When you think of essential cooking ingredients, what comes to mind?
People love to eat delicious food, but don’t want to shop for additional spices, flours, sugars and oils every time they find a new recipe. They’d rather use what they already have at home and that’s totally understandable.
That is why keeping a well thought out, though limited collection of basic cooking ingredients can allow anyone to substitute most of what they’ll need with what they’ve already got in almost every recipe.
And so, here are the 18 essential cooking ingredients everyone should have in stock at all times.
Essential Cooking Ingredients: Sweeteners
This is the most basic, cheap and abundant of all sugars, and it’s likely already in your pantry. Use it to sweeten drinks, cereals and desserts, and as a substitute for brown sugar, fruit sugar and bakers sugar. As usual, store the sugar in a dry place at room temperature.
As you know, honey comes in a large variety of flavors, colors and densities. You can use it to replace other sweetners (think regular, brown or fruit sugar) in your favorite desserts. Additionally, you can use it to flavor vegetables, drinks and desserts, as well as glaze certain meats (like duck and ham).
You can usually find vanilla extract in every grocery store. It is often used in conjunction with by cinnamon or nutmeg, and is especially great for sweetening pastries and desserts. The high concentration of vanilla extract allows you to stretch a tiny bottle across at least 20 different recipes, like putting a few drops in plain yogurt for flavor.
Essential Cooking Ingredients: Oils
When it comes to cooking, butter is an invaluable ingredient. Choose organic butter whenever possible to make sure it’s free of hormones and other unpleasant additives. Use it to cook just about anything: meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, and baked goods. But practice good sense so as not to over use it, since butter is about 80% saturated fat.
Whenever possible, try to get oil that’s cold-pressed, since it’s a chemical free process that helps keep its acidity level very low. One of the greatest aspects of olive oil is that it can be flavored using other spices. For example, throwing a pepper or sesame seeds into the oil for a few days will infuse it with spice. It’s ideal for marinating, dressing and flavoring different dishes, but if you’re going to cook with olive oil, use medium to low heat.
Essential Cooking Ingredients: Cupboard Inventory
All-purpose flour is a great asset in any kitchen because it’s the flour most recipes normally call for. Use it to thicken sauces, make batter and craft pie dough. Add salt and baking soda to create self-rising flour, which is great for making tasty cookies and scrumptious cakes. To keep the flour fresh for 6-8 months, put it in an airtight container and store it in a cool dry place.
From cooking to cleaning, baking soda is an incredibly useful tool in the kitchen. Use it to thin out and spread different sauces. Or add a little lemon juice to turn baking soda into baking powder and use it your favorite recipes. But because baking soda is also an incredible cleaning agent, try incorporating into your cleaning routine.
Apple cider vinegar has a strong and potent smell. It’s absolutely ideal for marinating fish and meats, pickling, and making chutneys. It’s also a great substitute for a lot of cooking wines and vinegars (like white, malt, wine and specialty vinegars) more elaborate recipes could call for. Additionally, apple cider vinegar is great for a number of other uses.
Essential Cooking Ingredients: Herbs and Spices
The kitchen staple is one of the most fundamental seasonings you can have at home. Use it bring out the flavor of your food by adding it to just about any dish.
Black pepper is made up of dried peppercorns that are often crushed or grounded. It’s the go-to spice for most dishes and can be applied to everything from fish, meat and poultry to vegetable dishes, soups and sauces. It’s also an accessible substitute for other pepper related spices, like chili and chipotle.
The pungent but pleasant herb is prefect for poultry and meat dishes, but also goes superbly well with root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Use it to enhance the flavor of soups, sauces, stews, stuffing and different roasts. When needed, the herb can also be used as an adequate substitute for thyme and parsley.
Easily considered to be one of the most useful herbs in the kitchen, dill weed is a great addition to a large number of dishes and goes especially well with fish. Use it in recipes that require long cooking periods; so if you have a stew casserole going, liberally throw in some dill! Also note that dill weed is a great substitute for tarragon.
Any tomato lover will tell you that basil is its perfect partner. Use it to enhance the taste of soups, salads and sauces, as well meat and fish dishes. Toss it in with some eggs, pine nuts or Parmesan cheese for a nice and tangy effect you and your family will love. Use basil to substitute chives or cilantro in other recipes.
One of the main spices used in Mexican and Indian cuisine, cumin has a strong and zesty flavor that can be describes as slightly bitter. It’s known for its lemon-ish aftertaste, which is pleasant in poultry, pork and vegetable dishes. Use cumin to substitute spices like powdered coriander and caraway seeds.
Much like the name suggests, nutmeg has a sweet and nutty flavor. This makes it the perfect addition to coffee, sweets and other baked goods. Combine it with cinnamon and vanilla extract for a spicy and sweet effect.
From cinnamon rolls to cinnamon flavored coffee, the sweet and fragrant spice is used in a large number of dishes, but is most often incorporated into baked goods such as cakes, pies, cookies and other pastries.
The delicately nutty taste of sesame seeds makes them an ideal addition to a large number of dishes ranging from baked pies to elaborate roasts. Add the delicious seeds to salads as well as poultry and meat dishes. Heat sesame seeds with olive oil to infuse it with flavor.
Other Essential Cooking Ingredients
This is one of the most important things you can have in your kitchen. Eggs are a great stand-alone meal or an invaluable ingredient in a huge number of recipes. Regardless of being really good for you, they are absolute kitchen essentials.