No such thing as too many capers.

By Clarissa Buch
April 13, 2020
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Some of the country’s best chefs share their favorite jarred items, from harissa to pickled cauliflower, that make pantry cooking a lot more exciting.

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Capers

“I like to keep jarred capers on hand because they are essential for fish sauces, as well as chicken dishes and salads." — Ed McFarland, chef/owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar

Harissa

“This stuff is loaded with flavor and will brighten up anything it touches. Rub it on chicken or meat, put a bit on your eggs, add it to braises. You can put this stuff on almost anything. But I do recommend playing around with some Northern African recipes. Shakshouka, anyone?” Daniel Levine, chef/owner of Dasher & Crank 

Greg DuPree

Kimchi and sauerkraut

"They are both great for you and very versatile. Add them to long, slow cooking projects, such as braises, but they can also be mixed into hearty salads or other condiments like mayo for sandwiches." — Nemo Bolin, executive chef of Eastern Standard

Pickled everything

“Tomatoes, peppers, chow-chow, cauliflower, cabbage, giardiniera, and muffuletta (spicy olive mix) are all great pantry staples. I jar my own tomato sauce and I also like to preserve my own tuna and foie gras pâté to break into when I want. Last week, I even pickled some leftover rice and added it to some scrambled eggsdelicious. Minnesota has such a short growing season, so preserving and jarring is a big part of our culture here.” Mike DeCamp, executive chef of Jester Concepts  

Recipe: Muffuletta

Con Poulos

Tsukemono

“Our family eats this almost every day with steamed rice. Tsukemono is a Japanese side dish of pickled vegetables and it’s a great probiotic. The longer the tsukemono is pickled, the better it will taste.” Diego Oka, chef of La Mar by Gastón Acurio

Indian mango pickle

“Not to be confused with mango chutney, mango pickle is richly seasoned with mustard seed, chili, fenugreek, asafoetida, and salt. It’s a great way to punch up any rice dish. It can be added to mayonnaise to make a delicious and uncommon aioli and added (judiciously) to a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce to make an incredible variation on baby back ribsor better yet lamb ribs.” — Andrew Zimmerman, chef of Proxi and Sepia in Chicago

Chile pastes

“Aji amarillo, chipotles, and kimchi paste are versatile and add so much flavor to any dish. Jarred artichokes, pickled vegetables, and olives add variety and flavor to salads or pasta dishes that need re-inventing, too.” Lindsay Autry, executive chef of the Regional Kitchen & Public House

© Christina Holmes

Lupini beans

"Lupini beans are a tasty salty snack and are really good dropped into a martini when you need a stiff drink in your life.” — Nemo Bolin

Artichoke hearts

“I eat artichokes as is because they're a delicious snack on their own but also help round out a nice meat and cheese plate.” Damon Menapace, culinary director of Primal Supply Meats

Dabka chili sauce

“It’s a versatile Mediterranean-inspired condiment with a delicate heat and umami-forward flavor that takes home-cooking, and even leftovers, to the next level of flavor. Get creative with what you have! In the end, it’s not all about creating elaborate dishes or being a great chef, it’s about the overall hands-on experience and love behind the preparation.”  Christoffer Flagstad, founder of Dabka

Coconut oil

“Coconut oil which is great for pan frying and sautéing pretty much anything.”  Scott Linquist, executive chef/founder Coyo Taco

Victor Protasio

Raspberry jam

“You can always find Red Raspberry St. Dalfour jam on my breakfast table. I love the simple, sweet but slightly tart flavor, gorgeous deep pink color, and texture that the whole raspberries provide. It reassures me to know the only other ingredients are natural grape juices and fruit pectins. Made in France from an old French recipe, it’s such an authentic accompaniment to layer on top of almond croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche, and other pastries.”  Jean Marie Rouger, Global Head Baker at Marie Blachère 

Peanut butter

“Peanut butter wins but a close second is any kind of nut butter. It will get your through the apocalypse.” Richard Hales, chef/owner of Grateful Hospitality

Honey

“I have so many different types of honey from around the world. It’s a healthy alternative to refined sugar. Try to get raw natural honey, and even better if it is manuka honey. I use honey in so many different waysfrom sweetening my yogurt in the morning, to making salad dressings or marinades on meat and fish.”  Judy Joo, chef, author, and television personality

Recipe: Honey Cake

Victor Protasio

Anything fermented

“I love fermented foods, like bomba chili, kimchi, or antipasto. Easy to incorporate into salads and bowls for an added kick.” — David Lee, executive chef/co-founder of Planta

Pickled banana peppers

"Pickled banana peppers are easy to throw on a salad or in sandwiches for something extra, and they make a good base for relish." Damon Menapace 

Olives

“Olives, all kinds. Good for snacks, recipes, and mainly martinis!” Adrianne Calvo, chef and restaurateur

Recipe: Antipasto Salad

Peter Frank Edwards

Mexican salsa verde

“A good ají amarillo, mole, and Mexican green salsa verde are all a must!"  Bradley Kilgore, founder of Kilgore Culinary Group

Dashi soy sauce

“Dashi soy sauce is good to use to make a quick Japanese-style pasta. Sauté any mushroom (shimeji or shiitake are good) with butter, add boiled pasta, and cook with dashi soy sauce, topped with scallions (or chopped shiso leaf) and nori seaweed.” Hiroki Odo, executive chef of o.d.o by ODO

Duck sauce and sweet chili sauce

"To use in marinades and for barbecuing, too." — Ed McFarland

Popcorn kernels

"They're great for snacking."  Bradley Kilgore, founder of Kilgore Culinary Group