6 Pantry Staples That You Should Have on Hand

I’m of Cuban decent which meant growing up, my home was always full of delicious aromas–spices, sauces and flavors bursting from my grandmother’s, aunt’s and mother’s kitchen on the daily. Today, my adult home is a little more varied–full of traditional American foods, healthy items and of course–traditional Hispanic staples. 

Living in Chicago makes it easy to shop many ethnic isles, in virtually any grocery store. A fantastic array of trusted Hispanic brands grace today’s grocery isle (in both smaller boutique shops and mass market grocery stores). Here are six of my favorite Caribbean staples and brands.


A Spanish staple! Beans are always part of any traditionally Hispanic meal. Whether cooked in a stew (AKA potaje), as a side dish or mixed with rice–beans are a crucial, satisfying (and healthy element) to any plate. I particularly love Goya’s brand variety. 

Cafe Bustelo 

Coffee connoisseurs all around also love Cafe Bustelo for its dark, pure, and flavorful coffee. Perfect for that sweet cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk) or espresso. I woke up to this delicious aroma everyday as a child. In fact, whenever I smell this instantly recognizable scent,  I’m immediately taken back to the slower-paced, yummy mornings of my childhood.


Cuban (and Caribbean) food is authentically flavorful–marked by seasonings and zesty flavors. It is not traditionally spicy. These special seasoning favorites by Goya provide instant flavor and aroma in the Spanish tradition. Use Goya’s Mojo for preparing steaks and poultry and Sazon Goya for just about anything–works great for caldos (sauces), rice dishes and beans especially. 

Canned Yuca

Badia is another brand serving up authentic speciality items and spices. One of my favorites from this brand is a a healthy Caribbean starch staple known as Yuca–a healthy root that can be cooked a variety of different ways with loads of garlic.

Plátanos Maduros

Sweet Fried Bananas (known as plátanos maduros in Spanish) are the the sweet ripe plantains that make a sweet addition to any meal. They look like large black bananas (typically the darker, the more ripe and sweeter the taste), housed in most grocery stores in the banana section.  They are an integral part of most Caribbean meals–easily made by peeling, slicing, and heating them in a hot oiled skillet until golden brown.

Seasoned Rice 

Although I try to watch my carbs, rice is a huge part of the typical Cuban meal. Goya and other brands sell Latin rice mixes that are handy for today’s mom.  I especially like Goya’s Yellow Rice Mix as it smells and tastes of flavorful onion, garlic, and coriander. This is a great staple to mix with Chicken.

Photo: Getty