Carla Hall on the 12 Pantry Essentials She Always Has on Hand — Even If She’s Away from Home

updated Feb 22, 2021
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Credit: Christine Han

In the same way that some people travel with, say, a toothbrush or a mini shampoo, Carla Hall travels with some of her go-to pantry items: “I keep my spices and everything in this little acrylic box and I take it everywhere I go,” she recently told Kitchn.

The beloved chef and personality is (safely) on the move these days, which makes her travel-friendly pantry kit even more essential. “My husband and I are sort of nomads right now. We’re with family in Nashville, TN, while our house in D.C. is being renovated, living out of suitcases. I’m always looking for something easy I can cook out of the pantry.”

In a time when Americans are cooking from their pantries more than ever, our pantry chat with Carla felt extra-relevant. These are the must-haves that top her list.

Credit: Kitchn Video

1. Rice

“We love Lotus Foods Jasmine Rice. It’s really fragrant,” says Carla. In addition to jasmine rice, she also likes to have white and brown rice on hand — two staples that provide a great base for any meal.

Buy: Lotus Foods Organic Jasmine Rice, $8.49 for 30 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Walmart

2. Oat Milk

Milk might not be a pantry staple, but shelf-stable milk alternatives certainly fit the bill. “I like to have Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend, for baking, making hot chocolate, and frothing. It’s great because it’s shelf-stable (until it’s opened), so I never have to worry if I’m out of milk,” says Carla.

Buy: Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend, $3.99 for 32 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

Another non-negotiable, according to Carla, is good old ACV. “One day I looked up and I didn’t have it. I said, How am I living without vinegar? I have to have it. I usually do Bragg’s. I was just cleaning my mother’s pantry and she had five 32-ounce bottles. I was like, you don’t have to buy any more vinegar for the rest of your life.”

Buy: Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, $6.99 for 32 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Tabasco

4. Hot Sauce

“I go back and forth between Tabasco as well as Texas Pete’s,” says Carla of her go-to hot sauces. “I’m a big condiments person.”

Buy: Tabasco, $4.37 for 5 ounces

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Mustard

Speaking of condiments, Carla always has a few others on deck. “I always have Dijon mustard as well as yellow mustard. You get that tang from yellow that’s different from Dijon.”

Credit: Target

6. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

“Another basic condiment I always have is Hellmann’s Mayo,” says Carla, who uses the stuff for her famous egg salad and chicken salad recipes (among others).

Buy: Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, $3.49 for 30 ounces at Target

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Dried Dill

When it comes to herbs and spices, “Dill is the only green herb I’ll buy dried. It goes a long way in sauces and salads,” says Carla. “I also like to mix it with my mayo!”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Rolled Oats

Carla is a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast, “I eat oatmeal every single day.” But that’s not all she uses her rolled oats for: “I use them in cookies, cakes, and I even use them in my meatloaf as a binder. And in a pinch, I can pulse them into flour.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

9. Baking Powder

“I make a lot of biscuits, so I need baking powder for that,” says Carla, who’s signature move is “Biscuits with Strangers,” a Carpool Karaoke-style biscuit-celebration.

Credit: Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

10. King Arthur All-Purpose Flour

In addition to traveling with her acrylic spice pantry, Carla also can’t be without this key ingredient. “I travel with my canister of flour. You never know when you’re going to make a quickie little cake.”

Buy: King Arthur All Purpose Flour, $6.48 for 10 pounds

11. Canned Tomatoes

“When it comes to canned goods, I always have canned beans and canned tomatoes. I love Muir Glen fire roasted, diced tomatoes,” says Carla.

Buy: Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, $1.99 for 14.5 ounces at Instacart

12. Black Eyed Peas

“In terms of beans, we always have black beans, garbanzo beans, and black eyed peas. I have this recipe for “sittin’ salad,” I make with black eyed peas, grilled celery, cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, and hot sauce vinaigrette,” says Carla. (Ed note: We actually got the chance to make this recipe with Carla in her NYC apartment back in 2019!)

Do you have any of Carla’s favorite ingredients in your pantry?