We Asked 8 Photographers To Document Their Go-To Pantry Staples

While fresh food has been easier to come by than we thought it might be at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we're still making an effort to limit our trips to the grocery store. Many of us are also cooking a whole lot more than we ever have before — and those factors combined mean a greater reliance on pantry staples. Canned goods, grains, flour, pasta, and nuts often get shortchanged in our discussions of food. Is a can of chickpeas as overtly sexy as a ripe tomato or a top-shelf steak? Probably not, but it's versatile, affordable, and always there for you in a pinch. And there's something to be said for that!
In honor of humble pantry products everywhere, we asked eight photographers to capture their favorite staples in action, and to tell us why they love them and what they make with them. From versatile anchovies to dish-defining full-fat coconut milk, here's what these creatives always have on their shelves.
Photographed by Pippa Drummond.
Why are anchovies your ultimate go-to?
Because they are so easy and versatile. They can be melted into sauces, blended into dressings, topped on anything from pizza to salads and more. Using them elevates everything. Also omega-3s!
How many times a week do you eat them?
It varies a lot — probably 2 or 3.
What's your favorite way to eat anchovies?
My go-to pasta sauce always starts with melting anchovies and garlic in olive oil, then I freestyle what I add next depending on what I have on hand — likely tomatoes, olives, capers. This started with a recipe of pasta with tuna, olive and capers and parsley and has evolved as I am generally bad at following recipes. Homemade anchovy mayonnaise is amazing on everything - steak, lamb, potatoes, asparagus, just to name a few. If I have good quality anchovies, I like to use them on top of salads, or for a party, wrapped around a boiled quails egg. Or, simply on toast with a normal jammy egg.
Have you ever had a kitchen fail with your pantry ingredient?
One of the best things about anchovies is that it is hard to go wrong with them. But, probably the only thing is a failure on my part — not to buy jars, instead of the tins. So when I open a tin, I will have a tendency to use the whole lot in one go, when what I am making only needs half (rather than keep the rest in the fridge), but it ever usually tastes bad!
Photographed by Jessica Pettway.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Waffle mix
Why are waffles your ultimate go-to?
Waffles are super versatile! They can be paired with fruit for a healthy snack, or be incorporated into some great decadent desserts.
How many times a week do you make waffles?
I usually reach for a waffle at least once or twice a week.
What's your favorite way to eat them?
I love eating them with peanut butter and a tiny bit of honey for a quick and filling breakfast or making a sandwich with two waffles, peanut butter, and TONS of syrup for a gooey late night snack! The gooey golden waffles pair perfectly with crunchy peanut butter!
Have you ever had a waffle-related kitchen fail?
Luckily waffles are pretty foolproof and I haven’t had any fails…yet!
Photographed by Emma Ressel.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Sticky rice!
Why is sticky rice your ultimate go-to?
Sticky rice is a new pantry staple for me. I fell in love with it when I visited Thailand several years ago and I’ve always enjoyed it at restaurants, but I was nervous to cook it at home for so long because the process of steaming it seemed complicated and easy to mess up. In the first couple weeks of quarantine, I started experimenting more in the kitchen, and I finally felt ready to tackle it. I’ve been loving it ever since.
How many times a week do you eat sticky rice?
I’ve been cooking large batches every couple weeks and eating it over the course of several days. It seems to reheat in the microwave pretty well, better than my standard white rice!
What's your favorite way to eat sticky rice?
Other than eating it underneath laarb and curries, where it is my favorite starch for soaking up flavorful juices, my new favorite breakfast has become mango sticky rice! There was also a late-night recently where I mixed leftover sticky rice with sautéed onions and garlic, rolled it into balls around tiny cubes of fresh mozzarella balls, and breaded and fried the balls to make sticky rice arancini. Dipped in marinara, they were pretty amazing.
Is there a recipe you can share?
For my mango sticky rice, I plate a scoop of warm, fresh sticky rice with half of a sliced, perfectly ripe champagne mango. I drizzle the rice generously with several spoonfuls of coconut milk (unsweetened, from a can, well stirred) and then a couple of teaspoons of sweetened condensed milk. Lastly, I garnish the plate with a sprinkle of Rice Krispies cereal.
Photographed by Stephanie Gonot.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Coconut milk. Full fat! 
Why is coconut milk your ultimate go-to?
Because you can use it for savory dishes AND desserts!
How many times a week do you eat it?
Lately, I’ve been using about a can a week. It’s so easy to make a satisfying meal with coconut milk.
What's your favorite way to eat it?
I love using it in a vegetable curry. You can also use it to make a delicious side of coconut rice. Many recipes I find that include coconut milk are vegetarian, which is great for someone like me who doesn’t cook much – or any – meat at home.
Have you ever had a kitchen fail with your pantry ingredient?
Ever tried opening a can without a can opener?? Apparently a spoon works… but it's not pretty. 
Photographed by Jill Burrow.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Bread, bread, bread!
Why is bread your ultimate go-to?
Bread is my go-to item because it is filled with carbs, it is a great vessel for toppings or butter, and it is easy to prepare.
How many times a week do you eat bread?
Honestly, I probably eat bread every day.
What's your favorite way to eat bread?
I really love homemade bread, fresh out of the oven with butter and jelly. It's hard to beat a classic. I also really enjoy bread with avocado, mozzarella, balsamic glaze, and fresh herbs. *chef’s kiss*
Have you ever had a bread-related kitchen fail?
So, I’ve only made bread a few times before this pantry item still life and I’ll just say...the first (and second) loaf of bread I made were rock hard. I had to break it open to get the small little bit in the center that was “soft” enough to eat.
Photographed by Vanessa McKeown.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Why are chickpeas your ultimate go-to?
So many options when you have a can of chickpeas. The world is your chickpea lol.
How many times a week do you eat them?
Four times a week maybe, I don't want to go overboard on them, as much I would like to!
What's your favorite way to eat chickpeas?
I love all chickpea curries, my fav one is cashew, coconut, and chickpeas!
Hummus always brightens up my day too, I love it with lots of tahini, lemon, and a pinch of cumin. The secret ingredient is to use cold water!  Sometimes if I have leftover chickpeas, I roast them in the oven with some spices and have them as a crispy snack. 
Have you ever had a kitchen fail with your pantry ingredient?
Not yet but never say never...
Photographed by Maggie DiMarco and Scott Semler.
What's your go-to pantry ingredient?
Why is honey your ultimate go-to?
Honey can be added to almost anything for a hint of sweetness to brighten up your dish. 
How many times a week do you eat honey?
Oh, every day! I wake up and stir a little honey in my coffee. I’ll put a few drops in my homemade salad dressing or drizzle it on my Brussels sprouts. I’ll bake it in bread or eat it with cheese and fruit! 
What's your favorite way to eat honey?
I like to mix sriracha, honey, soy sauce, and minced garlic in a bowl. Then I’ll chop up some carrots and Brussels sprouts and mix them in with my sauce. Toss everything evenly onto a baking sheet. Pop it in a 425ºF oven and bake until crispy. This is my current go-to. It's almost too easy for how delicious it is! I also love making a honey dijon dressing for my arugula salads. I'll shred some fresh parmesan over a bowl of arugula and chop up some strawberries, apples or cherry tomatoes to toss in. In a mason jar, I'll pour a quarter cup of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, a spoonful of honey, and a spoon full of dijon. Add some salt and pepper and shake it up.  If I'm feeling fancy I'll even add some chopped up pistachios. Delicious! 
Have you ever had a kitchen fail with your pantry ingredient?
When I was a kid I had a pollen allergy, so my doctor recommended I eat a spoonful of local honey a day to get my body used to the pollen around me. I can't say it helped much, but it sure was delicious!
Photographed by Yudi Ela.
What are your go-to pantry ingredients?
Dried fruit, chia seeds, nuts and cocoa nibs.
Why are cocoa nibs your ultimate go-to?
They satisfy my sweet tooth. I put them in every breakfast and dessert.
How many times a week do you eat them?
Every day.
What's your favorite way to eat them?
I like to make a chia seed pudding parfait with a layer of sweet potato, another layer of dried fruit, topped with fresh berries, and don't hold the cocoa nibs! When I'm lazy, I use a pinch on my yogurt snack. I love making smoothies with fruit and a teaspoon of nibs for an added crunch. The possibilities can be endless!
Have you ever had a kitchen fail with your pantry ingredient?
I am always out of one ingredient from making the perfect breakfast!

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