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Essentials for a Kid Friendly International Pantry

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Stocking a diverse pantry means you have endless meal possibilities! Discover how a well-stocked pantry makes family dinners delicious and stress-free.

Exposing kids to a variety of flavors and dishes from around the world not only makes mealtimes more exciting but also creates an appreciation for different cultures. It is a fun way to teach children about the global community and foster tolerance and curiosity. 

Having a well stocked pantry and kitchen is essential to being able to easily provide your family with a variety of great tasting meals easily. 

bowl of ramen with child's hands using pink chopsticks with text overlay of post title

Benefits of Cooking Kid-Friendly International Cuisines

Cooking kid friendly recipes from around the world with your family is so important and fun! Not only does it help teach them about the world around them, but it helps to expand their palates and eat more varied (and exciting) food! 

The earlier you can teach your kids to love international cuisine, the better! 

Broadening kids’ palates from an early age is amazing for kids in many ways. It instills healthy eating habits by encouraging them to explore a variety of foods

It also fosters cultural awareness and open-mindedness, as trying new flavors and dishes from different cultures promotes tolerance and a curiosity about the world. Kids exposed to diverse cuisines are more likely to appreciate the global community and the value of differences.

This ensures that children can adapt to a broader range of foods, making dining out or traveling more accessible and enjoyable, and allowing them to confidently prepare and savor delicious meals from all over the world. Make sure to check out my post on how to explore the sense of taste with kids for more on this topic. 

Essentials for Your International Pantry

Each cuisine of course has its own essential ingredients, but there are many common ingredients that will work in many situations. Here are some of the best choices you can have on hand to make a variety of meals:


Stocking a variety of grains in your pantry is essential for cooking international cuisine. Here are some key grains to consider:

  • Rice: Basmati, Jasmine, Arborio, and long-grain rice are versatile for various dishes like Indian biryani, Thai curries, and risotto.
  • Pasta: Varieties like spaghetti, penne, and lasagna noodles are staples for Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.
  • Couscous: Used in North African and Middle Eastern dishes, couscous is quick and versatile.
  • Quinoa: A nutritious option suitable for South American, Mediterranean, and even Asian-inspired dishes.
  • Bulgur: Commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes like tabbouleh and kibbeh.
  • Pasta and Noodles: Come in many forms, and luckily are pretty easy to change out for different shapes. Check out my beginner’s guide to asian noodles for more specific details. 
  • Polenta: Ideal for Italian and Southern American dishes, it’s a corn-based grain.
  • Barley: Great for hearty soups and stews in European and Middle Eastern cuisines.
  • Farro: Used in Italian and Mediterranean recipes, it adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture.
  • Flatbreads such as flour and corn tortillas and naan are excellent to have on hand with a variety of uses.

Canned Goods

Having these canned goods on hand can simplify the preparation of kid-friendly international cuisine and offer a range of options to create delicious meals that children will enjoy.

  • Canned Tomatoes: Great for making pasta sauces, soups, and stews in many cuisines. Having diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste on hand is a great way to cover all bases. I think tomato paste in a squeeze tube is the best invention ever!
  • Prepared Ginger and Garlic: You can find pre-minced or pureed ginger and garlic in jars and in squeeze tubes. Store them in your fridge and they last for ages, and make dinner time prep so easy!
  • Coconut Milk: Essential for curries and other Asian dishes, like Thai and Indian recipes.
  • Canned Beans: Kid-friendly options include black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas for Mexican and Mediterranean dishes.
  • Canned Veggies: A versatile ingredient for salads, soups, and many dishes. Frozen options are also great choices.
  • Canned Pineapple: Ideal for sweet and sour dishes or adding a tropical twist to recipes.
  • Canned Pumpkin: Perfect for making soups, curries, muffins, and desserts with a subtle, kid-friendly flavor.
  • Canned Broth: A versatile base for soups, stews, and risotto in many cuisines.

Sauces and Condiments

  • Sesame Oil: Adds flavor to Asian dishes, but use sparingly due to its intense taste.
  • Vinegars – Balsamic Vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white wine vinegar are all made differently and have such versatile uses. Yes, you should have them all!
  • Soy Sauce: For seasoning and marinating in Asian and international recipes.
  • Honey: A natural sweetener for dressings and marinades.
  • Dijon Mustard: Adds flavor to dressings and French-inspired dishes.
  • Peanut Butter: Versatile in sandwiches and Asian-inspired sauces.
  • Tahini: A must have for hummus, marinating meats and salad dressings.
  • Fish Sauce: This stuff is so pungent but adds so much flavor! It is used in a variety of Asian dishes.
  • Honey, Sugar, and Maple Syrup – add sweetness and flavor to so many recipes. Sugar can also cut the acidity of tomatoes. 

Herbs and Spices

To prepare kid-friendly international recipes, it’s essential to have a selection of herbs and spices that add flavor without overwhelming young palates. Here’s a list of basic herbs and spices to stock in your pantry:

  • Basil: A versatile herb that works well in Italian dishes like pasta and pizza.
  • Oregano: Used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, it’s a great addition to pizza and pasta sauces.
  • Paprika: Adds mild, smoky flavor to a variety of dishes, including Spanish and Hungarian recipes.
  • Cinnamon: Ideal for sweet dishes like desserts and breakfast options, common in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines.
  • Cumin: A staple in Mexican and Indian cuisine, it can be used for tacos, chili, and curries.
  • Coriander: Used in a variety of dishes from Mexican to Thai cuisine, it adds a mild, citrusy flavor.
  • Garlic Powder: A convenient alternative to fresh garlic, perfect for a wide range of recipes.
  • Onion Powder: Adds a mild onion flavor to dishes without the texture of fresh onions.
  • Ginger: Essential for Asian cuisine and works well in stir-fries and marinades.
  • Turmeric (affiliate link): Common in Indian cuisine, it imparts a mild earthy flavor and vibrant color.
  • Nutmeg: A warm spice used in sweet and savory dishes, often found in European recipes.
  • Parsley: A mild herb used for garnish and flavoring in Mediterranean and European dishes.
  • Mint: Adds a fresh and cool flavor, great for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes.
  • Chives: Mild onion flavor, perfect for garnishing a variety of dishes.
  • Dill: Ideal for flavoring sauces, salads, and fish dishes in Scandinavian and Eastern European cuisines.

These herbs and spices can enhance the flavors of a wide range of international dishes while keeping them kid-friendly by using them in moderation and considering your children’s preferences for certain flavors.

Curious about how to teach kids to have more flavor in their meals? Read How to spice food for kids to get all the answers to your questions. 

Organizing Your Pantry

Organizing your pantry for easy access to ingredients is a game-changer when it comes to preparing weeknight meals, especially kid-friendly recipes.

It saves you precious time and reduces mealtime stress. By keeping similar items together and frequently used ingredients at eye level, you can quickly locate what you need, making the cooking process more efficient. 

Using bins or containers, clear labeling and shelving in your pantry offer multiple benefits when creating kid-friendly recipes. 

When ingredients are labeled, children can quickly identify and access items, which means they can easily help in meal prep and helps teach them the importance of organization.

  • Use clear plastic containers with labels to separate and contain similar items
  • Canvas bins are great for storing items like bags of nuts, dried fruits, and popcorn.

Local and Online Shopping Tips

We are lucky to live in a world where global cooking is becoming more mainstream and ingredients are easier to find. The ingredients I listed above should all be fairly easy to find in your local grocery store. 

For more specialized  international ingredients in your area, find stores with a larger international section (I can always find a good supply at Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods), as well as hunt down international grocery stores. I also always find great items at World Market.

For hard to find items, online stores like Amazon are great choices.

Maintaining a well-stocked international pantry opens the door to a world of culinary exploration and enriching family experiences. When families embark on this journey together, they not only create delicious, kid-friendly international dishes but also foster an appreciation for diverse cultures and cuisines.

It’s an opportunity to turn meal preparation into a learning adventure, where children can discover the flavors of the world and bond with their loved ones over memorable moments in the kitchen.

So, why not stock up on a variety of international ingredients and embark on this flavorful journey, creating not only scrumptious meals but also lifelong memories with your family? The possibilities are endless, and the rewards are truly heartwarming.

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