How to Stock a Pantry
Although the subject of how to stock a pantry is covered in depth in an entire chapter of my Learn to Cook book (ahem, makes a great gift!) I hadn’t yet made a video about it. So here it is: how to stock a pantry. This is just the bare-bones beginner-level pantry: what I think are the most basic, most necessary items to have on hand in order to throw together a pretty fast and pretty healthy meal on the fly. Scroll down for the list and some ideas for quick pantry-meals.
How to stock a pantry video (scroll down for list)
Basic pantry list
Oils, Seasonings, and Spices
Olive oil – make a quick vinaigrette with 3 tablespoons oil + 1 tablespoon vinegar + salt and pepper + several pinches of dried herbs. Toss with lettuce. It’s way cheaper than bottled dressing!
Coconut oil – great for sauteeing, stir frying, and making popcorn on the stove; try it on baked sweet potatoes, winter squash, summer squash, green beans, asparagus
Apple cider vinegar – a mild, versatile vinegar good for vinaigrettes, marinades, stews, sauces, pasta salad, salad dressing
White wine vinegar – another mild vinegar good for vinaigrettes, marinades, sprinkling on cooked greens and broccoli, pasta salad
Lemons and limes – squeeze fresh juice over cooked meat and fish, add zest to pasta dishes, sauteed vegetables and marinades; mix olive oil, lemon juice, salt and fresh minced garlic to make a sauce for simple steamed vegetables or meat; make a dressing for main-dish grain salad
Soy sauce (or tamari) – add depth to bean soup, grain salads, sauteed mushrooms, sauces, stir fry, marinades
Oregano – use to season taco filling, marinara sauce, seafood, chicken; add to salad dressing for green salads or Greek pasta salad
Cumin – use in Tex-Mex and Indian recipes, add to beans, meat stews, roasted carrots, cabbage and roasted cauliflower. Do a whole roasted cauliflower or for a faster side, chop cauliflower or cabbage into 2-inch chunks, drizzle with oil, salt, pepper, and cumin. Bake at 425ºF for about 15 minutes until tender and brown and amazing.
Turmeric – great antioxidant benefits, fry a dash in butter before adding scrambled eggs, sprinkle on potatoes, add to rice before cooking; combine with cumin, garlic and ginger to make a quick vegetable curry
Bay leaves – add a leaf to simmering spaghetti sauce, beans, vegetable stew, steamed rice, roasted chicken
Garlic – fresh garlic makes everything better! Learn how to mince garlic quickly, then add to stir fry, sauces, rice pilaf, marinades, salad dressing, curries. Pretty much everything is better with garlic. Even cake! (Not cake.)
Ginger – fresh grated ginger adds spice to stir fry, Indian curries, Thai coconut curries; add a chunk to your morning smoothie to perk yourself up big-time!
Onions – caramelize a sliced onion for a quick, delicious topping for steak or chicken; make French onion dip; add a diced onion to your next pan of home fries; line a baking pan with onion slices and top with chicken or pork tenderloin roast
Pasta – small shapes and thin noodles cook faster; make pasta primavera, pasta salad, stir fried vegetables with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and noodles; add leftover pasta to a frittata or reheat in a pan with lots of butter, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and grated cheese
Tomatoes – those in a paper carton don’t contain BPA or BPS. Use with some garlic and oregano to make a quick spaghetti sauce; make a bolognese sauce; add onion, garlic, meat and chili powder for chili; make a vegetable curry
Rice – white rice cooks in the time it takes you to cook some stuff to put on top: steamed vegetables with a quick lemon-garlic sauce; butter-garlic sauteed vegetables sprinkled with cheese; lentils cooked in tomato sauce with onion and carrots; leftover rice becomes fried rice
Lentils – the only legume that cooks in 30 minutes or less with no soaking, cook them in broth with tomato sauce with garlic and vegetables for an easy soup; boil in water, then drain and mix with chopped vegetables and vinaigrette for a warm salad; cook and use for veggie burgers which can be made ahead of time and frozen for later
Tortillas – add cheese for quesadillas and serve with black bean soup, a bowl of beans or lentils, or add cheese plus any leftover cooked meat or vegetables for quesadillas that are a meal; make breakfast tacos for dinner; reheat any leftover meat and fill tortillas, top with onion and cilantro or shredded cabbage and salsa; stir fry vegetables with soy sauce and garlic stuck in a tortilla, top with cheese and hot sauce
Fridge and Freezer
Butter – butter makes everything taste better: top steamed vegetables; fry eggs; add to rice and pasta; gently fry chicken breasts or pork chops
Frozen vegetables – when you’re all out of fresh vegetables, steam a side of frozen broccoli or green beans to go alongside your quesadilla to balance that sucker out; steamed mixed vegetables with butter also go fine on top of rice, quinoa or baked potatoes, especially smothered in cheese
P.S. These are the amazing (and expensive) salt and pepper grinders that I LOVE (affiliate link)