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12 Pantry Staples You Should Make From Scratch

12 Pantry Staples You Should Make From Scratch

Anyone that cooks knows how important it is to have common pantry staples on hand. Keeping items in your kitchen such as seasonings, sauces, condiments, and snacks are a necessity. Creating them from scratch is even better, because not only will you have them on hand, but you know they are fresh, and you know exactly what ingredients each one contains. 

Possibly the biggest benefit of making your own staples is the incredible flavor! There is just something fantastic about starting from scratch. Everyone loves a good french fry, but when you dip it in homemade ketchup - yummy! That flavor just can’t be beat.

These 12 pantry staple recipes were handpicked based on simplicity, easy-to-find ingredients, and usability. If you’ve never made your kitchen staples from scratch, these recipes are a great place to start. And if you’ve been creating your own staples for years? Hopefully, these recipes will become new favorites!

Pantry Staple #1: Vanilla Extract

Bakers use vanilla extract much like chefs use seasonings. Vanilla extract enhances a recipe giving it a depth of flavor you look forward to when eating baked goods. Cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries made without vanilla tend to taste flat and bland. 

Homemade vanilla extract uses just two ingredients, but the rich flavor you can achieve will far exceed that of the extract that you can buy, making it worth the wait.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces of vodka (you can also use bourbon, brandy or rum - but nothing flavored)

Directions:

  • Slit bean shafts down the middle so the beans are exposed
  • Add the beans and alcohol to a jar and tightly seal
  • Set out of direct sunlight to age a minimum of 8 weeks - 6 months is better, and 12 months is best.
  • Turn the jars over about every other week to mix the ingredients

After the aging process is complete you can:

  1. Remove the beans from the liquid and use the vanilla extract as needed for your recipes.
  2. Keep the beans in the liquid and use the vanilla extract as needed for your recipes. Each time you use it, replace the amount you used with the same amount of vodka. This will keep your supply going for quite a while, even years, depending on how often you use your vanilla. The beans will begin to get slimy if the liquid level drops below the tops of the beans. You can tell you need to start over with a new batch once the vanilla flavor begins to weaken.

Even though making vanilla extract from scratch is simple, the beans are a little pricey, and it takes time to create the rich full flavor that will give your baked goods that extra umph. For many home cooks, the quality achieved from making vanilla extract yourself outweighs the price and time involved.

This is a great item to give as a unique gift to anyone you know that enjoys baking. You can gift them just the extract without the beans, or give them the extract with the beans and include instructions on how to keep it going. They will love the idea of a homemade gift and will revel in the flavor once they begin using it!

Pantry Staple #2: Mock Allspice

Allspice comes from the dried berry of a broadleaf evergreen tree found mainly in the Caribbean Islands. It adds a dimension to the flavor of many different foods including baked goods, sausages, poultry, red meats, soups, stews, and vegetables. 

According to the Times Colonist, Allspice got its English name, according to a book published in 1736, because it tastes like “all the other spices.” The flavor of allspice can be very closely mimicked using just three spices. 

Homemade Allspice Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves

Directions:

  • Mix equal parts of each ingredient in a bowl.
  • Store in an airtight container.

The combination of these ingredients brings out flavors in just about anything you can think of. If you are wanting to add a savory yet sweet flavor to a recipe, add a little of this homemade allspice. You won’t be disappointed.

Pantry Staple #3: Flavored Salts

Flavored salts can be very expensive to purchase, but they’re easy to make and add a nice touch to many foods. Dried herbs, vegetables, and fruits can be added to heavy grained salts to make a variety of flavors. 

Just imagine how good your roasted chicken will taste when you prepare it with rosemary-citrus salt! The flavors will seep into the meat and bring about a wonderful, light flavor after it’s cooked.

What about that vanilla bean cupcake that you bake for special occasions? Think about how delicious it would be if you sprinkled a little lavender-lemon salt on top of the buttercream icing!

There’s an endless array of flavored salts you can make right in your own kitchen to have on hand for all your cooking and baking needs. They’re easy, and you can adjust the flavors to your personal likings.

Homemade Lavender-Lemon Salt Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coarse ground sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, dried lavender  
  • Zest from 1 lemon, grated

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender and pulse until everything is pretty uniform in size
  • Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and heat-dry in the oven at 160° for about 2 hours stirring often. It may take longer to dry depending on the humidity level and your individual oven.
  • Once dry, allow the salt to cool and store in an airtight container

The salt flavors and uses are virtually unlimited. Use your imagination and learn to enhance everything you cook. 

Additions include, but are not limited to: rosemary, citrus, thyme, tea leaves (green, black, orange, etc…), lavender, sage, garlic, dried vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, chilies ,and onions, dehydrated fruits like bananas, apples, and peaches, citrus peels, sun dried tomatoes, and any fresh herb.

These flavored salts are great to give as gifts to just about anyone. Who doesn’t like to add a little zip to their food? For your friend that eats popcorn every evening, how about mixing him up some garlic-jalapeno salt for a snappy flavor. Put it in a cute little jar with a simple label, and you have a great gift. Just use your imagination and go crazy with this one. 

Pantry Staple #4: Ketchup

Let’s face it, all ketchups are not created equal, and a bad ketchup can ruin a great hamburger, right? Well, when you make your own, you can adjust the ingredients and get that just-right flavor that will make anything better.

Homemade Ketchup Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder (or 1 teaspoon dijon mustard)

Directions:

  • Combine all the ingredients and mix well

The main complaint about ketchup is the vinegary taste. If this recipe is too vinegary for you, cut back the amount until you find the perfect blend.

This recipe can easily be doubled depending on your crowd. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. You will notice a vinegary taste when it is time to throw it out, but honestly, it won’t last that long!

Pantry Staple #5: Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a tricky condiment – you either like it or you don’t. But, there’s something different – something much better – about homemade mayo that brings a whole new flavor to the table.

In addition to a fresher flavor, you can choose the type of oil you use when you make it at home. Most store-bought mayos use low-quality oils like canola oil or soybean oil. Many also add extra sugars, preservatives, and “natural flavors.”

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg yolk (you can use the whole egg if you prefer)
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard (you can substitute ½ teaspoon dijon mustard)
  • 2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (you can substitute 1 tablespoon white wine)
  • 1 cup light-colored, neutral oil such as avocado oil, divided in half

Directions:

  • Add egg yolk and dry ingredients into one bowl
  • In another bowl mix lemon juice and vinegar 
  • Whisk ½ of lemon mixture into yolk mixture
  • While whisking vigorously, add oil a few drops at a time until it begins to emulsify (thickens and lightens in color)
  • Once emulsifying, continue to whisk in ½ cup of the oil in a slow steady stream until mixed will
  • Add the rest of the lemon mixture 
  • Continue whisking until the other ½ cup of oil is mixed into the mixture
  • Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2 hours
  • Then store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days

*This recipe does not do well when doubled. If you need more than what one recipe makes, it is best to make 2 or more batches.

If you have an immersion blender, this recipe is incredibly easy, as you can combine all ingredients and immersion blend for about 10 seconds. Then, you have mayo!

This basic mayo recipe has a rich, full flavor. Once you get this one down, you can add seasonings to spice it up or add a little zing. Spices such as chili powder, paprika, or lemon pepper added to the basic recipe will bring on a whole new dimension. It’s fun to play around with and find that special flavor that will make your burgers the best in the neighborhood.

Pantry Staple #6: Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

Whether you like your peanut butter smooth or crunchy, this recipe has you covered. When you add in the sweetness of the honey, you’ll be hooked.

Pair it with some nice crisp apple slices or a fresh banana, and it’ll melt in your mouth. You haven’t had a great PB&J sandwich until you’ve had one made with homemade honey roasted peanut butter. You just can’t beat it!

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dry roasted, salted peanuts (½ cup extra for chunky peanut butter)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

  • In a food processor or high-powered blender, process peanuts until smooth- approximately 5-7 minutes
  • Add in honey and oil and blend for about 2 minutes
  • Optional: Add in cinnamon and stir until blended
  • If you want your peanut butter chunky, chop the remaining ½ cup of peanuts and stir them in 

You’ll want to eat some of this right away, even if it’s straight from the spoon. What you have left can be stored in an airtight container in the cabinet or refrigerator for several months. It may need to be stirred as some separation may take place.

Pantry Staple #7: Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips may not be a staple in everyone’s household, but it is in many. These homemade chips are great as a quick snack, and they’re even better dipped in some salsa or fresh guacamole.

Homemade Tortilla Chips – Fried or Baked

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oil – EVOO, peanut, canola, vegetable (fried chips only)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Coarse ground salt – sea salt or kosher

Directions:

  • Let tortillas sit out overnight, or dry them in the oven by laying them on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and cook for 10 minutes at 200°
  • Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges

For fried tortilla chips:

  • Pour oil ⅛-¼ inch deep in a skillet
  • Heat to 350° or until a piece of a tortilla sizzles in the oil
  • Fry tortilla wedges in a single layer in the heated oil for about 2 minutes or until the chips begin to brown and aren’t pliable anymore
  • Using tongs, remove the chips to a paper towel and salt each piece immediately after removing from the oil
  • Repeat the process until all tortilla wedges are fried

For baked tortilla chips:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Spread the wedges into a single layer on a cookie sheet
  • Bake for 5 minutes
  • Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and sprinkle each chip with salt, then using tongs flip each chip over and return to the oven
  • Bake for another 5-8 minutes or until the chips begin to brown and aren’t pliable anymore
  • Remove from the oven, and using tongs, place the chips on a paper towel
  • Immediately sprinkle each chip with salt
  • Repeat the process until all tortilla wedges are baked

These tortilla chips are best when eaten fresh, but they can be stored in a baggie for several days.

Pantry Staple #8: Chicken Stock

Homemade chicken stock has a flavor that just can’t be matched with store bought stocks. 

When you use this homemade chicken stock in your recipes, you’ll notice the rich flavor right away.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rider

Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Leftover chicken bones and skin from a large cooked chicken
  • Celery tops and 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, hand torn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to a large stock pot
  • Cover with water
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer
  • Continue slow simmer for about 4-6 hours, removing any foam that collects on top
  • Remove all bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon and strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve

Even though it takes a while to simmer all those wonderful flavors together, it’s worth the wait. You can even experiment by adding different spices, such as cloves or thyme. In addition, you can use whatever leftover veggies you have in your fridge to flavor the stock.

The stock can be used right away, or stored for later. It will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. 

For easy freezer storage, use quart or gallon size freezer bags filling ¾ of the way full, close tightly, and lay flat to freeze. Be sure to label and date the bags for easy identification later.

Pantry Staple #9: Vegetable Stock

Some recipes call for vegetable stock rather than chicken stock, so it’s good to have both on hand. Vegetable stock is also vegetarian friendly. As with the chicken stock, homemade vegetable stock has an unmatched flavor and will become a favorite for many of your recipes.

Photo credit: Minimalist Baker

Homemade Vegetable Stock Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 5-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 quarts water

Directions:

  • Cut all vegetables into large chunks
  • Heat oil in a large stock pan
  • Add all vegetables and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, stirring often
  • Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour
  • Remove all vegetables

If you don’t use it right away, it can be stored for later use. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks and several months in the freezer. For easy freezer storage, use quart or gallon size baggies filled ¾ full then lay flat to freeze.  Be sure to label the contents and add the date for future reference.

Pantry Staple #10: Tomato Paste

Have you ever noticed that recipes rarely call for 6 ounces of tomato paste? It’s often just a tablespoon or two, which makes it really inconvenient when you buy it in 6 ounce cans. 

Making your own tomato paste is a little involved, but so worth the time. The taste is so rich and full – you’ll never want to use canned tomato paste again.

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 pounds tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoon plus one dash of EVOO

Directions:

  • Rinse the tomatoes, remove stems and cut into wedges
  • Using a food processor or high powered blender, fill it with tomato wedges
  • Blend until a sauce is formed
  • Remove from the blender and repeat the process until all tomato wedges have been sauced
  • Strain the sauce into a stock pot, removing seeds and skins
  • Use a spoon or spatula to press the sauce through a strainer to retain as much of the sauce as possible
  • Add one dash of EVOO into the stock pot with the sauce
  • Heat sauce over medium heat until simmering
  • Turn down the heat as the sauce thickens and stir more frequently to keep it from burning
  • Continue simmering until it reaches a thick, rich consistency

After the paste reaches the consistency you prefer, it can be used right away or stored for later. It will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. 

For freezer storage, fill ice cube trays with the paste and freeze. Once frozen, the cubes can be emptied into baggies. Each cube is approximately one ounce making things extremely easy!

Pantry Staple #11: Spaghetti and Pizza Sauce

Nearly everyone likes spaghetti and pizza, and both are a quick, easy meal when you’re in a time crunch. If your pizza or spaghetti sauce is already made and in the freezer, it’ll be even easier, and think how much better your dish will be with a homemade sauce! 

Homemade Spaghetti and Pizza Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 1 large can, 28 ounces, peeled tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (hopefully your homemade paste!)
  • 6 ounces dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Sugar, if needed

Directions:

  • Using a food processor or high powered blender, add the tomatoes and pulse until they are in chunks
  • In a large skillet over medium low heat, heat the EVOO. Then, add the garlic and onion and saute until golden brown
  • Add chunked tomatoes, tomato paste, and wine. Simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add oregano and basil. Simmer another 30 minutes
  • Taste and add sugar ½ teaspoon at a time if needed
  • Adjust flavor with salt and pepper as desired

It’s ready to use as spaghetti sauce at this point, or continue to simmer to let thicken, approximately 20 more minutes, to use as pizza sauce!

Homemade sauce will keep your family and friends running to the table on spaghetti or pizza night. This recipe is easy to double, giving you plenty to use right away and some to freeze for later. 

It’ll stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator and several months in the freezer. Fill quart or gallon size baggies ¾ of the way full, close them tightly, then lay them flat to freeze. Label each one with contents and date for easy identification later on.

Pantry Staple #12: Fresh Pasta

When you’ve finished making your homemade spaghetti sauce, why not make some homemade spaghetti to go with it?

Making your own pasta dough is surprisingly easy if you have the right tools to help you.

While you can technically make spaghetti or fettuccine noodles without any fancy equipment, it takes a heck of a lot longer and might not be worth the effort.

A stand mixer with pasta maker attachments is the way to go if your budget allows! We have personally had great success with a KitchenAid stand mixer and the 3-piece pasta roller and cutter attachment set.

However, manual pasta rollers can be purchased on a budget, and we’ve heard they can work just as well.

Photo credit: Pina Bresciani

Homemade Fresh Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose or OO flour works well)
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

  • Fit stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Add flour, eggs, and salt to stand mixer. Start beating on low and gradually increase to medium speed until flour and eggs are fully combined.
  • Continue on medium speed for 6-8 minutes, or until dough is smooth.
  • Remove dough from stand mixer and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap and rest on the counter for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 2 hours.
Photo credit: Kitchenaid
  • Divide the dough into 4 portions. Cover the portions you’re not working on with plastic wrap at all times to prevent a hard film from forming on top of the dough.
  • Fit pasta roller attachment to stand mixer.
  • Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll out first ball of dough until it’s thin enough to roll through the roller attachment. Starting at the thickest setting (typically “0” or “1”), roll the dough through the pasta roller attachment. Feed it through at least twice to help strengthen the gluten in the flour.
Photo credit: Sober Julie
  • Start thinning the sheet of pasta by gradually changing the settings on your pasta roller attachment. Roll the dough at setting “2”, “3”, “4”, and so on until the desired thickness is achieved. Linguine and fettuccine does well with a thickness setting of “6” for reference.
  • Finally, cut the pasta. Switch the rolling attachment for your preferred cutting attachment. Run the thinned sheet of dough through the cutting attachment and toss with flour to keep noodles from sticking. Continue with remaining balls of dough.
Photo credit: Kitchenaid
  • To cook your fresh pasta, boil in heavily salted water for 2-3 minutes or until al dente.

To make lasagna noodles, simply skip the dough cutting step! While it seems like there are a lot of steps, once you try it a few times, you realize just how easy it can be. The biggest issue we’ve had ourselves is not kneading the dough enough at the beginning of the recipe. You’ll notice a change in the dough, and it’ll become very smooth and bouncy. It’ll also start to feel warm from all the work you’re putting in! If you don’t have a stand mixer and are kneading by hand, your arms should be burning – that’s how you know the dough is ready!

Fresh pasta can be stored in the fridge for 2 days or frozen for future use, and this recipe can be doubled or tripled if you want to make a big batch at once. If you do decide to freeze the fresh pasta, don’t thaw it before cooking – be sure to go directly from your freezer bag to boiling water!

Alternatively, you can cook the fresh pasta, toss with olive oil, and then freeze for future use. That cuts down on meal prep time – just thaw and you’re ready for dinner. Enjoy!

Make Homemade Kitchen Staples a Way of Life

When you cook, having the proper staples on hand makes your job easier, but having the proper homemade staples on hand makes your job rewarding. 

Using homemade staples as a base for, or addition to your recipes, gives them an unmatched flavor that will leave your family and friends wanting more. 

Give each of these recipes a try and revel in the richness they will add to your cooking. Whether you’re snacking or making a full meal, homemade staples are a great way to add dimension and fullness to your favorite recipes. They also make great gifts! Happy cooking!

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