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What Is Your Favorite Pantry Staple?

Real Simple readers share the go-to ingredients and products that help them put something tasty together.

SmoresAaron Dyer 


My grandmother, a native of Abruzzi, Italy, made delicious cookies that were studded with toasted pine nuts. Now I toast my own nuts and roll ready-to-bake cookies in them. They end up looking far fancier than they actually are.
Donna Panzarino
South Hempstead, New York

I grew up in New Mexico, where green chili sauce was part of everyday cuisine. At restaurants, our family would order chicken enchiladas “smothered in green.” Now that I live outside of Washington, D.C., I’m vigilant about having jars of this hot sauce on hand. My husband became addicted when we started dating, 14 years ago, and my nine-year-old son has started spooning it onto his breakfast burritos. I’m so proud that my family takes such pleasure in my culinary heritage.
Judy Slotnik
Bethesda, Maryland

I spread Amore anchovy paste on grilled ciabatta, stir it into mushroom soup, add it to a vinaigrette, and even drop a dollop into my Bloody Mary. It adds a briny richness and amps up the rest of the flavors, too.
Tracy Finklang
Kittredge, Colorado

Dill-pickle slices. I use them as a garnish, toss them into a salad, or just nibble on a few when I want a low-calorie snack. They’re tart, crunchy, and handily bite-size.
Linnea Carol Nydatich
Great Falls, Montana

Canned Kesar mango pulp, which is extracted from Kesar mangoes, a sugary variety native to India. In the summer, I enjoy mango smoothies topped with ground cashews and homemade mango chutney on a refreshing cucumber sandwich.
Rachita Ruchi
East Amherst, New York

I love when people who are eating my dishes say, “Wow, what is that?” My answer is always the same: grapeseed oil. It’s mild yet slightly sweet, and when it’s drizzled on a plate of avocado, orange slices, and dill, the result is mouthwatering.
Margaret McGinnis
Williamsburg, Virginia

Old Bay Seasoning. I refuse to eat seafood unless it’s topped with heaping mounds of this savory mix of herbs and spices. In fact, my husband has teased me for carrying samples of Old Bay in my purse! In my opinion, life just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Jo Anna Shuba
Baltimore, Maryland

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