What Is Your Favorite Pantry Staple?

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

Photo by Aaron Dyer


Central Market Organics salsa. There are many ways to use this versatile condiment besides pouring it over tortilla chips. It can replace ketchup on a burger, or you can add a spoonful to the top of a baked potato as a healthy substitute for butter.
Dawn Figueras
Cibolo, Texas

It’s a cereal called Oh’s. I still remember sitting between my grandparents at the kitchen table having my first bowl like it was yesterday. Now when I pull the box down off the shelf, I think of them.
Alison Rouse
Vinings, Georgia

Kashi Go Lean Crunchy bars in the chocolate almond flavor. I buy them by the case at Costco and toss them in my purse for a quick snack on the run or after a workout.
Kristi Kearney
Enfield, Connecticut

Martini & Rossi dry vermouth. If a soup, marinade, or sauce recipe calls for less than half a cup of white wine, I use vermouth instead and avoid opening a bottle of wine that I’m not prepared to drink. I also use the vermouth to deglaze a pan after cooking chicken, pork, or fish.
Annika Pfaender-Purvis
Cary, North Carolina

Indian spices—turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. I use this trio for almost all the Indian dishes that I make, from eggplant masala to baked fish.
Chitra Mehta
North Brunswick, New Jersey

Crown Royal Whisky. If anyone in my family has a cocktail, Crown Royal with ginger ale and a slice of orange is the only choice. I knew my boyfriend was a keeper the first time he ordered one, unaware of my family’s affinity for the drink. I was right, and we always make sure to have it on hand.
Mary Lyford
Bellevue, Washington

I always have a jar of Cento pimientos handy to make pimiento cheese like my granny made for years. She didn’t pass down an exact recipe, but she would take pimientos, which you drain and pat dry, then mix with mayonnaise and shredded cheese. Next, add garlic powder and cayenne pepper for some heat, then chill it in a glass container for a few hours. It should have the consistency of pâté. We would slather the pimiento cheese on saltines or ordinary white bread. When I make it now, I’m overwhelmed with emotions.
Lisa Jones
Bronx, New York