Whether you are attempting to enter the world of cooking for the first time, or simply want to get a better hold over your current pantry, this post will help get some control over the crazy and endless world of ingredients.

Photo of a pantry filled with staple items like spices, vinegars, oils, and salt

Stocking A Pantry  

It can be overwhelming to stock a pantry.  There seems to be an endless smorgasbord of options, especially when it comes to herbs and spices. Fundamental cooking techniques can cover a wide array of cuisines, but the ingredients you use can be vastly different. I recommend stocking your pantry based on the kinds of cuisines you are interested in cooking.

The Basic Pantry Staples  

  • Salt – Table salt is the most commonly used salt in recipes. Sea salt has larger crystals and is best used as a finishing salt. Salt should be stored away from moisture.
  • Black Pepper – You can purchase ground pepper or a jar of peppercorns to grind in a spice grinder. Pepper should be stored away from moisture.
  • Garlic – Garlic is sold in bulbs. Look for bulbs that are tight together. Minced and crushed garlic can also be purchased in jars, in varying quality. Garlic is best when fresh, but pre-minced and pre-crushed can also be used. Garlic should be stored at room temperature in a dry place.
  • Onions – Red onions, white onions, yellow onions, and sweet onions are the most commonly found varieties. White and yellow onions are most often used in cooking. Red onions can be cooked, but are often eaten raw. Onions should be stored in a cool, dry place.
  • All-purpose Flour – This flour is a finely ground wheat flour. It can be purchased bleached, or unbleached. Flour should be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
  • Granulated Sugar – This fine cane sugar is an all-purpose sugar to use in both cooking and baking. Sugar should be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
  • Eggs – Eggs can be purchased in varying sizes and colors. The color of the shell does not matter, but the size does. Most recipes call for large eggs. Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This is the highest quality olive oil and should have no defects. It is the most versatile of olive oils and can be used as a cooking oil, or drizzled fresh. Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
  • Chicken Broth or Stock – Chicken broth or stock is a liquid that has been flavored by chicken, bones, and herbs. It can be purchased in cans or boxes, or can be made from scratch. Fresh chicken broth, or liquids from opened cans or boxes should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, or frozen.

In addition to these basic pantry staples, you can stock your pantry with additional items based on the cuisines that interest you. A well stocked pantry would have the basic pantry staples, baking staples, and the staples from at least one variety of cuisines.  

Baking Pantry Staples

  • Light Brown Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Cornstarch
  • Instant Dry Yeast
  • Chocolate (milk, semi-sweet, unsweetened)
  • Butter, unsalted
  • Heavy Cream
  • Vegetable Shortening
  • Vegetable Oil

Italian Pantry Staples

  • Basil, dried and/or fresh
  • Oregano, dried and/or fresh
  • Parsley, dried and/or fresh
  • Rosemary, dried and/or fresh
  • Sage, dried and/or fresh
  • Thyme, dried and/or fresh
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Olives
  • Cornmeal
  • Dried Pasta
  • Red Wine
  • White Wine
  • Semolina Flour

Latin Pantry Staples

  • Dried Chiles
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chile Powder
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Ground Cumin
  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Tomatillos
  • Chipotle in Adobo
  • Black Beans, dried or canned
  • Pinto Beans, dried or canned
  • Chorizo
  • Rice (long or short grain white rice)
  • Tortillas, corn or flour
  • Tequilla

French Pantry Staples

  • Basil, fresh or dried
  • Ground Mustard
  • Herbes de Provence, fresh or dried
  • Parsley, fresh or dried
  • Rosemary, fresh or dried
  • Tarragon, fresh or dried
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Heavy Cream
  • Red Wine
  • White Wine
  • Port Wine

Asian Pantry Staples

  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Ginger, ground or fresh
  • Lemon Grass
  • Lime
  • Cilantro
  • Chili Sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Oyster sauce
  • Coconut milk
  • Curry paste
  • Noodles (soba, udon, ramen, rice, lo-mein)
  • Jasmine Rice
  • Peanut oil
  • Sake

American Pantry Staples

  • Basil, fresh or dried
  • Oregano, fresh or dried
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Ground Mustard
  • Cornmeal
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Chicken and Beef Stock
  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • White and Red Wine