Essential Baking Ingredients

Sprinkles in jar with spoon from above.


Use this list to stock your pantry for easy baking—and always have the essential baking ingredients on hand to make all of your favorite recipes.

Sprinkles in jar with spoon from above.

Baking Ingredients

In my job as a full-time content creator and recipe developer, I bake all the time. And I share a lot of recipes for muffins, cookies, breads, and more in the hopes that they help you feed your families, too. The majority of my recipes start with the same few ingredients—that I always have stocked in my pantry.

To help you do the same and increase the odds that you can bake what you crave without a special trip to the store, this list is here to help.

Below you’ll find my go-to baking essentials. The list is actually pretty short! Then, a few things I keep on hand in the fridge and freezer, and my favorite substitutions for gluten-free and egg-free baking.

I also have my favorite sprinkles and baking tools and pans at the end, so don’t miss that!

(Find my favorite muffins for kids, our best healthy cookies, and holiday cookies to help get you started in the kitchen.)

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ingredients for baking on counter.

Pantry Staples for Baking

  • Baking powder: Any brand of baking powder is fine to use as one of your staple leaveners.
  • Baking soda: Before you start baking, be sure to check that this sodium bicarbonate is fresh and not expired. Using this in recipes helps baked goods bake through, have tiny bubbles to create tenderness, and rise properly.
  • Cinnamon: Any variety or brand of ground cinnamon will work. This is one of the spices I use most often.
  • Cocoa powder: I prefer Dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder in desserts and muffins from brands including SACO, Hershey’s special dark, or Trader Joe’s store brand.
  • Flour: All-purpose and whole-wheat flour. King Arthur Flour is an amazing flour brand, but I also buy store brand to keep cost down.
  • Honey: Any type of liquid honey will work when I call for it. Avoid honey for kids under age 1 in all forms.
  • Neutral oil: Such as canola, coconut, vegetable oil, or avocado oil. Any one that has a neutral flavor.
  • Nonstick cooking spray: I prefer classic Pam spray as I find that it just works the best.
  • Rolled oats: I use this old-fashioned oatmeal in baking a lot, either whole or ground up in a blender or food processor into oat flour.
  • Salt: I use fine sea salt or kosher salt in my recipes.
  • Sugar: Both granulated white sugar and light brown sugar. (Or you can use coconut sugar if you prefer.)
  • Vanilla extract: I prefer pure vanilla extract (I usually buy store brand so it’s less expensive, but imitation vanilla flavor can work, too.) This is typically less expensive and easier than trying to use whole vanilla beans.
  • Yeast: Only if you make breads that require yeast. The only time I use it is for pizza dough.

I sometimes also add peanut butter, nut butter, chocolate chips, raisins, flaxseed meal (which is sometimes called ground flaxseed), or chia seeds to add fiber and fats to baked goods. For Christmas baking of gingerbread, I add molasses. For fall baking, I keep pumpkin puree on hand, too.

If you making frostings for cakes regularly or icing for cookies, you’ll also want confectioners’ sugar, or powdered sugar in your baking pantry.


Baking Essentials to Keep in the Fridge

Below are the items that I typically try to keep in the refrigerator to have on hand for easy baking. Eggs and butter are the ones that are most important, especially during seasons of holiday baking or birthdays.

  • Applesauce: I use applesauce to sweeten and moisten baked goods. (It can also often be used as a no-added-sugar replacement for maple syrup or honey in baked goods that you want to offer to babies like these Healthy Pumpkin Muffins.)
  • Eggs: Large eggs are a staple in baking. Their protein helps gives structure to muffins and pancakes.
  • Lemons: Citrus like lemon (and orange) can help enhance the flavor of baked foods.
  • Maple syrup: I use maple syrup often in baking. (It can be used almost interchangeably with honey except for a few instances.) If a recipe calls for maple syrup and you don’t have any, use the same amount of granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons milk.
  • Milk: Milk is one of the core dairy products to have on hand. You can easily bake with dairy or nondairy milk. Just choose a nondairy option that’s plain and unsweetened. (You can usually also use buttermilk in place of milk in most recipes, too if that’s what you have.)
  • Unsalted butter: I prefer to use unsalted butter in baking so I can salt to my liking.
  • Yeast: Instant yeast or active dry yeast can be kept in the fridge for making pizza dough or bread.
  • Whole milk yogurt, plain: I use regular yogurt the most, but Greek yogurt can almost always be used, too.

Baking Essentials to Keep in the Freezer

You can store extra butter and yeast in the freezer, along with frozen fruit that is perfect to use in many recipes.

Gluten-Free Baking Essentials

To make any recipe developed for all-purpose or whole-wheat flour gluten-free, use a 1:1 style of gluten-free baking mix like the gluten-free flour from King Arthur Flour.

Do not substitute alternative flours such as almond flour or coconut flour directly for wheat flour. The recipe will not turn out as intended. Sometimes oat flour can work, but the result may be much denser.

Egg-Free Baking Essentials

To bake without eggs, I recommend the egg replacer from Bob’s Red Mill. Often, you can also substitute each egg with ¼ cup milk and ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Many people also like chia eggs and flax eggs. I don’t love the texture they produce and do not recommend either for recipes including pancakes.

Natural sprinkles in four containers on countertop.

Sprinkles for Baking

My very favorite sprinkles for baking are the plant-based ones from India Tree. They make two colors, a pastel color mix and a bright color mix, which are very pretty and they hold their color when baked in the oven.

They also have a line of decorating sugars in a range of colors, too.

A container lasts forever (even the normal sized ones!) and we love to have them on hand.

Food coloring in four bottles on countertop.

Favorite Natural Food Coloring

You can find natural food coloring for cookies, icing, and more from brands including McCormick, Whole Foods (their store-brand), and India Tree.

You can use these in my Cream Cheese Frosting to turn it a pretty color of your choosing to top cupcakes, cookies, or cakes.


Essential Baking Pans

Here is what I use most often for baking. When in doubt, go with a pan from Wilton or Nordicware as both are very reliable and durable.And grease with classic Pam nonstick spray and/or line with parchment paper to ensure that your baked goods don’t stick.


Best Tips for Baking Success

  • Paper cupcake liners often stick when used with my muffins, so either just spray your pans with nonstick spray (I like classic Pam) or spray the liners lightly. You can also use parchment paper liners instead.
  • Always double check that your baking soda is fresh before starting a recipe that calls for it. If I call for baking soda, it’s needed to help the recipe bake through and rise.
  • Whole wheat and all purpose flour usually cannot be use interchangeably, but they are similar. To use all purpose in a recipe that calls for wheat flour, it often helps to add 2 more tablespoons to ensure the batter isn’t too wet. To use whole wheat flour in a recipe that calls for all purpose, it may help to add a little more milk.
  • To use Greek yogurt in a baking recipe that calls for regular yogurt, use the same amount but add 2 tablespoons milk to ensure the batter isn’t too wet.
  • Set your timer for the lower end of baking in a recipe. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick or a cake tester into the center (it should come out cleanly). Bake for more time in 1-2 minute increments.
  • When you take muffins out of the oven, let cool in the pan for a minute, run a knife around the edges, and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Letting them cool in the pan will cause them to continue baking (which may make them tough).

Related Recipes

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