Written by Rudra Priya
“Anyone can cook,” believed Chef Gusteau, in the famous animated film Ratatouille. And why not? You just need enough passion for exploring new and exotic tastes and the curiosity to know how someone makes it, this alone will drive you to the kitchen. And our cuisine is as exotic as it can get from idly, vada, sambhar to dhoklas, to chole bhature to rasgullas and momos. We have it all.
You also need the right ingredients to put together a delicious meal.
To that end, I’ve made a grocery list that includes all your must-haves, a guide to the Indian pantry essentials so you can follow any cooking tutorial on YouTube based on your skill level:
If you’re a college student, or a bachelor or someone who rarely cooks and if you’re looking to up your cooking game then these are the essentials you need to stock up on, to begin your journey.
White granulated sugar
3. Breakfast needs:
Rice noodles (Idiyappam or nool puttu)
Idly/ Dosa batter (best to refrigerate it)
4. Semolina (Upma/ Sooji) needs:
Vermicelli, Sambha Rava, Rava
Raw, boiled, and Idli rice
Popped rice, puffed rice and beaten rice (Poha)
6. Basic Dal and Lentils:
Split gram, moong dal, black gram, black split gram, Chana dal
7. Nuts and dried Fruits:
Raw almonds, cashews, Peanuts, etc
Raisins, Dates, Fig
8. Basic spices:
Turmeric powder (even a small packet of this will last a long time, so go for that; add only a pinch, to act as a colourant and it can be used in every dish.)
Cumin powder (LEVEL: Ideal—Buy it in seed form and make your own powder, just a little bit at a time. Make sure you roast it mildly, without oil, on a non-stick pan. Don’t overdo it, roast till it releases a little bit of aroma then it’s ready to be grounded)
Fenugreek powder (it can also be used in its seed form, but it’s very strong and should be sparingly used; it has a lot of health benefits so don’t skip this, if you have an upset tummy, you can swallow a handful in its seed form with yogurt. It fixes it up in minutes)
9. Whole spices:
Mustard (small black ones)
Dried red chilli
Coffee (Instant/ freshly ground)
Tea leaves of any choice
If you’re a newly-wed, or cooking for a small family unit, you may want to branch out from everyday meals to gravies, variety rice, and Indian breads. Building on top of what we’ve already seen, you’ll need,
11. Peas and beans:
Chickpeas (white and black)
Rajma (red kidney beans)
12. Whole spices:
For biryani, (kurma or) vegetable stew
Cardamom pods (green)
13. Blended spices:
Red chilli powder
Asafoetida powder (very potent and versatile)
Depending on the dish or region, these changes but the following can be used to cook any or all dishes
There are several varieties like Olive, mustard, sesame oil, etc. You can switch it up once every month if you like.
There are a lot of varieties in this, but the most used one is the White Vinegar for making pickles. You can also try wine vinegars to add flavour to your meat dishes.
Add corn starch (for thickness)
Or Rice flour
Cilantro (for garnish)
Mint leaves (for chutney, variety rice and cocktail needs)
A whiz in the kitchen goes the extra mile to make the ordinary, extraordinary. It’s because they are always packing more in their arsenal. Ironically, they also tend to be resourceful and use various blends of spices, herbs, flour, anything in their pantry to even out the flavours; they experiment with everything, in every combination possible.
18. Frying needs:
Besan/ Gram flour (+ Rice flour)
Oil of your choice
Black cardamom pods (added for its medicinal properties; it’s used in making garam masala)
Star anise (added in biryani)
Chilli flakes (seasoning)
Ginger and garlic paste (best to make it on your own than rely on store-bought which doesn’t pack the same punch)
20. For Sweets and Desserts:
Although there are hundreds of varieties of everything, this list includes the most-used pantry items. If I’ve missed any, feel free to add it in the comment section.