The Pantry Guide (Updated)
My guide on how to stock your pantry
Today I’m sending out an updated version of the pantry guide I published a few months ago. A lot of people reached out saying they enjoyed this one, so I’ve added even more recommendations and updated all the links.
I don’t consider this a complete guide for anyone— your pantry is ultimately very personal and reflects the flavors you enjoy and the regional foods you cook— but this is a great starting point.
Feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions!
Salt is the single most important ingredient in all of cooking. I put together a whole salt guide if you’d like to really go deep.
A lot of home cooks aren't using enough salt. It kills me when I see people with just a salt shaker or grinder. Do yourself a favor and get a salt cellar for easy access to lots of salt when needed.
Fun fact– all salt comes from the ocean, but not necessarily from modern oceans. There are salt mines in places like Utah, the mountains of Peru, and Appalachia that contain salt from ancient oceans. These salts are arguably more "pure" than salts from modern oceans, containing fewer heavy metals, microplastics, and contaminants. So I'm always a big fan of buying from some of the brands mentioned below (including Only Salt, Redmond, and J.Q. Dickinson) that source from these mines.
Since this ingredient is the foundation of all of your cooking, you should buy it in bulk and keep it readily available.
My recs: Redmond, Diamond Crystal
In addition to a fine, everyday salt for cooking, everyone should have a flaky salt for finishing dishes. Flaky salt adds texture and flavor, and it makes a huge difference.
While I mostly use regular flaky salt to finish my dishes, the companies below offer a lot of cool options that include flavored salts, smoked salts, and more.
My recs: Only Salt, J.Q. Dickinson, Jacobsen, Maldon
Oils and Fats
If salt is the most important ingredient in cooking, then fat is a close second.
There are a lot of great options when it comes to cooking fats, but it mostly comes down to flavor and dietary preferences. If there's one thing I encourage you to do, it's to throw out your toxic industrial vegetable oils (like canola oil, safflower oil, etc) and replace them with something listed below. Your body (and palate) will thank you.
Like with salt, every kitchen should have two types of olive oil– one for cooking and one for finishing. When shopping for olive oil, it's important to buy extra-virgin oil with a harvest date (and bottling date) listed. There are a lot of shenanigans in the olive oil industry, so it's worth seeking out high-quality, reputable producers.
My recs: Graza, California Olive Ranch, and Terra Delyssa for cooking oil.
Graza, Wonder Valley, Oracle Oil, Frankies for finishing oil.
If you're looking to get extra fancy, Grove & Vine has some really cool rare single-origin options, including a regular collaboration with chef/rapper Action Bronson.
Beef tallow and olive oil are the most-used oils in my kitchen. I lean on beef tallow especially heavily any time I'm doing something with really high heat– it's my preferred fat for searing meats, deep frying, and high-heat roasting. It also has a beautiful flavor that makes it great with vegetables, especially roasted potatoes.
My recs: Epic Brand, Fatworks, White Oak Pastures (or even better if you can find a local source via a farmer's market or butcher).
Ghee– made from butter that's had the milk solids filtered out– is another high-heat oil that has a delicious flavor that isn't overwhelming. It's a great vegetarian alternative to tallow. I tend to keep both on deck and use ghee any time I want that slightly buttery flavor.
My recs: 4th & Heart, Fatworks
Butter is more than just a fat for cooking. It's a flavor booster, sauce thickener, soup enhancer, and so much more. My rule for butter is simple– seek out the highest-quality source you can afford. Ideally from 100% grass-fed, grass-finished cattle.
My recs: I don't think anyone is buying butter online. Check your local markets!
Occasionally I'll use coconut oil, avocado oil, and other animal fats.
Coconut oil tends to have a strong coconut flavor, so I only use it in dishes where that's appropriate. My favorite brand is Dr. Bronner's.
Avocado oil is great as a neutral oil that's also liquid at room temp. It's good for mayonnaise and high-heat cooking, though I'd generally use tallow for anything that's not strictly vegetarian. I like Chosen Foods.
Finally, I occasionally use lard (pork fat), duck fat, and even chicken schmaltz. I prefer to source these locally whenever possible, but if I do buy them online, Epic Brand and Fatworks are my go-tos.
Vinegars and Acids
My love for vinegar runs deep. In fact, I think I'll end up releasing an entire vinegar guide at some point. It's such an amazing ingredient that brings far more than just acidity– it brings depth from the fermentation, additional flavor from the base used, occasional sweetness, and so much more.
I use vinegar a ton to add acidity to dishes, but I also always keep lemons and limes around for an easy spritz of acidity.
I love exploring vinegars, and I've even got a whole page in my notes dedicated to all the different producers I've tried (email me if you'd like me to share it with you).
If I had to just keep a few on deck, I'd have sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, and one interesting flavored vinegar (Acid League's Meyer Lemon Honey and Lindera Farms Ramp Vinegar are two favorites).
Katz, American Vinegar Works, and O-Med for wine and fruit vinegars.
The Japanese Pantry (and specifically the Iio Jozo brand) for rice vinegar.
Lindera Farms, Tart, Acid League, and Keepwell for exceptional high-quality flavored vinegars.
Villa Manodori for Balsamic vinegar.
If you're feeling extra fancy or looking for a gift for a vinegar lover, this 50 year aged sherry vinegar and this 5 year aged organic rice vinegar are two aspirational bottles.
Spices are an essential part of any pantry, but they'll vary widely depending on the flavor profiles you gravitate towards.
Instead of giving you an exhaustive list of all of the different spices I use, I'll link you to a few producers I love.
For spice blends, I love La Boite.
For individual spices, I think that Burlap & Barrel is doing some of the best sourcing work around (don't miss their incredible peppercorns). I also like Smith & Truslow and Spicewalla.
For chile powders, Boonville Barn is my absolute favorite.
Sauces and Condiments
Soy sauce is more than just a condiment for sushi– it's an umami booster that can make its way into a variety of different dishes.
My recs: anything from The Japanese Pantry, Momofuku, Dark Horse Organic
Fish sauce is a staple in my kitchen. On its own, it has an intense flavor and aroma that can feel overpowering. But a dash of it blends seamlessly into the background of sauces, dressings, soups, and stews while adding an incredible boost of umami (like in this soup recipe).
My love affair with hot sauces runs as deep as my love affair with vinegar. I'm constantly trying new brands and small producers. In all likelihood, there's a small hot sauce producer in your area doing cool things– find them!
My recs: Lindera Farms (my favorite hot sauce I've tried in years), Rancho Gordo, Siete
A staple for making sauces and dressings– there's always a jar in my fridge.
My rec: Primal Kitchen, Chosen Foods
I always keep chile pastes on deck. Depending on your flavor preferences, this could be anything from Mexican-style adobo to gochujang, harissa, sambal oelek, and more. These add a nice pop of flavor to marinades, dressings, sauces, soups, braises, and so much more.
My recs: Frontera, NY Shuk, Zocalo
My rec: Kettle & Fire, Brodo (even better if you can make it yourself or buy from a local butcher)
Canned Tomatoes and Tomato Paste
My rec: Bianco DiNapoli
My rec: Find it locally!
My rec: Boonville Barn
My rec: Masienda
Flours and Dried Grains
My recs: Anson Mills, Barton Springs Mill, Marsh Hen Mill
My rec: Rancho Gordo
My rec: Miso Master, anything from Japanese Pantry
Peep Ancient Organics Ghee if you haven't tried it yet. IMO the best on the market.
I'd love to see a guide on vinegars!