There are certain pantry items that people who cook always have on hand so that they can improvise in the kitchen without a lot of advance planning. Each cook has certain pantry items that they consider crucial and what those items are vary wildly from person to person. Sometimes certain pantry items are top secret….for example, before I ran out of it, I went through a phase of secretly putting porcini mushroom powder into a lot of my cooking. I made everything taste amazing. If any of you go to Bulgaria, please visit the green market in Sophia and get me more, lots more. The contents of your pantry determine the signature of your cooking. This is a list of pantry items that I buy ready-made. There are some other pantry items that I like to make from scratch (like curry paste) but I’ll write about those some other time.
ERIN’S PANTRY LIST
Sauces and Condiments
- Worchestershire sauce (good with meat, onions, tomatoes)
- HP sauce (combine with jam for meat glaze)
- Mango chutney (I use this too often to admit)
- Honeycup mustard
- Dijon mustard
- Tomato paste
- Hoisin sauce
- Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
- Ajvar (red pepper sauce from Bulgaria. AKA cheap thrills sauce)
- Apricot preserves (pan sauces, bbq sauce, curried chicken salad….)
- Maple syrup (salad dressing, anything that needs a bit of sweet)
- Lilikoi (passionfruit) jam (pan sauce for pork)
- Cognac (to add to any sweet, tangy and savoury meat, sauce or soup)
- Marsala (good with earthy rich things like creme and mushrooms)
- Red wine
- Mirin (sweet rice wine)
Spices and aromatics (there are too many to list here, but here are some of the mixes and unusual spices that I like)
- Sharena Sol (“Colourful salt” in Bulgarian. Herb mix similar to that hippy seasoning “Spike”. Goes with tangy cheese, red peppers and tomato)
- Porcini mushroom powder (from Bulgaria, good in anything involving caramelized onions)
- Madras curry powder
- Celery salt (add a pinch to any kind of comforting American food)
- Garam Masala (best made fresh)
- Za’atar (Middle Eastern/ North African deliciousness)
- frozen kaffir lime leaves (beautiful lime aromatic for Thai and Vietnamese food)
- frozen galanga root (sometimes called Siamese ginger. It has a mustardy flavour)
- fresh lemongrass
- dry fenugreek leaves (called methi in Indian markets)
- Raspberry Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Fig balsamic vinegar
- ume plum vinegar
- Mango powder
- ground dried persian lime
- tamarind pulp
- Chilpotles adobados (Ready to go in a tin)
- Tabasco sauce
- Cayenne pepper (mostly in pinches in American food)
- sambal oelek
- Liquid smoke (a little goes along way)
- Anchovies (a little goes along way)
- Sweet white miso
- fish sauce
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Duck fat
- Raw cashews (to make into cashew cream)
- Almond Meal- This is my new favorite flour. Many wonderful naturally gluten-free cakes and cookies use this flour traditionally. It is expensive, but totally delicious and worth it.
- Amaranth Flour- Strong flavour and nice fine texture. I LOVE the flavour (its nutty and sweet), but if you don’t care for it try quinoa flour instead.
- Arrowroot Starch- I use this instead of cornstarch. The flavour is more neutral. It has a light fluffy texture that is crucial in mixes with heavier gluten-free flours.
- Brown Rice Flour- Nice neutral flavour and a crunchy texture that really useful for cookies and crusts. It needs to be combined with lighter, fluffier starches such as tapioca, potato and arrowroot starch.
- Coconut Flour- I make delicious pancakes with this flour and look forward to playing with it more. It has a wonderful flavour. You have to use extra liquid because it’s extra starchy.
- Corn Meal and Corn Flour- For many folks with a wheat sensitivity corn flour is a huge help. It does not agree with me in large quantities. I may have a mild allergy to it so I don’t use it so much. Be careful to buy gluten-free corn meal and corn flour. Cross contamination is very common with these products!
- Garbanzo Bean Flour (besan)- I make a lot of Indian food and this flour is used in Indian fried treats. I love it and it is cheap if you get it from an Indian market.
- Garfava Flour- This is a mixture or fava bean and garbanzo bean flours. Garbanzo bean flour has THE BEST moist, spongy texture for cakes and anything deep-fried, but it has really strong bean flavour. The fava bean flour is more neutral. This is an excellent flour for cakes but keep in mind that you will need to increase the amount of vanilla, almond, or lemon extract to mask that weird bean flavour (think 2 tablespoons instead of 1 teaspoon). The bean flavour is totally masked by chocolate! If you are making a very simple pound or sponge cake this flour will not work (it will taste like bean). Use Jeanne’s mix instead (see below).
- Mochi Rice Flour (mochiko/ glutinous rice flour/ sweet rice flour)- This flour has great crunch in crusts and cookies and spring in wetter batters. Certain mixes call for small amounts of it, but the small amount makes a big difference. You can also make delicious japanese sweets from mochi flour. It’s cheaper to get at an Asian Grocery.
- Potato Starch- NOT POTATO FLOUR. This is an important neutral, fluffy, moisture holding ingredient in many mixes.
- Sweet White Sorghum Flour- I find that this comes in handy sometimes. It behaves quite a lot like wheat flour. I find it a wee bit bitter (despite the name), so I often throw a bit of cheese into biscuit and bread recipes that call for it.
- Tapioca flour/ Tapioca Starch- This adds a springy texture that is useful in some mixes. Some people don’t like the flavour but it tastes totally neutral to me.
- Teff Flour- I have not fully explored this flour yet but I do use it to make injera and blini. It has a strong flavour and fine texture that I like.
- White Rice Flour- Similar to Brown Rice Flour.
- Xanthan Gum- You get it in powdered form and when it comes in to contact with liquid it becomes slime. Tiny bits of this slime will prevent your gluten-free baked goods from tasting dry and crumbly. I have mixed feelings about xanthan gum. It makes gluten-free baked goods WAY better. However, some people have allergic reactions to it and I also the way it is made is a little bit upsetting. You know the black spots that appear on cauliflower? That bacterium has a “foot” or a “husk” which is slimy. The foot allows the bacterium to grab onto the vegetable that it is eating. To make xanthan gum, they grow that bacteria on corn and then harvest the foot using chemicals that I would normally object to in my food…but I am desperate for good gluten-free baked goods so I tolerate it. I have been reading a bit about using flax seeds (which are also slimy) instead of xanthan gum, but for now I use the gum. Guar gum is similar to xanthan but even weirder when you start researching it.
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Mix- I find this mix useful for making roux sauces, dredging food that will be fried and using in egg heavy baked goods that only call for a tiny bit of flour. It is bean flour and sorghum heavy.
- Jeanne’s Flour Mix- The flour mix that Jeanne uses on her excellent blog, Art of Gluten Free Baking, is the best that I have found for making biscuits and simple cakes where you want the flavour of butter to shine through. It uses some of the flours listed above (brown rice, white rice, mochi rice, tapioca flours and xanthan gum). Click here to go to the Art of Gluten Free Baking website for exact amounts.
- Annalise Robert’s Flour Mix- For pie and tart crusts I use the flour mix from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. It is one part tapioca flour, two parts potato starch and six parts brown rice flour.
The food I cook is culturally influenced. I am from Vancouver, Canada. I grew up with a lot of newly immigrated Hong Kong families in a neighbourhood with an established Greek population where hippie-come-health foods continue to be a big deal. Behold my pantry!
- whole & ground cinnamon
- whole & ground cloves
- whole & ground nutmeg
- ground allspice
- fennel seeds
- whole & ground mustard seeds
- black mustard seeds
- whole & ground coriander seeds
- whole & ground cumin seeds
- ground turmeric
- home-mixed curry powder
- garam masala
- chili flakes
- mexican chili powder
- cayenne powder
- chipotle powder
- ground ginger
- black peppercorn
- white peppercorn
Fresh Herbs (from my garden, season-permitting)
- bay leaves
- chocolate mint
- toasted sesame oil
- cold pressed virgin olive oil
- sunflower oil
- coconut butter
- hemp oil
- udo’s oil
- peanut butter
- cashew butter
- almond butter
- ghee (sometimes)
- canned coconut milk
- sesame seeds
- chia seeds
- slivered almonds
- cashews (sometimes)
- avocado (sometimes)
- hazelnuts (sometimes)
- balsamic vinegar
- berry-infused vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- dried cranberries
- dried apricots
- dried dates
- dried cherries (sometimes)
- maple syrup
- demerara sugar
- fruit juice
- hoi sin sauce
- tomato sauce
- tomato paste
- nutritional yeast
- Worchestershire sauce
- sea salt or Himalayan salt
- soy sauce
- frozen serrano chilis
- frozen red thai chilis
- frozen ginger (or fresh)
- cock sauce
- (see “spice cupboard”)