I am often asked what my pantry staples are, and what I tend to have on hand for baking or cooking. Originally, I created this list for a friend, and have now expanded it to what it is here. This list of my pantry staples (not including spices!) details my reasoning and suggested uses. Gluten-free, but mostly Grain-free pantry essentials are a bit different than the typical cupboard. My essentials tend to be the building blocks and the flavor of the foods I cook on a daily basis. I hope that you find this information helpful in your own quest for an efficiently stocked pantry.
Aged Balsamic Vinegar. Use this rich, beautifully deep aubergine vinegar for enriching salad dressings, deepening the flavors in marinades, to naturally sweeten tomato sauces, or macerate berries in it for dessert.
Almond Flour/Meal. I consistently reach for this protein-enriched flour when I am in the kitchen. Use it for baking sweet treats or to dredge proteins for roasting or lightly frying. My recommendations are King Arthur’s Almond Flour or, if you can buy in bulk, Honeyville.
A Note on almond flour: You can not use almond flour and all-purpose flour interchangeably as almond flour will react differently to the moisture and leavening in a recipe. You can certainly use gluten-free all purpose flour interchangeably if you can tolerate grains. There are quality mixes of gluten-free all purpose flour available. The gluten-free flours I tend to favor are Pamela’s Gluten-Free All- Purpose Flour or the King Arthur GF mix. If you can handle gluten at all, I would recommend spelt flour as a pantry staple as it is easier on the digestive system than wheat.
Arrowroot Flour. This is a grain-free alternative that acts similarly to corn starch. You can add it to breads giving them an airy lightness, thicken roux or gravy, coat vegetables or protein for frying, and much more.
Baking Soda. Use this leavening agent for baked goods, batters, and even as a cleaning solution (when mixed with a little water, it works as an abrasive and will make stainless steel look brand new!).
Brown Rice. From fried rice to a morning sweet brown rice bowl, I find that I lean on this nutrient, fiber dense grain multiple times a week. Make a pot of it on a Sunday and store it in the refrigerator to use through out the week.
Canned Whole Tomatoes/ Pureed Tomatoes. Stocking your pantry with tomatoes that have been tinned in their abundance and prime, make a beautiful base for tomato sauces, curry dishes, soups, and much more.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is the most obvious yet most utilized essential. Use this healthy fat to enhance salad dressings or marinades, lightly frying, finishing dishes, basically everything!
Fish Sauce or Anchovies. This salty, pungent flavor can help perfect the flavors of Asian, or even Italian, cooking. Stir into sauteed vegetables/greens, dressings, and add to rich tomato sauces.
Free-Range Eggs. I am including free-range eggs to my essential pantry list because if you get eggs directly from a farmer or they fresh from the market, they can be stored on your counter top (given that the room is not extremely hot or cold). Eggs are an incredible source of protein, and wonderful in and on top of, many dishes both sweet and savory. In grain-free baking, eggs give a lightness and fullness to the final product.
A Note on Eggs: If you are worried about the freshness of your eggs, simply fill a large pitcher or glass with water and then gently release the egg into the water. If the egg sinks, it is good. If it floats, then you will know that it is old.
Grainy Mustard. A pungent, flavorful mustard instantly boosts the flavor of sandwiches, spices up dressings, creates a complexity to dips, and complements roasted meats. I enjoy classic French Dijon as well as a hardy English-style, like the brand Tracklements.
Honey / Maine Maple Syrup. These are my sweeteners of choice because they are all natural and low on the glycemic index (Read more about sugar here). I use them interchangeably for a many applications: sweetening coffee, baking, salad dressings, marinade, mixed drinks, and so much more.
Maldon Sea Salt. It will elevate your cooking with its flaky perfection. Use it as a finishing salt on top of many savory or sweet dishes.
Nuts/ Seeds. Whether its almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc., you can roast them, eat them raw/soaked, add them into baked goods, muddle them into pestos, use them as a base for pie crusts, add to a “trail” mix, or create a mixed nut and seed granola. The possibilities are truly endless–especially in the grain-free kitchen as nuts and seeds are the foundation of many baked goods.
Pasta. The ultimate fast food, pasta is quick and satisfying. My favorite brands of Gluten-Free pasta are Jovial for hardier pasta dishes (quick tip: salt water generously) and Bionaturae for your everyday pasta dishes. Take my word, people won’t even know, or care, that these products are gluten-free because the quality is so good.
Raw Cider Vinegar. This vinegar is amazingly healthy and detoxifying. I use this in myriad of applications, whether it is dressings, making quick-pickled vegetables, in grain-free baking (combined with baking soda its reaction is yeast-like), and even for cleaning.
Tuna- fish Packed in Olive Oil. This is a great protein to have on hand for when you are feeling lazy. You can drain it to make classic tuna-fish sandwiches, make an easy salad nicoise, stuff a ripe summer tomato, or stir it into your favorite marinara sauce.
*all of these things are readily available at Whole Foods Market, your local grocery, or even the farmer’s market.