Photo: Iain Bagwell

Jump into spring and leave heavy winter dishes behind with the help of these versatile pantry staples.

March 29, 2017

As the weather warms up and fresh produce starts to appear in the stores, you know it's time for spring. While spring cleaning is usually reserved for one's closets or cluttered areas, we think you should also take a hard look at your pantry. Start updating your grocery shopping habits to match the season by stocking up on these eight pantry essentials that make spring so much easier. 

 Photo: Jennifer Causey

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles only take a few minutes to cook, so they are a great spring alternative to traditional wheat-based pasta. Lighter in texture, these noodles won't leave you feeling over-full. Rice noodles make good additions to salads, broth bowls, and stir-fries.

 Photo: Justin Walker

Whole-Wheat Pita

Pita is a versatile food that should be in your pantry no matter the season. For spring, it makes a great pocket to stuff with fresh veggies, or to bake into chips that can be served with fresh artichoke dip. Don't forget that uncut pitas make great mini pizza crusts, which you can top with seasonal veggies and tomato sauce. 

 Photo: Jennifer Causey

High Quality Mustard

Whether dijon, spicy brown, or whole-grain, mustard needs a spot to star in the pantry. A dollop or two adds rich flavor and tang to marinades for grilling, thickens and flavors salad vinaigrettes, and balances out creamy potato salads. Go with stone-ground for extra texture and body, or stick with smooth if that's your style.

 Photo: Jennifer Causey

Lentils

Less heavy than beans but just as nutrient packed, lentils shine in the springtime. Cook them until just done (preventing them from getting creamy) and they take on a delightfully chewy texture. These al dente lentils are perfect for topping salads or as an herb-infused side.

Whole-Wheat Panko

No matter the time of year, crunchy foods are a must. Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, provide just that. Ready to improve any dish it touches, panko is great for coating and baking proteins or topping veggies for some textural twists. Sauté with a little butter and herbs and you'll soon be sprinkling it on everything.

 Photo: William Reavell (c) Dorling Kindersley/Getty

Fruity Olive Oil

Veggies shine in the spring, so highlight their natural flavors with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Opt for a fruity olive oil, the higher quality the better, and you won't have to do much else. Perfect for produce that has been grilled or needs something to be tossed in. 

Sparkling Water

As the weather warms up, cold drinks become the new norm. Forget warm coffees or teas and reach for a bubbly beverage made from sparkling water. Avoid sugary syrups for flavoring. Instead, choose fresh fruits and herbs to create infused waters that will have you hydrating without thinking.

 Photo: Jennifer Causey

Nuts

As fresh herbs come into season, pestos will soon be popping up everywhere. Stock up on nuts of all varieties to step up your pesto-making game. Go traditional with pine nuts, or get more adventurous with choices like cashews or pistachios. Roughly chopped nuts add a great crunch to side salads or steamed veggies, too.

 Photo: Iain Bagwell

Balsamic Glaze

Not to be confused with balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze is a thicker version that works as a fantastic sauce for many dishes. Have a bottle on hand to drizzle atop fresh asparagus, salads, and other dishes that need a burst of tangy flavor.