14 Ingredients Grandma Always Had in Her Pantry

Updated: Dec. 14, 2022

Ever wonder the secret to Grandma's cooking? These vintage ingredients are staples in her pantry.

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Aspic- jellied chicken with egg and vegetables.


The 1960s gave us a lot of new foods, such as savory molded gelatin salads. The next time you see your grandma, ask her about tomato aspic. I’m sure she has some very vivid memories of this congealed tomato-flavored gelatin salad. Give the quintessential vintage dish a try whirl, or try these other fruity gelatin recipes instead.

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Opened tuna can with parsley and lemon slices on a black cutting board.

Canned Tuna

Tuna salad, tuna casserole and tuna melts. Invented in 1904 due to a sardine shortage, these are just a few recipes your grandmother probably made with this fishy pantry staple. Enjoy a tuna salad recipe just like grandma made.

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Green Bean Casserole
TMB Studio

French Fried Onions

Is it even Thanksgiving if grandma doesn’t serve a green bean casserole with French fried onions on top? While green bean casserole is the most famous way to use French fried onions, we love these recipes that feature the tasty topping, too.

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Human hand holding a tin can of Campbell's Soup tomato soup on gray background

Condensed Tomato Soup

Invented by Doctor John T. Dorrance of the Campbell Soup Company in 1897, condensed tomato soup remains one of the top 10 shelf-stable foods in the U.S. today. Use a can of the stuff to make this stuffed pepper soup.

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Molasses on Granite Table
Kelvin Beecroft/Shutterstock


Since Colonial times, molasses has been used as an alternative for refined sugar. Used for baking tasty treats like gingerbread cookies, your great-great-grandma may have even gone to war over molasses! Some historians believe the Molasses Act of 1733 was a root cause for the Revolutionary War.

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shoppers hand holding a can of SPAM brand canned meat


While grandmas of the future will associate Spam with unwanted emails in their inbox, previous generations know Spam as a canned ham product that fed troops during World War II. But it’s not just a thing of the past—it’s gaining in popularity. In fact, loyal customers bought so much in 2018 than any previous year in the brand’s 82 year history. It’s so popular, there’s even a Spam figgy pudding. Discover new ways to use spam, like in this delicious hash.

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Oatmeal with berries and nuts
Alena Haurylik/Shutterstock


Enjoyed as muesli or warm porridge with milk, this hearty grain is a breakfast staple in your grandmother’s pantry. Also, used for baking, The Quaker Oats Company published its first recipe for oatmeal cookies on its packaging in 1905 and grandmas have been adapting the recipe ever since.

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Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


Your grandma’s famous date bars probably didn’t exist prior to 1920. It wasn’t until The Hills Brothers Company, a fruit importer, launched a massive marketing campaign tying the fruit to the alluring romance and mystique of the Middle East that they gained traction in the U.S.

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fruit drinks in decanters and glasses


“Oh, yeah!” The Kool-Aid Man has been yelling this catchphrase since 1927. Derived from Fruit Smack, the powder form of this drink was developed to reduce shipping costs. Your grandmother probably keeps a few pouches of Kool-Aid in her pantry to serve on hot summer days. Drink it on its own or in a fun citrus slush.

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Spiced pickled beets
Taste of Home

Pickled Beets

Pipe tobacco, heavy cologne and beets. Is it just me or is this the quintessential mix of scents that most associate with their grandfathers? It’s likely because grandma loved to serve homemade pickled beets from her pantry at the dinner table.

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corn syrup
Amelia Martin/Shutterstock

Corn Syrup

This sticky syrup is a pantry essential for most grandmas. Used to add sweetness, moisture and prevent the crystallization of sugar, grandma adds corn syrup to many of her sweets. Perhaps the most-beloved way to use corn syrup is in a delicious pecan pie.

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Jenni Kupelian/Shutterstock


Used in a variety of fruit salads and spreads, your grandmother likely keeps a few cans of cranberries in her pantry for the holidays and other festivities. Either canned whole or in a jellied form, cranberries add a sweet and tart flavor to recipes like this cranberry pineapple salad.

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Slow cooked beef with prunes, figs, raisins and almonds - moroccan tajine.
Konstantin Kopachinsky/Shutterstock


Grandma likely keeps dried prunes and prune juice in her house as a digestion and constipation aid. But don’t let their medicinal value discourage you from cooking with them. Prunes are a great way to jazz up any dinner recipe, like this country pork loin.

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Homemade mayonnaise in bowl with eggs and spice on wooden background


Mayonnaise is a versatile pantry staple for grandmas everywhere. Used as a sandwich spread, salad dressing or thickening agent for a variety of casseroles, this creamy condiment won’t go out of style anytime soon.