Food & Drink

Stock the ultimate pantry with these kitchen staples from Toronto restaurants

With dining-out mostly off the table for a year now, many of us have just about worn out our kitchen supplies, and those industrial-size pantry staples we stocked up on in the early days of the pandemic are long gone. But many restaurants have started offering some of their most popular items to home cooks in the form of pantry staples, condiments and frozen goods—another lifeline, in addition to takeout—and we’re all better cooks for it. Here, some of our favourite ingredients and oven-ready goods from Toronto restaurants ready to dip, drizzle, bake and more.

Kimchi Korea House’s kimchi

If kimchi isn’t already a go-to ingredient in your kitchen, a jar from veteran kimchi expert Michelle Lee—also known as Mama Lee—will change that. Asian pear, gochugaru, salted shrimp and a bevy of other goodies go into her notoriously delicious version, made in-house in giant batches (a vegan variant is also available by pre-order). It’s good in everything from eggs and savoury pancakes to stews and even caesars, and lives for months in the fridge (though it rarely lasts that long in our kitchens). Check the restaurant’s Instagram stories for tips on how to use it; there’s even an in-depth tutorial on how to make your own. $12 for 24-ounce jar, $15 for 32-ounce jar.

Lazy Daisy’s buttermilk biscuits

If you know, you know. These big, buttery behemoths only need a few minutes in a pan to warm to fluffy, golden, crispy-edged perfection. The O.G. biscuits are a safe choice, but we like the kicky jalapeño-cheddar and the garlic-asiago for something different. Sliced-in-half biscuits also make for delectable sandwiches—as you’ll know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of brunching at Lazy Daisy’s. Stack them high with eggs and bacon, or smear with butter and jam for a tea time snack. $13.95 for four.

DaiLo’s secret sauces

Five secret sauces by DaiLo chef Nick Liu are now available to amp up your home cooking. There’s vegan “fysh” sauce, for all the fermented salty goodness and none of the fish, and Popo’s General Tso for the best homemade General Tso chicken ever. A sweet and salty caramel tamari glaze includes caramelized Asian aromatics, and for spiciness with depth, try the habanero chili sauce or XO sauce: rightly called the king of sauces. Each variety comes in a reusable 250ml jar. $15-$20.

Sugo’s signature red sauce

The beloved Bloordale trattoria, with its tightly packed dining room and sky-high mounds of spaghetti, is an experience we sorely miss. But if you cook a massive portion of pasta, top it with their house-made red sauce and close your eyes, you can almost smell the giant, perfect meatballs stewing in the back. Like any good red sauce worth its salt, San Marzano tomatoes make up the base; from there it’s touches of seasoning and red pepper for a perfect, no-frills classic that’ll make spaghetti night extra special. $12.

Emma’s Country Kitchen’s Cinnabiscuits

The doughy love children of ECK’s biscuits and cinnamon buns, these pint-sized, oven-ready beauts bake up in just fifteen minutes, leaving your kitchen smelling like a Cinnabon. (Breathe it in and think of simpler times at the food court.) They come frozen—should you inexplicably decide to save them for a later date—and with vanilla icing for all your frosting needs. $12 for six.


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Godfrey’s Supper Club’s challah buns

Picture golden-brown challah buns plumping to perfection in your oven, ready to side any meal that would benefit from delicious bread (read: any meal). Or, to be devoured on their own as you hide the evidence from your family and insist—despite the hypnotizing smell wafting through the house—that there never was any challah and please ignore these crumbs on my face. They come ready to bake after a quick rise at room temp, but you can also pop them in your freezer for safekeeping for up to a month. $7.

Alma’s chili crisp

Chili crisp is having a moment, and Anna Chen’s—spicy, tangy and with a tiny hint of sweetness from Chinese olives—is one of Toronto’s best iterations. It’s useful in anything that could use a hit of spice and depth—think stir fries, noodles, eggs and even ice cream. Chen also makes a delightful hoisin that you’d never confuse with the store-bought version, as well as a peppy ginger-scallion and spicy, umami-rich miso mustard. All these sauces happen to be vegan, too. $11-$14.

The Abibiman Project’s Nit’ir qibe

Use this spiced, clarified butter in place of regular butter to add a punch of flavour to almost anything. A staple in Ethiopian kitchens, nit’ir qibe owes its gorgeous golden hue to turmeric. Chef Rachel Adjei rounds it out with a blend of onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek and other spices. Naturally, it’s a solid base for Ethiopian dishes—especially meat and vegetable stews—but its deeply savoury, gingery flavour works well in a variety of recipes. Melt it on a steak. Fry your eggs in it. And while you do, feel good about the fact that the Abibiman Project donates 100 percent of its profits to the Afri-Can Food Basket, a non-profit geared towards food sovereignty for Black Canadians. $7.

Eastbound Brewing Co.‘s beer cheese queso

For those missing movie theatre nachos but not all the weird ingredients that go in them, there’s this highly addictive beer cheese queso from Eastbound Brewing Co. This ultra-creamy combination of cheddar and Eastbound beer pairs perfectly with tortilla chips, but would go well on anything that could use a hit of cheesy deliciousness: drizzle it over your tacos, use it to step up your mac and cheese game, dip raw veggies in it or spoon directly into your mouth and remember that things are going to get better. $5.

Donna’s Ranchy Ranch dressing

Zhuzh up anything with this flavourful dressing from the beloved Wallace-Emerson bistro. It’s excellent in salads and sandwiches, but too good to be confined to them: dip whatever you want in it and be eternally too good to go back to squeeze-bottle, grocery store ranch. Chips, veggies and pizza all make very fine pairings, but feel free to get creative. Dipping one’s fingers in it, for instance, is a more than acceptable choice. $2 for 2oz., $12 for 12oz.

Limon’s zhug

This Yemeni cilantro-and-parsley-based hot sauce is all about jalapeño heat and intense herbaceousness. The bright-green paste is juiced with cumin, garlic, lemon and Limon’s house shawarma spice blend (also available on its own) for a verdant flavour bomb that goes well in everything from eggs to grilled meat and Limon’s falafel pita. It also makes a delectable marinade for roast chicken or fish—especially branzino. $3.50 for 8oz., $5.50 for 16oz..


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