Clean Pantry

7 Pantry Items That’ll Turn Your Healthy Cooking Up to Eleven

Keep these star ingredients on hand for instant hits of flavor in a fraction of the time.

Cooking delicious meals doesn’t mean you have to go to the market every day or use a lot of salt, fat and sugar to make them taste great. Keep a pantry stocked with these favorites and you’ll have healthy, quick meals at your fingertips.

Jar of Rao's marinara

1. Rao’s Marinara Sauce

A favorite among chefs and foodies, this sauce is simply the best marinara on the market. It’s made using a 120-year-old family recipe with the best ingredients – Italian tomatoes, olive oil, onions, and garlic – but none of the preservatives or added sugars of other sauces. There’s even a “sensitive” version without onions or garlic for those with IBS. The sauce has a balanced, sweet tomato flavor that sings on everything from plain pasta to chicken parm. Ok, it’s on the pricey side at about $9 for a 24-ounce jar, but you can often find it on sale for as little as $5. (We buy it by the case direct and get free shipping!) And once you taste it, you’ll never want to be without, so stock up!

Bag of Bluebird Grains enika and lentil blend

2. Bluebird Grain Farms Einkorn and Lentil Blend

Grown organically in Eastern Washington on a family farm, this heirloom grain and lentil blend is our go-to side dish for salmon, roast chicken, and as a base for healthy salad meals. A primitive form of wheat, einkorn berries cook in just 25 minutes, are lower in gluten, and easier to digest than modern forms of wheat. Paired with peppery black lentils du puy, just one serving of this nutty blend provides 9 g of protein, 4g of fiber, and 100% of the DV of manganese.

Bag of Oomph cooking blends

3. Oomph Cooking Blends No. 3 Sofrito

Oomph Cooking Blends aren’t your standard herbs. They’re clever mixtures of dehydrated and milled vegetables and herbs. A few teaspoons added to a soup, a vegetable sauté, or a vinaigrette and you get a huge flavor boost without salt. They’re Whole30 compliant, made with non-GMO ingredients, and are nutrient dense. They have a wide variety of flavors; we love the Sofrito blend, a mix of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, parsley, and cilantro in everything from quinoa to tacos.

Container yondu vegetable umami

4. Yondu Vegetable Umami

This amber-colored liquid is made from non-GMO soybeans that are fermented slowly and blended with concentrated vegetable broth to deliver a generous dose of savory umami flavor. It’s more versatile than plain soy sauce, with a lightness and depth of flavor that works in everything from vegetable stir fries to Caprese salads. A one teaspoon serving has zero calories and 350 mg of sodium, but a little goes a long way and it can take the place of salt completely in your favorite recipes. We’re hooked!

Bag of Butler soy curls

5. Butler Soy Curls

A cult favorite with vegetarians for years, these dehydrated soybean-based strips are now gaining traction as an incredibly versatile shelf stable pantry item for every cook. Just soak them in water for 10 minutes to rehydrate and sauté in barbecue sauce for sandwiches, add taco seasoning for vegan burritos, or stir fry with teriyaki sauce. Made with non-GMO soybeans, soy curls contain no sodium and provide 11g of plant-based protein per serving.

Jar of Organic Valley ghee

6. Organic Valley Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter that’s perfect for sautéing because it won’t burn in a hot pan like butter. Made with milk from a co-op of farms raising pasture-raised cows, this ghee adds a rich, nutty/caramelized flavor to sautéed vegetables and is positively luxurious swirled into cauliflower rice or asparagus soup. It’s lactose and casein-free and can be stored in the pantry until opened, so it has a place in every pantry.

Jar of Mother in Law's gochujang paste

7. Mother In Law’s Gochujang

This thick fermented Korean chile paste has a miso-meets-spice flavor that’s got us hooked. Made with red chilies, malt syrup, and rice flour, it’s thicker and more savory than standard hot sauces. Dab it on grain bowls, swirl it into pasta sauce, or use it as a concentrated flavor booster for grilled meat or tofu for tacos. Is there anything this stuff can’t do?

Keep reading to discover more of our favorite healthy and flavorful pantry items: