25 Best Pantry Staples to Add to Your Grocery List
This year, we’ve never appreciated grocery essentials more, so we asked chefs, dietitians, food bloggers, and Parents editors to tell us what healthy pantry items they couldn’t live without—and then we gave the goods to families for a taste test. Here are the winning products that wowed busy parents and picky eaters alike.
Best Olive Oil: Trader Joe's 100 Percent Greek Kalamata Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The well-priced TJ cult fave, a Greek import, “smells and tastes like fruity sunshine,” says Jason Goldstein, a Food Network Star finalist.
Best Vinegar: Colavita Aged White Wine Vinegar
An all-purpose pick with a mild, fruity taste that even kids like. A splash tastes great on veggie sides and salads, and you can also use it to marinate chicken and fish.
Best Marinara: Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
This landslide winner “tastes like from-scratch sauce and has the same ingredients: plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and herbs,” says Katie Morford, R.D., author of Mom’s Kitchen Handbook.
Best Peanut Butter: Jif Natural Creamy
Easier to spread without stirring than other natural options and packed with flavor, this pick delivers for PB & Js and more.
Best Pasta: Barilla
Even when you leave it on the stove a beat too long, it’s hard to ruin pasta from the classic blue box, says Silvia Baldini, a winner on Food Network’s Chopped. (No mushiness!) And the pasta maker’s from-Italy sauce line, Vero Gusto, can easily fancy up rigatoni night.
Best Whole-Grain Side: Bob's Red Mill Tri-Color Quinoa
This mix of white, black, and red quinoa cooks quickly. “I toss it into salads, chili, and soups for extra protein and fiber,” says Victoria Shanta Retelny, R.D.N., author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods.
Best Cooked Rice: Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice Basmati
Pop this in the microwave, and 90 seconds later, you have a couple of cups of fragrant rice to join the main meal. (We like it with Tasty Bite Indian Madras Lentils for a near-instant dinner.)
Best Canned Fruit: Del Monte Diced Mangos
Unlike the mango on your counter, these canned ones are always ripe and recipe-ready. “The chunks are the perfect size for salsa,” says one mom tester. “I added chopped red onion, a little cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. A few minutes later, the kids were scooping it up with tortilla chips.”
Best Pancake Mix: Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix
In terms of easy (and fluffy) flapjacks, it’s hard to beat this wheat- and barley-flour mix. Seriously—just add water.
Best Ready-Made Side: Tasty Bite Indian Madras Lentils
A surprise hit with kids, this combo of lentils and kidney beans in a creamy tomato sauce takes just a minute to microwave. “The cumin makes it flavorful without being too spicy for kids,” says Andrea Mathis, R.D., who blogs at Beautiful Eats & Things.
Best Canned Beans: S&W Tuscan Style Savory Sides
“My kids asked for seconds,” reports one tester about these new fiber-packed white kidney beans that come pretossed with olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
Best Tuna: StarKist Selects E.V.O.O. Wild Yellowfin Tuna with Lemon Pepper
Ready to eat straight out of the pouch and nicely seasoned, StarKist's E.V.O.O. Wild Yellowfin Tuna with Lemon Pepper is a new high-protein lunch that you can legit tuck into your diaper bag (trust us on this; we’ve done it).
Best Soy Sauce: Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce
Happily, 40 percent less salt doesn’t mean less flavor; there’s plenty of richness here. “This has become our family’s go-to soy sauce,” says one Parents staffer.
Best Honey: Gold Emblem Spreadable Honey
Creamed honey is a thing, and props to CVS for working it into its house line.“It spreads as easily as frosting,” says one tester, who uses it on her kids’ toast.
Best Taco Mix: McCormick Original Taco Seasoning Mix
It’s all you need for taco night, with chili powder, paprika, and oregano. Says a Parents editor: “These are spices I would use myself, packaged in the right proportions.”
Best Seasoning: Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning
The Latin and Caribbean staple is a known multitasker: “My wife introduced me to it, and I use it on chicken, steak, eggs, rice—anything, really,” says chef Kenny Gilbert, of Cut & Gather, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Best Dressing: Hidden Valley The Original Ranch
A spoonful makes the baby carrots (and cucumber circles) go down! "My four-year-old will gobble up any raw veggie when she can dip it in this Ranch—lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, and tomatoes included—so we always have a bottle in our fridge," says Amy Palanjian, author of Food Play! and Yummy Toddler Food. Kid testers also point out that it’s creamier than other brands they’ve tried.
Best Finishing Sauce: Hellmann's Cilantro Lime
In a convenient squeeze bottle, this zippy sauce with hatch chiles, tomatillos, and avocado oil is begging to be squirted onto a taco. Do it!
Best Broth: Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Chicken
Add water, and one tiny jar yields 12 quarts of broth. A teaspoon also ups the flavor of soups, sauces, and stir-fries, says Stacie Billis, author of Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner.
Best Fruit Chips: Bare Pineapple Chips
Unlike most just-the-fruit chips, these aren’t too hard for kids to bite into. Our testers reported that this item was “crunchy and sweet” and “tasted like pineapple juice.”
Best Applesauce: Organic GoGo SqueeZ Happy TummieZ
This is elevated applesauce blended with other fruits or veggies plus gut-friendly fiber from artichokes. The kid testers called dibs on the apple-strawberry-pomegranate-spinach combo.
Best Fruit Bars: Dino Bars
Sold in three flavors, these organic fruit bars stand out for their cute dinosaur theme, novelty edible-paper wrapping, and soft texture. “It’s not as dry as the fruit leather I usually eat, and it doesn’t make my hands feel sticky,” said one kid tester, who gave a big thumbs-up to the mango-pear-banana variety.
Best Rice Bars: This Saves Lives Kids Mammoth Marshmallow Krisp
Produced in a peanut-free factory, these new puffed-rice bars (from the brand Kristen Bell cofounded) will give your kids classic marshmallow-treat vibes. They’ll never suspect that the snack contains a serving of fruit and veggies.
Best Crackers: Goldfish Cheddar
Enticing kids for nearly 60 years, these orange fish are a no-fail snack for road trips, movie nights, and just ten minutes of peace and quiet.
Best Nuts: Wonderful Roasted & Salted No Shells Pistachios
Perfectly seasoned, these greenish gems add flavor and B vitamins to trail mix, oatmeal, even ice cream. You’ll thank us if you buy them already shelled.