There’s something to be said for keeping a well-stocked pantry. Having the right ingredients on hand makes it easier to stay healthy, experiment with new recipes, and avoid last-minute trips to the store. Few know this better than Jodi Moreno, a chef, recipe developer, and author of More With Less: Who Food Cooking Made Irresistibly Simple.
“I often come up with ideas for recipes just from looking through my pantry and spotting an ingredient I haven’t used in a while, or finding a little something in the spice rack that will give a soup that extra zing,” Moreno says in her new book. While you might think her pantry would be overflowing, she says keeps it a well edited: “An overly crowded pantry will mean more things get lost in the back of the cupboard, past their expiration date.”
In essence, the perfect pantry should contain an array of ingredients to inspire healthy cooking, not a place where unused, obscure spices and condiments gather dust. Here’s exactly what you’ll find in Jodi Moreno’s pantry, courtesy of her new cookbook.
This is one of Moreno’s most-used parts of the pantry. “It’s important to have a wide variety of cooking oils because not all oils and fats are created equal or do the same job,” she explains.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Moreno uses this for sauteéing over low heat and as a finishing oil.
Coconut Oil: “This is a favorite for baked goods and occasionally for sautéing—just be aware that it leaves behind a subtle coconut flavor.”
Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter with a subtle nutty flavor. “[It’s] great for sautéing over high heat because of its high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to burn, giving food a burned flavor and losing nutritional benefits).”
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Sunflower, Grapeseed, and Canola Oils: These oils also have a high smoke point, which makes them ideal for sautéing.
Grass-Fed Butter: “I use butter sparingly, for an occasional low-heat sauté when I want that added richness to a dish.”
Sesame Oil: Drizzle over vegetable and noodle dishes or pair with Asian ingredients like rice vinegar and tamari, she recommends.
There are many different types of salt and each has the ability to bring out unique flavors in a dish. “Try using a variety of salts for their flavor and texture differences as well as for the various minerals,” she recommends.
Sea Salt: This is one of Moreno's most used type of salt. “It has a finer grain and is less ‘salty’ than kosher salt, making it an easy, versatile salt,” she says.
Kosher Salt: “I like to think of it as the bad boy of salts: It has a thicker grain and the strongest ‘salt’ taste,” she says. Use it sparingly—kosher salt is strong and offers little nutritional value.
Himalayan Sea Salt: This type of salt has more than 80 trace minerals, including potassium and magnesium.
Maldon Sea Salt: “This is used purely for finishing, has a wonderful texture, and adds a salty crunch to anything you sprinkle it on.”
Moreno tries to keep sugar to a minimum when creating recipes. When she does use sweeteners, she prefers using natural, low-G.I. ingredients.
Coconut Palm Sugar: “I use this sugar in most of my baked goods because it is less processed and has a lower glycemic index than regular white granulated sugar,” she says.
Maple Syrup: This is Moreno’s all-time favorite sweetener. “It has a low glycemic index, and I love its cozy maple flavor,” she says.
Honey: Use honey to give oatmeal or tea a sweet boost.
Evaporated Cane Juice: Also known as white granulated sugar, this ingredient is ideal for baking cakes. “You can interchange coconut sugar and white sugar with a 1:1 ratio in any recipe that calls for either.”
Brown Rice Syrup: This sweetener isn’t common, but Moreno reaches for it to hold ingredients together, such as when making breakfast bars.
Umami is a savory taste found in foods like fermented products, cheese, and shiitake mushrooms. Moreno keeps these ingredients on hand to give her dishes an umami kick.
Tamari: Tamari is a great soy sauce alternative.
Tomato Paste: “It might be the lesser known in the umami category, but it adds a lovely depth of flavor and complexity to certain foods, such as soup broths and tomato-based dishes,” she says.
Miso: “Sweet miso and red barley miso are my two staples, and would be a good place to start before adding in others as you get more excited about using miso,” says Moreno.
Shiitake Mushrooms: These mushrooms are a pantry staple. “I always keep dried mushrooms in my pantry because they last forever, are an easy way to add flavor to a dish, and can be used to make a super-nutritious tea when you feel a cold coming on.”
Seaweeds: Kombu and nori are high in trace minerals, making them a nutritious ingredient to keep on hand.
Anchovies: They might be divisive, but anchovies add a potent umami punch.
Naturally, Moreno’s spice rack is always well-stocked with ingredients to inspire her recipes. “While I usually stick to more commonly used spices in my recipes, it is fun to seek more rare spices as well, such as sumac, for experimenting and allowing my tastes to try something new and exciting,” she says.
Cumin: An aromatic seed often used in curry powder.
Coriander: Moreno keeps both ground coriander and the seeds in her pantry.
Turmeric: This buzzy ingredient is anti-inflammatory and has a host of health benefits.
Curry Powder: This spice mix is ideal for experimenting with Indian cuisine.
Chili Powder: Use this spice sparingly—pulverised chili pepper can pack a punch.
Paprika: Paprika is often used in Eastern European cooking.
Smoked Paprika: This is the Spanish cousin to the more widely used Hungarian paprika.
Garlic Powder: An easy way to give a bland dish extra flavor.
Cayenne: Cayenne is said to boost digestion and metabolism.
Red Pepper Flakes: This spice is made from dried and crushed chili peppers.
Mustard: Moreno stocks ground mustard and seeds.
Black Pepper: A classic dish finisher.
Dried Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme: Moreno always keeps this trio on hand.
Cinnamon: Opt for both ground cinnamon and quills.
Nutmeg: A holiday season go-to.
Cloves: Cloves are actually the aromatic flower buds of a tree.
Star Anise: This potent star-shaped spice is native to Vietnam and China.
Looking to completely stock your pantry? Moreno’s full list—including grains, nuts, and herbs—can be found in her new cookbook.