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In the same way that some people travel with, say, a toothbrush or a mini shampoo, Carla Hall travels with some of her go-to pantry items: “I keep my spices and everything in this little acrylic box and I take it everywhere I go,” she recently told Kitchn.
The beloved chef and personality is (safely) on the move these days, which makes her travel-friendly pantry kit even more essential. “My husband and I are sort of nomads right now. We’re with family in Nashville, TN, while our house in D.C. is being renovated, living out of suitcases. I’m always looking for something easy I can cook out of the pantry.”
In a time when Americans are cooking from their pantries more than ever, our pantry chat with Carla felt extra-relevant. These are the must-haves that top her list.
“We love Lotus Foods Jasmine Rice. It’s really fragrant,” says Carla. In addition to jasmine rice, she also likes to have white and brown rice on hand — two stapes that provide a great base for any meal.
Milk might not be a pantry staple, but shelf-stable milk alternatives certainly fit the bill. “I like to have Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend, for baking, making hot chocolate, and frothing. It’s great because it’s shelf-stable (until it’s opened), so I never have to worry if I’m out of milk,” says Carla.
Another non-negotiable, according to Carla, is good old ACV. “One day I looked up and I didn’t have it. I said, How am I living without vinegar? I have to have it. I usually do Bragg’s. I was just cleaning my mother’s pantry and she had five 32-ounce bottles. I was like, you don’t have to buy any more vinegar for the rest of your life.”
“I go back and forth between Tabasco as well as Texas Pete’s,” says Carla of her go-to hot sauces. “I’m a big condiments person.”
Speaking of condiments, Carla always has a few others on deck. “I always have Dijon mustard as well as yellow mustard. You get that tang from yellow that’s different from Dijon.”
6. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
When it comes to herbs and spices, “Dill is the only green herb I’ll buy dried. It goes a long way in sauces and salads,” says Carla. “I also like to mix it with my mayo!”
Carla is a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast, “I eat oatmeal every single day.” But that’s not all she uses her rolled oats for: “I use them in cookies, cakes, and I even use them in my meatloaf as a binder. And in a pinch, I can pulse them into flour.”
“I make a lot of biscuits, so I need baking powder for that,” says Carla, who’s signature move is “Biscuits with Strangers,” a Carpool Karaoke-style biscuit-celebration.
10. King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
In addition to traveling with her acrylic spice pantry, Carla also can’t be without this key ingredient. “I travel with my canister of flour. You never know when you’re going to make a quickie little cake.”
“When it comes to canned goods, I always have canned beans and canned tomatoes. I love Muir Glen fire roasted, diced tomatoes,” says Carla.
“In terms of beans, we always have black beans, garbanzo beans, and black eyed peas. I have this recipe for “sittin’ salad,” I make with black eyed peas, grilled celery, cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, and hot sauce vinaigrette,” says Carla. (Ed note: We actually got the chance to make this recipe with Carla in her NYC apartment back in 2019!)
Do you have any of Carla’s favorite ingredients in your pantry?