In general I keep quite large variety of spices, herbs, legumes, flours, pastas and more. These get replenished when needed. By having all of these things available to me at all times I can experiment with a recipe whenever I desire without being limited or having to shop. My pantry space is split between my kitchen and the garage downstairs where I have extra shelving for food, a second fridge as well as a deep freeze.
My pantry is not perfect by any means. It’s totally a representation of my way of cooking; messy, haphazard, half organized and half winging it! A major problem is I have big pantry dreams with small pantry reality. I hope to further organize my kitchen space but that is a project for another day.
Italics – Indian name
* – spice blend
Legumes (Lentils and Beans)
Legumes are a staple of any Indian kitchen and my childhood kitchen was no different; they were an important part of our diet and we ate them on a daily basis. Legumes are like a vegetarian chef’s canvas, they are generally pretty bland and plain tasting but add some “paint” in the form of spices and seasoning and the lowly legume takes on a life of its own. Legumes are also nutritious; they are a great source of soluble fiber, protein, minerals like iron, vitamins and antioxidants, things that a plant based diet really needs.
Though I prefer to use dried beans I do keep a small stock of canned beans for last minute meals when I haven’t had the time to soak and cook the dried.
red lentils (masoor)brown lentils (masoor- with skin on)
yellow mung (moong)
yellow split pea (toor)
green split pea
white gram (urad)
black gram (split urad)green chickpeas – stored in the freezer
black eyed peas (lobiya)
kidney (red and white) beans (rajma)
Grains and Flours
Grains show up in our meals in some for or another on a daily basis whether it is rice, quinoa, pasta or breads. I keep quite a few choices in this category and love trying new to me ingredients as well. Though I do keep white and whole-wheat flour on hand I find I am using it less and less and am slowly weaning them out of my pantry. For quick meals I keep Naan (Indian style bread), pitas and pizza shells (from Cobs bakery) in the freezer.
whole-wheat and white floursemolina
cream of wheat (rawa or sooji)
rolled and steel cut oats
sprouted spelt flour
buckwheat flour and groats
chapathi or roti flour
chickpea flour (besan)
white rice: basmati, jasmine and sticky
variety of pastas
Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit
Lately I have been soaking nuts overnight in salt water, rinsing them and then drying them again in my dehydrator over a long period on a low temperature setting. This process is called activating. Activating increases nuts digestibility by ridding them of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are hard on your gut. I also find that this simply makes the nuts easier to eat and chew thereby making them more kid friendly. I generally store nuts in the freezer or fridge; activated nuts I always store in the fridge.
I have also been enjoying the deliciousness that is fruit dried in my dehydrator. This is something I plan on continuing as it makes for a great snack and totally satisfies a sweet tooth craving. A handful of activated almonds + some homemade dried nectarines and peaches = a perfect snack!
This is an often revolving and evolving category for me.
I always have:almonds
flax seeds – ground
dates – stored in the fridge
I sometimes have:sunflower seeds
homemade dried fruit (nectarine, peach, strawberry, apple)
Herbs, Spices and Seasonings
I have decided to split this category into four: Indian spices and general spices/herbs (though some spices are easily put under both categories), chai (Indian tea) spices and fresh herbs. Some of the Indian spices might not be ones you carry in your kitchen they can easily be purchased at any Indian grocer. Like I said before, these seasonings are the “paint” that beautifies the legume so it’s important to have lots of choices.
Indian Spices (South and North Indian spices)
cumin powder and seedscoriander powder and seeds (dhania)
turmeric powder (haldi or manjal)
amchoor powder – powder made from dried unripe mangoes
kitchen king curry powder*
channa masala*garam masala*
pav bhaji masala*
fenugreek seeds and dried leaves (methi)
mustard seeds (kadugu)
dried whole red chilis
dried curry leaves (karveppilai)
fennel seeds (somph)
General Spices and Herbs (dried)
whole nutmegginger powder
herbs de Provence*
ancho chili powderchipotle powder
Mexican chili powder
Herbamare salt* and other unrefined salts
Morrocan spice blend*
Thai spice blend*
basil – I blend basil and olive oil and store it in the freezer
Like many people my family is trying hard to eliminate refined sugar in our house. Though we still do keep a small stock of white and brown sugar for baking on occasion I find myself using other sweeteners more often.
brown and white sugar
maple syrup – stored in the fridge
date paste – soaked dates and a small amount of water blended together, stored in the fridge
Oils, Vinegars and Cooking Wine
These are the important bases to many meals. I tend to use more neutral flavored oils for Indian and Asian meals and olive oil for everything else. Vinegars are a wonderful way to add a splash of flavor to many meals and are great for salad dressings.
apple cider vinegar
red wine vinegar
white wine vinegar
balsamic crema – stored in the fridge
rice wine vinegar
I keep a few staple fresh ingredients in my house at all times as well. I find these are my go to items that I use pretty much on a daily basis in my kitchen to season and flavor all types of food.
red and yellow cooking onions
tomato paste in a tube – stored in the fridge
green and red chilies – stored in the freezer