My Paleo Pantry by Michelle Tam

Confession: My pantry ain’t normally this neat. At all.

On a typical day, the shelves look like a tornado blew through, leaving in its wake spice blends balanced precariously on cans of sardines and bulbs of garlic lodged between packages of seaweed. It’s awful; when I’m in a rush, I can rarely find the ingredients I need, which explains why I end up buying stuff I already have. Which, in turn, explains the nine containers of paprika in my pantry.

My Paleo Pantry by Michelle Tam

In short, I’ve become an accidental hoarder.

I’ve come to terms with the haphazard state of my shelf-stable foodstuffs and condiments, but with Henry—the only neatnik in our family—taking a week off from work, it was the perfect opportunity to tidy up. (That, and Henry demanded that we throw out all the expired stuff and clear up pantry space because the clutter was driving him insane.)

So here it is: my kitchen pantry in all its organized glory. I’ve added a key below so you can check out the stuff I buy to make flavorful Paleo cooking a snap.

(Note: Sadly, my pantry won’t stay this way for long. With my unpredictable purchasing whims and messy nature, I’m betting the contents will shift soon. Plus, the weather forecast calls for pantry tornados in the near future. Like tomorrow.)

My Paleo Pantry by Michelle Tam

1. Diamond Crystal Kosher salt: I didn’t realize I’d bought so many boxes, but don’t worry: it’ll all get used. Diamond Crystal is my go-to all-purpose salt for cooking.

2. Assorted salt blends: I’m well-stocked with my favorite finishing salts from Jacobsen Salt Co. (including its insanely great Smoked Ghost Chili Pepper Salt) and from Spice Hound

3. Great Lakes Gelatin: This brand’s gelatin is grass fed! And I’ve always hated having to tear open little paper packets of gelatin, so I love that Great Lakes Gelatin comes in an easy-pour container.

4. Pure Indian Foods Ghee: Someone on Facebook asked why I buy ghee when it’s so easy to make. My verbatim reply: I love making my own ghee, but it’s not always easy to source butter that matches the quality of Pure Indian Foods’. Plus, I like to support small businesses that do great work. (And, to be perfectly honest, I’m lazy sometimes!)

5. Red Boat Fish Salt: Umami in powder form. ’Nuff said.

6. Rao’s Marinara Sauce: My favorite brand of jarred marinara. It tastes delicious and there aren’t any funny ingredients.

7. Organic Garlic Gold Nuggets: These were a gift from my pal Coco, and ever since, I’ve been sprinkling these crispy garlic bits on everything. 

8. Paromi Sleep With Me Tea: I’ve been drinking a lot of this calming, caffeine-free tea lately. The soothing smell of cinnamon and apple makes this the perfect hot beverage in the wintertime.

9. Native Forest Coconut Milk: BPA-free cans filled with creamy coconut goodness!

10. My extra-special extra virgin olive oil from Le Ragnaie in Montalcino that my former work husband (hi, Will!) brought back for me from Tuscany.

11. Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds a nice bit of acidity to balance out dishes. (It’s also great for whipping up homemade non-toxic cleaning supplies and all sorts of other stuff.)

12. Dijon style mustard: Mustard doubles as a flavoring agent and an emulsifier!

13. Pure Indian Foods Coffee++: I blend this with hot coffee when I want an ultra creamy treat.

14. Red Boat Fish Sauce Phamily Reserve: I jabber about Red Boat Fish Sauce incessantly, but this one’s the shizzle. Every year, the Pham family—producers of the best fish sauce on the planet—reserve the very best 10% of their production. Traditionally, this Phamily Reserve’s been passed around only to Pham family members, friends, and certain chefs—but it’s now available via the Red Boat website.

15. A big jar of my homemade Magic Mushroom Powder for ALL THE THINGS.

16. Avocado oil: Perfect for making salad dressing and homemade Paleo mayonnaise!

17. A ginormous bottle of Red Boat Fish Sauce: I get these big, honkin’ 2-liter bottles directly from the Red Boat folks. They send me a couple at a time ’cause they know I have an umami addiction. 

18. BLiS Tahitian Vanilla Infused Maple Syrup: This stuff ain’t cheap, but on those rare occasions when I make a recipe that calls for a bit of maple syrup, I’m gonna use the best. (A note to those of you starting a January Whole30: Strike this off your list. Maple syrup is a no-go for you this month.)

19. Coconut Oil: I don’t cook with this fat as much as I used to (I find myself reaching for ghee more often these days), but it’s still awesome for lots of Asian dishes like Thai curries.

20. Tons of canned fish. If The Big One hits in the near future, we’ll be good to go with our stockpile of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, I always keep a can in my backpack so I’m never without emergency protein.

21. Seaweed snacks for the family. I’m a fan of SeaSnax and gimMe

22. Yucan Crunch: I buy bags of Yucan Crunch casabe from my friends at Mission Heirloom. Casabe’s a traditional South American grain-free, gluten-free snack made of 100% yuca (a.k.a. cassava) root. Toast it in the oven, and it’ll add some sorely-missed crunch to your dishes!

23. Cooked Chestnuts: In a pinch, I like to grab Matiz Gallego brand cooked chestnuts because they’re organic and not sourced from China. (These chestnuts are imported from Spain, which may explains its high price point.) I also like it because—again—I’m lazy. But hey: roasted chestnuts are a breeze to make, so don’t be a lazy loser like me. Roast your own!

24. Obligatory giant can of macadamia nuts from Costco. You heard me.

25. Onions, shallots, and garlic bin: Alliums are at the heart of my favorite savory dishes. I can’t imagine life without ’em. 

26. Winter squash bin: It’s winter, and I love squash.

27. Sweet potato bin: I keep my white potatoes in a separate drawer away from my onions, but sweet potatoes keep just fine here.

28-30. Assorted spice blends. Some folks collect stamps, I gather exotic spice blends on my travels. I picked up some really awesome ones from outdoor markets in Thailand last December.

31. Assorted dried mushrooms and chile peppers. Because MUSHROOMS and PEPPERS.

32. Assorted teas. I also stick bars of super-dark chocolate in this bin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone because chocolate bars aren’t approved on a Whole30.

33. SeaSnax Seaweed sheets: I use these for temaki (sushi hand rolls), but more often than not, we just tear ’em up and snack on them.

34. Assorted “flours” (e.g. coconut, almond, tapioca, etc.) that I use as thickeners. Longtime readers know that I’m not much of a baker; desserts don’t appear on my table often, so I use these ingredients sparingly. That’s why I store them on the bottom of my pantry.

Okay, gang. My typing fingers are tired, and I’m feeling compelled to go mess up my pantry. Neatness just isn’t my thing, I guess. Adios!

Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my Webby Award-Winning iPad® app, and in my New York Times bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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