Some pantry staples are universal, like pasta, flour, and sugar, but others are uniquely Southern. From Texas to Delaware, pantries are filled with grits, White Lily Flour , and Old Bay . There are bound to be plenty of baking basics in there too, from sweetened condensed milk to pecans. Then there are the condiments that Southerners rely on day after day, like hot sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise.
So many iconic Southern dishes start with humble pantry staples, like cornmeal for cornbread, or dried peas for Hoppin' John . This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the items we're reaching for in our pantry regularly, and we bet you are too.
White Lily Flour
This is a cult classic biscuit ingredient in the South. The lower protein content of this flour creates less gluten, and that means one tender biscuit.
Sure, cornmeal is the key to cornbread, but in the South, that’s far from where its uses end. From cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes to cornmeal waffles and pound cakes, you’ll find a sprinkle of it in recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus dessert.
Served under shrimp or just topped with cheese, grits are always on hand in a Southern kitchen. Yellow or white, stone-ground or speckled, at least one type will be in the pantry.
Whether you pronounce it PEE-can or puh-CAHN, it’s still a Southern staple. Nuts are widely used in Southern cuisine, but pecans have a special place in Southern hearts and recipes.
Peanuts and Peanut Butter
From boiled peanuts to cookies, both peanuts and peanut butter are must have ingredients. Pecans might win the popularity contest, but the humble peanut is just as delicious in our book.
Brown sugar, powdered sugar, and of course, granulated sugar are mandatory baking ingredients to keep on hand. Plus, sugar is vital for whipping up a pitcher of sweet tea at a moment's notice.
Hot sauce is the ultimate Southern condiment (aside from mayo perhaps) and spices up everything from Bloody Marys to gumbo . Some folks prefer Tabasco, while our editors like Crystal, so keep a few different types in the pantry.
Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
You don't have to be a proficient canner to stock your pantry with jams, jellies, and preserves. Always on hand for biscuits and baking projects, a Southern kitchen is never without these sweet spreads.
Whether team Duke's or Hellman's, everyone can agree mayo is a must. How else are you supposed to make Deviled Eggs ?
From honey butter to honey mustard, Southerners aren't shy about using this naturally sweet ingredient to enhance vegetables, sweets, and of course, biscuits.
Butter is not better for everything. Don't get us wrong, we love butter for many things, but a Southerner knows when to use shortening in baking, Same goes for lard, and the flavor only it can impart. Plus, these shelf-stable fats are good to have on hand for when you're fresh out of butter.
Red beans, black-eyed peas, or limas in a pinch, dried beans are dinner just waiting to happen. They might not be fancy, but cooked properly, they're a blank canvas for all sorts of flavorful meals.
Without vinegar there wouldn't be barbecue sauce, Chow Chow , pickles, or salad dressings. It adds a pop of flavor to peas and greens, plus its a multi-purpose cleaner, a true miracle product.
Every Southerner knows that when we say pickles, we mean more than just bread and butter ones. A well-stocked Southern pantry has all the pickled goodies stored for a rainy day, from peppers to beets.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Cracking open a can of sweetened condensed milk is always the beginning of something good. It's the key to great fudge, it caramelizes into silky dulce de leche, and it is the summertime sweetener behind your favorite ice box pies .
You might not know what exactly is in this sauce, but you do know it helps just about everything taste good. Meatloaf, burgers, even Chicken Spaghetti, wouldn't be the same without it.
No pantry is complete without at least three types of mustard. Classic yellow is a must, Creole too, and Dijon is a salad dressing go-to.
At bare minimum, a Southern pantry will have one neutral oil, like canola or vegetable, and a flavorful oil like olive at the ready. Another Southern favorite to have on hand is peanut oil, especially for frying.
Broth and Bouillon
Whether its homemade and stocked in the freezer, or store-bought and tucked in the cabinet, there's always broth around for soups and stews. Bouillon is another pantry staple, for when you're fresh out of stock or looking to enhance the flavor of homemade.
Seasoning Blends and Salts
There are so many spices used over and over again throughout Southern cooking, like cayenne, garlic powder, and bay leaf, but you'll see those in any old pantry too. A Southern kitchen is always stocked with seasoning blends like Old Bay or Tony Chachere's on top of the basics.
From barbecue sauce to meatloaf, ketchup is the sweet and tangy condiment no one should ever be without. The only real debate is whether or not is needs to be refrigerated .
Macaroni and cheese, Chicken Tetrazzini, and tuna noodle casserole all start with this humble staple. With pasta in the pantry, an easy dinner is always within reach.
This staple needs no explanation. Tea is a must have, year-round. Period.