It’s taken me a while to figure out what are my absolute pantry must-haves. I’m the kind of grocery shopper that buys things because they look delicious – not because I actually use them. I probably have about 3 half-used bags of rice, cans of soup from 5 years ago and other things I should just toss without asking questions. However, there are things that I need and use on a regular basis. These are either crucial components of my favorite meals or items I know what to do with if it’s one of those days I have nothing planned for dinner. Here are my five must-have pantry essentials that I always make sure to have stocked up.
1. Beans: Ahhh the magical fruit. Black beans are our number one, but we don’t limit ourselves. The pantry is stocked with practically the whole bean family – kidney, garbanzo, lentil, cannellini…the list goes on. These are great for those famous Mexican recipes (like this one) we have…well all the time. I’ve also been known to kill a whole can of black beans with a bit of cumin, salt and cheddar on the days I don’t feel like cooking. What?! Beans are a great source of protein!
2. Coconut Sugar: No matter how hard I try to deny it, sugar is a useful component in many recipes. I try to limit my usage, but not completely strike it from my diet. Did you know adding sugar cuts out that can flavor in canned tomatoes? Because of that I use it in many of my homemade tomato sauce recipes. It’s also great sprinkled over Coconut Roasted Delicata Squash. For the recipes that do call for a bit of sugar, I always try to go with the best option – unrefined coconut sugar.
3. Coconut Milk: I love using coconut milk as a thickener or cream substitute. Not only is it sweet and delicious, but it is much healthier! I get the full fat kind because it’s got all the good fat you need and it is much more effective in making recipes, such as Sweet Potato Coconut Curry, nice and creamy!
4. Diced Tomatoes: Not only do I stock up on diced tomatoes, but pretty much anything canned tomato, including tomato sauce and tomato paste. These are great to have on hand for a plethora of recipes. Because of my boyfriend’s allergy, we often make our own marinara (most jarred sauces contain onions). It also works great as a substitute pizza sauce, Homemade Chili base or this recipe from Doris Choi.
5. Vegetable Broth: Or chicken or beef! Whichever type of broth base you prefer, always make sure to have a couple boxes on hand. I reach for this often instead of water (adds extra flavor) or to whip up a quick soup when I don’t feel like making anything else. I have still been playing around with making my own homemade broth (actually made some beef broth, froze it and forgot to taste it!), but for a quick grab-and-go item, this is definitely an essential.
What items are always stocked in your pantry?