Essential Ingredients Every Home Chef Needs In Their Kitchen

Image credit: Shutterstock / Asya Nurullina

What food staples should all cooks keep stocked in their fridges, pantries, and cupboards? If you prepare meals for yourself or your household, it’s a question you’ve wrestled with at some point. And it can be frustrating when those essential ingredients you know could elevate your dish are  sitting on a shelf at a store, instead of being within arm’s reach.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. On this list, you’ll find foods that gourmet chefs agree are kitchen staples. But they also have an X factor that lets you do more with less, and supply the key ingredients you need—at the moment you need them. We selected items that are:

  • Basic, but not too basic. You won’t find salt and pepper on this list, because items like that are a given.
  • Versatile. Many of these multifunctional foods can be featured in dishes, on dishes, or served as snacks.
  • Delicious. Last-minute meals still deserve tons of flavor and personality. These ingredients provide it.
  • Nutritious. Dessert’s important, but we’re going to focus on foods that are healthy for both your body and soul.

Here are some essential ingredients  you should keep on hand in your kitchen, along with a few helpful culinary cues.

1. For your fridge, variety and versatility are the name of the game. Turkey bacon and cheddar cheese are great sides, toppings, or fixings, while chili paste, soy sauce, and sour cream are all flavorful ingredients that double as condiments.

2. Keep a multipurpose pantry: coconut oil can be a healthy alternative to butter, while extra virgin olive oil is a go-to for salad dressings. Honey makes good spreads and marinades, canned beans are there for your protein-packed veggie patties and soups, and dried fruits like cranberries or apricots are tasty treats and healthy add-ons.

3. When you have noodles, all-purpose flour, and whole grains (such as quinoa), you’ve got a strong base to build nourishing meals. Dried legumes (such as lentils) are another nutrient-rich way to start a recipe.

4. Spices are great-tasting and long-lasting, and you can never have too many. When building your spice rack, consider including basil, paprika, rosemary, oregano, turmeric, crushed red pepper, curry powder, and garlic powder.

When cooking at home, it can often feel like you have too many ingredients lying around (from all those times you had to buy unusual items for unique recipes, and only used them once) or too few (because let’s face it, you’re busy). With this list, you can maintain a selection of staples that you rely on regularly for a range of healthy recipes that never get old.