The Most Exciting Pantry Items Every Home Cook Needs Right Now

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Pantry shelves with California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, rice, beans
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Whether you have a proper pantry or not, every cook has a collection of non-negotiable ingredients. And that’s what we’re stocking in this section of our recently launched Kitchn Essentials collection. After much debating, testing and tasting, we came up with a trusted list of must-have items, like the requisite bottle of olive oil, can of tuna, and so on.

These are the dozen ingredients we stock for well-planned meals and off-the-cuff cooking.

1 / 12
Maple Syrup

We love all the syrups from Runamok, but this stuff is extra special. It's literally the very best organic maple syrup of the season. Why? Because each run is sampled, and when the flavor is at its peak the sugarmakers set it aside for this bottle. "It might be spendy, but it’s way worth it,” says Contributor Meghan Splawn.

2 / 12
Salad Dressing

Our epic salad dressing taste test revealed what many have known for years: Hidden Valley Ranch is the clear standout. This wasn't a surprise to Contributor Meghan Splawn: “I love it, the kids love it, and the flavor holds up against all the other bottled ranch dressings on the market." If you think ranch is too sweet, give this a chance. “The flavor is buttermilk-forward with an even tang and plenty of herby flavor," she adds.

3 / 12
Olive Oil

Everyone needs a go-to bottle of high-quality olive oil, and almost every single Kitchn editor uses California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil as their everyday choice. And we're not the only ones: Ina Garten keeps it in her pantry, too.

4 / 12

Colavita Balsamic Vinegar is made in accordance with the strict traditions in Modena, Italy — with the seal to prove it. Sweet, tangy, and fruity, it’s great for making dressings, incorporating into recipes, or drizzling over peak-season tomatoes. And at such an affordable price, you can drizzle all you want.

5 / 12
Canned Tomatoes

We know what it feels like to be lost in the canned tomato aisle, so we conducted a taste test to find out our favorite — once and for all. The Kitchn editors crowned these naturally sweet, rich, and earthy peeled tomatoes the most flavorful of all we tried. They're a must-have for soups, stews, and the easiest-ever pizza sauce.

6 / 12
Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a pantry essential, but you often use just a little at a time. Enter: Cento's handy tomato paste tube (it lasts up to 45 days after opening!). But convenience isn't the only thing we love about it; Cento won in our tomato paste taste test, too, for its brightness and more “tomato-y" flavor.

7 / 12
Curry Paste

If you're a fan of Thai-style red curry, you'll want to have one of these tins within arm's reach. Senior Food Editor, Megan O. Steintrager, says, “They have a depth of flavor that I haven't found in any other store-bought brands.” She combines a can of this red curry paste with some coconut milk, veggies, and tofu or chicken thighs for a delicious meal in minutes.

8 / 12

Once you try making tortillas with Masienda Heirloom White Corn Masa Harina, you'll never go back to store-bought. There's just no comparison when it comes to freshness and flavor. Just make sure you make enough — these things will fly off the table at your next dinner party.

9 / 12
Apple Cider Vinegar

Salad dressing, cocktail mixer, cleaning agent — there are so many ways to use apple cider vinegar at home. Bragg's flavorful vinegar is gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, and organic, so whatever you use it for you know it's packed with nothing but organically grown apples.

10 / 12
Canned Tuna

If you're looking for a little more transparency in your canned tuna, spring for Wild Planet. Greenpeace consistently ranks Wild Planet the #1 canned tuna brand for sustainability, traceability, and ethical practice. Each can is just pure tuna and sea salt — nothing fishy there!

11 / 12
Broth Concentrate

You never know when you may need to whip up a pot of chicken soup or a quick pan sauce, so it's always a good idea to have this staple nearby. This little jar of highly concentrated flavor can make the equivalent of 38 (8-ounce) cans of broth. Even better? It tastes like homemade, long-simmered stock. Keep it on hand at all times and you'll save money and time.

12 / 12

Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, sang the praises of Campbell's Well Yes! Harvest Carrot & Ginger Sipping Soup after downing a cup while on-the-go. “I felt a sudden, unexpected sense of nourishment wash through me, even though the soup wasn't heated. It was pungent and just spicy enough — a drink that felt punchy and filling. If you've sworn off canned soup for any reason, may I recommend these sippable soups?"