You’ve planned what to cook for dinner tonight and you’re ready to preheat the oven, when you realize you don’t have one of the ingredients you thought you had on hand. Who hasn’t run into this dilemma?
A well-stocked pantry helps prevent last-minute dinner hold ups and rushed trips to the grocery store, and it can save a lot of aggravation. Well-chosen pantry staples are also often the foundation for recipes you make up yourself, using what’s in your refrigerator and on the pantry shelf.
Many of the cookbooks I’ve reviewed include pantry lists. Some are elaborate and recommend items you might only use once or twice a year. Others are basic, and I’ve found them more helpful in keeping my kitchen well-stocked for recipe testing and getting dinner on the table.
Gluten-free pantries require all the usual essentials but also have to include specialty gluten-free ingredients. Some you’ll need for baked goods, and others are key in easily converting a recipe to be gluten free, for example soy sauce in Asian recipes.
Here are the 12 pantry essentials I’m always glad I have. They are front and center in my cupboard. Some spice up regular dishes in small quantities and will last you a long time. Others get frequent use, so you’ll have to make sure to replace them before you run out.
1. Gluten-free all-purpose flour
This is a must-have if you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money mixing your own flour blends. Commercial all-purpose blends are great for pancakes, muffins, pizza and more. A surprising number of entrée recipes also call for a tablespoon or so of flour, and it’s nice to have it on hand.
2. White and brown rice flour
These items should be on your shelf for those recipes that don’t call for a flour blend. Also many gluten-free cookbooks that specify their own flour blends call for rice flour as a main ingredient. Of all the gluten-free flours I’ve purchased for cookbook reviews, white rice flour gets used up the most quickly.
3. Gluten-free breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are available in some supermarkets and health food stores, but they are easy to make at home. Gather and break apart dried-out bread, put the pieces into a food processor, and grind them into crumbs. Add spices if you’d like. Homemade breadcrumbs keep best stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Whether you buy or make breadcrumbs, they are great to have for breading chicken, making meatloaf and adding to other recipes.
4. Gluten-free soy sauce and tamari
These add an easy way to add flavor to meals. Make sure the soy sauce does not contain wheat protein and is gluten-free. A number of companies now make gluten-free soy sauce. Tamari sauces are a good gluten-free alternative.
5. Chicken broth
Broth is great as a soup base, but it can also be used to flavor rice, gluten-free pasta and vegetables. Check the label before buying, though, because some broths contain wheat. Swanson chicken broth is gluten free and available at most supermarkets. Gluten-free vegetable broth is an alternative for vegetarians.
6. Baking soda and powder
Baking soda and powder serve as leavening agents for many baked goods, helping them to rise. Both are naturally gluten free. Most recipes call for a small amount, so these tend to last a long time. You’ll get the best results if your baking powder is not past its expiration date, so keep an eye on that number when restocking your pantry.
7. Xanthan gum
This is used to replace the elasticity in baked goods that is usually provided by gluten in wheat flour. You’ll need it for a lot of your gluten-free baking, so the amount you buy should be dictated by the amount of baking you plan to do. Guar gum works in a similar way and is another alternative.
Many spices are gluten free, and keeping your pantry well-stocked will give you lots of flavor choices. You’ll find a wide variety used in naturally gluten-free ethnic recipes. Check the ingredients of seasoning mixes, however, because they can contain wheat flour or other ingredients made with gluten. Gluten-free meals don’t need to be plain, and it doesn’t need to be complicated to add flavor. Go-to spices include basil, chili powder, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, paprika and thyme.
9. Gluten-free pasta
Pasta should always be in your pantry for a quick side dish or main meal. With a growing number of gluten-free pastas available, it is easy to find fusilli, penne and spaghetti.
10. White or brown rice and quinoa
These are versatile foods that are used often in gluten-free recipes and are easy to combine with other ingredients to make satisfying side dishes or main meals.
11. Canned beans or legumes
These quickly add protein to salads, rice, pasta and more. And if you are trying out some vegetarian recipes, you’ll find they are a mainstay.
12. Tomato sauce
Sauce,m canned or in a jar, can also be a lifesaver for a quick meal. And it’s another of the ingredients that you are likely to find in recipes for main entrees.