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5 Nutrient Dense Pantry Staples You May Not Have Thought Of

by Bowyn Baird RD, LD.

When I think about pantry staples—I initially think about the basic layer such as flour, sweeteners, grains, beans, and canned goods. These are great options for building a balanced in-home pantry. However, I want to expand on that thought with this article and present five nutrient dense pantry staples that will add a variety of both nutrition and flavor to your pantry.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast that you can use to add flavor and nutrition to your food. It is full of b vitamins, protein, fiber, and iron. It makes an awesome addition to crackers, breads, salads, and whatever you can dream up! It makes a great pantry staple because it is shelf stable, can be mylar bagged for longer term storage, and best of all tastes like cheese! Making cheese sauce or “cheesy” crackers are my favorite ways to use nutritional yeast. When kept dry and in a cool place, nutritional yeast keeps up to two years. Since it is a completely dry food, mylar bagging nutritional yeast may extend its shelf life.

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon is an excellent pantry staple as it provides healthy omega-3 fats. Canned salmon comes with the bones. This may make you cringe at first but leave them in your recipes! The bones are soft and chewy due to the canning process. This is one of the best ways to get calcium in your diet. Making salmon croquets are a tasty way to use canned salmon. Even toddlers love these- they are easy to hold and are similar to fish sticks. I love stocking my pantry with canned salmon because it has a long shelf life and adds in a shelf stable protein option. When you purchase canned salmon, it will typically have a shelf life of 3-5 years. Always check the label on the can.

Canned Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is calorically dense, versatile in recipes, and really tasty. Coconut milk is full of beneficial medium chain fatty acids. Including good fat at mealtimes will help increase satisfaction and fullness. Next time you are making rice, try cooking it in coconut milk instead of water. This works especially great when paired with basmati rice. This goes well with grilled salmon, Indian foods, or Asian inspired dishes. Canned coconut milk will typically have a shelf life of about 2 years. Always check the label on the can.

Canned Oysters

Canned oysters are an excellent way to get more zinc in your diet. Zinc is a critical nutrient for a healthy immune system and oysters are an excellent way to up your zinc. We like to keep a few cans on hand to eat when we feel under the weather. Try pairing canned oysters with crackers at snack time. Pro tip: pick oysters that are smoked for a really good flavor! Canned oysters typically have a shelf life of 4-5 years. Always check the label on the can.


Ghee is a clarified form of butter that is shelf stable. Adding fats to meal times will help keep you fuller longer. Ghee has a great flavor and is a good source of vitamin A. It also has a higher heat point, so it works great when roasting! Ghee has a decent shelf life (usually several years) and can take bean dishes up a notch when you sauté some onions or garlic (fresh or dried) when cooking. Ghee has a shelf life of about 2 years when sealed. Once opened, you should use ghee within about 3 months (at room temperature). If stored in the fridge once opened, it will last about a year. When storing on the shelf, keep it in a cool dark place (away from your oven and stove!)

This is by no means an extensive list of all the nutrient-rich foods you can add to your pantry. Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and certain grains all add a variety of minerals and vitamins to your diet. I could go on for days! But hopefully, I’ve inspired you with some new ideas and encouraged you to seek out a variety of nutrient rich foods to layer into your pantry.

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