Having a smartly stocked fridge and pantry is critical to being at the ready for any cooking scenario—from easy weeknight dinners for the fam to on-the-fly meals for your friends to last-minute potluck offerings. Of course, the key is knowing what’s essential and what’s just gravy.
We asked the members of Plated’s Culinary team to come up with a list of what they keep in their own fridges and pantries. The checklist below is only a rough outline of the types of ingredients you might considering having in stock. The idea is to keep enough of a variety so you can easily pull together nourishing meals. If you’re trying to go easy on the meat, keep frozen chicken or seafood instead. If hummus isn’t your thing, grab a container of nut butter that’s to your liking. Mix things up according to your taste preferences.
Whatever you end up adding to your grocery basket, you’ll be glad to know that having some staples at home means spaghetti alla ketchup doesn’t ever have to be dinner again.
ANCHOVIES: This is a favorite pantry staple year-round. It’s great for adding saltiness to pasta or sauces for chicken, fish, or steak. Whip up a flavorful sauce with only crushed anchovies, a dash of crushed red pepper, garlic, and olive oil.
BREAD: Throw a loaf in the freezer, so you’ll always have some on hand in case you’re in the midst of a toast emergency.
BUTTER, UNSALTED: Unsalted butter is useful in case you feel the unstoppable urge to bake since many desserts call for it. It’s also excellent for basting meat or fish—or spreading on warm bread.
CHICKEN: This is one of the most commonly used proteins for good reason. You can do almost anything to it: roast, braise, or sear away. Have some extra stored in the freezer and defrost a day before using.
CHICKPEAS, CANNED: These can be roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil, then added to your favorite grain bowl or salad for a nutty flavor.
COCONUT MILK: Extremely versatile, coconut milk is a must-have for warm curries or a pot of fragrant rice.
COOKING WINE: Deglaze your pan at the drop of a dime and have an amazing sauce ready to drizzle on all the things.
CURRY PASTE: Add unexpected kick to almost anything—chicken noodle soup, meatballs, marinades, the sky’s the limit!
DIJON MUSTARD: This is a great ingredient for whisking together a quick and easy salad dressing.
EGGS: Eggs are great kitchen friends. Delicious hard-boiled in egg salad, irresistible scrambled for breakfast, and perfect fried atop anything.
HERBS AND SPICES: Flavor all the things!
LEMONS: A squeeze for your salad dressing or on top of fish goes a long way.
PARMESAN CHEESE: Grated on top of pasta or stirred into risotto, this is a multipurpose cheese you definitely want to keep in the fridge.
PASTA: Having a high-quality pasta on hand is a must for carb-loading during the winter, and throwing together a quick meal with whatever happens to be in your fridge.
PEANUT BUTTER: This a favorite for preparing quick sauces for noodles, making a PBJ like you’re 10-years-old, or eating off a spoon like the grownup that you are.
RICE: This is a good base for many dishes. Stir-fry with veggies for a quick dinner that’ll keep the delivery guy away—or braise with some chicken and stock.
STOCK: Whether you choose vegetable, chicken, beef, or all three, stock is crucial for making soups, seasoning rice, or braising meats.
TOMATOES, CANNED: This is an easy shortcut for making a simple tomato sauce that you can put on pizza or toss with pasta.
VINEGAR, CHAMPAGNE OR APPLE CIDER: Conquer all vinaigrettes like a boss!
WINE: This is an essential for rewarding yourself at the end of a cooking sesh or if you end up with impromptu dinner guests.
- Baby spinach: Wilt in soups and braises, or add to a sauté.
- Carrots: Cut them into small dice and add to soups or a rich bolognese sauce.
- Citruses: Add a squeeze or two to dressings and sauces, or slice up and throw in a salad for bright flavor.
- Kale: Massage the leaves with some salt, pepper, and olive oil for a quick salad that’s hearty and tasty.
- Parsnips: Roast them cut-side down and enjoy with your favorite sauce or all on their own.
- Potatoes: Roast them with olive oil or cut them thin to make French fries. Mash them up to relive Thanksgiving if you like.