All Purpose Essentials | Pantry Staples
On Insta Stories a few weeks ago, after showing you the insane amount of Jacobsen Salt I bought at their tasting room during my visit to Portland (no regrets!), I gave you guys an impromptu tour of part of my pantry. I gave a little peek into the metro shelf in my kitchen that holds most of my baking ingredients and some other odds and ends. I asked if you guys would be interested in a full post on all my pantry essentials and 100% of you were feeling it! Yay! I received a lot of positive feedback on my last installment in the All Purpose Essentials series featuring all my favorite cookbooks, too! I'm glad you guys are enjoying this series so much because it's a nice change of pace from a typical recipe post for me. I love developing and shooting recipes, of course, but it's nice to change it up sometimes! This blog is largely devoted to cooking (hello, that's probably why you're here, right?!) and while it's a big part of my life, too, there are many other facets of me so it's nice to share them with you guys once in a while!
So, below I've put together a comprehensive list of the staples I keep on hand most of the time that allow me to whip up anything from a salad dressing, last-minute dinner, and even the occasional last-minute pie (this happens more than you'd think!). Similarly to my Kitchen Tools post, there were a lot more things I wanted to include as I was scanning all my shelves and cupboards than I first realized. I hope you guys enjoy this and find it interesting and let me know what your pantry essentials are and what you use them for! I'd love to know! Enjoy!
herbs + seasonings + flavors
Assorted Flaky Salt
Flaky salt is for sure a staple in my pantry. I reach for it daily. It's less salty than say kosher or table salt and has such a beautiful, crunchy texture which makes it perfect for finishing dishes. I love to sprinkle it over sliced tomatoes or avocado, cookies and sweets, watermelon, roasted vegetables, eggs, and the list goes on!
While there are certainly several great flaky salts out there, I'm partial to Jacobsen Salt Co. If you follow me, that's no secret. In fact, I'm a little obsessed. I prefer Jacobsen because they're local and artisan/hand-crafted and produced which I love. Here's a really cool video from Bon Appetit on how their salt is harvested and made! The quality is insane and the flavor profiles are so delicious. My go-to everyday flaky salt is the Pure Flake but I have quite a few flavored varieties as well that are wonderful. The Stumptown Coffee and Guittard Chocolate (unfortunately I think it's sold out right now!) salts are my go-tos for any sort of dessert, Rosemary is amazing on roast chicken and vegetables, and Black Garlic is so good on crispy, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado toast, and poached eggs. I love to sprinkle Lemon Zest over watermelon! It's amazing.
Himalayan Pink Salt
You may notice that most of my recipes (baking and otherwise) call for pink salt instead of kosher or sea salt. This is simply personal preference but when cooking and baking, I season my foods almost exclusively with pink salt now because of the added health benefits. This one is my favorite. I buy it in a five pound bag.
Vinegars + Other Sauces
I use vinegar quite a bit in my cooking and beyond just vinaigrettes, too. I keep a wide array in my pantry depending on what I'm using it for. Apple cider vinegar (AVC) is the OG and is great in tangy vinaigrettes and dressings like the one I used to make my Chicken Salad with. It's also a main ingredient in my facial toner, a way of killing fruit flies in the Summer, and for cleaning surfaces. You can even dilute a tablespoon with some water and slug it down as a poor man's kombucha! It's great for your gut! Just be sure to get the raw, unfiltered, organic version. None of that filtered stuff. I love balsamic to use to make a balsamic glaze by boiling it down and drizzling over things like my poached eggs and chevre on toast or as a delicious beverage in my cherry balsamic shrub. Rice wine vinegar is a wonderful addition to dressing with an asian vibe like soba or peanut noodles, for making quick pickled carrots and daikon to top banh mi bowls and even in marinades for chicken or beef. Red wine vinegar is delicious when braising dark, leafy greens. One of my favorite meals lately has been sauteing some rainbow chard in a little olive oil and garlic and deglazing the pan and wilting the greens down a little with a splash of red wine vinegar and topping with a poached egg. So good! I love using toasted sesame oil for finishing asian dishes (you don't want to cook with it) like noodles. Tamari is my preferred version of soy sauce. It's usually wheat-free and less salty than traditional soy sauce. One of my favorite ways to use it is by getting a cast-iron skillet ripping hot, adding a little olive oil and adding in some torn kale and giving it a quick saute then drizzling in a little bit of tamari at the end. It's so good.
Tangy, Spicy Spreads and Briny Things
Brined olives are one of my favorite snacks right out of the jar when I'm craving something salty. They're also delicious chopped up and added to a salad or pizza or as part of a charcuterie board and even a last-minute pasta sauce. Sweet and hot cherry peppers are the BEST on pizza, like this one. Capers are so freaking good in a piccata sauce, like my Cauliflower Steak Piccata. But they can also be chopped fine and added to a creamy salad dressing or dip (think homemade, epic tartar sauce!). Dijon is my favorite mustard, by far. I love using it to emulsify my vinaigrettes, it adds tang and complexity to bechamel sauces and is simply a great spread on any sandwich. Whole grain mustard isn't pictured above but it's also amazing. It has the same zip as dijon with added texture. Sambal, or some kind of chili garlic paste is an awesome addition to marinades, sauces, and glazes to finish off any kind of meat, noodles, or rice. I also love the classic, vinegary spice of Tabasco on things like leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and in my guac. My papa (grandpa) looooved Tabasco so I think of him each time I use it or even catch a glimpse of the bottle in the cupboard.
Ground + Whole Spices
As you can tell by the size of the container in this photo, I go through A LOT of ground cinnamon. I love it! I use it in my granola, in spiced honey for fig and ricotta tartines, and even infused in my cold brew coffee. I have grown to love cardamom. It's a very strong flavor and some may be a little off-put by its floral intensity but I think it's so delicious. It's aromatic and citrusy and so good in baked things, like these Cardamom + Orange Poppyseed Muffins or in this sweet dukkah on brownies. It's a main component of hawaij, a yemini spice mix I love adding to my chemex coffee while it's brewing and my moon milk as is ground ginger and cloves. I love to use whole spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and cardamom pods for infusing syrups to use in things like my Cinnamon Bourbon Cider Fizz and my Chai Shrub.
For all my ground and whole spices and herbs, I buy them in bulk from PCC, my local natural grocery store. Buying in bulk is usually way cheaper and fresher than jarred spices. I use leftover spice jars or mini mason jars to store them in.
I love using fresh herbs and usually have a few bunches kicking around in my fridge. But dried herbs are invaluable. They obviously have a longer shelf life than their fresh counterparts but they also have more concentrated flavors. I love using dried oregano and thyme in salad dressings like my chicken salad and superfood salad. If you sprinkle a little granulated garlic and dried oregano on pizza dough before you add your toppings, your pizza will have that classic old school pizzaria flavor. It's one of my favorite tricks. Smoked paprika is probably my most-used ground chili, even over crushed red pepper flakes which are good in and on basically everything. I adore the sweet, smoky flavor of paprika with roasted sweet potatoes like in my Savory Breakfast Bowls and stirred into a tomato sauce for shakshuka. Chili flakes are good in everything, like I said, but one of my favorite ways to use them is adding them into sauteed broccoli along with some lemon juice. Fresh cracked black pepper is a non-negotiable and is the yin to salt's yang.
fats + Proteins
Oils + Nut + seed Butters
I keep quite the assortment of nut butters on hand simply because I like the variety. I've been loving Trader Joe's Mixed Nut Butter lately (which I think is a clever way to make use of the leftover nut scraps they have from other products- genius!) to dip apples or bananas in or even just by the spoonful. I love to add a spoonful of almond butter to smoothies for a little extra healthy fat and protein or in my Coconut Oil Hot Fudge and peanut butter is great in desserts, dressings and stuff like peanut dipping sauce. Tahini is quickly becoming one of my favorite ingredients. The obvious application is hummus but it's also wonderful in desserts or salad dressings.
I love coconut butter in my moon milks and blended up with hot water, it makes a great, short-cut version of coconut milk! I use olive oil in all my salad dressings and to saute with. I buy organic, extra-virgin from Trader Joe's, Thrive Market, or Costco. Avocado oil is the best for roasting because it has no flavor and can withstand high temperatures. Coconut oil is also great for roasting as it can withstand high temps but I also love baking with it, making raw desserts and snacks, and my coconut oil hot fudge and granola. Ghee is so good on anything and everything. It has the flavor of butter but the behavior of oil. Since the milk solids are removed, it doesn't burn at a low temperature like butter so you can saute, roast, even fry with it. I love it in moon milk or to roast vegetables and salmon with and in my bulletproof collagen bars.
Yep, I buy two types of butter. In a perfect world, I'd only buy Kerrygold grass -fed butter but as it's on the spendy side, I reserve it for more special applications where I'll really taste it. Anything from buttering toast to finishing a sauce, or drizzling over popcorn.
I buy regular old conventional unsalted butter for baking. It's still good quality and gets the job done for any of my various cookie/pie crust/biscuit needs.
Eggs + Bacon + Parmesan, oh my
Yes, these are classic breakfast staples but they can do so much more for you. I don't know about you but I can't polish off an entire package of bacon (no would I want to) before it goes bad in the fridge once I open it. My little hack is to open up the package as soon as I get home and cut all the slices in half. I tuck two halves (1 full piece of bacon) in snack-size zip locs (I want to find a less wasteful solution soon!) and pop them in the freezer laying flat. Then they're there whenever you need a slice of bacon. You can pop it in the skillet frozen and it only takes a minute or two to thaw! I love to add crumbled bacon to salads, on breakfast pizza, glazed with espresso maple syrup for biscuit sandwiches, and in a pineapple scramble.
Eggs are my go-to anytime/all the time protein when I need to make a meal quick. I'll eat them any which way but my favorite is poached.
I buy and use all sorts of cheeses (chevre, cheddar, ricotta, burrata, fresh mozzarella!) but Parmesan is the one cheese ALWAYS in my fridge and lasts a very long time. Just be sure to wrap it well. And let me clarify: I'm talking about legit parmesan. Parmigiano-Reggiano. None of that pre-grated, American-style "parm" stuff. Trust me, I used to buy it all the time and thought it was just fine. But once you taste the real thing, there's no question which is superior. Not only does a small piece of the real stuff keep much longer and stay fresher than its pre-grated counterpart but it's also way more flavorful. I use it in savory oatmeal, on pizza, to top a pasta, in pesto, popcorn, eggs, broccoli, everything! A microplane will be your best friend when it comes to grating some fresh over your food. And don't toss the rinds! Add them to soups or sauces and it will infuse whatever you're making with flavor and body then just remove them before serving! You can store the rinds in the freezer until you're ready to use them.
grains + legumes + nuts + seeds
Pasta + Grains + Legumes
I love classic semolina pasta but I don't eat it too terribly often due to the gluten bloat I usually suffer afterwards. :( I have been really into Banza lately, though, which is a pasta made from chickpeas. It's much better than it sounds, promise. I make oatmeal or granola a lot for weekday breakfasts so I usually have a container of old fashioned rolled and steel cut oats. I keep farro on hand as well, usually cooked and kept in the freezer (check this post out for more details on this trick). It's great for a base to grain bowls or an easy side for lunch or dinner. I keep ezekiel bread or a local sourdough in the freezer for the occasional piece of toast. I've been really into making my own hummus lately (it's so easy and WAY more delicious than store-bought) so I try to keep a couple cans of chickpeas on hand. Black beans are great for adding to nachos, burrito bowls or as an easy protein-packed side. Cannellini beans or Great Northern beans are one of my favorite additions to hearty soups like my mom's tortilla soup.
Nuts + Seeds
Nuts are a wonderful, versatile ingredient. I eat two brazil nuts everyday for selenium which is good for hormone balance. I eat them when I get home from work sort of like a vitamin regimen. I love walnuts for salads and even just snacking. I keep a mason jar of them at work and I usually have a palmful as a mid-morning snack everyday. Hazelnuts are delicious chopped on salads or on desserts. Almonds and cashews are some of my favorites for making homemade nut milks and even a dairy-free soft serve. I usually keep chia seeds and hemp seeds on hand for adding to smoothies, oatmeal, and salads for extra protein and a superfood boost.
Alliums, Sweet Potatoes, Avocados
The allium family: onions, garlic, shallots, etc. They are a no brainer for adding flavor. I always keep some sort of onion on hand. Usually sweet onions like vidalia or Maui sweet but spanish and white onions are great, too. Sometimes I even have a red onion around. Caramelized onions are one of my favorite pizza toppings but onions are incredible in any sort of marinade, vegetable saute, sauce, whatever. Shallots are a little more mild and delicate in flavor than a normal onion and are great for chopping finely to add to salad dressings or in sauces like my Cauliflower Steak Piccata. And garlic is a big DUH. Most often I simply mince it up and use it as a base with some olive oil when I saute things but when I have a little extra time, I love to roast whole heads of it. If you've never had roasted garlic, you need to get on this. Game changer. It gets sweet and soft and caramelized and creamy and it's just the best. Might I suggest my Roasted Garlic Juicy Turkey Meatballs? So delicious.
Sweet potatoes are one of my go-tos for dinner. I usually just roast them up simply and have them alongside a salad for dinner. Sometimes I even make sweet potato toast. I know, so trendy.
I try to eat an avocado just about every day. I usually just eat them with a little salt and pepper or everything bagel seasoning and scoop it right out of the skin with a spoon. But of course the applications of avocados are endless. I buy the teeny tiny avocados from Trader Joe's because they are seriously the perfect size. I don't have to commit to a massive avocado and I can finish the whole thing in one go.
Lemons + Limes
It seems silly to even mention these but I cannot stress enough the versatility an acidic punch of citrus can add. I ALWAYS have these on hand without fail. True story: I keep a running grocery list in my notes app on my phone and lemons and limes just stay permanently on the list because I pretty much grab some every time I'm at the store. I drink hot lemon water every morning while I'm getting ready for work (check out why here) and I use lemons in dressings and vinaigrettes, in vegetables, marinating chicken, desserts, everything. I love squeezing lime juice into some sparkling water to sip on. This is controversial but I'm not really a huge La Croix or Spindrift person. The flavors are usually muted and not very fresh or sometimes even real tasting. (P.S., this is maybe one of my favorite memes ever! So accurate.) I prefer to simply squeeze a little fresh lime juice into sparkling water (Trader Joe's brand is my favorite because it's extra bubbly). I'll even drop the squeezed and spent lime halves in the water, too.
Canned Crushed Tomatoes + Tomato Paste
Canned tomatoes are great for last-minute tomato sauces, as a simple pizza sauce, shakshuka, I could go on. I prefer using crushed to diced or whole because they are already mostly saucy but still have some texture to them. You can dump them into whatever you're using them for or whiz them up in the blender for a few seconds to puree into a smooth sauce if you need. And for the times you have to open up a huge can and only need a little bit, freeze the rest in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions in zip loc bags for future use! So handy. Tomato paste is also great for adding depth of flavor to sauces since it's so concentrated. I like to buy the ones in the tube rather than the can because you almost never need a full can's worth so it's great to just squeeze out what you need and toss the rest in the fridge.
Unbleached All Purpose Flour + Organic Cane Sugar
As you can probably tell by the sheer volume I have on hand of each of these, I use them a lot. They are both present in just about every baked good I make. I prefer to use unbleached all purpose flour. I like Trader Joe's brand (shocking, I know! lol) and King Arthur Flour. I like using organic cane sugar rather than typical granulated sugar because it's less processed and a little more natural and it has a slightly caramelized flavor too. Let's be real, it's still sugar but I still like using ingredients that are less processed. I buy my sugar either from Trader Joe's or the huge bag at Costco. And I put all my spent vanilla bean pods in the jar with the sugar, too. One of my favorite kitchen tricks! The sugar always smells heavenly.
Assorted Baking Supplies
Almond and coconut flours are both great to keep on hand for alternative/grain-free baking like my almond flour flatbread. I also like to experiment with whole grain flours like rye, whole wheat, spelt and buckwheat (actually a grass, not a grain!). Different sugars are necessary if you bake a lot, too. Brown sugar adds depth of flavor and that hint of molasses and also yields a chewier texture so it's great in cookies. Turbinado or raw sugar adds sparkle and crunch to any pie topping. I love to keep both large flake and regular shredded (unsweetened always) coconut on hand for sprinkling over things or tossing into granola. A good quality cocoa powder is a must if you're a chocolate person. It's great for everything from really good brownies to hot cocoa. My go-to is valrhona. I love using molasses and pure maple syrup in my granola recipe. Honey is good in everything from vinaigrettes, tea, and moon milk to sticky sauces and marinades. My uncle keeps bees so I'm lucky enough to snag a big mason jar or two full of honey from him each late Summer/early Fall when it's time for harvest but when I run out, I usually opt for a local one I find at the farmer's market or even the unfiltered PNW honey at Trader Joe's. Dates add a natural sweetness and chew in raw desserts or energy bites/balls I like to whip up from time to time. I always keep both a pure vanilla extract and a vanilla bean paste on hand for adding extra flavor to literally anything sweet and various extracts like almond and even lemon come in handy for jazzing up something that could use that special touch.