From cooking basics to nourishing ingredients, these pantry essentials (with a free printable) are perfect for feeling stocked and inspired in the kitchen!
A well-stocked pantry is the first step we recommend on the path to feeling empowered in your kitchen. Why? You’d be amazed at how many easy, nourishing, and speedy meals you can whip up from pantry essentials.
We’re cooking experts here at Wholefully, and part of that is being well-versed in what you need in your pantry (and what you don’t). We’ve sorted through all the noise and pulled together the ultimate pantry staples list for you to work from. Let’s get started!
First up, what’s the best way to organize a pantry?
I recently did a small remodel and was able to almost double the size of my pantry (yay!). When it was time to stock the pantry, I did tons of research about different kinds of canisters and storage containers and ended up with an old favorite—Ball® Canning Jars. Here’s why these jars are my favorite pantry containers:
Affordable—Getting matching containers for a pantry can cost hundreds of dollars, but not with Ball® Jars—a six-pack of Ball® Half Gallon Jars is less than $15 and is perfect for flours, sugars, and other bulk baking items.
Easy to label—Of course, you can get fancy and use chalkboard labels or a die-cut machine to make vinyl labels, but I love the simplicity of just writing on the glass of my Ball® Jars with a permanent marker. The label stays on perfectly until you swipe at it with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol—then it wipes right away!
Multi-purpose—We love multitaskers in my kitchen, and Ball® Jars are the ultimate multitaskers. No longer need the storage container for dried cranberries in my pantry? That container easily becomes a canning jar, drinking jar, or even a vase. The opposite is true, too: do I suddenly find myself needing an extra container or two in my pantry? Easy to just grab an extra Ball® Jar from my canning shelf!
Make sure to wash jars between each use. It is not recommended to use jars for food storage after a non-food alternative use.
Sturdy—As opposed to plastic containers, the glass Ball® Jars are super sturdy—no scratching, cracking, or taking on the flavor or smell of the foods they contain.
Airtight storage lids—I swapped all the classic two-part metal lids on my Ball® Jars for the new Ball® Wooden Lids. They are air-tight, look super beautiful, and make it so the jars stack easily! The air-tight lids maximize the shelf life of many pantry items.
Keeps food safe—We try not to store food in plastic (especially plastic that contains BPA) in our kitchen. Ball® Jars are solid glass—so no worries there.
Tons of different sizes and shapes—Half-gallon for flour. Quart size for breadcrumbs. Pint-size for chia seeds. No matter what you need to store, there is a Ball® Jar (and a corresponding Ball® Wooden Lid) for it.
Beautiful—Last but not least, they are just gorgeous to look at (especially with the Ball® Wooden Lids). Opening this side of my pantry brings me SO much joy now. That might seem like nothing, but feeling good about being in your kitchen is a huge motivator.
Make sure when organizing your pantry, you keep shelf life in mind! Put the oldest items toward the front or top so they get used up first.
What pantry essentials do I need?
Your exact pantry essentials list is going to vary based on your family’s dietary needs, likes, dislikes, and budget. But here is our list of what we keep stocked in our pantry at all times:
*Indicates an item that is a must-have. If you’re starting a new pantry, stock these first!
- All-purpose flour*
- Whole wheat flour
- Gluten-free all-purpose flour—not every kitchen will need gluten-free flour, obviously, but if you or anyone you like to cook for avoids gluten, it’s good to have a good all-purpose gluten-free flour on hand.
- Blanched almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Tapioca flour
- Arrowroot or cornstarch*
- Baking soda*
- Baking powder*
- Chocolate chips
- Vanilla extract*
- Cocoa powder*
- Cane or granulated sugar*
- Coconut sugar
- Brown sugar*
- Maple syrup
- Powdered sugar
Nuts and Dried Fruit
- Peanut butter*
- Almond butter and other nut butters
- Dried cranberries
- Unsweetened coconut
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Grains and Beans
- White rice*
- Brown rice
- Rolled oats*
- Green or brown lentils
- Dried black beans
- Dried navy beans
- Bread crumbs
Herbs and Spices
There are many more herbs and spices that you can stock your pantry with, but these are the basics you should start with.
- Salt: kosher salt and fine sea salt*
- Black pepper*
- Bay leaves
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder*
- Italian seasoning*
- Taco seasoning
Vinegars and Oils
- Extra virgin olive oil*
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Cooking spray
- Apple cider vinegar*
- Red wine vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Distilled white vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar*
- Rice wine vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Broth: chicken, beef, veggie*
- Beans: black, chickpea, kidney*
- Tomatoes: diced, crushed, whole*
- Other veggies: corn, green beans, peas
- Tomato paste
- Diced green chiles
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Jams, jellies, and preserves
- Bottled lemon juice
- Pasta: spaghetti, penne, egg noodles*
- Popcorn kernels
- Soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos*
- Barbecue sauce
- Worcestershire sauce*
- Hot sauce
- Mustard: dijon and yellow*
What are the long-lasting fruits and vegetables I should keep on hand?
Pantry stocking isn’t all about the dried and canned goods—you can also stock your pantry with a few long-lasting fruits and veggies. We always have these on hand: onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, etc.), and garlic. Carrots and apples are also extremely long-lasting—but we recommend you stash those in the fridge.
What are vegan/plant-based pantry essentials?
If you want to adjust this for a vegan pantry, we obviously recommend leaving behind the animal-based ingredients (like honey and canned tuna) and stocking instead with plant-based protein sources like dried beans, canned beans, and dried grains. A good-quality vegan egg replacer (like chia seeds or flax seeds) is also a great pantry staple for the plant-based kitchen.
What are gluten-free pantry essentials?
If you need to have a gluten-free pantry, make sure you have a good gluten-free all-purpose flour on hand. You’ll also want to swap out your pastas, crackers, and tortillas for gluten-free versions.
What are the most essential seasonings to have in your pantry?
You could easily spend a fortune just on herbs and spices, but when it comes down to it, you can get by with about a dozen or so if you’re just starting out or are low on space:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- Paprika (smoked and sweet)
- Taco seasoning
How do I stock my first pantry?
We know this list looks super intimidating if you are building your first pantry, but you can tackle it one bite (or recipe) at a time! Just buy the ingredients you need each time you cook, and within a few months, you’ll have a fully stocked pantry! Just make sure to restock anytime you are running low on a pantry staple.
How do I stock a pantry on a budget?
Our favorite way to stock a pantry without busting the budget is by buying just one extra item each time we go shopping. Next time you go to make turkey chili, instead of buying just the two cans of kidney beans you need, buy three (or maybe four if they are on sale). It doesn’t seem like much, but just an extra can here or there adds up to a stocked pantry pretty quickly without adding a ton more to your grocery bill.
How do I keep my pantry stocked?
Once you have a well-stocked pantry, the key is keeping it stocked! Make sure that you replace any items that you use. We like to have a checklist nearby to double-check our stock. Our printable pantry essentials checklist is perfect for this!