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The Perfect Pantry's cupboard: 118 essential ingredients

Three things I always have in the pantry.

All this week I'm celebrating the three-year anniversary of The Perfect Pantry (shouldn't every celebration last for an entire week?) by sharing the inventory of the ingredients in my pantry.

Today's list covers the amorphous category of cupboard: dry goods, canned goods, bottled and jarred goods, and I-don't-know-where-else-to-put-them goods.

At the end of this post, please 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.

Three ingredients for baking.

The 118 dry, canned and bottled goods in my kitchen today
Yowza! Sounds like a long list of pantry items, doesn't it? Fortunately, I have enough cupboard space, including shelves in the cellar that hold bulky items and things I don't use every day. Cupboard 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.]

Agave nectar
Aji amarillo
Anchovies or anchovy paste
Baking powder
*Baking spray
Barbecue sauce
Beef broth
*Black beans, dried and canned
Bulgur wheat
Buttermilk powder
Cannellini beans, canned
*Canola oil
*Chicken broth
Chiles, canned green
*Chipotle chiles in adobo
Chocolate, dark or bittersweet
Clam juice
Cocoa powder
*Coconut milk
*Cooking spray
Couscous, instant and grandanina
Crystallized ginger
*Curry pastes
Dried fruit
Dry bread crumbs
Evaporated milk
Falafel mix
Fino sherry
Fish sauce
*Flour: all-purpose unbleached, white whole wheat, whole wheat, cake flour
Fregula sarda
Green tea
Kecap manis
Lasagna noodles
Linguine, spaghetti: long, thin pasta
Low-carb pasta
Meringue powder
Mexican chocolate
Mushrooms, dried
Nori sheets
*Olive oil, extra virgin and all-purpose
Olives, black pitted and brined
Orzo, ditalini, annellini: small pasta
Peanut butter
Peanut oil
Pilaf noodles
Pomegranate molasses
Pumpkin, canned
*Rice: arborio/carnaroli, basmati, bomba/valencia, brown, long-grain white, Nishiki medium
Rice noodles: vermicelli, Pad Thai noodles, Rice paper rounds (bahn trang)
Roasted red peppers and piquillo peppers
Rolled oats
Rotini, cavatappi: twisty pasta
Salad dressings
Salt, table (for baking)
*Sesame oil
Shao hsing wine
Soba (buckwheat noodles)
Split peas, green and yellow
*Sugar: brown, confectioners, demerara, granulated
Sweetened condensed milk
Tomato sauce
*Tomatoes, canned, whole and chopped
Vanilla bean
*Vanilla extract
Vegetable shortening
*Vinegar: best-quality and everyday balsamic, Chinese black, cider, red wine, rice, seasoned rice, sherry, white distilled, white wine
Wine you'd be happy to drink
Worcestershire sauce

What's missing? What's in your cupboard or on your pantry shelves 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 don't know if this such a good idea for you...you'll have lazy neighbors knocking on your door with empty cup in hand rather than getting in their cars to go to the market.

Nuts? walnuts? almonds, etc.?

you dont have marmite. spread on toast, cover with cottage cheese. :)

This is quite an impressive list. I divide my dry storage by Baking, Asian, Latin and European. And a lot of stuff you have in dry, I keep in the freezer just because I don't have a lot of space.

But I don't see any starches or flours: corn, tapioca, rice, for Asian dumplings and cakes.

I love lists like these! Great idea.
I have just about everything, except some of the Latin ingredients that I can't get here. Below are some more that I thought of, forgive me if I have repeated any of yours.
Tabasco, baking soda, instant yeast, dry active yeast, tinned tuna, tinned salmon, icing sugar, tomato paste, nuts and seeds (although I keep mine in the freezer), almond extract, marsala wine, peanut butter, corn syrup,
Hoisin, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, preserves, unsweetened apple sauce, (although I don't know if these count as they go in the fridge when opened up)

I'm going to add agave nectar and buttermilk powder to my pantry. I didn't see polenta in yours, but perhaps its in a diff category? Polenta's essential at our house.

I think your pantry is close to perfect, so I'm mostly looking to see what you have that I don't have in my own pantry. I'm doing okay, but I see a few things I want to add, and a few that I am adding to my shopping list right now.

As for what you're missing, not much! The only things I almost always have on hand that I don't see are canned artichoke hearts, hearts of palm in a jar, whole wheat spaghetti (my favorite Italian brand), canned tuna and salmon, and of course, lots of diet coke with lime!

did i see falafel mix? mix? you the cook?!

also, for those of you looking to add agave mix, if you have an ocean state job lot near you, thats a good place to get it cheap!

that's a very impressive list, Lydia. I have a lot of the same items with absolutely no room to add more - but when I see a recipe that looks interesting and I need one or more ingredients I will purchase them and find a place to store. So there's really no absolute.

Don't think I can add anything here.

wow! so eclectic.

I have problems keeping fresh milk in the house, so I always have powdered milk, both the "instant" kind which doesn't taste very good but is excellent for homemade mixes & baking; and "Milkman" brand dried milk which reconstitutes to 1% ("touch of cream"). It's dried a different way so it's a powder rather than those crunchy grains like the instant type, and the flavor is very good. If they were both icy cold, I probably couldn't tell which was fresh 1% & which was reconstituted Milkman.

I like store-bought BBQ sauce, but lately, I've been doctoring ketchup & hoisin. Must say, I'm enjoying the experimenting. Fr'instance, a touch of saigon cinnamon is really tasty but only a little; too much and it's just weird.

Thanks again for another fun post.

Happy anniversary!! I LOVE this list and am totally going to print it out, go through my pantry, and then head to the grocery store!

Szechuan Peppercorns! We couldn't do without them! Some things on this list that I never use, but I do see things I should probably store. Thanks for this great list which one can trim and add to for a personalized list.

I'd recommend stocking a bottle of liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke + grilling = pseudo-BBQ.

BBQ Sauce


2 cups ketchup
2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar (sometimes I use rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon hot sauce (Frank's or Hoy Fung siracha)
1 chopped chipotle with adobo sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon chipotle or chili powder

Add all ingredients into saucepan.
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.

(I usually make pork spare ribs in the oven, wrapped in an tin foil tent at 170 for five hours, just dry rubbed, no sauce. Sort of confit-ing the ribs in their own liquids. When I'm ready to throw the ribs on the grill, I pour these liquids into my bbq sauce and let it continue to simmer for a bit before using it as a glaze for the ribs on the grill. For the above amounts, I'd probably only use about 2 tablespoons of the liquid, but I usually make more sauce than above.)

Yes, I agree on the liquid smoke. I keep two kinds: mesquite and hickory. They are great to help doctor up that can of baked beans you had to resort to for the sake of saving time.

Ever tried salted dried black beans (chinese)? So good.

Joan, thanks, I've got 'em all, in the freezer. I'll be sharing my fridge and freezer list on Thursday. And as for the neighbors... well, now you've gone and given them the idea!

Milton, right you are. Must consider that.

Julia, I only use wheat flours on a regular basis, so you're right, no corn or tapioca flours. I do have masa, occasionally, but not all the time.

Natashya, you'll find many of the things on your list will be on my fridge list (my next post). But there are a few I don't have. Thanks.

Lara, polenta is cornmeal, which I do have on the list. I love it, too.

Kalyn, I have frozen artichoke hearts, instead of the canned ones. I often have canned tuna, but I seldom use it in anything other than tuna salad.

Amy, yes, falafel mix. But don't tell anyone. (And I buy agave at Job Lot, too.)

Louise, MyKitchen: I'll bet you both have fantastic pantries.

Jenna, I often have BBQ sauce in my fridge. I use it in place of ham bones in soup recipes.

Sues, happy shopping!

Barbara, I do have Szechuan peppercorns on my spice rack (see the previous post for the full list of all the spices I always keep on hand).

Jonathan, you're so right -- I have everything else on your ingredient list except the liquid smoke. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I will definitely be trying it!

Janet, which kind do you prefer, if you were only going to have one liquid smoke?

I love these lists. I took the spice list into my (yea! walk in) pantry and checked off my inventory. Now here's my task for the weekend (and another one tomorrow?). Fun, stimulating and inspiring... on the smoke issue, I'm using smoked paprika as a really benign was to simulate the ham bone or fatback. And as for BBQ sauce, my favorite is still an old one from Peg (I Hate to Cook) Bracken. Happy Third, Lydia!

Susan, I'm a big fan of smoked paprika, too. Sometimes I even add to it BBQ sauce to pile on the smoky flavor.

"wine you'd be happy to drink" I love that!

There's buttermilk POWDER????
Hot damn! I've been using yogurt and milk, mixed as a substitute

Ah, there it is, check, vanilla bean!

I am surprised at how many of these I have, but there a a few that I am still trying to track down,

being a former anal IT employee turned food nerd I can MORE than appreciate a cupboard list. In fact, it itches at me to make one of my own.
But I think the one or two things I can't live without are:

NamPrik Pao. Favourite add in for most things and the way I cheat to make a killer Ma Po Dofu that is both hot and soothing.
Fried tofu puffs that I keep in the freezer for pad thai and other dishes
Guanciale that I keep in the freezer and add to most of my Italian dishes.

the best meatball recipe ever ( just ask anyone) came from my father-in-law. Secret ingredient: GRAVY MASTER! who would think. I never bothered to look at the ingredients before but used it begrudingly assuming it was full of chemicals. but just looked at website and was enlightened. I will be using with wild abandon now! have you tried it/blogged it yet?

Heady. I also frequently stock:
Bonito Furikake
Rice syrup
Rice wine vinegar
Hot garlic sauce
Tomato paste
Cream of tartar
Wheat berries

My pantry items are very limited as we have just moved into a new house. This is a great blog post for me to help with getting my pantry stocked.. thanks =)

Definitely be careful with leaving the open sesame oil, mirin, hoisin and fish sauce in the pantry. These tend to spoil much more quickly if not refrigerated. I love to cook asian food but my family is not as excited about it as I am. I still have a couple of the same bottles that I had purchased 7 months ago after our move. I keep them in the door of my fridge out of the way.

Nice post!!

Here in tropical asia, it is recommended that fish sauce be not refrigerated as it crytallizes in the cool temperature. I also have had no problems in storing sesame oil in the cupboard.

Great pantry list....
Add variety of red and green salsas
smoked oysters
foie gras
truffle oil
mushroom powder
tempura batter mix
more asian noodles( udon, ramen, etc.)
canned chile
creamed corn
corn syrup
pine nuts
clam juice
grits (I guess just fine white corn meal)
oh and unfortunately I have a can of Haggis in my pantry at the moment:-)

Olives!!! I keep most of this... But, I like to be prepared for company... So, olives I like to keep, 3 cans of anchovy filled ones.

Tabasco sauce

Many a late nigh snack for many with these..a little mayo tom puree and cayenne on toast!! It always saves friends from a hangover....in extreme circumstances top with cheese!! Delicious.Lovely list of things..I was so grateful to myself that I kept my pantry in storage so this time I did nt have to start again...x

Nutella and pesto

i'm so blessed we have a new home and it has a tiny pantry. my husband is building me a custom window seat flanked by 2 floor-to-ceiling cabinets to store dry goods and spices and the windowseat for my cake decorating pans. i'm using storage containers from ikea and he built the cabinets with full slides so i can reach all the way to the back. love being organized by visually quickly being able to see what dry goods i need at a glance!

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