What Are 5 Things in Your Kitchen You’d Never Be Caught Without?

5 Things in Your Kitchen You'd Never Be Caught Without

Our friend Stefan is such a stellar home cook that he’s earned the nickname “Chef Stef.” While hanging out recently, as Stef mixed martinis and marinated steaks, we started chatting about the five things in his kitchen he’d never be caught without. As if he’d been preparing for this question his whole life, he instantly rattled them off: a hunk of Parmesan, shallots, a bottle of lemon juice, a little jar of minced garlic and Near East Herbed Chicken Couscous.

Everyone has a mini list, right? It’s such a personal thing, and I’d love to hear yours.

Mine would be a rotisserie chicken, fresh spinach (to make a big salad or wilt with garlic), Dijon mustard (the secret to great grilled cheese), Carr’s water crackers and sharp cheddar cheese. Also, a very crisp, acidic white wine.

My friend Gemma, knower of all things, told me that her can’t-live-withouts were: “Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce (it’s amazing). Nutella. Irish porridge oats. Vegemite (even though I eat it once a year). Lindt sea salt dark chocolate.”

And legendary food writer Ruth Reichl told us her list is “butter, lemons, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, a couple kinds of vinegar. Eggs! Oh, my God, I would never be without eggs. And milk.”

What about you? I’m curious to hear…

P.S. Another personality test: How would you describe yourself in five words?

(Photo of Jon Hamm for C Magazine.)

  1. Laura says...

    I’d be going with: apples, oats, bananas (!!), Greek yogurt, and either a red or yellow onion. These are the things that my kitchen ALWAYS has!

  2. Sulli says...

    Love this… and so interesting to see what people find to be ‘necessity’ for their pantry.

    I definitely would say cheese (a parmesan, feta or goat), nuts (almonds or walnuts usually), wine (it’s a low point in life when there is none in the house), garlic, rice (always rice!).

    I feel like most of these are ‘on call’ to jazz up any ingredient that lingers in the fridge too long. And in the rarest and saddest scenario, at least you can throw together a cheesy, winey, garlic risotto topped with nuts!

  3. Melkorka says...

    Milk, Butter, Cheese, Eggs, Bread, Coffee. (I can’t believe how much of that is dairy!) that is enough to keep me fed untill I make it to the grocery store later in the day!

  4. This was really hard to narrow down!

    Olive Oil
    Corn Tortillas (Maseca)
    **Champagne (Gran Cuvée Reserva)

    Xo Lendy

  5. Must haves are:
    Butter + Olive oil

    However, I secretly make sure I always have sugar, flour, chocolate, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder on hand. I want to know that if I want to bake cookies or a cake at any time of the day I have the necessary ingredients. I also like to maintain a constant supply of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer :)

  6. Colleen says...

    Coconut milk
    Olive oil/ coconut oil
    Country Hearth Dakota Style 12 Grain bread (I used to live on this but since I discovered my gluten allergy its just for the hubby & kid to devour)

    So fun to see the commonalities between everyone’s lists & how the differences give you an idea of a person’s cooking/ eating style.

  7. jessica says...

    reading this post with a seemingly bare refrigerator and was inspired to make a simple pasta! garlic, vegan sausage, earth balance, daiya, linguine. thanks!

  8. COOFFEEEEEEE BEANS (insert knife emoji here!!!)

  9. SJ says...

    Love this! And so interesting to read everyone’s responses. Mine would also have a hunk of parmesan cheese, along with eggs, baby kale, fresh garlic, and Maldon salt.

  10. Daniela says...

    Olive oil, butter, Parmesan, garlic, pasta!

  11. Jill says...

    olive oil
    fresh greens or spinach
    scottish oats

  12. Alyssa Leister says...

    I thought, before reading, that this was going to be about kitchen tools! In which case my list would be: non-stick pan, flat spoonula, Le Creuset dutch oven (versatile and so beautiful!), KitchenAid mixer (again, beautiful!), and knives/cutting board.

    But if we are talking foods, then my list is: eggs, sliced cheese from my local market, coffee creamer, onions, frozen mixed veggies (preferably the 4lb bag from BJ’s that seems to last forever and makes adding veggies SO easy!)

  13. Tricia says...

    Goat Cheese
    Fresh Spinach

  14. I’m with your friend Gema!!! Lindt sea salt chocolate for the win!!!
    Oh, and extra virgin olive oil. I’m Spanish. I can’t live without it!

  15. Nancy D says...

    honey crisp apples

  16. Fun post! These are what I call my desert island foods:
    1. Peanut Butter
    2. Salsa
    3. Dark Chocolate
    4. Cashews
    5. Grapefruit

  17. Kara says...

    1) eggs
    2) medjool dates
    3) walnuts
    4) coffee
    5) tortillas

    My 4 year old son asks for an appetizer of dates and cashews (oops, not on the list!) practically every night before dinner.

    Love, love, love Cup of Jo…

  18. Laurel says...

    1. Oats
    2. Peanut butter
    3. Apples
    4. Greens or frozen veg
    5. Bananas
    6. Tofu/veggie burgers
    That’s six, but those are constantly on my grocery list! Then I can have my oatmeal with peanut butter and banana for breakfast, and my oatmeal with broccoli and a veggie burger for dinner. (Sounds strange, but so easy, filling and comfort-food like!)

  19. 1. Espresso
    2. Gin
    3. Korean chili paste
    4. Japanese instant noodles
    5. Pitashio ice cream

    I have more than one of each so i don’t run out.

  20. Libbynan says...

    1. Whole grain bread
    2. Natural peanut butter
    3. Eggs
    4. Half and half
    5. Coffee
    These are my full blown panic if I’m out items. Mild anxiety items are micro-greens, citrus fruit, and olive oil.

  21. Seedsandstones says...

    You used this picture of Jon Hamm in another post years ago and I later spent a day scouring your site trying to find it just to enjoy his sexiness and the feeling that maybe he was making me breakfast after we’d been up all night together, haha. What a silly little pleasure to see it recycled for this post.

    Eggs, garlic, cheddar so sharp it has a crumbly grit to it, a crusty loaf of bread, greens, and tomatoes. And tea. Ahhh, tea.

    • Jess says...

      Oh I had to force myself to read the article after that photo! Then I came back a few hours later just to look at it again. Jon Hamm you are my hall pass.

  22. Yush says...

    Harder to whittle down than I thought! I had to think of what makes me feel that specific sense of urgency when supplies run low…

    1. milk
    2. tea
    3. trader joe’s organic free range chicken broth
    4. apricot jam
    5. rice vinegar

  23. 1 Eggs
    2 Bread
    3 Microgreens (Home Greens)
    4 Milk
    5 Popcorn

    Love reading your blog!! :)

  24. Milk.
    Olive Oil.
    Coffee beans.

  25. Isabelle says...

    This is so much fun. I think mine would read something like: eggs, milk (almond or cow), some kind of fruit, potatoes, corn tortillas. Add ons: Green and Black’s dark chocolate, lemon juice, fresh ginger, garlic, olive oil …

  26. Cinda says...

    Love this blog. I so enjoy your content, the integrity is always present. I am not a fan of this ” kitchen-essential”…… I would say for sure the picture just denotes a ” must-have” …….. Ash tray. I as well would look for ” ashes” in the pan/food vs. salt and pepper. I really am not being a snarky commentator- I am a healthy striving lifestyle individual and when I viewed this pic., I had to turn away. This afternoon when reading thru again I just had to be real and comment. Thank-you for reading my comments and letting me be real….. Not in the least am I trying to present mean. Just saying…..

  27. Dan says...

    Greens (sprouts, kale)
    Sunflower seed butter
    Pre-marinated tofu for sandwiches / salads (best find in the produce section!)

  28. eg says...

    eggs, coffee, canned tomatoes, jon hamm, olive oil

  29. 1. Bananas
    2. Some type of greens (kale, spinach, or lettuce)
    3. Seasonal fruit
    4. Potatoes
    5. Beans

    I wish I could cheat and make it ten :)

    xo Azu

  30. Andrea says...

    I was going to say “WOW does your friend Stefan ever look like Don Draper! Not many people can pull off looking so cool whilst smoking and frying eggs!”. Then I realized – that is Don Draper….

    My list:
    Good cheese
    Kale (for chips or in soups or stews)
    Flour tortillas

  31. Jenelle says...

    Half and half
    Whole milk Greek yogurt
    Fresh garlic

  32. Noelle says...

    What a fun game!

    1. Eggs
    2. Olive oil
    3. Salt & Pepper (to be freshly ground) (does this count as one??)
    4. Minced garlic in a jar
    5. Coffee

  33. Kelly Libby says...

    oats (never instant. ew)
    salmon (fresh fish)
    olive oil

    ooops. that’s 6!!

  34. 1. Eggs
    2. Some more eggs.
    3. How about eggs?
    4. Did I mention some eggs?
    5. Maybe some eggs.

  35. Mara says...

    1. Cinnamon
    2. Olive oil
    3. Herbal tea
    4. Pink Lady apples
    5. Eggs

  36. Mara says...

    So many lemons!! Can I ask what everyone does with them? I’m intrigued!

    • Kelly Libby says...

      I have been using citrus a lot more lately. I cut up lemon for my tea and to mix with warm water in the mornings, marinades, and atop of fish to bake in the oven.

    • Diana says...

      1. Lemons! I have a lot of naked lemons because I use the zest in so many things–oatmeal, baked goods, pesto, vinaigrette and then of course there’s the juice.

      The pesto I make with lemon zest, peppery pistachio nuts, parsley, and walnut or pistachio oil is amazing on pasta or veggies. You can add Parmesan cheese too but it’s great without it. :)

  37. Sally says...

    Ten would be so much easier..

    Eggs (when you have eggs and one more ingredient, you have a meal)
    Olive oil/butter

  38. Theresa says...

    olive oil
    Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese
    flour tortillas

    I could live on this! Ha!

  39. Natasha Trifunovic says...

    onion, garlic, justin’s hazelnut butter in chocolate, radishes and flavored sparking water.

  40. Blythe says...

    This is beyond difficult…
    olive oil
    any vegetable
    Badia all seasoning
    almond milk (or my kids would lose their minds)

  41. emanuella says...

    Yay, I love this!

    1. unsweetened cranberry juice (after one too many uti’s, this is in the fridge for life)
    2. olive oil
    3. dijon
    4. carrots
    5. peppermint tea

  42. Briana says...

    Carr’s water crackers
    Fresh Herbs
    Good cheese (any- soft, hard, smelly… I love them all!)
    Israeli Couscous

  43. Emily says...

    1. cinnamon
    2. carrots
    3. honey
    4. garlic
    5. ginger
    6. COFFEE!

  44. Colleen says...

    baby spinach
    Annie’s mac and cheese
    peanut butter (essential for my husband and daughter’s survival)
    #6 would be whatever fruit is in season

  45. Marissa says...

    – A bag of dark leafy greens
    – Crisp apples
    – Lemons
    – Onions
    – A can of good tomatoes

  46. Kelly says...

    olive oil, eggs, salsa, cheese, sweet potato

  47. Diana says...

    1. Lemons! I have a lot of naked lemons because I use the zest in so many things–oatmeal, baked goods, pesto, vinaigrette and then of course there’s the juice.

    2. Olive oil

    3. Eggs

    4. Flour

    5. Maple Syrup

    and sorry but I’d need to add salt to this list. With these ingredients and my garden I could probably cook a five course meal. :)

  48. Alexandra Paty says...

    My list:
    1. Eggs !
    2. Butter + Olive Oil !
    3. Chives !
    4. Tomatoes !
    5. Dark Chocolate…!

  49. Liz says...

    That pic of Jon Hamm though. Oh my.

    • Denise says...

      My thought exactly!

    • Noelle says...

      Dear god yes.

  50. lately?? it’s been:

    1. fermented black bean chili sauce (for trying to be vegan and still making satisfying foods)
    2. lemons (for hot lemon water and literally every dish we make)
    3. fresh garlic
    4. fresh ginger
    5. giant tortillas (because my husband nearly has a panic attack when there aren’t tortillas in the house, aka vessel for putting nearly anything in your mouth)

  51. alexandra says...

    I’d have so say: fresh garlic, olive oil, eggs, french bread, and butter. Oo, and some great parmigiano-reggiano. Oooo! And wooden spoons. Okay, okay, and Jon Hamm.

    • Holly says...

      Trader’s Joe’s organic popcorn, obsessed!

  52. jon hamm is my new kitchen essential

    • Michelle says...