This is a quick list of the basic items you should have in your pantry and fridge to make most recipes in this site.
Of course, you will have to pick and choose depending on your food preferences. For example, if you are vegan you wouldn’t buy meat or dairy products, and if you have an allergy you would not have those items in your pantry.
Basic Pantry Items
Pantry, freezer, and fridge products
So many recipes require flour, so it's essential in the pantry. I recommend that you buy at least plain flour and SR flour.
Make sure you have airproof containers to pour it into when you get it home so you avoid getting pests in it.
Most popular types of flour:
- Plain flour. Made from wheat. All purpose to make everything from pancakes to pastries.
- SR flour/Self Raising. Plain flour with a raising agent added. This is used for cakes, pikelets and more.
- Whole Wheat. Made from whole wheat grains and is higher in fibre and nutrients but typically lower in gluten.
- Bread Flour. Higher in gluten to make bread better, and have tougher holes that don't deflate.
- Gluten Free Flour. These flours are made from finely ground other seeds, grains, or nuts. They are gluten free so are suitable for people with gluten intolerance but don't make typical textured breads and cakes. Can be made from almonds, potato, rice, and more.
Cooking oil is a must in any kitchen. It is used for frying and baking, as well as adding to some recipes. I use extra virgin olive oil for everything in my cooking, except for spray cooking oil to grease cake tins.
Here are some popular oils for cooking:
- Olive. I love olive oil and use it for everything. It comes in a number of strengths depending on how much it's been refined. Extra virgin is the least refines and strongest flavour, then there's virgin, regular, and light which is the most refined.
- Canola. This is a popular and cheap oil. I don't like it myself, but if you're on a budget, it can be all you can afford. It's good for hot frying and deep frying.
- Blended oil. This is a blend of oils, It is usually canola oil and at least one other, like sunflower, olive, or whatever they have available.
- Peanut. Has a slightly nutty flavour and withstands high heat.
- Sunflower. High in omega 6 fatty acids, so don't use it often, unless you buy a high oleic version which is healthier.
- Safflower. High in omega 6 fatty acids, so don't use it often, unless you buy a high oleic version which is healthier.
- Coconut. High in saturated fats, so use sparingly. Virgin coconut oil has a stronger coconut flavour than refined versions.
- Avocado. High in monounsaturated fats, so it's a healthier option. Has very little flavour. Pretty expensive.
- Corn. Common in blended oils.
- Sesame. Can be a healthier alternative to some other oils. Great flavour, especially for fried dishes.
- Spray oil. Spray oil of may low flavour type is handy to have in the pantry for greasing cake and muffin pans.
Pasta (Noodles) can be used to bulk out a lot of other dishes, as well as make filling dishes of their own. I like to have plenty of spiral pasta in my pantry, but pasta can be bought in many shapes. You can even make your own if you want.
Usually made from white wheat flour, but can also be made from wholewheat flour, rice, or buckwheat.
Popular kinds of pasta:
- Spiral pasta/Fusilli. These look like spirals
- Spaghetti. These are long strands, typical of spaghetti and meatballs.
- Penne. These look like short pieces of tube
- Bow-tie. Looking like little bow-ties, these can make ornamental pasta dishes to show off to visitors.
- Shells. These look like shells and hold sauces well in the dish.
Leave this out if you are vegetarian or vegan
I like to have a few packets of beef, pork, or chicken mince in the freezer for emergencies, but here are some types of meat that I think are good to keep on hand, and that can be used for many recipes:
- Chicken breasts.
- Pork chops.
- Cans of tuna
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices will make any dish, sweet or savoury, pop. They can make a plain dish into something special.
Here are the main ones that I think you should always keep on hand:
- Smoked Paprika. This is amazing, and I add it to almost every savoury dish I make.
- Mixed Italian herbs
- Mustard powder
- Chicken seasoning
If you are on a budget you can buy vanilla essence instead, but it's well worth getting the extract if you can afford it. The extract has better, and stronger, flavour.
Vanilla is added to most sweet dishes - cakes, puddings, ice-cream and more.
Sugar is essential to add sweetness to dishes, both sweet and savoury. I also keep some non-sugar sweetener in the pantry but it is much more expensive so I don't use it much.
- White sugar. Perfect for most dishes
- Raw sugar. Simply white sugar with some colouring added, or is less processed to keep some colour.
- Brown sugar. A brown coloured sugar that adds a rich, molasses flavour to foods.
- Castor sugar. This is finely ground white sugar that is used in making cakes and biscuits as the small crystals dissolve quickly and make a smooth finished dish.
- Icing sugar. Powdered sugar, sometimes with a little starch added to help it pour smoothly. Used for icings, confectionary, and drinks where you don't want sugar granules to show.
- Coconut sugar. Made from the nectar of coconut tree blossoms. Has a caramel flavour.
- Honey. Made by bees and has a distinctive flavour
- Treacle. Like golden syrup, but darker, with a richer smoky flavour.
- Golden syrup. A syrup made from cane sugar that has a rich toffee/caramel flavour.
- Agave syrup. Made from the sap of an agave plant native to Latin America and Southern US.
- Corn Syrup. A high fructose syrup made from corn. Commonly used in commercial products because of its low cost.
Please be careful not to be take in by the marketing of any sugar producers telling you that their product is healthier and has lower GI. They are all nearly the same. I'll link to a video that explains this soon.
Sugar performs many important roles in baking. It provides moisture and tenderness, liquefies as it bakes, increases the shelf-life of finished products, caramelises at high temperatures, and, of course, adds sweetness. Refined sugar helps cookies spread during baking, allowing their crisp texture. Because of these critical functions, bakers can't simply replace sugar with a different sweetener in most recipes, but for those recipes where you can, here are some alternatives.
- Stevia. This is a plant with very sweet tasting leaves. This is my favourite, maybe because I've grown and used stevia myself.
- Sucralose. Made from sugar, but is not metabolised by the body like sugar. Granular sucralose is the form used when baking. Substitute 1 cup granular sucralose for each cup of sugar called for in the recipe. Recipes made with this product tend to bake faster than usual, so check for doneness sooner than the recipe specifies. It is sold under the brand name Splenda®.
- Aspartame. This sweetener is heat-sensitive: it loses its sweetening power when heated, and cannot be used for cookies or cakes. The manufacturer does recommend trying it in no-bake pies and in puddings after they have been removed from the heat. Substitute 6 (1-gram) packets for each ¼ cup of sugar. It is sold under the brand names Equal® and NutraSweet®.
Plaese don't believe the myth of artificial sweeteners being hundreds of times sweeter than sugar that you might see on the internet. The myth of the exorbitantly sweet NNS stems from a misunderstanding of how sweetness is measured.
Milk is used in many recipes, so is good to keep in your fridge. If you don't use a lot of milk you can store a few packets of long life milk, or powdered milk in your pantry. If you are vegan you can store nut or grain 'milks' instead, though nut milks often don't behave the same as real milk.
Here are some popular milks to cook with:
- Whole milk. This is the most used, and most useful, milk for cooking. Can be found in liquid and powdered form.
- Skim milk. Cows milk that has had most of it's fat (cream) removed.
- Goat milk. From goats. I, personally, like goat milk. It's a bit richer than cows milk. It can be easier for some people to digest.
- Buttermilk. Today, buttermilk is usually made by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk. It adds a little acidity to recipes.
- Lactose-free milk. Suitable for people who have a lactose intolerance.
- Soy milk. In my opinion, this is the best alternative to cows milk. Made from ground soybeans, mixed with some oil, sugar, water, and fortified with calcium. A cheaper version uses soy isolate instead of the whole beans. Soy 'milk' is high is protein and tastes great.
- Condensed milk. Cows milk that has been mixed with sugar, heated and evaporated. It's thick and very sweet.
- Evaporated milk. Cows milk that has been evaporated until it is thicker.
- Oat milk. Made from rolled oats, mixed with water, and strained. You can make it at home.
- Cashew milk. Made from cashews. It's expensive but is a good alternative to milk for people that need a plant based 'milk'.
- Rice milk. Made from rice, similar to soy milk. Rice milk is low in nutritional value.
- Coconut milk. From coconut meat. It's thick. I'm not a fan, but it's popular in many dishes.
- Coconut cream. Similar to coconut milk but less water. It is very thick and very high in fat and Kj. I've added it here to compare with coconut milk.
Eggs are important in many sweet and savoury dishes. The eggs you will most likely find are chicken eggs. Try to always buy large or Xlarge. The colour of the shell makes no difference to the flavour or quality.
Sometimes you can come across other eggs:
- Quail. These are tiny, spotted eggs. 5 quail eggs equals one chicken egg. Usually hard boiled and served as garnish or in appetisers, rather than used in recipes like chicken eggs..
- Duck. Older people swear by duck eggs when making cakes for increasing flavour. Usually, duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs.
- Goose. Goose eggs are much larger than chicken eggs. They are very rich with more flavour, and have high fat and cholesterol levels.
If you don't have, or don't eat eggs, you can replace one egg in cooking with 1teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar, OR replace an egg with 1/4 cup mashed banana.
In almost all recipes that call for butter, it is better to use real butter rather than margarine. Butter tastes better and it makes baking work better.
Honestly, I use salted butter for all recipes, even if they call for unsalted, without any problem or flavour problems.
If you are vegan, you can use mashed banana, avocado, or olive oil instead of butter in many recipes, but it will change textures, and won't work in some recipes.
- Margarine and plant based 'butters'. These are the best alternatives to butter. Use the same amount as you would use butter.
- Oil. Replace about ¾ of the butter in a recipe with olive, canola, or vegetable oil. Oil won't work with some recipes well, such as scones or pastry. It can affect the texture of the finished product.
- Mashed banana. Banana can affect the flavour of the finished product, and can make some recipes denser. But, it's cheap and yummy.
- Applesauce. Use a one to one ratio. Keep in mind the flavour.
I use a lot of cheese. It makes everything better. If you're vegan, you can substitute vegan cheese in most recipes, but vegan cheese is more expensive, even if you make it yourself.
The most popular cheeses used in cooking:
- Cheddar cheese. An all purpose cheese that works well in mornays, in particular. Melts well.
- Tasty cheese. I use a lot of tasty cheese in recipes, especially fried dishes.
- Mozzarella. Great on pizza as it stretches so well.
- Cream cheese. Perfect for cheesecakes in particular.
- Feta. A crumbly cheese that works well with vegetable dishes.
What vegetables you stock in your pantry, fridge or freezer depends on your own tastes.
The most useful ones, I think are:
- Potatoes. Fresh
- Onions. Fresh, dried onion
- Carrots, Fresh, frozen
- Peas, dried, frozen
- Broccoli. Fresh, frozen
Ready made sauces makes cooking really simple. These can be added to simple recipes to give them a boost while cooking. Sometimes they can take the place of stock.
These are the sauces that I find most useful in my kitchen:
- Tomato sauce.
- BBQ sauce.
- Soy sauce
- Honey soy sauce
I LOVE pastry. I'd eat pies, and other pastry items all day if I wasn't trying to eat healthily, lol. My pie maker machine is one of our most used thing in my kitchen.
There are quite a few pastry products in the freezer of your supermarket, and you can make your own, but puff pastry is my favourite and what I usually use for everything. I do admit that it isn't as good as other pastries for certain recipes, like shortcrust pastry is better for making pies because it's firmer and flakier after cooking, but I just can't be bothered buying or making others.
Bacon is one of my favourite items to add to a lot of savoury dishes. I like to have a few packets of bacon bits in my freezer for adding to soups, egg dishes, and casseroles. It just lifts any savoury dish.
You can buy vegan bacon flavoured bits if you prefer, and they are ok, but expensive if you are using a lot.
Instant soup packets
Instant soups are perfect for adding an instant hit of flavour to soups and casseroles.
Salt is such a useful ingredient in any pantry. It will lift the flavour and sweetness of many sweet dishes, as well as just about every savoury recipe.
Keep in mind that all table/cooking salt is simply Sodium Chloride, even Himalayan salt. None is better than another and any slight differences, such as colour are caused by trace elements that have no health benefits in the miniscule amounts found in any salt.