October 5, 2015

20+ Pantry Essentials For Cooking With Vegetables

Chef, food stylist and best-selling cookbook author Anna Jones shares the ingredients she can’t live without. 

Every home cook knows that a well-stocked pantry makes all the difference, especially when it comes to whipping up a meal in minutes or agonizing over what to make for dinner. We asked chef, food stylist and best-selling cookbook author Anna Jones to list the pantry staples she keeps on hand to cook her deliciously satisfying vegetarian fare. If your own diet leans more towards broccoli than beef, you may want to take a cue from the “queen of greens” herself and stock your cupboards with these items.


“I keep two types in my kitchen. One general use olive oil for gentle frying and a flavor-packed one (ideally cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil) for dressing and finishing. My favorites come from the Fontodi and Selvapiana vineyards in Tuscany.


Chef Anna Jones' Pantry Staples

I keep a small amount of almost 40 spices on hand (but I am a professional cook!). Indian and Asian markets are good places to find them cheaply, though don’t be tricked into buying massive bags, as they will spoil in a few months and lose their flavor. Here’s a list of a few of my favorites:

Cumin seeds
This is a well-used spice in my kitchen. Its distinctive rounded flavor is a great base for curries.

Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds are probably my most-used spice. It goes well with lemon, and I use it to season hummus and even to flavor vodka. I keep mine in seed form as it retains its flavor better whole. When adding coriander seeds to a recipe, toast them and then grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle.

Its earthy flavor lifts many dishes in our house. Be careful not to make any curries in white pans though, as the color has some serious staying power.

Chili flakes
Perfect for a quick injection of heat.

Turkish chili
I favor the gentler spice of Turkish chilli. It almost has a sweet aroma and works really well with roasted root vegetables.

The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into this lovely colorful powder. Sumac adds a lovely tart, lemony flavor and is a primary ingredient in the increasingly popular blend of Za’atar, also one of my favorites.

Fennel seeds
Fennel is one of my absolute favorites, and adding the seeds is a quick way to impart the anise flavor.

Smoked paprika
This traditional Spanish ingredient is a staple in my kitchen and is a beautiful partner for everything from hummus to black bean stews.

Mustard seeds
The seeds I normally have are the black ones, which are the most pungent and originated in the Middle East.


Chef Anna Jones's Pantry Staples
Anna’s Rigatoni with Double-Roasted Tomato Sauce. Get the recipe here.

I rotate pastas as I see fit. Dry pasta lasts for ages, and in my mind, if you have a pack of pasta, then you have a meal. Here are a few of my favorites:

Durum wheat pasta: Delicious and versatile.

Chickpea pasta: Lovely nutty flavor and gluten-free.

Buckwheat pasta: A slow-releasing carbohydrate, which is both wheat and gluten-free

Brown rice pasta: Subtle in flavor, making it a perfect replacement for those going gluten-free but wanting the same flavor as normal durum wheat pasta.

Wholemeal pasta: Keeps a nice bit of bite when cooked and has a higher protein content than regular noodles.


Just like with fruit and veg, it’s important to vary the grains you eat, too. Each grain has a different flavor and texture and provides your body with different vitamins and nutrients. Along with the rainbow of fresh produce in my fridge and fruit bowl, the bottom shelf in my kitchen is a colorful spectrum of jars containing these: Red quinoa, black rice, yellow millet, golden amaranth, dusky pearl barley.


I keep a few jars of slow-cooked beans on hand. The jarred Spanish ones are the best and bear no resemblance to the sometime bullet-like canned ones. They are pricier, but worth every single penny. Chickpeas are a crucial ingredient in hummus, but their sturdy yet buttery texture means they are good for so much more.


They’re so versatile and useful to have in your cupboard. I always have a few cans of good organic tomatoes on hand. San Marzano tomatoes are the best. Sometimes I use canned cherry tomatoes for an extra-sweet tomato sauce.


Chef Anna Jones' Pantry Staples
Banana, Blueberry and Pecan Pancakes is one of Anna’s classic dishes. Get the recipe here.

I keep several natural sweeteners on my shelves. It’s important to remember that while higher in nutrients than granulated sugar, all of these are sugars, so they should be used sparingly. Natural sweeteners do tend to be more expensive, so you may want to go for one at a time. I keep these on rotation in my house: Maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, blackstrap molasses, barley malt syrup.”

Author: Natalia Ksiazek

Anna Jones via Instagram