Chefs Reveal the 33 Items They Always Buy at the Grocery Store

buy one get one
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The last thing a chef (or really anyone) wants to do at the end of a busy week is go grocery shopping. But chefs, they're just like us, remember? These 33 culinary superstars — including Judy Joo, Yehuda Sichel, and Nathaniel Reid — are more than capable of preparing many of the items on this list, but sometimes they just don't feel like it. From ice cream, bacon, and mayonnaise to just about anything on sale (chips and candy included), check out the items that chefs love to buy at the supermarket.

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"As a kid growing up in India, I was not exposed to many varieties of cheese. It was only through my culinary work and travels that my love for cheese started to grow. With all the varieties we have access to at stores, for me it's a must-buy." — Chintan Pandya, executive chef of Adda Indian Canteen and Dhamaka

02 of 33


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"I'm a condiment [fanatic]. I love little pops of flavors. I like to shop at Korean markets and enjoy grabbing miso, and I'm a sucker for good mustard." — Justin Smillie, partner and executive chef of Upland

03 of 33

Coconut milk

coconut milk
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"As a young hotshot line cook, I was courting my wife, and I had the brilliant idea of making my own coconut milk for piña coladas by the pool. Let's just say, we drank beer that day." — Clay Conley, chef and owner of Buccan, Imoto, and Grato

04 of 33

Canned tomatoes

canned tomatoes
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"This has become my go-to in the cupboard for making a quick dinner. I toss in some fresh window box herbs, EVOO, and a little salt from my Cellar salt stash and usually prepare the tomatoes with some chicken to make a feast fit for a queen!" — Lisa Marie White, culinary director at Biscuit Love

05 of 33

Rotisserie chicken

rotisserie chicken
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"If I have to pull off a last-minute meal and I don't have time to make something from scratch, I grab an organic rotisserie chicken from Eataly. I then use the bones to make chicken soup." — Jean-Georges Vongerichten, chef and restaurateur of Jean-Georges Restaurants

06 of 33

Cauliflower crust

cauliflower crust pizza
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"They're extremely versatile, especially when you have kids or healthy eaters in the house. I use a variety of toppings like chicken, shrimp, and mushrooms with assorted cheeses, sauces, and herbs." — Glenn Rolnick, director of culinary operations of Alicart Restaurant Group

07 of 33

Frozen peas

frozen peas
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"They're one of the few vegetables that are great frozen, holding flavor and texture almost perfectly. They're so handy to have to toss into soups, fried rice, salads, stir fries, and more." — Judy Joo, chef, restaurateur, and television personality

08 of 33

Capri Sun

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"Every time I walk through a grocery store, I grab the biggest pack of Capri Sun I can find for my kitchen staff. There's nothing better than seeing the joy on a group of hardworking adults' faces as they devour a child-sized drink at the end of a busy service." — Kyle Bailey, executive chef of The Salt Line

09 of 33

Instant ramen

instant ramen
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"I'm an absolute sucker for online shopping — yes, even for food. There are companies such as Fresh Direct which offer unique products at the reach of my fingertips ... such a temptation! Believe it or not, I also have a thing for good instant ramen. It's a great late-night pick-up on my way home from work." — Markus Glocker, chef and owner of Koloman

10 of 33

Everything bagel seasoning and gluten-free flour

coconut flour

"I use it on everything — avocado toast, hard-boiled eggs, to garnish salads, on roasted vegetables, mixed into breadcrumbs for crispy toppings, popcorn, you name it! Also, Cup 4 Cup flour. It's the gluten-free flour mix that was created by pastry chefs in The French Laundry kitchen. My wife has celiac and as a chef who also likes to cook at home, this can be incredibly limiting. I use this recipe for an exact swap of all-purpose flour in anything I bake, and I absolutely swear by it. Brioche, check! Sticky buns, yup! Homemade pasta, heck yeah!" — Katy Smith, executive creative chef of Puesto

11 of 33

NongShim Shin Black ramen

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"For the sake of convenience, I enjoy going to H Mart and buying NongShim Shin Black ramen and then traveling around the store buying all of the goods to take home and make a bowl of 1 a.m. ramen." — Jimmy Papadopoulos, former executive chef of Bellemore

12 of 33

Nacho Cheese Doritos and cottage cheese

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"I grew up eating cottage cheese and then, one day, I discovered Doritos go really well with cottage cheese." — Dan Van Rite, partner and executive chef of DanDan and EsterEv

13 of 33


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"I love Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream because it's delicious and it has all of the ingredients that I use to make my own homemade ice cream. I also love to buy thin Oreos — they're so good in the freezer." — David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery

14 of 33

Dijon mustard

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"It's tough to beat the versatility of this condiment for any recipe or even just a great sandwich. I love to use it as a flavor adhesive and rub on steak for the seasoning to adhere for a solid crust." — Jesse Perez, partner and culinary director at Óxido

15 of 33

Trader Joe's finds

trader joes
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"I love Trader Joe's. I've been really into their sriracha-marinated tofu these days. Also, the yogurt-kale dip is pretty awesome." — Leigh Omilinsky, executive pastry chef of Boka Restaurant Group

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"There is nothing else quite like it that's a good mix of sweet and spicy. I put it on everything and mix it into everything — pizza, pasta, and even salad dressings." — Amber Lancaster, culinary director at TableOne Hospitality

17 of 33


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"I have a sweet tooth and I can't help but buy my guilty pleasures like Fudgsicles, Kit Kats, M&Ms, and Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream. These are sweets I crave that I can't whip up at home." — Charlie McKenna, owner and executive chef of Lillie's Q

18 of 33


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"It's my absolute favorite store-bought item. I always have to have a bite of it after dinner. I hide it in various drawers around the house (from my husband and kids), so I always have a stash." — Helene Henderson, cookbook author, chef, and owner of Malibu Farm

19 of 33

Chips, bacon, and mayonnaise

potato chips
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"Lay's vinegar-flavored potato chips are just so great. Good-quality smoked bacon is hard to accomplish in a household setting, and then, of course, Hellmann's mayonnaise, which is just impossible to replicate." — Nano Crespo, chef and co-owner of The Drexel

20 of 33

Ice cream

ice cream
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"I went through a phase of making raw milk ice cream at home (and added an extra 15 pounds!). It was so delicious but so time-consuming. The grocery store ice cream aisle has tons of options for ice creams and gelatos now that aren't loaded with preservatives." — Jamie DeMent, chef, farmer, and restaurateur

21 of 33

Local vegetables

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"There's nothing like going to the fish market and finding that daily catch and then heading to The Fresh Market to get local vegetables. Other than that, I don't think chefs like going to grocery stores." — Jimmy Lebron, executive chef of 27 Restaurant at the Freehand

22 of 33

Canned chickpeas and beans

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"They're great for adding texture and protein to homemade salads, chilis, or soups. They're also great for making a variety of hummus dips and they're perfect for slow cooking healthy stews. I like slow cooking because you get to prep ahead and relax later. In the olden days, Italian women would meet up early in the morning to do laundry in the river. Before embarking on this whole-day affair, they would add whatever they found in their pantry in a large communal clay pot. When the women returned, they would crack it open and share the town gossip between bites of the delicious stew. I'm glad I own a washing machine, but I still choose to slow cook when I need a healthy and forgiving dish for a big group, and chickpeas and beans are the base of many of mine." — Silvia Baldini, Chopped champion and founder of The Secret Ingredient Girls

23 of 33

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

peanut butter cups
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"It's a guilty pleasure, but I cannot walk past one at the store without picking it up. It's just one of those things you can't help but love, even though it's bad for you. There's something so nostalgic about picking up your favorite childhood candy from the store — and being able to share those experiences with my daughter brings me all the joy in the world." — Nathaniel Reid, chef and owner of Nathaniel Reid Bakery

24 of 33

Boursin cheese

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"I've made it before, but I still prefer the packaged stuff. Also, just cheese in general, my fridge is always stocked with cheese snacks." — Kate Williams, owner and chef of Lady of the House

25 of 33

Anything on sale

sale items
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"I almost never head to the store with a plan in mind. I beeline straight for what's on sale, whether that's amazing produce, fish, or meat. Usually what's on sale is fresher and in peak season. Even if you don't know a recipe for a certain item, a quick internet search from the aisle will give you enough ideas to bring the right ingredients home to prepare your new find. Plus, it always feels good to get a deal." — Anthony Carron, founder & co-owner of 800° Woodfired Kitchen

26 of 33

San Marzano tomatoes

san marzano tomatoes
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"That's my go-to canned item. I use them in sauces, soups, and stews. They're just so sweet." — Anne Burrell, chef and television personality

27 of 33

Cultured salted butter

cultured butter
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"The main difference is that the cream, before being churned into butter, first ferments like yogurt and cheese. This creates an amazing cheesy tang in the butter and incredible flavor." — Jet Tila, chef, restaurateur, and television personality

28 of 33

Whole Foods' Chili Con Queso dip

chili con queso
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"It's one of their made-in-house items, and anytime I find myself at Whole Foods I have to buy it. It's spicy and full of cream cheese deliciousness. I can eat an entire pint in one sitting. I definitely consider it a treat." — Natalie Saben, executive pastry chef at Avec

29 of 33

Cold brew coffee

cold brew
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"The Califia Farms cold brew coffee is delicious. The coffee is made with almond milk; it's sweet but low in sugar. So awesome and not bad for you." — Yehuda Sichel, chef and owner of HUDA

30 of 33

Snack food

snack food
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"The best part of grocery shopping is the thrill of figuring out which and how many of those unhealthy salty and sweet snacks you're going to allow yourself. That naughty feeling of handpicking your indulgence is so excellent." — Camille Cogswell, former executive pastry chef of Zahav

31 of 33

Velveeta sharp cheddar slices

cheese slices
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"They have magical melting qualities. They're always my go-to for burgers." — Shaun Connolly, former executive chef of Joséphine Wine Bar

32 of 33


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"Brown rice and other flavorful whole grains are an absolute pantry staple — quinoa, farro, and koshihikari sprouted brown rice (my favorite!). You can cook a batch and have several easy, hearty, and healthy meals by putting some veggies, avocado, and an egg on top. It's a satisfying and easy dinner when you get home late after a long service." — Brenna Sanders, co-executive chef of Effervescence

33 of 33


buy one get one
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"I always start very focused and with the right intentions when stepping through the automatic doors at a supermarket, but quickly veer off course to any BOGO deal they have to offer. Nobody really needs two big jars of spaghetti sauce or two huge cans of baked beans at the same time ... but, eventually we will get to the second one, right?" — David Bancroft, chef and owner of Bow & Arrow

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