50 Vital Ingredients You Should Stock Up On

ingredients you should stock up on
Written by Oana Schneider

Even if you’re a whiz in the kitchen, there are times when you will be too tired or just not have the time to prepare a home-cooked dish. As such, when going grocery shopping, you will be tempted to throw in several dinner or lunch items that will simply need heating up in the microwave.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but microwaveable dishes are mostly tasteless and not at all nutritious. The good news is that you can always stock up your pantry and fridge with plenty of ingredients that you can use to whip up something easy, quick, healthy yet delicious. Another bonus is that home-cooked dishes will save you a lot of money because it’s cheaper than ordering in or dining out.    

50 Vital Ingredients You Should Stock Up On

If you have no idea about how to make your pantry, fridge, spice rack and kitchen in general well-stocked so that you can cook almost anything at any time of the day, here are the top 50 ingredients you should always keep handy:

1. Almond Extract

Almond extract has that unique, subtle taste and just a few drops will add luscious flavor to desserts and pie crusts. It can even be used for savory dishes with vegetables and meat.

2. Apple Sauce

If you think that apple sauce is just a snack for the baby, think again. This kitchen staple can be used for cooking, baking or simply spread over cookies for easy snacks or desserts.

3. Balsamic Vinegar

Instead of paying a lot of money on prepared salad dressings in bottles, make your own at home. You can whip up just enough by mixing balsamic vinegar with a few key ingredients, and drizzle it over a few greens for a quick salad.

4. Baking Soda

A staple ingredient for creating baked goods, baking soda is also a powerful natural household cleaner.

5. Baking Powder

 Even if you don’t like baking, this ingredient would be very useful in the kitchen. Baking powder is a chemical leavener which produces carbon dioxide and causes pancakes, breads, waffles, cakes and other baked goodies to rise.

6. Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is healthier although a bit tangier than white sugar. It can be used for baking, and for adding just a tad of sweetness to savory dishes.

7. Bay Leaves

You can use bay leaves for meat or fish dishes, as well as stews and soups.

8. Barbecue Sauce

Whether you’re grilling outdoors or indoors, you will find barbecue sauce to be a very useful cooking tool.

9. Beans

Stock up on dried or canned beans because they can be used as a main or secondary ingredient in soups, stews and other dishes.

10. Bouillon

Bouillons of beef, chicken and vegetables are available to make your time preparing dishes a lot easier. They can be used as seasoning for soups, casseroles and marinades.

11. Bread Crumbs

You can either make your own or buy the ready-made variant. Bread crumbs can be used to bread fish, chicken, pork and other meats, and can be utilized as a thickener for other dishes.

12. Beer and Wine

Did you know that beer and wine can be used for more than just drinking? Wine can be reduced and turned into mouth-watering sauces, while beer can be used as marinade for meats and veggies.

13. Brown Rice

Brown rice has many uses – starting from plain steamed brown rice to salads, soups, stuffing, casseroles and side dishes.

14. Broth

Keep a carton of broth in your pantry until you’re ready to use it, and you can incorporate it in chilli, stews, soups and other dishes. Just make sure to purchase the low-sodium variants.

15. Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese is good for more than just sandwiches. Incorporate it in omelettes, soups, stews and pasta dishes which require all that cheesy goodness.

16. Canned Cream Soup

If you’re out of time to make soup from scratch, you can simply heat up canned cream soup. It can also be used for other dishes.

17. Canned Tomatoes

This can be used for pastas, casseroles, sauces, salads and stews.

18. Canned Tuna Fish

Instead of snacking on junk food when you’re hungry, simply put together a tuna sandwich using the canned variant. It can also be used for pastas, salads and other dishes.

19. Canned Olives

Canned olives keep for a long time and are very flavorful. Add them to pastas, stews, vegetable dishes and other home-cooked meals.

20. Cocoa Powder

During cold winter nights, nothing beats the feeling of drinking some hot cocoa. You could stock up on cocoa powder for this purpose, and also use it for baked goodies.

21. Dried Fruit

There’s more uses to dried fruit than just desserts. You can use it for sweet-savory dishes, for roasting poultry or even for some healthy snacking.

22. Dried Spices

There are plenty of dried spices that you should stock up on including nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, paprika, mustard, allspice, ginger, cayenne pepper, etc.

23. Eggs

Scrambled, over-easy, hard-boiled? Aside from cooking eggs like these, they can also be used as a bonding agent, they’re a baking staple and you will definitely find plenty of other uses for this kitchen staple.

24. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

From frying to salad dressings, sautéing to whipping up sauces, there are a lot of uses that you will find for extra virgin olive oil.

25. Flavored Vinegar

This ingredient is healthy and good for the heart, and can be used along with berries to brighten the flavors of salads, or balsamic as part of a dressing.

26. Fresh Herbs

Cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme – there are plenty of fresh herbs that you can use when cooking pasta and other Italian dishes.

27. Garlic

A lot of Asian dishes use garlic as a staple ingredient. At home, you can use it to add lots of flavor to whatever it is you’re cooking, and it’s 100% good for your health.

28. Ginger

Yet another Asian food staple is ginger, and you will find that adding some minced or grated ginger to your dishes will give it that extra oomph.

29. Honey

You can use honey as a natural sweetener instead of relying on processed sugar too much. You can also use it for savory dishes.

30. Hot Sauce

The quickest way to add a touch of spice to your dishes? Add a dash of hot sauce straight out of the bottle.

31. Ketchup

No household with kids will ever be complete without ketchup, because it can be used for fries, burgers, hotdogs, meatloaf – pretty much any comfort food that you allow yourself to cook around the house.

32. Lentils

Lentils are healthy and quite easy to cook. You can incorporate them in stews, soups and other main dishes.

33. Maple Syrup

Drizzle maple syrup over your morning pancakes and waffles, or use it when preparing dessert. 

34. Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is yet another kitchen staple that you can use on salad, sandwiches and other delicious treats that you usually prepare for your family in the kitchen.

35. Milk

More than just dunking your favorite chocolate cookies in, milk is a staple ingredient that can be used in creamy sauces, desserts, scrambled eggs and even homemade ice cream.

36. Mustard

Mustard is used in sandwiches, dressings, dips and other savory dishes.

37. Nutmeg

This unique spice is usually added in sweet dishes or savory sauces.

38. Onions

Caramelized, sautéed or used raw, onions are another kitchen staple which is usually paired with garlic.

39. Pasta

Instead of ordering takeout, simply boil your own pasta and look for recipes which let you whip up Italian sauces for a quick, filling meal.

40. Peppercorns

Whole peppercorns can be dropped at the last minute to spice up soups, marinades, stocks or roast meat dishes.

41. Sausage, Bacon or Pancetta

Also known as cold cuts, you can add these items when preparing a quick sandwich or when whipping up other dishes.

42. Soy Sauce

Perfect for stir-fry meat or veggies, soy sauce can be incorporated in pretty much any Asian dish. It’s also the perfect substitute to salt if you would like to add a little bit of kick to what you’re cooking.

43. Unflavored Gelatin

A dessert staple ingredient, you can use unflavored gelatin for puddings, custards, jelly recipes and many others.

44. Unsweetened Chocolate

Unsweetened chocolate can be used for baking and cooking, or making hot chocolate from scratch.

45. Vanilla

The best way to use vanilla is to use the pod or the beans so that you can extract the most flavour. This delicious spice is almost always used in desserts.

46. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a healthier alternative to lard, and can be used for frying, cooking and making salad dressings.

47. White Sugar

Aside from sweetening your hot drinks, white sugar can be used for cooking and baking.

48. White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar makes for the perfect seasoning for salads and other savory dishes.

49. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a common seasoning which is also used to add color to meat or fish dishes.

50. Yeast

Yeast is an item used for baking, especially if you have the talent to make bread from scratch.

When you have these staple ingredients, you simply need to replenish your pantry with perishable goods – and you can whip up delicious, healthy, filling meals for your family.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • All of these are great items to have around the house, especially if you do a lot of cooking, and if you don’t, they’re still great to have for other reasons. Like applesauce, I used to take my medicine in applesauce when I was a little kid to mask the flavor. I know for dogs, if you wrap their medicine in a slice of American cheese, it’s a lot easier to get them to take it.

  • Aside from the non-common ingredients, I have most of this stuff well-stocked in my pantry and in the kitchen. For the quick perishables though, I try to stock only a little bit at a time as it would really be a waste if they just rotted anyway. The ingredient that I have most of is probably balsamic vinegar. I just purchased a couple of boxes recently because of a sale.

  • I can’t keep broth in stock. I think it is important to mention that if you buy broth or stock to make sure your buying the gluten free as well as low sodium. Gluten – also found in pasta does horrible things to your body. Including but not limited to causing LEAKY GUT! Stay away from gluten in any form!

  • Also, if you are lactose intolerant having dairy of any sort is a BAD thing. The one brand of soy cheese I have found that is actually very good is Go Veggie! Unsweetened Almond milk by Diamond is perfect for using with any recipe calling for milk. Soy milk is ok too…but I find the taste is a bit funky for using in baking recipes or making gravys. The particular brand of almond milk I get tastes like cow’s milk.

  • I have a lot of that, but I must say I am the worst ever at stocking up on canned food, probably because I can’t stand eating canned food. Usually I just stock up on dried beans and grains, which I have an over abundance of. I should probably by some canned soup though, even if I just stash it for emergency purposes and don’t really intend to eat it.

  • Good list of basics here. I’d have to replace some of the dairy and red-meat-based staples with other things, but it still makes a good starting point. I have a bottle of almond extract and I hadn’t thought to use it in savory dishes. I’ll have to try that out. I’ve also been wanting to make my own salad dressings, so balsamic vinegar is something I’ll definitely have to purchase.

  • These are some great tips for when you cook at home or those busy days when you don’t have time to cook. I always have cheddar cheese in the fridge. Cocoa powder is something that is absolutely nessesary, but I find it hard to find raw cocoa. My neighbours grow their own onions, and they make sure my pantry is stocked with them all the time, same thing with potatoes 🙂

  • Well, I’m pleased to say I have pretty much all of the items on your list, apart from broth (no idea what that is) and maple syrup, because I don’t use it on anything. I also keep a stock of long-life and powdered milk, as well as fresh, so I always have *something* to make a cup of coffee with!

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