Eat Recipes

A Chef’s Guide to Canned Essentials for Your Pantry

A well-stocked pantry full of long-life items is essential. Canned goods are the secret to pulling together healthy, fuss-free meals without breaking the bank or sacrificing taste.

If you want to prioritise diversity in both flavour and nutritional value, here are the ‘must-haves’ recommended by The Good Foundation:

  • Tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • Pulses – chickpeas, cannellini, kidney beans and lentils
  • Light coconut milk
  • Fish – tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies

Now, let’s talk about how to make the most of these pantry essentials!

Tinned tomatoes – The All-Rounder

Tinned tomatoes are a ‘true all-rounder’, essential for sauces, soups, stews and casseroles. The easiest meal to whip up with tinned tomatoes is the classic tomato soup.

Start off by sautéing some diced onions and garlic. Crumble in a chicken or vegetable stock cube into 1.5 litres of boiling water. Add your tinned tomatoes giving it a good stir and bringing it back to the boil.

Finally, reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes and voila you have yourself an effortlessly delicious meal!

Check out Jamie Oliver’s tomato soup recipe – it’s sure to be a family favourite, served with some fresh crusty bread.

Beans and Lentils – The Bulkers

Pulses (or legumes) include all beans, peas and lentils. They are great fillers and bulkers for making meals go further. They’re also a fantastic source of protein.

Chickpeas, cannellini, kidney beans and lentils can be added to any soup, stew, curry or casserole dish.

They also make the perfect addition to a simple salad. Try whipping up some chickpeas, tahini and lemon juice and you have yourself a fabulous homemade hummus dip!

Try this great lentil soup recipe with tinned cannellini beans – it packs a huge amount of punch when it comes to flavour, using mostly pantry staples. 

Coconut Milk – for when you’re craving creamy

Commonly used in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisines, light coconut milk is the perfect pantry staple to help add a mellow, creamy flavour to soups and curries.

It’s the perfect weather for ‘winter warmers’ with a creamy twist. Try this Thai green chicken curry or super simple chicken traybake.

Tinned Fish

Good-quality tined tuna, salmon or sardines are great for turning simple pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches into flavoursome meals, packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies are also a must-have, adding the ‘perfect salty seasoning’ for sauces and stews.

Try these simple salmon fishcakes or this quick and easy Sicilian tuna pasta.

Or see our recipe for Spaghetti with Preserved Tuna, Capes and Lemon here.

To learn more back-to-basics cooking tips, as well as lots of other delicious Jamie Oliver recipes, sign up for a Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia cooking class at

Want more? Check out our delicious 15-Minute Pantry Pasta recipe here.