Here are my recommendations:
- Salt! Kosher salt, sea salt, whatever…it really is the ultimate flavor enhancer. Since you are cutting out the processed foods, there is no need to worry much about adding some salt to the food that you eat. Kosher salt is my go to, but smoked salts can add a fun, different flavor to meats and veggies.
- …and Pepper! Fresh ground black pepper is hard to beat, but I’ve also been playing with white pepper lately, particularly in Asian dishes. Find it cheaply at local Hispanic or Asian markets!
- Spices. Explore the online catalog at Penzeys, the Whole Foods bulk section, or find a local spice shop and have fun! I don’t typically use seasoning blends, preferring, instead, to sprinkle from various jars. But, I can make up most necessary blends (berbere, ras al hanout, or even chili powder) from a mixture of base spices.
My spice pantry staples are: cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, curry powder (both hot and madras), garlic powder, oregano, paprika (and smoked paprika), red pepper flakes, rosemary, sage, thyme, and turmeric. In addition, I normally have basil, chili powder, Chinese five spice, ground ginger, fennel seeds, and onion powder on hand. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but covers those that are used most regularly. Anything else can be identified and bought in a weekly shopping trip.
- Coconut aminos. Let’s get one thing straight: these don’t taste anything like soy sauce, BUT they work well enough for the purposes of the next 8 weeks. Why lose a point for soy when you can substitute coconut aminos? Use these in place of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce in your recipes.
- Canned coconut milk. Whether you use coconut milk because it is a great source of medium chain triglycerides or just because it’s delicious (in general, I’m science ambivalent if it doesn’t taste good or make me feel awesome), this stuff is great to have on hand. Play around with substituting it for cream in your coffee or dairy in your regular recipes, and use it to make delicious curries. You can even make coconut whipped cream that is divine! Be careful with the brand you buy, as many are processed with non-WLC compliant ingredients. I personally use Aroy-D from the Asian Market.
- Fish sauce. I love the complex sour-salty-spicy flavors of Thai and Vietnamese food (omit the balancing ‘sweet’ aspect for Paleo/WLC compliance; after a few weeks you won’t miss it too much). One of the key ingredients to this balance is fish sauce. Most readily available brands have added sugar, but Red Boat Fish Sauce is just anchovies and salt. I’ve been holding off on purchasing it because I have about a liter of fish sauce at home and don’t typically worry about the miniscule sugar content. But, since it’s non-compliant, I treated myself with a gorgeous new bottle of Red Boat. (Note: fish sauce lasts FOREVER, so don’t worry that it will go bad if you don’t use it often.)
- Curry paste. One of the fastest, easiest meals to throw together is some sautéed meat and vegetables (want super fast? Dump frozen veggies in!) with coconut milk and curry paste. Add a splash or two of fish sauce and you’re all set! Thai Kitchen red and green curry pastes are both WLC compliant and available at most grocery stores.
What’s your go-to pantry staple?
Unrelated, can you tell I’m having a little bit too much fun with Pixlr?