10 Healthy Pantry Essentials

I shared my pantry essentials back in 2013 and I think it's time for some update. Not a whole lot has changed but I am excited to feature my top 10 healthy pantry essentials + share how I use them in my everyday life. Pantry is something we build on overtime; be mindful that it will different for everyone because we all have dietary lifestyles, pantry space, and budget. I don't have either of these things but I have just become intentional about my purchases and what I want to keep in my pantry regularly to help me eat better on a everyday basis. 

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OATS : I am not a huge fan of warm oatmeal but I love them in the form overnight oats, granola, savory oat, oat flour etc. I almost always have a bag or two of Farmer Direct oats (I partner regularly with them; love their products + philosophy).  Some of my favorite oat-based recipes include:

Chocolate Chip Banana Oat Waffles (gluten-free)

Oat & Pumpkin Thumbprint Cookies (gluten-free, allergy-friendly, vegan)

Stovetop Granola (what I eat every morning)

Steel Cut Oats & Mung Bean Porridge (one pot, vegan, gluten-free)

Homemade Muesli (great for breakfast & gifting)

Mocha Overnight Oats (vegan, gluten-free grab n' go breakfast)

Mocha Overnight Oats are perfect grab n' go breakfast. The combination of coffee and chocolate together makes it a decadent, wholesome breakfast that everyone will love.

CANNED TOMATOES : Fresh tomatoes are great for salads but seriously, when it comes to quick, weeknight cooking I am a huge fan of canned tomatoes. Canned foods in general gets a bad rep because of the BPA, preservatives, and high sodium content but did you know canned tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene (an antioxidant known to help lower the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and macular degeneration)? If BPA & sodium is a concern for you, you can opt for the BPA-free canned tomatoes and use low-sodium or no salt-added canned tomato products. Also, certain preservatives like citric acid, calcium chloride are safe to eat and have a role in preserving color and texture of canned tomatoes. I use canned tomatoes almost weekly in:

Weeknight Chicken Curry (sub real tomatoes with crushed tomatoes)

3 Ingredient Chipotle Cream Sauce (uses tomato paste)

Homemade Korma Paste (great make ahead paste for chicken, veggies)

Chipotle Turkey and Sweet Potatoes Chili (freezer friendly recipe; uses crushed tomatoes)

chipotle turkey and sweet potato chili

LEGUMES: I love legumes in all forms, shapes, and sizes so much that I have dedicated separate posts on it. Proof: Legumes 101 // Basics of Cooking Legumes // 29 Healthy Legume Recipes // 5 Things You Can Do With Chickpeas. While canned beans are convenient for a quick bean salad and last minute hummus cravings but when I have time, I like to cook a large batch of dried beans and lentils because they freeze really well. If you are looking to eat more plant-based meals, you should definitely explore the world of legumes. They are a nutritional powerhouse for protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, variety of minerals and vitamins and did I say inexpensive? If you are unsure where to begin, I highly encourage you to read my series on legumes first then head over to bulk bin area at Whole Foods (for Farmer Direct products) or buy 1 lb bag. Some of my fav recipes utilizing legumes include:

Super Easy Breakfast Tacos (uses black beans)

Cannellini Bean Salad with Basil & Sun-Dried Tomatoes (great for picnic, sides, or lunch)

Split Green Peas Falafel (healthier alternative to regular falafel)

Red Lentil Daal // Slow Cooker Daal (comfort food galore)

Tandoori Roasted Chickpeas for Savory Yogurt Parfait & Salad!

Legumes 101 - basics of legumes, lentils, and beans

NUT + SEED BUTTER : Nut butter doesn't have to be limited to just toast although I can eat that anytime. I am particularly bias to peanut butter (smooth-style) but nut butters like almond, cashew, macadamia, Brazil nut, or mixed nut lends a smooth texture, boost nutrition (healthy fats, protein, and other micronutrients), and makes everything delicious. They come pretty handy in smoothies, oatmeal, granola bars/bites, sauces for savory recipes, or snacking. If you are allergic to nuts, use seed butter such as tahini (sesame butter), sunflower or pumpkin seed butter. While nut and seed butter are good for you, make sure to check the nutrition label and read ingredients to see if it's not filled with sugar (or alike ingredients) and unnecessary ingredients. It should mostly just read nuts, seeds, and maybe salt. Here are some ideas to enjoy nut and seed butter:

Peanut Butter Date Bars (vegan, gluten-free bars for snacking)

2 Minute Microwave Steel Cut Oats (grab n' breakfast with so many possibilities)

Spring Veggies with Tahini Turmeric Dressing (the dressing is the bomb)

Oats & Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies (just make these babies)

Banana Dates Tahini smoothie (unexpectedly delicious, nutty-shake)

Peanut Butter Sriracha Noodles (go-to weeknight dinner)

As much as I enjoy making meals with random ingredients, I feel much better when my meals are planned and the fridge is stocked.

PASTA/NOODLES : Pasta & noodles are my go-to for weeknight dinner and have a few different ones on hand because it is filling, inexpensive, & versatile. A lot of times pasta gets shunned because it is 'too much carbs' but we needs carbs people! I like spaghetti, penne, and an instant noodle for last minute dinner needs. Whole wheat variety is nutritious (more fiber, iron, B-vitamins) compared to the regular pasta/noodles but if you absolutely hate the whole wheat variety or can't do gluten, you can explore the world of beans, lentils, and rice based pasta. I use pasta mostly as a vehicle to use up whatever veggies and protein I have in my fridge but here are some inspirations:

Spring Vegetable Hummus Pasta (great way to use leftover hummus, vegetarian)

One Pot Chicken Noodle Soup (winter essential)

Healthier Instant Noodles (step by step guide on how make it healthier)

Green Tea Noodles with Peanut Butter Sesame Sauce (lunch box friendly)

Nepali Style Thukpa (Nepali version of chicken noodle soup; can be vegetarian)

Nepali Style Thukpa is a cross between chicken noodle soup and ramen. It is a simple, wholesome, and comforting soup that is flexible to please every lifestyle.

OIL & VINEGAR: Oil is essential for cooking + baking. I tend to have 3-4 different types of oils and 2-3 different types of vinegar but it all depends on your lifestyle and needs. A good extra-virgin olive oil goes a long way while canola or avocado oil is good for all-purpose cooking. Specialty oils like sesame or mustard gets used for particular dishes and can't really be substituted with anything else because they have a distinct flavor. I use vinegar for cleaning as well as cooking but not all vinegars are same. White distilled vinegar is great as all-purpose cleaner but not so much for cooking. It's nice to have red wine or balsamic for salad dressing while rice wine vinegar is great for Asian-inspired dishes. Here are some good uses of oil & vinegar:

Quick Pickled Zucchini Ribbons (use rice wine vinegar)

Basic Vinaigrette with 3 Variations (uses different oils & vinegars)

Mula Ko Achar (Nepali fermented radish pickle with mustard oil)

Green Beans with Sesame (such a flavorful side dish)

Green Beans with Sesame are perfect as a side for a quick weeknight dinner or for parties. Takes only 15 minutes and less than 5 ingredients to make. Naturally vegan & can be made gluten-free!

NUTS & SEEDS :  Nuts and seeds are great for snacking and for topping oats, salads, and toast. They are both nutritional powerhouse for protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamin E, and many other nutrients. Depending on which nuts and seeds you choose, they can get pricey but you don't need a lot to reap the nutritional benefits. Some of my fav way to use nuts and seeds:

DIY Trail Mix (go-to snack)

Pistachio Muffins with Cardamom & Rose Jam (if you are into rose jam & cardamom - make it)

Kale, Persimmon, and Pecan Salad (this is my idea of a salad - filling & pretty)

Golden Milk Chia Pudding (dessert-like breakfast, make-ahead, vegan & gluten-free)

Homemade Korma Paste (uses cashews; make-ahead pasta for vegetables and chicken korma)

Cucumber Mint Chia Fresca (refreshing + cheaper than store-bought flavored water)

Learn how to build a healthy DIY trail mix! Sharing what to include & how to customize your trail mix to suit your needs.

SNACKS : I go through phases when it comes to snacking - it's always sweet vs. savory! I make a lot of homemade snacks but I keep some store bought ones too.  The media and society sometimes make you feel like you have snack and that's BS.  Snacking is  different for everyone depending on your hunger, lifestyle, and needs.  Some of my go-to snacks are:

Energy Balls  carob walnut // pumpkin pie // chocolate date

Tandoori Roasted Chickpeas (you can switch up spices, vegan, gluten-free)

DIY Trail Mix (travel-friendly too)

Granola Bars (I read ingredients and pick the ones with less sugar, some protein, and fiber)

Brown Rice Crackers (so many possibilities; needs a post on it's own)

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TEA & COFFEE : I have a shelf-dedicated to all things tea and coffee!  That's how I unwind and even wrote a post on Relaxing with Chai + Me Time. Tea and coffee are both wonderful source of antioxidants but more than the nutrition, I enjoy tea and coffee for the overall experience. Obviously besides drinking them straight up, you can enjoy tea and coffee in the form of:

Iced Chai Latte (make a batch already!!!)

Nepali Chiya (what I will be drinking in Nepal all day long)

Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles (vegan)

Cold Brew Froyo (3 ingredient froyo)

Instant Iced Latte (I go to bed thinking of this; not kidding)

Make Instant Iced Latte in 2 minutes or less using instant coffee, sweetener and milk of your choice! It's super simple and doesn't require any fancy equipment.

HERBS & SPICES : A well-stocked herb and spice rack makes cooking so much easier and flavor without overdoing on salt and sugar. I shared my 5 Must-Have Spices two years which hasn't changed but I'd like to add two more to the list - furikake & curry powder. Furikake is a dry-Japanese seasoning made with dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed etc. There are different types of furikake seasoning blend but it goes so well with rice, eggs, vegetables, and even popcorn. Curry powder has taken a permanent spot in my spice rack because it has so many other uses besides the obvious curry. I sprinkle it on roasted veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes or butternut squash soup, add to chicken salad, and make rice spiced with curry powder. You don't have to be a hoarder like me when it comes to herbs and spices but at least have a small collection of things you use all the time and some for special occasions. Some of my favorite use of herbs & spices include:

Weeknight Chicken Curry (uses curry powder)

Tomato Mint Quinoa (can use both dried or fresh mint)

Mango Cardamom Kefir Lassi (refreshing drink & good for gut-health)

Sprouted Mung Bean Salad (generous use of cilantro)

Homemade Cold Tonic (so many aromatic spices) 

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10 Healthy Pantry Essentials is brought to you in partnership with Farmer Direct.

In case you were wondering, here is a snapshot of how my pantry looks. What are some of your essential pantry ingredients? 

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