11 Grocery Shortcuts You Should Stash in Your Fridge, According to Chefs and Pro Cooks

published Nov 22, 2022
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Hand pulling out a drawer/bin in a refrigerator. The bin is full of condiments (catsup, mustard, hot sauce, etc)
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

Our love of shortcuts runs deep. They reduce stress and make cooking more enjoyable. Just last night, for example, I grabbed half a jar of marinara sauce from the fridge to toss with pasta and shreds of Parm and called it — along with some roasted veggies — dinner. And, if I’m being honest, I will probably eat it again today for lunch.

I wanted to know what other grocery store conveniences I should stash in my fridge for weeknights (or weekday mornings) when time is limited. So I reached out to several chefs and pro cooks from all around the country to learn what they keep in their own fridges. And, in a surprise to no one, they delivered the goods. Here are the shortcuts they reach for on the regular.

1 / 11
Moroccan Harissa Sauce

“I always have Moroccan harissa sauce in my fridge. (My go-to brand is Casablanca Market, made in California.) This is such a versatile sauce — especially if you’re seeking a little spice in your recipes. Although harissa is relatively easy to make yourself, it can be time-consuming, so having a jar in the fridge is so necessary in my kitchen. I love a good tagine, and harissa is an indispensable ingredient to balance against the sweetness of this dish. I also add this spicy paste to my pasta or pizza sauce for an extra dimension of flavor. It’s lovely in potato salad or mixed with mayo as a burger sauce; and I even love it in my scrambled eggs in the morning.” — Tariq Nasir, chef, cookbook author, and founder of Chef Tariq

2 / 11
Fresh Ravioli

“I always keep some store-bought fresh ravioli in my fridge for quick and easy dinners — it’s both kid- and adult-friendly! Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry some tasty options (four cheese, butternut squash, and ricotta/arugula are all popular in my house). I’ll either toss it in some homemade tomato sauce (or, let’s get real, a jar of Rao’s with some fresh basil), or perk it up with some browned butter, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and good Parmesan. Voila, dinner!” — Molly Gilbert, cooking instructor, private chef, and founder of Dunk & Crumble

3 / 11
Ginger Garlic Paste

“Sometimes I just want to throw together a vegetable curry or dal with minimal effort. Having a bottle of ginger-garlic paste in my fridge is a handy shortcut that imparts an essential flavor to Indian cooking with no peeling, grating, or mincing. It’s as simple as it sounds — ginger and garlic crushed into a paste. It also works great in marinades for paneer or vegetables. If you don’t have an Indian grocery store near you, just get ginger paste and garlic paste, which are available in most supermarkets.” — Vasudha Viswanath, founder of We Ate Well and author of The Vegetarian Reset (publishing in January 2023, but available for pre-order now)

4 / 11
Boursin Cheese

“Boursin is a must-have in my fridge! It adds delicious layers of flavors to so many things: omelets, salads, pastas, and more. It’s also a quick and easy way to elevate a crostini appetizer — top crostini with Boursin, prosciutto, and fresh melon and serve. In need of a quick salad booster? Whip Boursin with crème fraîche or sour cream for a fresh, creamy dressing for a beet or green salad.” — Kristin Bryan, director of culinary innovation at HelloFresh

5 / 11
Salsa Macha

“I love to use salsa macha, a Mexican salsa made with oil blended with different nuts and chilies, to add the ultimate punch to any dish. I keep a few on hand: La Comandanta for a traditional version, or Masienda’s trio for a few innovative takes on the classic. Finish some sunny-side eggs, quesadillas, a grilled fish or chicken with it. Drop a spoonful on a bowl of ramen or sliced mangos. It’s a great shortcut to add depth and smoky flavor without overpowering [dishes] with extreme spiciness. — Alejandro Oropeza, chef and co-founder of flavrs, a new food app

6 / 11
Pizza Dough

“My favorite shortcut is having store-bought pizza dough or fresh pizza dough from your local pizza shop in the fridge. You don’t have to use it for just pizzas — it’s great for making elevated croutons for salads or even making delicious desserts, like monkey bread, on the fly.” — Allen Dabagh, chef at Boutros in Brooklyn, NY

7 / 11
Crescent Rolls

“In my fridge, you will always find a container of ready-to-bake crescent rolls. Making dough from scratch can be the most time-consuming part of baking, so that’s why the Mini Hot Dog Wraps and Cinnamon Bun Twists in my new cookbook, The Modern Hippie Table, call for crescent roll dough. The store-bought dough is a real time-saver when you’re making other ingredients, like dipping sauce and fillings, from scratch.” — Lauren Thomas, author of The Modern Hippie Table

8 / 11
Better Than Bouillon Broth Concentrate

“Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Soup Base adds instant flavor! The little jar is full of concentrated vegetable broth, so you get a ton of flavor with just a small amount. I add a teaspoon to sautéed greens for a boost of savory flavor. I also add one tablespoon to any water that I’m using to cook a grain or pasta. I always have a jar in the fridge and it lasts for a long time!” — Kat Marris, recipe developer at Green Chef 

9 / 11
White Miso Paste

“Miso is an umami and salt bomb all in one. It lasts a long time in the fridge and goes well with fish, potatoes, vegetables, vinaigrettes, marinades, and so much more. My favorite use is making miso butter for white fish.” Grebel combines four tablespoons room-temperature butter with two tablespoons miso and a pinch of salt and pepper, and he has a smart tip on what to do with any leftovers: “If you don’t use all of it; it can be placed in plastic wrap, rolled into a cylinder, and placed in the freezer for later use. Just use a knife to slice as much miso butter as you may need for your next recipe.” — Ben Grebel, culinary development manager at EveryPlate

10 / 11

“I love the versatility of jarred pickles. They’re great for snacking, topping burgers and sandwiches, or adding to cheese boards, and you can also finely chop your pickles to add to dips and sauces. And don’t discard that pickle juice! The briny dill-mustard seed flavor combo has lots of uses in your cooking. Add it to your Bloody Mary mix or cocktail sauce, use it to marinate chicken, whisk it into salad dressings, add a dash of it to potato salad, use it to quick-pickle onions, or add a splash of it to sautéed mushrooms as they cook for a bright dill flavor.” — Julie Hartigan, chef and cooking coach

11 / 11

“I love labneh because adding a spoonful to pasta gives it a rich creaminess (although I often just snack on it by the spoonful). On nights when I’m too tired to cook, I’ll toast a pita and fill it with some heaping spoonfuls of labneh, which is probably one of my favorite comfort meals because it’s what I often ate as a kid for a snack.” — Yasmin Fahr, recipe developer and cookbook author

Did your favorite shortcut you keep in the fridge? Tell us about it in the comments.