27 Pantry Essentials for Easy Entertaining

Having these pantry essentials on hand takes the stress out of last min guests, holiday entertaining, and when your husband invites friends over without checking with you first! Ha!

When you’re prepared, you feel relaxed about hosting and you actually want to invite your friends over because that’s what life is all about, right? Connecting with our loved ones!

Who this List of Pantry Essentials is For:

  • people who entertain often – having a list and a plan makes entertaining so much more enjoyable!
  • people who feel they are too busy to entertain – with these pantry essentials on hand, you can literally invite your friends over on the way home from work and throw a little something together when you get home.
  • people who want to entertain, but they feel like its so much work! – these pantry essentials will give you a good head start. Food doesn’t have to be elaborate, it’s mostly about the time spent with people you care about. Food and drinks are secondary.

That said, good food and drinks doesn’t hurt! We have also included some of our favorite recipes within this list and links to where you can find more inspiration at the bottom of this post.

We use this list to stock our pantry essentials so when we plan a party, we can rely on these basics to get a head start. It always makes things easier if you always have these pantry staples on hand. Especially during the holiday entertaining season!

So say goodbye to fly by the seat of your pants stressful entertaining and get ready to plan that party!

pantry shelves filled with pantry essentials

Every couple weeks, compare this list against the contents of your cuboards, fridge and freezer and then stock what you don’t have. That way you will always be prepared and never feel overwhelmed or panicked when guests just drop by.

Now not everything on this list fits on the pantry shelves, but the fridge and freezer items as well as a home bar stocked with the basics all work together to complete this list of pantry essentials. Lets get to it:

Pantry Essentials For the Shelves

  • Pesto – pesto is great for a base for flatbread pizzas, as a quick sauce for pasta, or as a base for our asparagus tart
  • Jams or jellies – a necessity in order to throw together a quick grazing platter. Try our wine jelly or onion and fig jam that you can make ahead and have on hand. Or just buy your favorite
  • Crackers or crostini’s – to add to a grazing platter, charcuterie board, to serve with bruschetta or these fabulous crostinis.
  • Nuts – a great staple to serve alone to munch on or add to salads or a grazing platter. Kick them up a notch and make candied nuts.
  • Pickled or jarred veggies – like beets, carrots, pickles (sweet and dill), olives, sundried tomatoes in oil, and artichokes. Always a great addition to a charcuterie board. Everyone likes picked things!
  • Salsa and chips – you cant go wrong with a snacky staple like this.
  • Dried fruits – for a little sweetness on your grazing platter! They store really well too so no worries about fruit going bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Chocolate – an easy dessert topping or a dessert all on its own.
  • Coffee and/or Tea – self explanatory, but also, you may want to make an espresso martini at some point in the night… right?
a board of crostinis topped with cheese and fig jam ready to be served to guests

Essentials in the Fridge

  • Hard Cheese – cheddar, gruyere, parmesan are all good options
  • Soft Cheese – we like brie, camembert and goat cheese.
  • Salami, cervalet or other cured meats – get ones that are vacuum packed as they have a long shelf life in the fridge! Check out our “5 steps to creating a cheese board” post for some ideas.
  • Lemons and Limes – Keep some lemons and limes in your fridge. They are a must for cocktails. You can also freeze wedges or slices of each so they don’t go bad.

Essentials In the Freezer

  • Puff pastry – they thaw quick and if you have some cheese and a couple toppings, its so easy to throw together a quick appetizer. Try our peach & prosciutto tart, asparagus tart, white wine, cheddar & prosciutto tart.
  • Pizza dough in the freezer – so handy for making flatbreads like: strawberry pizza, greek chicken flatbread, or short rib and potato flatbread.
  • Bread – in case you need some for grilled cheese, garlic bread, or even just toast and eggs in the morning if you have overnight guests.
  • Frozen cookie dough – so easy to make a quick dessert!
  • Ice cream for dessert – just pour strong coffee and baileys over top and voila, you have a quick amazing dessert!
  • Prosciutto – because it freezes nice and it thaws quick, plus it has a lot of uses. See the tarts listed above under “puff pastry”
a peach and prosciutto tart that has been cut into a few slices and ready to eat.

Essentials For the Home Bar

  • Basic spirits – vodka, rum, gin
  • Fruit juice and soda – gotta have mix!
  • Holiday specific items – like spiced rum and a carton of egg nog.  We love this coconut egg nog that’s lighter and dairy free and soooo good!
  • A couple different kinds of beer – go with basic ones
  • A few bottles of red and white wine – you cant loose with a pinot grigio white and a cab sav red.
  • A bottle or two of champagne – for a toast, a special event, or a mimosa (strawberry lemonade mimosa or a cranberry mimosa)
  • Get a couple of bags of ice –  Running out of ice is the WORST!
  • Glasses – Make sure you have a stock of wine glasses, cocktail glasses and water glasses (anjou water glasses)
two copper mugs with apple cider moscow mule inside.  the mugs are topped with a piece of cinnamon, a slice of apple and a sprig of rosemary

For recipe ideas for food and cocktails to serve at your next party, check out our holiday entertaining appetizers section and our winter cocktailssection that has a selection of hot and cold holiday cocktails!

To save this pantry essentials list for later on Pinterest:  


We love to see your creations!  Tag @Cookswithcocktails if you post a picture of this recipe on INSTAGRAM

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