How to Build a Baking Pantry, Part I: Ingredients (Beginner)


Welcome to my pantry! The above shelving unit is essentially my baking “pantry”. As you can see, I keep a lot of supplies, ingredients, cookbooks, and tools here. This is actually one of two areas where I keep baking supplies – the other houses all of my baking pans and other tools/utensils (you’ll get to see that area shortly).

I receive a good number of emails from readers asking what some of the best ingredients, equipment and tools are to keep on hand in order to have a well-stocked baking pantry. Since there seems to be widespread interest in this subject, I decided to do a four-part series on it, focusing on the basic ingredients and equipment that will get you started baking, as well as some of the more “nice to have” and advanced ingredients and equipment that more “serious” bakers keep on hand.

Okay, so you want to get started baking but aren’t sure which ingredients you should keep on hand? I hope that this guide will serve as a good starting point for you. The next post in this series will go a step further and delve into ingredients that go beyond the basics, and that are great to have if you are planning on moving beyond cookies and quick breads and into more advanced desserts and yeast breads. For now though, we’re going to focus on the basics. Let’s get started!

In the Refrigerator:

♦  Unsalted butter. If you only have regular, salted butter available, you can use that but omit any salt called for in the recipe.

♦  Whole milk.

♦  Eggs. If you plan on doing a lot of baking, buying them in bulk from somewhere like Sam’s Club or Costco is helpful. I get 3 dozen large eggs from Sam’s Club for about $3.

♦  Sour cream

♦  Cream cheese

In the Pantry

♦  Non-stick spray with flour

♦  All-purpose flour. Do not buy self-rising flour.

♦  Cake flour

♦  Granulated (regular white) sugar

♦  Light brown sugar

♦  Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

♦  Baking powder

♦  Baking soda

♦  Table salt

♦  Cocoa powder, unsweetened (a regular can of Hershey’s will work!)

♦  Cornstarch

♦  Cornmeal

♦  Vegetable (or canola) oil

♦  Vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco)

♦  Corn syrup

♦  Honey

♦  Maple syrup (the real deal, not Log Cabin)

♦  Peanut butter

♦  Graham crackers

♦  Vanilla extract

♦  Almond extract

♦  Cream of tartar

♦  Ground cinnamon

♦  Ground ginger

♦  Ground cloves

♦  Ground nutmeg

♦  Chocolate chips

♦  Unsweetened chocolate

♦  Old-fashioned rolled oats

♦  Assorted nuts (walnuts, almonds and pecans are used most often)

♦  Shredded coconut

♦  Raisins and other dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, figs, etc.)

♦  Food coloring (liquid and gel paste) for coloring icing or cookies

♦  Sprinkles, nonpareils, and candies for decorating cookies and cupcakes

Did I miss any ingredients?
Are there any basics you keep on hand and use often that I haven’t listed here? Share them below!

Stay tuned for the remaining posts in the series:

Part II: How to Build a Baking Pantry, Ingredients (Advanced)
Part III: How to Build a Baking Pantry, Equipment (Beginner)
Part IV: How to Build a Baking Pantry, Equipment (Advanced)

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49 Responses to “How to Build a Baking Pantry, Part I: Ingredients (Beginner)”

  1. Megan on August 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I’m happy to say I have all of those items in my pantry! I keep thinking of other things I think of as basics that aren’t listed (whole wheat flour, confectioner’s sugar, Dutch process cocoa, etc.), but I have a feeling those will come later in this series. Can’t wait to see what else you recommend.


  2. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Megan – thanks for the comment! I do have whole wheat flour and Dutch process cocoa slated for the “advanced” ingredients post. Confectioner’s sugar is actually powdered sugar, but thank you for pointing that out – I forgot to include both names. I am going to edit that right now!


  3. Jen @ MaplenCornbread on August 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    This is SO great! I love how organized and well stock this is!! 😀


  4. Erin @ One Particular Kitchen on August 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    What a great post!! I love your shelving, and I love your APRONS! That queen anne’s lace fabric all the way on the left is so pretty.

    Now what time can you come over to organize my pantry? 😉


  5. Liz Brooks on August 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Where did you get those large containers for your flour and sugar?


  6. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Erin – Thank you! I’ll come organize for you – I’m a dork and love organizing 😉


  7. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Liz – The containers I use for all of my flours, sugars, cocoas, and a million other things are Lock n’ Lock. I have found them in Target, Wal-Mart, and even local (large) grocery stores. You can also purchase them online.


  8. Margaret on August 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I, too, have most of those. It’s the pans and goodies I usually don’t have. Meringue Powder??


  9. Jen on August 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the list – I need to get a couple items to have a fully stocked pantry. One question, have you found any containers that work well for storing brown sugar? I’ve tried keeping it in a canister set we got from Bed, Bath, & Beyond but it hardened to the point I had to add water to even get it out and throw it away.


  10. Angie on August 27, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Do your lock n lock boxes store an entire 5lb bag of flour/sugar? That’s my problem is that I haven’t bought containers to organize my pantry because I don’t know what sizes to get!


  11. Kat on August 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I use my lemon extract far more frequently than I use my almond extract. I’d also add cloves and ginger to the cinnamon line, ’cause they’re a holy trinity in our house!
    This is an awesome list, and I can’t wait to see the rest of the series. Especially the gadgets….oooohhhh gadgets!


  12. Michele on August 27, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    What a helpful post! I’m actually in shock because I’m not a baker but I have everything except for the corn syrup. Not bad for a non baker, huh? LOL


  13. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Jen – I keep my brown sugar in the Lock n’ Lock 5 cup square containers. It fits one “regular” size bag of brown sugar perfectly!


  14. pigpigscorner on August 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Glad to say that I have everything except for the cornmeal. I happened to have bags of nuts, cream of tartar…


  15. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Angie, Yes, the Lock n’ Lock boxes that I use will hold an entire 5 lb bag of flour or sugar. I use the 16.75-cup ones:

    I just love Lock n’ Lock! Keeps everything so fresh and nicely organized.


  16. Randy on August 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Cloves. Ginger (ground and crystallized). Nutmeg. Raisins (dark and golden). Molasses. Dutch-process cocoa. High-cocoa bar chocolate (chips don’t melt well).

    Powdered sugar and confectioner’s sugar ARE NOT identical – confectioner’s sugar has about 5% cornstarch, whereas powdered (10X) sugar is pure.


  17. BAKING is my ZeN on August 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    There are a few more ingredients that are a must have in my pantry…
    2-baking spray (with flour)
    3-baking spray (without flour)
    4-cake release (by wilton)

    Excellent post! You’re so creative!


  18. Erin on August 27, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    instant yeast – in the freezer! so many easy-peasy bread recipes are out there but people are afraid of yeast.


  19. Justine on August 27, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    How about some quick or rolled oats for cookies, crisps, etc.?


  20. Jane on August 27, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Besides everything everyone mentioned above, I also always have on hand a variety of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds etc. — I keep them in fridge or freezer) and sweetened, shredded coconut (also in fridge or freezer). I also typically have white chocolate on hand, and a block of bittersweet (as opposed to chips, which I try to always have on hand too). I keep a variety of extracts, and a number of gel and paste food colorings as well. I keep several flours on hand (bread flour, wheat flour, white bleached & unbleached, cake flour, and White Lily brand).
    Boy, us bakers sure have a lot of stuff. : 0


  21. Divina on August 27, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks for making the list. 🙂


  22. CheapAppetite on August 27, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    You are so well organized. This post is really a must read for novice baker. Great job:)


  23. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you all for the great suggestions! Some of them are already slated for the “advanced” list, and I have updated this list with the others. Awesome feedback!


  24. Joy on August 28, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Powdered sugar & confectioner’s sugar are identical. They both have around 3% cornstarch to prevent clumping. The degree of X simply relates to how fine the grain is.


  25. Rosemaryandthegoat on August 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I have a tip. I have been catering for 20 years and I have a walkin pantry in my house. I have this rubbermaid cart that I can pull out that has almost everything I need for basic baking, it has large tupperware containers of flour, plain and self-rising, brown sugar, powdered sugar, granuated sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, a few kinds, food coloring, syrups, cornmeals etc. So I can wheel that out and have most of my ingredients readily accessible in one trip. (I don’t have to load my arms up like Rachel does :)) I also have my spices on my door in alphabetical order and more spices on turn arounds on shelves. I also lined my shelves with some left over vinyl floor (that I no longer have) and it is easy to wash. I love being organized.


  26. Ashley on August 28, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Wow I’m jealous! I wish I had room for such an awesome baking pantry like this. One day. =)


  27. Donna @ WayMoreHomemade on August 28, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I love “Rosemaryandthegoat”‘s suggestion of a rolling cart… may use that when I build my new pantry.

    I think ou covered the list pretty well. I keep dark brown sugar, and orange extract that I use a lot. The one comment that I would make is on something like baking powder, it needs to be replace periodically if not used because it does have a shelf life.

    Great post.


  28. Deborah on August 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    A tip regarding sugars: Only buy products that are labeled “pure cane sugar.” If not, you may get a beet sugar product, which won’t work the same way in cooking/baking. Here’s a very useful article:

    Love the pantry-post idea, thanks!


  29. Tracey on September 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Great lists for the baking ingredients! You have some really great, thoughtful posts over here. I love that you put so much effort into helping others.


  30. The Faithful Foodie on September 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It inspires me to get my baking act together!


  31. Ro's Baking Adventure on October 24, 2010 at 2:37 am

    I found this very helpful as someone who is just learning how. will book mark for sure thanks for sharing


  32. Mendel Potok on November 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I love the list you put up here! Do any of you have any suggestions for kitchen utensils I need and should avoid? I’m trying to put my dream kitchen together and walking through Bed Bath and Beyond was intimidating! Thanks y’all!


  33. Angela on November 19, 2010 at 6:14 am

    What is the shelf life on these ingredients? Should I just wait until I need to buy the stuff I don’t normally use? I plan on doing alot more baking due to reading your blog. So should I just pick up things as I see them while shopping or wait until the need arises?


    • Michelle on November 19th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Angela, Dry ingredients have a really long shelf life as long as they aren’t kept at super warm temperatures. When I was building up my pantry, I would just buy as I needed things for recipes and over time I built up quite a collection of ingredients!


  34. Angela on March 15, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I like you tips because I’m new at baking and want to learn a whole lot more


  35. Natalie on May 12, 2011 at 10:02 am

    This list was really helpful to me. Thanks so much! I am 13 and I love to bake, but I don’t really know how to stock my pantry. Thanks again!


  36. NyRicanBeautii on November 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I would think Shortening, Molasses, Yeast, and Corn Syrup would be something in beginners. I don’t know, but maybe its going to be in a higher level pantry. Not sure.


  37. Jessica on January 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    When will the equipment articles be posted??

    I know this was from 2009 – but is there any chance you’re still interested in elaborating? 🙂


  38. Pingback: Kitchen Tips: College baker basics | Cinenoms

  39. joy davis on April 1, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for the great list, the only thing I needed to my list, that wasn’t on here was molasses


  40. joy davis on April 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    And sweetex!! Cake shortening


  41. hollY on May 1, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that was a lot of ingredients to keep “on hand” for a beginning baker. I’ve done a fair amount of baking without ever using quite a few of those ingredients. Just saying…


  42. Sam on June 22, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I couldn’t find where you listed out essential/good equipment to have. I am pursuing my great love for baking and I am building my panty nd my kit into a very involved hobby and I m researching in many ways to have a solid yet wide variety of tools for baking! Thank you!


  43. Kim on February 20, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Applesauce can be used in the place of oil for lighter recipes. Also mayo adds a lighter moister batter for cakes and cupcakes.


  44. Heather on July 15, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    I know this is an old article but I was wondering why you don’t recommend self raising flour?


    • Michelle on July 17th, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      Hi Heather, I have never kept it in my pantry and I’ve really only come across one or two recipes that ever called for it, so it’s not a staple for me.


  45. Sarah on August 29, 2016 at 4:08 am

    Hey Michelle! Great list! Are there brands you prefer using in the kitchen? I’m shortlisting a list of essential baking ingredients that I love and I was wondering if you had any brand you favoured?
    Let me know if i left out anything on my blog that i could add into the list 🙂


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