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Paleo Basics & Beyond

The Paleo Pantry:

Seasonings

Restocking Your Pantry with Paleo-Friendly Seasonings, Flavorings, & Other Miscellaneous Essentials

While most herbs and spices are paleo-friendly, some other ingredients that we use to boost flavor are not—like soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, and wine, to name a few. But without these ingredients, some dishes can taste flat. And just as in non-paleo cooking, it’s important to keep your pantry stocked with a few key ingredients that you’ll use on a regular basis. Keeping your pantry stocked with the ingredients below can help ensure that your food tastes great.

Restocking Your Pantry

  • Kosher Salt

    Table salt often contains anti-caking agents and other additives that are not part of the paleo diet. All of the salt called for in our recipes is kosher salt. The larger crystals in kosher salt mean that it weighs less than table salt, so you must use more of it to achieve the same flavor. Do not use table salt in any of our recipes, as it will make dishes taste overly salty. We use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in the test kitchen (note that Morton’s Kosher Salt, another common brand, contains anti-caking agents and should be avoided). You can substitute finely ground sea salt for the kosher salt; reduce the amount of salt by half if you take that route, though. [Buy on Amazon | Read Our Review

  • Vinegar 

    Vinegar isn’t just for making vinaigrettes; we also use it to perk up sauces, stews, and braises. Much like lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of acidic vinegar before serving can brighten and balance a dish. Different types lend distinct flavors to dishes, and we rely on several varieties in the test kitchen to lend nuanced flavor to recipes. We recommend keeping a variety of vinegars on hand, such as sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white and red wine vinegars, and cider vinegar. Check labels carefully to make sure the vinegar does not contain added sugars, artificial colors, or other additives. [Buy on Amazon]

  • Coconut Aminos

    Coconut aminos is often used as a paleo replacement for soy sauce. It’s made by aging coconut tree sap. The dark, almost black liquid looks similar to soy sauce, though we find the flavor of coconut aminos to be sweeter and less intense than that of soy sauce. Look for coconut aminos in the international aisle of well-stocked supermarkets, specialty stores, or online. We liked Coconut Secret Organic Raw Coconut Aminos for our recipes. [Buy on Amazon]

  • Fish Sauce

    At its most basic, fish sauce is made from just fermented anchovies and salt. The amber-colored liquid is used both as an ingredient and a condiment in Asian cuisines. We use small amounts of fish sauce to add well-rounded savory flavor to many dishes, including stir-fries. But many brands of fish sauce contain additives or preservatives; make sure to read labels carefully and buy one with only anchovies and salt on the ingredient list. We like Red Boat 40 N Fish Sauce for our recipes. [Buy on Amazon | Read Our Review

  • Dried Mushrooms

    Mushrooms are particularly high in savory umami flavor, and are especially useful when cooking paleo dishes that use water instead of broth. Dried mushrooms have highly concentrated flavor, giving recipes a major dose of meatiness; dried porcini or shiitake are good options. When buying dried mushrooms, always inspect them closely. Avoid those with small holes, which indicate the mushrooms may have been subjected to pinworms. The mushrooms should also be free of dust and grit. [Buy on Amazon

Turkey Dinner

Recipe Turkey Breast with Shallot-Porcini Gravy

No turkey dinner is complete without a rich, hearty gravy. Look no further than dried porcinis. 

 

  • Anchovies

    These small fish are salt-cured and then packed in either salt or olive oil. Like fish sauce, they can add savory depth to everything from stews to braises. Anchovy paste provides a similar flavor; you can substitute 1/4 teaspoon of paste for one anchovy fillet. (However, when a recipe calls for more than a couple of anchovies, skip the paste and use jarred fillets; the intensity of the paste can be overwhelming in larger quantities.) Be sure to read labels carefully to ensure that your anchovies (or anchovy paste) are paleo-friendly. Our favorite brand of anchovies is Ortiz. [Buy on Amazon | Read Our Review

  • Thai Red Curry Paste 

    Thai red curry paste combines a number of hard-to-find, authentic Thai aromatics—including galangal (Thai ginger), bird’s eye chiles, lemon grass, and kaffir lime leaves—in one easy-to- find ingredient. It is usually sold in small jars with the Thai ingredients at the supermarket. Be sure to check the label to make sure the ingredients are paleo-friendly. We liked Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste for our recipes. [Buy on Amazon

  • Tomato Paste

    Most canned tomatoes contain sugar and chemical additives, so they’re not considered paleo. The exception: tomato paste (but be sure to check labels). Tomato paste is tomato puree that has been cooked to remove almost all moisture. It can provide long-simmered tomato flavor in dishes that would normally rely on canned tomatoes. We also use tomato paste to add savory flavor to recipes. Because it’s so concentrated, it’s naturally full of glutamates, which provide the meaty flavor known as umami. [Buy on Amazon | Read Our Review]

  • Mustard

    Mustard is useful for more than just topping burgers; it also lends bright, tangy flavor to many dishes and dressings. Not all mustards are paleo-friendly; many contain added sugar or preservatives, so check the labels carefully (but we prefer to make our own). We like to have Dijon and whole-grain mustards on hand.

  • Nut Milk Yogurts

    Like regular cow’s milk yogurt, nut-based yogurts are made by culturing nut milks. But because nut milks don’t naturally thicken the way that cow’s milk does when cultured, they usually require some type of thickening agent—and often, store-bought nut yogurts utilize multiple thickening agents, stabilizers, and gums to achieve the right consistency. To avoid these, we make our own almond yogurt, which is great for breakfast parfaits or making creamy yogurt sauces.

Up Your Umami Game

Recipe Summer Squash Spaghetti with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Since pasta and canned tomatoes are not part of the paleo diet, we set out to develop an alternative to satisfy our craving for spaghetti and tomato sauce.

 

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Read Our Guide to Paleo Sweeteners

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