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The Perfect Pantry's fridge, freezer and fresh: 73 essential ingredients

Three ingredients in my refrigerator door.

As part of the celebration of the three-year anniversary of The Perfect Pantry, I've been sharing the inventory of all of the ingredients in my pantry.

We've had a good prowl through the spice rack and cupboards.

Finally, here are the pantry items I keep in my refrigerator and freezer, plus a few fresh items you'll always find sitting in bowls on the counter.

Once again, I hope you'll suggest items that should be in my pantry, with some ideas for how to use them. I'm always looking for my next favorite ingredient, for new dishes to try and new flavors to love. On Sunday, I'll publish the list of what's missing from The Perfect Pantry, and I promise that many of those items will find their way here in the year ahead.

The 73 frozen, fresh, and refrigerated ingredients in my pantry today
Some items don't need to be refrigerated until they're opened, but if the fridge is where they spend the most time, they're on this list. And for five months of the year, I definitely put my entire herb garden on the list of fresh ingredients that are a must-have. Items marked with an asterisk are ones I consider fundamental, if you're just starting to build your pantry or have limited storage space. To find more recipes using each ingredient, use the search box at the top of this page. [Note: to print this post without sidebars, hit "print" on your keyboard. To print just the list, cut and paste into a Word document.]

In the fridge:
Baking soda
*Butter: lightly salted and unsalted
*Cheese: feta, parmigiano-reggiano, and assorted others
Chile sauce, sriracha and sambal oelek
*Chili paste with garlic
Chinese egg noodles
Garlic, minced, in a jar
Greek yogurt
Hoisin sauce
Horseradish, prepared
Jam, apricot or marmalade
Maple syrup
*Miracle Whip (essential for my pantry)
Mushroom soy sauce
*Mustard, Dijon and assorted others
Oyster-flavored sauce
Pie crust
Preserved lemons
Salsa, prepared
Shrimp paste
*Soy sauce: reduced-sodium, dark, mushroom
*Tomato paste in a tube
Wasabi sauce
Wonton skins

In the freezer:
Artichoke hearts
Bread, sliced
*Chicken breasts, boneless/skinless
Chicken stock, homemade
Curry leaves
Dumpling wrappers
Frozen fruit
Ground beef
*Ground turkey
Pearl onions
Phyllo dough
Phyllo shells
Pine nuts
*Puff pastry
Sausage, beef hot links and chicken
*Slow-roasted tomatoes


*Fresh, on the counter top:
Ginger root

Plus fresh herbs from the garden. This year: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme; Genovese and Thai basil; lemon thyme and carraway thyme; tarragon; dill; bronze fennel; cilantro; chives and garlic chives; horseradish; anise hyssop; lovage; spearmint and chocolate mint.

What's missing? What's in your fridge or freezer, or fresh on your counter top, that isn't on this list?

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I love your celebrations, Lydia. It's real fun to go down the memory lane with your informative posts!

Hi Lydia,

I can't really express my pleasure in seeing you take so much of trouble and list out contents from your pantry, freeze and freezer. It is amazing and I salute the effort. Funnily, since I am always poked for 'hoarding' and 'stocking' I am relieved to find at least some one more elaborate, and ' hoarding' much more.... Now I can show case your posts to save my life. Have fun

Yikes! Your fridge must be h-u-g-e, huge

Love these lists. It would be a dream to come cook in your fully stocked kitchen!

Miracle whip is in our fridge also. I am a mayo woman myself, except for that perfect after thanksgiving sandwich with MW and cranberries. As I view your lists, I am amazed to see part of my kitchen/pantry as well. It helps to remember everything I have!

Hi Lydia, I was curious to notice that you keep your baking soda in the fridge. I have one in there too, but am too scared to use it for cooking because I think it may be absorbing all the off flavors. Do you have a tip for avoiding that?

Also, I noticed wasabi sauce? I usually keep wasabi powder in the cupboard and mix it with water as needed. That way I can maintain its potency.

Great lists, Lydia! To add: I also keep miso in my fridge; I like making soup from it on chilly days, or adding it to salad dressings for a bit of a kick. When tomatoes are in season, I always have some of those. Yum!

This should become the essential reference for anyone outfitting a Perfect Pantry. One of my favorite things about your pantry, is I've learned so much about Asian sauces that I might not have otherwise discovered.

I don't think I have room for all this in my kitchen :( Some day!! I've actually never had Miracle Whip... I'm a mayo girl myself, but I won't say I'd never try it!

Anh, Arundhati, Aimee: I'd love to have you come and cook from my pantry. So glad you've enjoyed this week's posts.

Milton, it isn't huge. But it's full.

Melynda, you're a girl after my own heart. I'm an unabashed MW fan.

Julia, I never use the open box of baking soda for cooking, precisely because it's there to absorb odors in the fridge. Arm & Hammer now makes a plastic container with a snap-tight lid, and that's what I keep in the fridge and use for baking. Wasabi powder definitely should be on my list; sometimes I do have it on my spice rack.

Deena, miso -- yes!

TW, I do hope the list is helpful, both for people starting out and for those looking to add some new ingredients to their cooking.

Sues, when I first took inventory and added up all of the things I had on hand, I was shocked at how much I'd packed into a relatively small space. Now that my pantry has more space, I've added even more items.

The perfect list that every good cook should maintain...sure helps when making grocery lists as these items are the ones frequently forgotten adding a trip back to the market! A must have in my fridge is anchovy paste, so many dishes benefit from it!

Love these lists. I always have a bag or two of edamame in the freezer. They're great tossed into salads and I often find recipes that call for them. One was, as I remember, edamame with a mustardy vinaigrette, scallions, and feta or ricotta salata. Simple and good. I suppose capers wouldn't hurt either, but then I add those to everything.

I never have beer or Miracle Whip (yuck.) I also rarely have puff pastry or any kind of wonton wrappers or Chinese noodles. Other than that my list would be very similar to yours.

In my freezer I'd always have homemade stock (often chicken, beef, turkey, and ham stock.) I also have Turkey Italian Sausage in the freezer at all times. Also, since I don't live by the ocean (sigh) I have frozen salmon, shrimp, halibut, swordfish, scallops, and sometimes a few other types of fish.

The only other things that are always in my freezer are: keffir lime leaves, lemongrass, diced bell peppers and diced onions (extras from recipes), lemon and lime zest, and chipotle peppers.

I'm curious to try the mushroom-flavored soy sauce. I always have a bag of crumbed bacon bits and a bag of sun-dried tomatoes in my freezer. I pick off a spoonful here and there for many recipes. Also, in the fridge, olives (calamata and manzanilla), tubes of anchovy, black olive and tomato paste, Naranja Agria (sour orange), hot sauce. Who can remember what else?

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (Mae Ploy brand) great for bbq chicken, for dipping and just great on plain rice.

Kecap Manis Indonesian sweet soy sauce, I love it by itself on rice. A must have if making Nasi goreng indonesian fried rice.
You might have lumped it in with soy sauce on your list though..
I think your list looks pretty complete. Great idea to go through all the pantry items that you stock.

I love Grey Poupon! We use it in all kinds of sauces... Capers are a favorite of mine as well!

Curry leaves, I was looking for them today.
Gota have that dijon!

my jaw locks :) :) :)... Lydia, you are the best!

2 things.
1. baking soda in the fridge: I thought we're supposed to keep it away from moisture. I mean, isn't it supposed to ABSORB bad smells in the fridge? well, live and learn.

2. capers: There's this online recipe exchange and someone requested stuffed pasta shells recipes. A million and a half versions of ground meat with tomato &/or cheese sauce came in. I decided to post "Sea Shells" which is my regular tuna salad stuffed in giant pasta shells and served cold with pretty garnishes. I take it to potlucks and gals always like it; sometimes one or 2 guys as well.

Within a minute (I was scanning for typos, etc), 3 people posted comments like "I like capers, I've never tried them with tuna", "lemon vinaigrette instead of mayo, this sounds great", "what an interesting twist on tuna salad". Everytime I refreshed the page there was another post, sometimes 3 or 4.

I actually got a little scared because it really was my everyday tuna recipe and these folks reacted like it was the 95 Theses of canned fish. I had a little dissociation and started waiting for Rod Serling to step out and "submit for my approval".

This was over a month ago and just today someone posted the question "what is a caper?"

So, I'm guessing capers are not treasured by the general population, as they are among those who love "The Perfect Pantry".

PS, when I can find them, I really enjoy caperberries too. Though mostly, they never get into sauces or garnishes, I just nibble them straight out of the jar.

Barbara, I listed anchovy paste in my cupboard inventory, but it really should be here in the fridge, since that's where I keep it when it's opened.

Jean, ever since Trader Joe's opened in RI, I've been able to keep edamame in the freezer, too. I don't think of them as a pantry ingredient, because I generally just eat them as is.

Kalyn, I always have homemade chicken stock in my freezer, too. And frozen shrimp, because we can't get fresh shrimp anywhere near here. (sigh)

Pam, lime leaves are a great addition!

Joan, I keep tubes of anchovy and tomato paste in my fridge, too. When I get to the Latino market (not close by, but in the city), I also like to get some sour orange -- it makes a great marinade for grilled chicken.

Tai-tai, I actually do have sweet chili sauce in my fridge, and I always have kecap manis but keep it in my cupboard. I love both of those condiments.

Ashlea, I've got 'em both.

MyKitchen, you're right -- curry leaves. I have a hard time finding them here, but I have written about them (when Jaden sent me some from Florida).

Gattina, thanks. I hope you're having fun comparing what's in your pantry to what's in mine.

Jenna, thanks for asking. Yes, an open box of baking soda always resides in my fridge, to absorb odors, and I never use it for baking. But I always keep a plastic container, tightly sealed, in my fridge for baking. Look for plastic containers in the supermarket, right near where the boxes are sold.

I just went through your last three posts and I am amazed of all the ingredients you have in your kitchen (specially when I saw you have epazote) May I suggest you try crema mexicana for your fridge? It's not like regular sour cream. It's closer to yogurt, but not quite, LOL. You gotta try it to understand :D

Yes, the chili paste with garlic...I am thinking of many dishes that I can do with this :D

reading about your freezer just reminded me.. I package leftover cooked pasta (al dente of course) into a freezer bag and freeze it. it stays remarkably good and I take it out and thaw on counter for a few while I am preparing a recipe and then add in at last minute. works beautifully. I don't know about anyone else but I can't boil anything less than a box full at a time regardless of recipe amount! (I don't store dried pasta with execption of 1 box at a time because I can't control myself :-)

What about squash? I cant live without a butternut, a spaghetti, and a couple of acorn squashes on my counter.

Another item that I always keep on hand is Saco powdered buttermilk. Once opened you store it in the refrigerator and it lasts for quite awhile.Powdered milk is another item I usually keep in my pantry items.

Did i miss veggies from somewhere? My essentials are carrots, cucumber and japanese cucumber. These grated with chopped celery are so easy to add to many fried rice dishes and pasta/ lasagne sauces ;))

Have you tried dried anchovies (if available in your area)? Deep fry for yummy crispy snacks or add ons to asian dishes. Dried shrimps are also great for Thai and chinese stir fry dishes.

Potatoes and leek for soup. Potatoes again (did i miss it in the previous list?) for hash browns and mashed potato and bacon.
Curry leaves are easily grown in tropical areas ;))

Garlic confit! it sounds fancy but it's super practical. It mellows the flavor and makes it really easy to use. You can shmear it on bread, toss it in soups, make aioli, or augment pasta sauces. The uses are really endless.

Fish sauce

Really enjoyed all of your pantry lists. Thank you!

My refrigerator died and I lost everything. I truly appreciate your list as I'm starting from scratch to replace.

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