Until moving into this apartment a few years ago, I’d always had a pantry packed full of stuff. Boxes and cans everywhere and more non-perishables than you could shake a stick at. And then I moved here and found myself with just one teeny tiny little cabinet to keep all my pantry items in. Good thing I went Paleo shortly thereafter–ditching all those boxes of cereal, bags of flour, canned soups, beans, and bags of rice sure cleared up a lot of space! If you’re just getting started with the autoimmune protocol, you probably already know what kinds of things in your pantry you should get rid of, but might be wondering what to replace them with. Here are my favorite AIP ingredients to keep on hand! Do you need all of them? Absolutely not; it depends on what kind of (and how much) cooking and baking you plan to do! I know, I really shouldn’t have called this post “essentials” if you don’t need all of this stuff. But whatever, right? I wanted to be thorough!
Flours and Starches
Pumpkin Flour: I’ve never personally used this one, but it works pretty much the same way as plantain flour and has a very pretty color.
Plantain Flour: This can be subbed 1:1 for any nut or seed flour, but does have a distinctly plantain flavor.
Water Chestnut Flour (Singoda): Don’t confuse this with chestnut flour! I’ve never used it myself, but I’ve seen it pop up in a few AIP baking recipes.
Carob Powder: Carob is a passable cocoa substitute. I always buy toasted carob powder because I think it has a richer flavor that more closely simulates chocolate.
Cassava Flour: This is an increasingly popular flour in the autoimmune protocol community. I don’t use it myself because I’m sensitive to yucca (the plant cassava flour and tapioca starch are derived from), but I’ve heard some good things about it and have tasted some tortillas and pie crusts that made excellent use of it.
Coconut Flour: This one’s really difficult to sub for or with in recipes, so I don’t do any recipe adaptations with it. But it crops up in almost all of the AIP treat recipes, so stock up if you plan to indulge!
Coconut Flakes: These are another common treat, and are particularly good toasted.
Tapioca Starch: As I mentioned above, I’m sensitive to tapioca, so I don’t bother keeping this on hand. But if you’re not, you can use it not only in baking, but also as breading for meat.
Arrowroot Powder: Arrowroot is most often used to add just a bit of elasticity to a baked good or as a thickener for soups and sauces. I love it! Subbing tapioca with arrowroot can be tricky depending on the recipe. Sometimes, in smaller amounts, they’re fine 1:1. One time I had to add four cups of arrowroot to do what one cup of tapioca would have done, and that experiment was so expensive I stopped experimenting.
Sweet Potato Starch: This can generally be used anywhere arrowroot is called for, so it’s a good option if you can’t find arrowroot.
Coconut Sugar: I don’t personally endorse coconut sugar because I think coconut gets too much limelight in the AIP community–it’s high in inulin fiber and difficult to digest, so a lot of people don’t feel too hot after eating it. But you’ll see it in recipes and whether or not you want to include it in your diet is entirely up to you! I often just sub maple sugar.
Honey: Honey is probably the most popular Paleo sweetener, and for good reason: It’s super yummy! I find that about 1/3 cup of honey substitutes for 1 cup of granulated sugar in baking in terms of sweetness, but swapping a dry ingredient (granulated sugar) for a wet one (honey) will mean that you’ll need to reduce the other liquid ingredients to keep the same consistency. Honey’s also my favorite way to sweeten beverages and sauces.
Maple Syrup: Who doesn’t love maple syrup? As a kid, it was my favorite part of pancake Sundays. I’m glad I still get to enjoy it. I love using it to sweeten anything that could benefit from some maple flavor, like ice creams and cookies.
Blackstrap Molasses: This one has a stronger flavor than either honey or maple syrup, but it also has more nutrition. I don’t bake much, so I most commonly use this in sauces for my Asian stir-fries.
Baking Soda: Baking soda appears in a lot of baked goods.
Cream of Tartar: You’ll most often see this used in baking in conjunction with baking soda as a baking powder replacement (since most baking powder is not Paleo or AIP). If you, like me, bake infrequently, you might find that a small jar will last you several years!
Dried Herbs: Balm, basil, bay leaves, cilantro/coriander, dill weed, mace, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme are great ways to season meat, seafood, poultry, soups, and sauces. I’ve never used saffron because it’s so expensive, but I keep everything else on hand and usually buy in bulk.
Powders: Cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric powders add some fun flavor in lieu of using seed- or nightshade-based spices. These are my go-tos for subbing things like black pepper, curry, and cayenne.
Salt: Sometimes all a dish needs to go from “meh” to “mmf!” is a bit of salt.
Fats and Oils
Avocado Oil: This oil has a high smoke point and can be cooked at temperatures up to 500F. It’s also great for cold-use, like salad dressings and marinades.
Bacon Fat: If you miss the way butter imparts a bit of umami into everything you cook it in, then bacon fat is your answer. Technically this should be kept in the fridge unless you have some really clean bacon fat and one of those fat crocks for your countertop, but I’m going to go ahead and include these fridge items on the list anyway because they’re good things to keep in stock!
Coconut Oil: Refined coconut oil won’t have any flavor, while unrefined coconut oil has a strong coconut taste. It’s probably the most-used Paleo cooking oil, and it’s also great in baking.
Duck Fat: This stuff can get pricey (especially because it’s important to buy your cooking fats pastured/grass-fed), but it’s delightful for frying and roasting things in.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is great for cold uses such as dressings, and it has also recently been welcomed back into the fold of “safe fats to cook with”. Yay!
Lard: It might surprise you to learn that lard often shows up not only in cooking, but also in baking. It’s a great butter substitute and doesn’t have a strong flavor.
Palm Oil: Palm products are controversial because of encroachment on orangutan habitats, but it is possible to source sustainable and ethical palm products; you just have to be very conscious of what you’re buying.
Palm Shortening: This is the absolute best butter substitute in baking. It’s also great to grease bakeware with.
Red Palm Oil: This stuff has a strong, bitter flavor, so I rarely use it except in dishes with lots and lots of seasonings.
Truffle Oil: Another great cold-use oil with a nice umami flavor.
Apple Cider Vinegar: This is probably the most popular vinegar. I’ve used it not only in dressings, but also in baking!
Bacon Crumbs: Nothing beats fresh bacon, nice and crispy right off the heat, but having some stashed away is a quick way to liven up a salad, garnish a soup, or even bread some meat in.
Balsamic Vinegar: This is my favorite vinegar for making salad dressings and marinades with.
Coconut Aminos: Coconut aminos is most commonly used as a soy sauce substitute. With salt to taste, it does a fair job of approximating the flavor of soy sauce in soups and sauces. You’ll see a lot of Paleo folks using tamari, traditionally-fermented soy sauce that doesn’t contain gluten, but I personally prefer to avoid soy products regardless of how they’re made.
Fish Sauce: I love to use fish sauce for adding some umami to my dishes that I might normally get from soy sauce.
Horseradish: You’ll probably have a hard time finding an AIP- or even Paleo-friendly prepared horseradish, but it’s fairly simple to make your own! Some grated horseradish goes a long way in spicing up your foods.
Liquid Smoke: Don’t go too heavy on this stuff (it’s carcinogenic in large quantities), but a little bit here and there adds wonderful depth to your dishes.
Pickles: Probiotic foods are an essential part of Paleo and the AIP, but most pickles you buy in a jar off the shelf are simply brined, not fermented (meaning they don’t have any probiotics). Cucumbers are what everyone thinks of when they hear the word “pickles”, but you can pickle just about anything. Beets are one of my personal favorites.
Preserves: Fruit spreads are a nice addition to dressings, marinades and sauces, and I have also been known to use them as a condiment for ice cream.
Red Wine Vinegar: This is another good one for salad dressings.
Salad Dressings: Again, you’ll probably have a hard time finding a pre-made one that’s AIP-friendly, but making your own in bulk is a great way to save time!
Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is a great condiment for meats, but to get any probiotic benefits, you’ll have to make it yourself or buy packages from the refrigerated section.
Tamarind Paste: Description.
White Wine Vinegar: I don’t use this one that much, but every now and then it will crop up in a recipe for a marinade or something. I actually prefer it to red wine vinegar.
Liquids and Purees
Applesauce: You can use applesauce as an egg substitute if needed (1/3 cup is about equivalent to one egg), but it’s also a nice Paleo-friendly non-perishable to keep around for an emergency or for any condition where you might be having trouble keeping down solid foods.
Broth: In my opinion, you can never have too much broth stored away. I go through it so quickly, especially in the colder months when soups are so much fun!
Coconut Cream: This is the extra-thick part of coconut milk, but it’s not as thick as coconut butter.
Coconut Milk: I don’t particularly like coconut milk because it has a strong coconut flavor and that’s just not my jam, but I love using it in soups and curries to add some creaminess that would normally come from, well, cream. You can extract coconut cream from any can of coconut milk by refrigerating it and then pouring off (and keeping for use in smoothies!) the separated water.
Lemon and Lime Juice: I do prefer to use fresh juice from an actual fruit because I think it has a better flavor, but using bottled juice can save a lot of time and cleanup. I always have some on hand!
Pumpkin Puree: You’ll see this not only in pie fillings, but in ice creams, custards, soups, and smoothies. I like to keep it around as a good source of some easy carbs in case I get sick and don’t feel like cooking anything or eating solid foods. Fun fact: It’s also a great source of fiber for your pets if they’re having trouble going to the bathroom.
Tea: Black, green, and white tea are fine in moderation, but I prefer to avoid caffeine and love the flavor of herbal teas. Chamomile, ginger, hibiscus, lavender, lavender rooibus, and mint are my favorites. Watch out for teas that contain non-AIP ingredients, like chai.
Vanilla Extract: This ingredient is only AIP-friendly if its heated to remove the alcohol, and a lot of AIP recipes don’t take that into consideration. I love vanilla but only go through two or three jars a year.
Canned Fish: Canned sardines, salmon, tuna, oysters, and anchovies are an easy way to get your seafood intake in without having to do much prep or, in the case of anchovies, to add some umami to a sauce or soup.
Collagen: Gelatin needs to be dissolved in a warm liquid. Collagen is its equivalent for cold liquids. I put a few tablespoons in all of my smoothies.
Kelp Noodles: These are great in Asian dishes like ramen or pho.
Gelatin: Gelatin shows up in a lot of Paleo treats, including gummies, custards, ice creams, and baked goods. Like collagen and other connective tissues (beef cheeks, yum!), it’s phenomenally good for your skin and gut.
Coconut Butter: You’ll see this every now and then in AIP treats and many people love it right off the spoon as a way to stave off cravings and increase their healthy-fat intake.
Nori Sheets: Not only do these make great wraps for sushi-inspired meals, they’re also good for a bit of umami torn up and sprinkled onto your dishes.
Plantain Chips: These are great snacks and also work well for dips, nachos, and crushed up as breading.
Sweet Potato Chips: These may not keep that long if you make and package them yourself, but they’re always nice to have around for a gathering, road trip, or just as a convenient starchy side to a meal.
Sweet Potato Noodles: Sweet potato, yam, konjac, and shirataki noodles are another good AIP or Paleo noodle option.
Yeast: I think yeast is technically not AIP-friendly because it can cross-react in those sensitive to gluten, but people make concessions for sugars, coconut, and tapioca all the time (other common problem foods), so I’m making one for yeast. I don’t know of any AIP baking recipes that use it, but I’ve used dry wine yeast to make ginger beer and nutritional yeast to flavor dishes.
Keep your household clean, too!
I may make my living as a food blogger, but my health-consciousness actually began long before I started cooking. Growing up with a sensitive nose and skin that would break out into a rash at the slightest provocation, I’ve been making my own cosmetics and cleaning products since high school. I hoped that avoiding these environmental toxins would not only improve my health, but be better for the environment and save me some money compared to buying high-end non-toxic products at a health-foods store. Whatever your reasons, making your own household products is easier than you might think. My e-book A Clean Space has all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need to get started–and it’s only $6.99!