12 Unusual (But Necessary!) Staples to Add to Your Pantry


If you've ever seen a basic household organizer, it usually comes with a basic shopping list for pantry staples and other grocery items to keep on hand at all times. These are usually very simple items that a household of any size, background, or dietary preference will share in common.

What can make or break a delicious meal, evening of entertainment, or delicious treat, however, is the not-so-ordinary ingredient. Recipes won't be the same without them, and they should have a place in all cupboards and fridges. (See also: The 12 Herbs and Spices Every Pantry Should Have)

Here's the list of rarely mentioned, super important items I keep on hand at all times.

1. Capers

These salty little garnishes are actually the buds of flowers. They taste amazing in dishes that use lemon-cream sauces, and can take a cutlet from "ho-hum" to "how did you do it?" One tiny jar can last quite a long time after opening, provided you keep it in the fridge.

2. Artichoke Heart Quarters

Drain them and add to salads, a relish tray, or a pizza. I can't think of a cheesy dip that won't be even better with these as an ingredients; try them in spinach dip, for example.

3. Maraschino Cherries

Even tea-totalers will enjoy dropping one or two of these into their mixed drinks. They make a sundae special and add flavor to cookies and cakes.

4. Panko

These super-crunchy bread crumbs are all you need for perfectly crispy homemade chicken strips, fish sticks, breaded stir-fry meats, and crunchy appetizers. Since they are light and golden brown, you can ensure that your finished foods won't be soggy or bland.

5. Ramen Noodles

This quick-to-prepare pasta is a brilliant way to serve any Asian-inspired stir-fry or meat. It takes less time than rice, and can be tossed into sauces (minus the seasoning packet) for a fun noodle experience.

6. Dried Lemongrass

One jar in your spice cupboard can go a long way to amp up dishes and add dimension to new Thai flavored recipes.

7. Shallots

These beautiful greens look like big green onions, and taste a bit like a cross between a very mild onion and garlic. Dice them up for a pleasant addition to potato soups, or substitute them for cooked white onions in most any dish.

8. Coconut Oil

While the health benefits of substituting this oil are becoming pretty well known, it's also a very useful beauty product to keep on hand. What other ingredient can be used to lightly fry tortillas for tacos and also be used as a leave-in conditioner for baby's hair?

9. Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

This crunchy "nut" is actually a bean, and it makes a perfect topping for chef salads. You can also try roasting them for a savory, crunchy alternative to packaged products like Corn-Nuts.

10. Ladyfingers

These sort-of sweet cookies are the stuff tiramisu is literally made of. Use them as a layering ingredients between puddings and fruits; you'll have an amazingly simple trifle to delight your guests with!

11. Basmati Rice

Forget the "minute rice" or even plain boring white rice, and enjoy this fragrant version readily available at most grocery stores. The texture and flavor are subtly superior to the rice most of us are used to, making your common rice recipes feel special each and every time you prepare them!

12. Blue Corn Chips

These are now available by many snack food brands, and they add wonderful color to your party spread without any additional effort. Mix them in with regular corn tortillas or just serve them alone. I find them to be pleasantly "nuttier" tasting.

While everyone will have their own special ingredients, playing with new ones can broaden your horizons and add new experiences to your lunches and dinners.

Which one of the ingredients above will you start using first?

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