The Essential Pantry Items Every Home Cook Needs for 2021 and Beyond

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: California Olive Ranch

For years, we’ve been joking about launching a series here on Kitchn called Pantry Raid. We want to go all around the country and photograph people’s pantries in order to see what people keep stocked and how they organize things. We haven’t launched it yet (maybe 2022 is the year?), but sort of gave you all a look at our own pantries when we launched the 2021 version of Kitchn Essentials, Grocery Edition.

We included a pantry section (of course), and then the staff tasted, tested, and debated to come up with a final list of the pantry ingredients that we all agreed were absolutely essential for this year and beyond. Wanna take a peek? That’s a trick question. Because we know you do!

1 / 10
Best Olive Oil

Pretty much every single Kitchn editor uses California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil as their “everyday olive oil.” And Ina Garten keeps it in her pantry, too. For those times when olive oil is the star (as a salad dressing or when finishing a toast, for example), we reach for Brightland.

2 / 10
Best Balsamic Vinegar

Sure, you can drop a small fortune on aged balsamic vinegars that trickle out in slo-mo. But Colavita Balsamic Vinegar is the authentic stuff (with the seal to prove it), made according to the traditions in Modena, Italy ... at weeknight dinner prices. Sweet, tangy, and fruity, it’s versatile enough for anything from dressing to drizzling.

3 / 10
Best Canned Tomatoes

Our blind taste test crowned these naturally sweet, rich, and earthy peeled tomatoes the best of the best. They're simply a must-have in your pantry for soups, stews, or the easiest-ever quick and no-fuss pizza sauce.

4 / 10
Best Tomato Paste

Whoever was in the meeting that decided that Cento tomato paste belonged in a squeeze tube instead of an ill-sized can deserves an award. For those of us who gravitate towards recipes that call for just a tablespoon of tomato paste at a time, this handy-dandy squeeze tube, which lasts up to 45 days after opening, is about to become your best friend. Also, it won in our tomato paste taste test. Say that five times fast!

5 / 10
Best Curry Paste

Making curry at home? This couple-buck tin will be your new best friend. “I learned about Maesri Thai Curry Paste from a Thai restaurant owner who I trust entirely,” Contributor Dana McMahan says. In an unofficial poll, this is the brand that came up again and again.

6 / 10
Best Dried Beans
Rancho Gordo

Wow, did dried beans ever have a moment last year. Rancho Gordo, already big in the bean world, became a veritable celebrity — and for good reason. Their heirloom varieties require less soaking time, and cook up much creamier and more flavorful than a standard batch of dried beans might. Fill up your cart and be sure to try the Cranberry Beans.

7 / 10
Best Quick-Cook Beans
A Dozen Cousins

A quick-cook bean from a company with a social mission and a heart? Say no more. Okay, one more thing: A Dozen Cousins' deliciously convenient and already-seasoned pouches of beans are inspired by traditional Black and Latino recipes from throughout the Americas. Grab a variety pack for maximum fun, and try them piled on rice, stuffed into tortillas, or sautéed with greens.

8 / 10
Best Canned Tuna
Wild Planet

Do you know what’s in your tuna? Spring for Wild Planet, and you can be sure you know what you're getting. They do cost a little more, but this is so totally a case where it’s worth it. 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!

9 / 10
Best Broth Concentrate
Better Than Bouillon

Our pantries aren't working quite as hard as they were a year ago, but we all still know the importance of keeping certain things stocked. Enter: this little jar of highly concentrated flavor. It’s teeny and stands in for 38 (8-ounce) cans of broth. That’s 9.5 cartons! Make this stuff a staple and you'll save time, money, and space on your shelves to make room for highly critical things (like cases of fizzy water).

10 / 10
Best Soup

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?"