Learn which staple ingredients should always be well-stocked in your kitchen cabinets.

Updated March 12, 2020
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Pasta, grains, canned goods, and baking staples: These are some of the categories of pantry staples everyone should keep at home. Here, learn which foods you should always keep stocked inside your kitchen cupboards—and for how long—with this helpful guide from Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook.

Annie Schlechter

Baking Staples

It's a good idea to keep everything you'd need to whip up a batch of cookies or a cake on hand at all times. Store ingredients in airtight containers, away from heat and light sources. Extracts will last several years; leavenings lose their potency after about one year and should be discarded on their expiration dates.

  • Pure vanilla extract (and other extracts)
  • Vanilla beans
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Unsweetened and semisweet dark chocolate
  • Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Dry yeast
  • Cornstarch

Canned and Bottled Items

A good stash of canned and bottled items can help you make meals in a flash. From tomatoes and beans to tinned fish and jams and chutneys, these essentials will come in handy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Heed expiration dates; otherwise, most canned and bottled goods, such as preserves, pickles, and relishes, can be kept, unopened, for up to one year. Once opened, glass bottles should be refrigerated; transfer unused canned goods to airtight containers and refrigerate for three or four days. This is especially important for canned acidic foods such as tomatoes or pineapples; once the interior of the can is exposed to air, the acidity is likely to cause rust. If you do see rust on an opened can of food, the can and food should be discarded.

  • Italian plum tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Green and black olives
  • Olive paste
  • Anchovies
  • Anchovy paste
  • Capers
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Hot sauce
  • Mustards
  • Italian oil-packed tuna
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Canned fruits
  • Chutneys
  • Fruit jam

Dried Pasta

There are so many different meals you can make using your favorite pastas. Plus, they stay fresh for quite some time: Dried pasta can be stored in its original package until opened, then transferred to airtight containers. It is best used within one year of purchase.

  • Assorted shapes including spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, fettuccine, lasagna, orzo, and couscous

Flours

Whether for baking a dessert or breading chicken for dinner, flour is a pantry essential, and we suggest keeping a few varieties on hand. Store wheat flours in airtight containers at room temperature up to one year. Choose containers with wide mouths for easy scooping and measuring. Freeze almond and other nut flours up to six months.

Grains, Rice, Dried Beans

Whether you use them as side dishes or as the base of a meal, grains, rice, and dried beans are versatile pantry staples, which is why we always keep them on hand. Dried items, with the exception of cornmeal, can be stored in the pantry up to one year. To discourage pests, keep cornmeal in the freezer, for up to one year.

  • Quick-cooking polenta
  • Stone-ground cornmeal
  • Oats
  • Arborio, long-grain white, medium- to long-grain brown, and basmati rice
  • Green lentilles du Puy
  • Black-eyed and split peas
  • Black, pinto, and cannellini beans
  • Flageolets

Nuts and Dried Fruit

Protein-packed nuts and sweet dried fruits are great as snacks or mixed into other dishes. To discourage nuts from turning rancid, store them in the freezer for up to six months. Dried fruits can be stored at room temperature six months to a year but last longer in the refrigerator; keep them well sealed to preserve freshness and prevent stickiness.

  • Pecan and walnut halves
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Raisins
  • Golden raisins
  • Currants
  • Dried apricots
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

Oils

A variety of cooking oils are essential to any well-functioning kitchen. Whether you use them to cook with or as marinades or dressings, it's important to have options. Store vegetable oils in the original bottles, unrefrigerated, in a cool, dark place up to six months. Refrigerate nut oils (such as walnut oil), and use within three months.

  • Extra-virgin olive
  • Canola
  • Peanut
  • Corn
  • Specialty oils such as toasted sesame and white truffle

Spices and Seasonings

Maintain a good stash of the spices and seasonings you use most frequently—these will vary from household to household, but any cook knows they're important in taking a dish to the next level. Most spices will lose their potency after about a year, but their flavor will deteriorate faster if stored improperly. Keep them in airtight, light-proof containers, away from heat. Choose an accessible drawer or cabinet or a wall-mounted rack (do not hang it above the cooktop).

Sugars and Other Sweeteners

Humidity can make solid sugars lumpy, so keep them in well-sealed containers in a cool, dry spot. Double-wrap brown sugars to keep them moist. Store syrups at room temperature in their original containers up to one year.

  • Granulated white, superfine, light and dark brown, and confectioners' sugar
  • Light corn syrup
  • Molasses
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

Vegetables

Store only hardy vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic, and dried wild mushrooms in your pantry. Potatoes should not be refrigerated; keep up to two weeks' worth in baskets or bins in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated spot. Do not store them in plastic, which can encourage mold, Keep onions, shallots, and garlic in the pantry (do not refrigerate) up to one month, and dried mushrooms for several months. Store each vegetable in a separate basket or bin; it's especially important to keep potatoes and onions apart since they can cause each other to spoil.

Vinegar

Keep all types of vinegar in their original bottles, and store them in a cool spot up to one year.

  • Aged balsamic
  • Cider
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Rice wine
  • Sherry

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