The Most Exciting Baking and Seasoning Ingredients Every Home Cook Needs Right Now

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Chocolate chip cookie macro shot with melted Guittard Chocolate Wafers
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

This category is one of the most (if not the most) versatile categories in this year’s list of Kitchn Essentials. Of course, this category is relevant for anyone who bakes (from scratch or from a box), but it’s also not-to-be-missed if you season your food. So, it’s really for everyone! 
With that, here are our tested, tasted, and trusted picks for our favorite baking- and seasoning-related groceries to help level up your baking — and so much more. 

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The folks at employee-owned King Arthur Baking Company are in the flour business, but they're also bakers at heart, which shows in their products. They pay attention to the details, using responsibly sourced non-GMO wheat and calibrating the protein content of the flour so every time you bake with KA flour you get the same result.

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Flaky Salt
Jacobsen Salt

We love Jacobsen's briny, bright salt that's harvested in the Pacific Northwest. The crunchy flakes are smaller than other brands, making it easier to distribute. Sprinkle it on a steak before serving, add to a salad at the very end, or crush some over brownie batter and cookie dough before they go into the oven.

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Kosher Salt

When it comes to seasoning and brining, you need salt with the perfect consistency: Coarse enough that you can grab it with your fingers, but easily crushed for seasoning. Diamond Crystal is a staple in culinary schools and is the industry standard in restaurants. Go ahead and stock up on it — it’s worth its salt.

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Table Salt

When it comes to baking, Morton's salt stands out for the way it dissolves quickly. We love how it brings out the sweet, fruity, and chocolatey flavors in baked goods. And beyond baking, we rely on this classic blue container to season with precision and in any recipe that calls for "salt."

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Elevating baked goods is easy with Fleischmann's Yeast (pun intended). When it comes to yeasted dough recipes, Recipe Director, Lauren Miyashiro, always prefers working with this instant variety. “You don't need to dissolve it first!” And, she adds, “even though most recipes call for active dry yeast, you can easily swap it 1:1.” (The rise time may just be a bit quicker!)

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Vanilla Extract
Williams Sonoma

Nielsen-Massey may be on the pricier side of vanilla extracts, but Jesse Szewczyk, contributor and expert baker, says it’s worth it for its “dark color and super-strong, high-quality vanilla flavor.” It's also readily available at grocery stores nationwide — no need to scour the internet or search out a specialty baking store.

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Brownie Mix

Sure, you could easily make a good brownie from scratch. But for those times when you want to whip up a quick batch from a mix, we recommend Ghirardelli Double Chocolate. The brand does it right with this super-dark, double-chocolatey mix. It’s so good, it took the top spot in our taste test.

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Vanilla Cake Mix

This timeless classic is affordable and easy, but don't let its simplicity fool you. Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Vanilla Cake Mix is exactly as promised — incredibly moist, and deliciously vanilla-y. Use this to make a classic cake or get creative with it as your foolproof base for a multitude of mix-ins.

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These organic, fair-trade chocolate baking wafers from this San Francisco-based, family-owned company have a rich, deep flavor. Guittard, from our research, also has a good track record of combating the child and slave labor that still plagues the chocolate industry. Senior Recipe Editor, Amelia Rampe, loves baking with them especially because they create "perfect pools of chocolate."

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Cocoa Powder

Guittard is where it’s at for baking with chocolate. When it’s an intense, bittersweet chocolate flavor you're after, look for the red canister that's popular with pro pastry chefs. It’s intense, fudgy, and robust — in other words, perfection for your cakes, pastries, and brownies.

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Burlap & Barrel

Intensely sweet and spicy, thanks to a harvesting technique that concentrates the tree’s essential oils, this heirloom cinnamon variety that Burlap & Barrel imports from Vietnam's Quang Nam Mountains will transform your cooking. Try it in coffee cake or granola — or use it to make next-level snickerdoodles.

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Cookie Dough

Thanks to heat-treated flour and using flaxseed in place of eggs, this creative cookie dough isn't just bakeable — it's safe to eat raw, too. We also like that it's made with less sugar and no high fructose corn syrup, that it comes in fun flavors like Cold Brew Crew and Sin-a-Bun, and that a portion of every purchase is donated to support women in recovery.

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Puff Pastry

“There's no other frozen all-butter puff pastry that puffs and browns as beautifully as Dufour,” says Food Editor-at-Large, Christine Gallary. It’s filled with buttery goodness (no shortening allowed!) and comes in one piece, which is especially convenient for when you want to bake something bigger, like a tart crust on a sheet pan.

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Tabletop Seasoning

When rice or vegetables need punching up, a sprinkle of sweet-salty bonito furikake does just the trick. In fact, that's exactly what furikake means — to sprinkle over. "I have tried many types of katsuo mirin furikake and this one is my go-to brand and type," Senior Recipe Editor, Amelia Rampe, says. "It has the best flavor profile and is super versatile."

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Seasoning Duo

The founders of Loisa recreated the Latin seasonings they love, but with a pared-down and organic ingredient list — one that doesn’t include dyes or preservatives. Whether they’re featured together or as a solo act, these vibrant seasonings are showstoppers as dry rubs and marinades, sprinkled on root vegetables and popcorn, stirred into stews, and more.