Ever have times when you just can’t make it to the grocery store because of work or family obligations, or because the lines at the grocery store sound like too much? Whenever life gets in the way, Imperfect is here to help. Here are our top recommendations for the pantry essentials you should have always in your kitchen. We hope this helps you stock up on your favorites and make great meals no matter what else is going on in your life!
Cooking oil: You’ll need a go-to cooking oil for all of your sautéing, roasting, and dressing needs, but not all cooking oils are created equal when it comes to their health benefits and how you can use them in the kitchen. We recommend stocking up on at least one oil with a neutral flavor and high smoke point for roasting and stir fries, such as avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or our olive oil.
Vinegar: A good vinegar is essential for salad dressings as well as balancing out dishes with a touch of acidity. Our top recommendations for vinegars to have around are red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar, since all of them have a neutral flavor, approachable price point, and can be used in a wide range of recipes.
Grains and pulses: Things like rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, and farro are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber and are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. They form the basis of so many of our favorite recipes.
Nuts: Nuts like almonds, pistachios, pecans, and cashews are an easy and healthy snack for when you don’t have time to cook. They’re also a great topping for salads and grain bowls, making nuts one of our favorite “secret weapon” pantry ingredients to have around.
Nut butter: Besides the obvious win of allowing for PB&Js (or AB&Js), having a few nut butters around allows for easier smoothies and lets you turn your apples and celery into a truly filling snack.
Canned beans: No ingredient gets us out of a hangry after-work crisis quite like canned beans. They save a ton of time and are a reliable way to make any meal more filling and nutritious all at once.
Canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are perfect for making a quick homemade pasta or pizza sauce, but we also like them for rounding out a stew, soup, or chili. They have enough moisture and flavor in them so you can also use them to cook your favorite beans or grain, thicken a sauce, or even braise meat or vegetables.
Canned tuna: Canned tuna is one of our go-tos for easy salads for the work day. It’s a great source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
Onions and garlic: Since 90% of recipes start with sautéing them, it’s almost impossible to have too many onions or heads of garlic around. They last for weeks if not months stored properly (pro tip: keep them away from your potatoes) and add figure prominently in more soups, stews, and noodle dishes than we can count. If you somehow end up with more than you think you can use, just use them to flavor a batch or nourishing broth.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes: Potatoes are perhaps the most obvious pantry essentials. Potatoes are an easy win baked whole, cut up and roasted, or used to thicken your next veggie soup. You can even add them to an herby salad! Sweet potatoes are a healthy and hearty addition that can power your entire day. Start with some in an easy leftovers breakfast hash and end the day with a nutritious veggie stew.
Hard squash: Sweet yet durable, and filled with vitamin C and A, squash packs a punch! Hard squash can hang out on your counter for weeks, making them the ideal supporting ingredient for whatever your dinner may hold. The many varieties of squash can star in anything from curry to bread, making them one of the most versatile veggies out there.
Apples: Sometimes you just need a snack; other times you want to bake a pie or cake. Apples remind us that life can be simple and sweet.
Citrus: Lemons, limes, and oranges are the perfect way to add a pop of acidity to any salad, marinade, soup or sauce. They’re also packed with vitamin C, making them a must-have ingredient for your kitchen.
Dried fruit: Having a few dried fruits around the house like mango, pineapple, or apricots is a life-saver. It means you’ve always got a sweet treat for an afternoon pick-me-up or as a topping for your morning oatmeal or granola.
For the Fridge
Carrots: Stock up on carrots because they can be used in so many different ways! Whether dipped in hummus, grated in a cake, shredded in a salad, roasted for a grain bowl, or simmered for a soup, carrots are a veggie MVP.
Milk or dairy alternative: Milk, whether from dairy, nuts, oats, or something else, is a reliable way to flavor your coffee, form the base of a smoothie, or thicken your favorite comfort food like soup or mac and cheese.
Your go-to protein: It sounds obvious, but it’s always worth buying a few extras of your go-to protein, whether that’s chicken, tofu, seitan, or salmon. Freeze the ones you can’t use immediately as a fallback for when you’re too busy to get to the store.