5 Must-Have Mediterranean Diet Ingredients

Jumpstart your foray into Mediterranean cooking.

Published Jan. 10, 2022.

So you’re interested in incorporating more Mediterranean-style recipes into your cooking. The Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid is a great guide, but it can be tough to know where to start and not get overwhelmed with the variety of ingredients.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a short list of ingredients that can be found in almost all Mediterranean dishes. We’ve included recipe ideas, as well as tips on how to shop for and store these ingredients to save you time and money in the kitchen. 

The Mediterranean region is incredibly diverse, and so are the recipes that come from it. The Mediterranean Diet is about what these cuisines have in common, which includes these five pantry staples.

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1. Olive Oil

Olive oil may be the most important ingredient on the list. Olives are native to the Mediterranean Basin, and their oil is heart healthy and incredibly versatile. First, use olive oil to make your own infused herb oil. From there, bake an olive oil cake with a sweet twist, or elevate your spaghetti al limone.

Test Kitchen Tip: Avoid “pure” and “light” olive oils (both lower-grade products akin to vegetable oil in flavor), and seek out “extra-virgin” options instead.

2. Chickpeas

We know and love chickpeas the world around. Chickpeas are a main, whole or mashed, and a well-known dip, hummus. Keep some in your pantry dried or canned.

Test Kitchen Tip: When using canned chickpeas, don’t throw the liquid out! Aquafaba has many uses and works as a plant-based meringue alternative.

Watch our falafel method here:

3. Garlic

Garlic is the backbone of quintessential Mediterranean sauces like tzatziki. It complements seafood dishes like Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Test Kitchen Tip: Garlic is in season in the summer, though you can purchase it any time. Store your garlic away from direct sunlight and definitely not in the refrigerator.

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4. Tahini

This ground sesame seed paste is delicious and versatile, at home in both savory and sweet applications. Here are some of our favorite tahini applications: 

Test Kitchen Tip: Look for tahini with a lighter color indicating a gentler roast of the seeds with hulls removed (to avoid a bitter aftertaste). Our favorite is the Ziyad Tahini Sesame Paste.

5. Fresh Herbs

Mediterranean cuisines include fresh herbs. Lots of them. So try to have at least one fresh herb on hand at all times. Whether it’s a sprinkle or a fistful, fresh herbs elevate everything from salads and dressings to roasted vegetables and fish dishes.  

Test Kitchen Tip: Do yourself a favor and invest in an herb keeper. It will keep herbs for days (or longer), giving you more time to use them without worrying about wilting and mold. Our favorite is the Cole & Mason Fresh Herb Keeper.

These six recipes are among our all-time Mediterranean favorites. Start a free trial to access all these, plus our other home kitchen–tested, foolproof recipes.

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