pantry Essentials Handbook to help you with your shopping!


whole grain mustard
extra virgin olive oil
sesame oil
vegetable oil
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
white wine vinegar
chicken stock
soy sauce
marinara sauce
wine (red, white, or both)
canned diced tomatoes


garlic powder
basil (can also be bought fresh)
rosemary (can also be bought fresh)
thyme (can also be bought fresh)
smoked paprika
dried oregano
fresh nutmeg
red pepper flakes
kosher salt
sea salt
fresh ground pepper (not pre-ground pepper!)


all purpose flour
brown sugar
granulated sugar
confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
baking soda
baking powder
pure vanilla extract


fresh garlic
salted butter
unsalted butter

  • Dominic Lorenz

    I think you’re missing some things. Milk and/or cream isn’t there, for example?
    Potatos, and tomatoes, for another example. For tomatoes, even canned is good.

    Tomatoes and cream are good basis for sauces. You’re cooking Italian and you want Spaghetti or Lasagne or anything with a tomato sauce? You’ll want tomatoes. If you need a cream sauce, then you’ll either want cream or milk. And simply adding these things to certain recipes that don’t normally call for them can be great.

    For example, I’ve added milk or cream to tomato sauces, or to soups, or even to what was supposed to be a brown sauce as it’s fun to experiment, and if something calls for a cheese sauce, milk or cream is both a must and a great thing.

    As for potatoes, there is so much you can do with them, and they can be included in dishes that don’t normally call for them. Also, if you’ve oversalted a sauce or soup, throw a potato in, and that will basically suck up a lot of the salt. When cooking with potatoes, I’m always told to add extra salt (I don’t, as I’m not a salt fan and also don’t need salt on most of my potatoes, but I can see the point.) I’m not sure, but I think for best effect, remove the skin or just cut a potato in half and throw that in. I’ve never tried it with a whole potato with skins on, so I’m not sure if that’d make a difference or not.

    For Americans, I’d also add Powdered Milk to the list. Powdered milk is a strange thing, but can also add pep to stuff. Can be mixed with chocolate powder to make a non-perishable ready chocolate milk mix that also won’t cool down the drink (or doesn’t have to be warmed up). Just add hot water. (Can’t remember, but I think it also desolves good in cold water, but whatever.)