Frisky Eats: Basic Ingredients And Supplies For Beginning Cooks

Remember when I answered all of Ami’s cooking questions and promised to put together a list of basic cooking tools and ingredients for beginning chefs the following week? Whoops, that was almost two months ago!

Some posts take me a while to write because I’m procrastinating or have some mental block about the topic. Some posts, like this one, take me a while to write because I’m having way too much fun brainstorming for them and I don’t want to put them down in writing just yet. I loved asking my foodie friends, “What are your kitchen must-haves?” and listening to the wide range of answers. When Nick and I would cook dinner, one of us would hold up a spatula or some other gadget and be like, “What about this? Would this make the list?” I kind of wanted to ponder this post forever, but that wouldn’t be super helpful to any beginning cooks out there looking for info and inspiration, so I finally bit the bullet and compiled my list.

Obviously, the ingredients list is especially subjective based on dietary needs/restrictions, personal taste, and the types of recipes you’re making (my boyfriend and I cook a lot of Mediterranean and Mexican foods, for example, so if we run out of parsley or cilantro we FLIP OUT). Once you start cooking regularly, your own preferences and pantry staples will become obvious and you can tweak this list as needed, but I think it’s a good starting point based on a traditional diet.


Large saute pan with lid
Medium size sauce pot with lid
Glass casserole pan
Mixing bowls (a few different sizes)
Meat thermometer
Three knives (one big, one small, one serrated)
Cookie sheet
Blender, food processor, or Magic Bullet (great for making soups creamy)
Cutting board
Can opener
Tupperware (more cooking means more leftovers!)



Unsalted butter (you can always add salt if you need to)
Parmesan cheese
Feta cheese
Milk or almond milk
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Bacon and/or pancetta
Tofu (if you’re vegetarian or just want to cut down on meat consumption)
Good bread
Red and white wine (for cooking and also to numb your frustration when recipes don’t turn out right.)


Lemon and/or lime
A leafy green like spinach, kale, or arugula


Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Canned beans (cannellini, garbanzo, black, etc)
Canned diced or crushed tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken broth (boxed or canned)
Dried pasta
White rice (not minute)
A basic spice rack

RUNNERS UP (ingredients that just barely missed the main list but you might want to consider)

Red wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Fresh Italian parsley (As my wise friend Catherine says, “Add it to almost any savory dish and suddenly your food is both more delicious AND more beautiful.”)
Apples, oranges, and other fruits (depending on the season)
Bell peppers
Cocoa powder (surprisingly useful even in savory dishes)
Honey or agave syrup (I use this to sweeten my stir fry sauces)
Sundried tomatoes (Trader Joe’s has surprisingly good ones!)
Red chili flakes


1. If you’re just starting out, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy every single thing on this list right away. Start simple and build from there. I’d recommend looking up a few recipes you want to make and writing down the ingredients and supplies required to make them. You might notice that certain ingredients show up multiple times, or that you won’t need certain tools until farther down the line in your cooking journey (for example, Nick and I just recently got a food processor, which we love and use all the time, but we made do without one for years).

2. Like I mentioned in the cooking Q&A post, cooking stuff is freakin’ expensive to buy new, so definitely scope out thrift shops for tools and cookware, and ask friends if they have any extra stuff they’re willing to part with. Even amateur cooks tend to amass way more tools and gadgets than they actually need. Pro tip: people who are moving almost always have a box of cooking gadgets to give away.

3. Even though I spent an embarrassingly long time compiling this post, I’m sure I forgot some SUPER IMPORTANT stuff, so please share your own cooking must-haves and anything I missed in the comments! Come on, let’s help Ami (and other budding chefs) get cookin’!

[Photo of cutting board and ingredients via Shutterstock]