Basics to Always Keep in Your Pantry

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Kitchen pantry basics

Having your pantry appropriately stocked is necessary for quick home meal prep without the fuss of ingredient shopping every time you cook. Keeping a list of must-have pantry basics is useful so you don't have to make unnecessary extra trips to the store when you're in a bind.

Printable List of Pantry Basics

To make sure you have everything you need in your pantry, you can print out this handy list. Then you can keep it taped to your pantry door or take it to the store with you. Simply click on the image of the list to download it to your computer.

If you need help saving and printing the list, check out these helpful tips.

Basic Seasonings and Spices

Item

Use

Salt

A must-have for all types of food prep

Pepper

A must-have for cooking many savory dishes

Garlic salt

Useful with chili, burgers, and Italian dishes; can replace fresh garlic

Garlic powder

Works well with pasta, pizza, and grilled chicken

Fresh garlic

Flavors just about any dish, such as Italian recipes

Onions

Adds flavor to a variety of main courses, soups, salads, side dishes, and casseroles

Onion powder

Works with pizza, pasta, grilled chicken, meats, soups, sauces, vegetable dishes, and casseroles

Chili powder

A must when you're making chili recipes; used in Tex/Mex dishes

Oregano

Used in Mediterranean, Italian, and Mexican dishes; flavors meats, eggs, and garlic bread

Cumin

Flavors chili, vegetables, chicken, fish, legumes, and rice dishes

Thyme

Seasons pasta, omelets, eggs, legumes, fish, and soups

Parsley

Great in soups, meat and fish rubs, salads, and Middle Eastern dishes

Paprika

Used to season meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pastas, and potato salads

Sesame seeds

Perfect with grilled vegetables, stir fries, and salads

Ground cinnamon

Use to flavor oatmeal, baked goods, French toast, and desserts

Ground ginger

Flavors sautéed vegetables, rice dishes, baked apples, and stuffing

Nutmeg

Works in egg and spinach dishes, cakes, cookies, puddings, eggnog, and meatloaf

Italian seasoning

Great with fish, chicken, pizza, pasta, vegetables, and salads

Oils, Vinegars, and Condiments

Item

Use

Extra virgin olive oil

A staple for cooking, baking, sautéing, pastas, and salads

Vegetable oil

Useful for cooking and baking

Non-stick cooking spray

A must to prevent food from sticking

Balsamic vinegar

Used in salads, salad dressings, pasta dishes, Italian bruschetta, sauces, and marinades

Red wine vinegar

Perfect in salad dressings, potato salad, marinades, sauces, pasta dishes, and sautéed vegetables

Ketchup

A staple for grilled meats, fish, and French fries

Dijon mustard

Used in sandwiches, grilled meats, marinades, and sauces

Soy sauce

Best for flavoring foods like stir fry, sautéed vegetables, tofu, chicken, tempeh, and marinades

Barbecue sauce

A condiment for meats and marinades

Worcestershire sauce

Used in meat dishes, marinades, soups, chili, and sauces

Italian salad dressing

Used in salads, marinades, stir fry, sandwiches, sautéed vegetables, sauces, and cold pasta dishes

Ranch dressing Perfect for salads and vegetable dips

Mayonnaise

Works well with sandwiches, meat salads, egg salads, potato salad, dips, and coleslaw

Jelly or jam

A must for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Nut butter

An add-on for crackers, fruit dips, sandwiches, toast, and baking

Pickles

Works in salads, sandwiches, burgers, and as a snack

Baking Ingredients

Flour

Well-suited for baking

Granulated sugar

Perfect for baked goods and desserts

Baking soda

Useful for baking; a leavening agent

Baking powder

Useful for baking; a leavening agent

Corn starch

Works well as a thickening agent when cooking or baking

Chocolate chips

Perfect for desserts, chocolate chip cookies, and other baked goods

Vanilla extract

A sweet flavor enhancer

Evaporated milk

Works well in soups, casseroles, sauces, ice cream, other desserts, and custards

Honey

A natural sweetener

Maple syrup

A natural sweetener

Cocoa powder

A must for chocolate-flavored desserts and drinks

Canned Goods

Chunk light tuna

Works with mayonnaise, salads, tuna casseroles, and crackers

Canned salmon

Eat with salads, casseroles, or on crackers

Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth

Used in soups and casseroles (like broccoli casserole)

Canned soups

Useful in casseroles or as an appetizer

Canned beans

Works in chili, soups, burritos, side dishes, cold salads, and bean dips

Canned vegetables

Perfect as a side dish or in soups and casseroles

Canned fruit

Used as a dessert, fruit salad, breakfast food, or snack

Canned diced tomatoes

Works well in chili, soups, pastas, sauces, salsa, and cold salads

Tomato paste

Eat in sauces, pastas, meat and poultry dishes, chili, soups, and lasagna

Marinara sauce

Used in pasta dishes, soups, chili, and lasagna

Salsa

Perfect for an appetizer with chips when you're in a pinch

Olives

Goes well in salads, chili, cheese appetizers, and pasta dishes

Grains, Cereals, and Starches

Bread

A must-have for sandwiches and toast

Bread crumbs or croutons

Useful for salads and casseroles

Oats

A heart-healthy breakfast, and useful when baking

Whole-grain breakfast cereals

Keep on hand for a quick, healthy breakfast

Whole-grain pasta

Perfect for a variety of pasta dishes

Brown or wild rice

Works as a side dish, casserole, or stir fry

Couscous

Perfect for a quick starchy meal or side dish

Quinoa

Works well in salads, side dishes, or as a breakfast food

Potatoes

Keep on hand for soups or a nutritious side dish

Snacks

Dried fruit

Great for a quick snack; useful for baking

Crackers

Works as a snack, in casseroles, or dipped in soup

Popcorn

A tasty late night treat

Nuts

Works as a snack, salad topping, and in baked goods

Seeds

Used as a snack, salad topping, and in baked goods

Applesauce

A healthy snack with a long shelf life that's also useful in baking; try in banana muffins

Pretzels

A popular snack with a long shelf life

Granola bar or protein bar

Useful for a quick snack or breakfast when you're on the go

Fresh bananas

Works as a snack, useful when baking, and is a meal add-on

Fresh apples

Useful as a snack, and works in salads and pies

Oranges

Can be a quick snack, salad topper, or breakfast add-on

Bottom Line

Keeping your pantry fully stocked with the right items makes food preparation less stressful, and keeps you from running to the store daily. It also makes it easier to create healthy, homemade meals for your family.

Basics to Always Keep in Your Pantry