The Essential Ingredients in a Perfect Pantry

Stock your kitchen with these basic ingredients and you'll always have a dinner backup plan.

We'll cover everything here, starting with the essential, bare-minimum pantry ingredients that you'll need and including key canned and other dry goods, spices, fridge and freezer foods, spices, condiments, and those little extras that are nice to have on hand. Let's take a look!

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Soup
Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Soup | Photo by Allrecipes Magazine.

The Bare Minimum

These are the essential six staples to always have on hand.

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar

Canned Goods

Chicken broth and beef broth are good to have if you make gravies or sauces in which liquid is cooked down, or "reduced." The salty flavor of broth gives these dishes extra punch.

  • Chicken stock or broth
  • Beef stock or broth
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato paste
  • Can/jar of marinara sauce
  • Canned beans: white, black, kidney
  • Tuna
Canned Vegetables
Photo by Getty.

Starches and Dry Goods

Does your family eat a lot of pasta? Do you prepare stir-fries and other Asian dishes? Stock up on what you like to eat.

  • Pasta (in various shapes, strands, and tubes)
  • Rice (white and/or brown in long-grain or short-grain varieties)
  • Lentils
  • Split peas
  • Dried bread crumbs
Dried pastas, rice, lentils
Photo by Getty Images.

The Root Cellar

Store these in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area--never in plastic bags or in the refrigerator.

  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
Potatoes, Onions, and Garlic
Photo by Getty Images.


  • Vinegars (balsamic, cider, white, sherry, and wine vinegars)
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
Vinegars in bottles
Photo by Getty Images.

The Spice Rack

  • Dried basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Cayenne or
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Curry powder
  • Seasoned salt
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Dried parsley
Spices and herbs in Jars
Photo by Getty Images.

The Almost-Bare Fridge

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter or margarine
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard (yellow, Dijon, whole grain)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Other cheese
Eggs, milk, butter, cheese
Photo by Getty Images.

The Freezer

  • Frozen corn
  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen peas
  • Ground beef
  • Chicken breasts
Frozen Spinach
Photo by Getty Images.


Flavors and ingredients that keep well and are nice to have on hand.

  • Herbs and spices: allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, dill, marjoram, dry mustard, italian seasoning, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
  • Lemons
  • Fresh ginger
  • Shallots
  • Capers
  • Canned chiles
  • Prepared horseradish
  • Anchovy paste
  • Almond extract
  • Vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt
  • Cooking spray
  • Cornstarch
  • Confectioner's sugar
  • Honey
  • Brown sugar

Get recipes for easy meals using canned and frozen foods you may have in your freezer or cupboard right now.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love