There is no doubt that having a well-stocked pantry is the key to creating quick and easy meals. But what should you stock your pantry with? Here are my top choices that will help you create delicious, Mediterranean inspired meals in no time.
- Lentils are one of my go to protein options. They are quick to cook and can be added to any meal. No overnight soaking required! Nutritionally speaking, ½ cup of cooked lentils has around 9 g of protein. I always have brown lentils and red lentils in the pantry. I use the brown lentils to add to taco fillings, spaghetti sauce, burghol or rice pilafs, and stews. I use the red lentils to make creamy lentil soup. To cook the dried lentils, fill up a pot with 2 cups water. Once the water boils, add 1 cup lentils and cook for 25 minutes on medium heat or until the lentils are soft, but not mushy. Drain the excess water, then add to your meal.
Canned beans and chickpeas
- Another quick and easy protein option, beans and chickpeas are very versatile. Add black beans to make black bean salad, bean quesadilla, or black bean burger. Chickpeas can be added to salads, stews, or to make hummus or this sweet potato chickpea boat. To prepare the canned beans or chickpeas, simply open the can, place contents in a colander, and rinse under cold running water for a few seconds. Drain the excess water and use in meals.
- Freekeh is a popular middle eastern whole grain that’s basically a young, green wheat kernel that has been toasted and cracked. Freekeh is a great source for important nutritients such selenium, potassium and magnesium, not to mention the fiber. Freekeh can be found at any healthy food store or ethnic middle eastern store. To cook freekeh, first sift through the grains to make sure there are no small pebbles in the mix. Then place in a nonstick pot with some canola oil and toast the freekeh for a couple minutes on medium heat. Then add your water or broth; use roughly 1 cup freekeh to 2 cups liquid. Cooking time is roughly 15-20 minutes. Once the liquid boils, cover the pot, reduce the temperature on low, and cook until all water is absorbed and the freekeh is tender and fluffy. Make traditional Syrian freekeh pilaf or add as a side dish, to salads or in soups.
- A pantry without pasta is not complete! Pasta can be cooked in just under 10 minutes and can be added with any sauce, veggie and protein to make a balanced meal. For a quick meal option, cook the pasta. Sautee some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and zucchini slices. Add spaghetti sauce and cooked lentils, then mix in the pasta. Dinner is served!
Canned diced tomato
- Canned tomatoes are great for stews, soups and pasta dishes. Just open the canned tomato and add to your meals. Not only will you get a great dose of the antioxidant lycopene, you’ll add a base and flavor to your recipe. Choose a low sodium option if you’re watching your salt intake.
- Dried spices are key to adding flavor to your meals and to reducing the amount of salt in your diet. My favorite ones to keep on hand are oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika and dried mint leaves. Dried spices have a long expiry date, just store in a cool and airtight container.
- Burghol is an essential Mediterranean whole grain grain. Burghol is basically cracked wheat that has been partially cooked. It has a nutty flavor. It is famously known to be used in tabbouleh and in kibbeh (ground meat and burghol balls that are fried). However, burghol can be used in other dishes such as burghol pilaf or added to stews. Burghol comes in different grind sizes; the fine grind is used in tabbouleh and the coarser grind is used in pilafs and soups.
- No doubt that olives are an essential Mediterranean food staple. Unopened canned olives or jars can be stored in the pantry, however once you open the container store in the fridge. Olives can be added to salads, pastas, pizzas, or one pot meals. You can’t go wrong with olives, whether you’re using green olives or the more popular Kalamata black olives.
- Can’t forget about the olive oil, an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil has antioxidants, vitamin E and provides healthy monounsaturated fats. There is a myth that you can’t use olive oil when cooking due to its smoke point, however the smoke point of olive oil ranges between 375F to 470F depending on the type, whether refined or extra virgin. Use a regular olive oil to sautee vegetables or lightly pan fry foods, and keep the extra virgin olive oil to cold recipes such as in salad dressings and dips.
- You can’t eat salads without salad dressing, so having a good quality vinegar will be essential to making your own salad dressing at home. To make a basic vinaigrette, mix 2 parts extra virgin olive oil to 2 parts apple cider vinegar. Add a dash of salt and dried oregano and you’ve just made your own salad dressing.
So there you have it! There are other things in my pantry but these are my top choices. Let me know do you think I missed anything important? What essentials do you have in your pantry?
One important thing to me is not what I have but what I dont have in the pantry. Americans are known for over buying fresh produce. This is about the only problem I see with people trying to eat more fruits and vegetables…they just go bad if you dont make that simple to do recipe!! Buy the fresh items a day or two ahead, but a week can spell food waste.
Hi Kathleen, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I agree it’s important to reduce food waste. In my experience the way you store fresh fruits and vegetables can really help prolong its life. For example keeping herbs in water can help prevent them from wilting. Also utilizing frozen fruits and vegetables can be a great way.