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The Best Pantry Staples for Weeknight Meals

Santé Nuts - The Best Pantry Staples for Weeknight Meals

I love keeping Santé Nuts on hand to cook with or snack on, but let's face it, not every meal can include delicious nuts. I stock my pantry to let me easily add variety and enjoyment to our both weeknight and weekend meals. I find that having a few different condiments, garnishes, and staples let's me easily create exciting meals, even when inspiration strikes unexpectedly. Here are a few of my favorites, including some local Bay Area producers.


Keeping some non perishable starches on hand means I can always get the base of meal put together quickly. These options are fast, healthy, hearty, and delicious.
  • Black lentils - I love keeping these around to cook up when I'm looking for something hearty. They taste amazing with some roasted vegetables, sausage and onions, or dressed with blue cheese and beets. I love how light they are while still being hearty and filling.
  • Farro - A heritage grain that's made a huge come back in recent years, faro is a nutty, hearty grain similar to wheat or barley. I like to boil it until tender and then often mix it with leftover veggies and meat or sometimes just eat it with some butter and herbs. Best part, it often tastes better as leftovers!
  • King Soba Noodles - These might be my favorite alternative to pasta. These 100% gluten free buckwheat noodles make an amazing weeknight meal. They taste great with some sesame seed oil, an Asian chili paste, and some frozen edamame or steamed vegetables. I've also been known to add frozen shrimp for an added protein. Yum


I don't mind investing a little extra in condiments. I don't need to use much and the better quality can make anything taste so much better. I love keeping these on hand to add pizzazz to simple meals.
  • Tomato paste - Given the choice, I prefer to get tomato paste in a resealable jar or a tube, but a can works too. It adds such a great umami jolt to most foods. I've been known to add it to rice, noodles, or even fried sweet potatoes. I think the key is to make sure not to add too much (that's why resealable is good) and to make sure it's high enough quality not to be too acidic.
  • Chili pastes - There are so many different options and even if you don't really want spicy food, there's probably an option for you. The nice thing about a good chili paste is that it usually has a lot of other ingredients which means you can flavor a dish without going to too much effort. A good chili paste will have a good balance between heat, acidity, sweetness, and umami. I really love the Fly by Jing Zhong Sauce. It has an extra something that I can't name but would love to eat all the time. 
  • Vinegar - If there is one item I'm willing to splurge on it's a good vinegar. The difference between an ok and a good vinegar in a dish can be really significant.  Something that's been well made and nicely aged will bring less unpleasant tanginess and more depth to a dish or dressing. In my opinion, a good champagne, sherry, and aged balsamic vinegars are pretty much essential to an indulgent meal. Kimberly Wine Vinegars are an amazing local producer with some of the best and most affordable high quality vinegars I've found. Give them a try!


I love nuts for snacking but they also make an awesome ingredient in a lot of dishes. They add a great crunch and just something special.
  • Pine Nuts - Toasted, raw, sprinkled, pureed…there is no way for these not to taste awesome. I really like them with kale and dried currants or on top of rice with raisins.
  • Hazelnuts - toasted and pureed with fennel or crushed and mixed with inside cookie dough, there's something really comforting about hazelnuts. Their flavor really changes depending on whether you get them raw or toasted so I usually buy raw ones and then roast them myself for flexibility.
  • Seasoned Nuts - I love to cook with our nuts because they add a lot of flavor without a lot of sugar. Obviously I love them all, but there are two I like to keep around because they're so useful. Garlic Almonds taste amazing on top of salads, as part of cheeseboards, or as a snack. I also really like to coarsely chop them and use them as a "breading" for chicken breasts or fish. They add a great flavorful caramelized texture that's just fun to eat. My other favorite nut to keep stashed -- Sweet and Spicy Pecans. Balanced with light sweetness and spice that builds up slowly, they make a great topping on salads, an accompaniment to nutty cheeses, or added crunch on a snack plate.
Check out our recipes for more dishes featuring nuts.