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Baking Pantry Staples Without Palm Oil

Baking Pantry Staples Without Palm Oil

When you have baking staples on hand, it’s easy to whip something up when the mood strikes. You’ll be less apt to buy premade desserts, bakery, and specialty breads from the grocery store. Baking from scratch means you can bake palm oil free because you choose what ingredients to use.  

Most premade baked items contain palm oil in some form. Companies use palm oil in desserts, breads, cookies, dough, crusts, and more for some of these reasons:

  • Helps extend the shelf life
  • Creates desirable mouth feel
  • Mimics more expensive ingredients
  • Remains solid at room temperature
  • Helps bind ingredients
  • It’s cheap

So much of deciding what to bake has to do with the ingredients you have on hand already. Running out of the store is a pain and may reduce your desire to bake. 

Below I list baking staples to have a prepared pantry. You don’t need every single one of these ingredients in your pantry at all times. Choose the ingredients that are common in the things you like to bake. Keep them together in a container in your cabinet so they are easy to access. You will save time from hunting around for specific ingredients. I use two dishpans to keep mine together. 

Having the basics like flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, etc. make it easy to bake from scratch when the mood strikes. These are all helpful when making savory or sweet baked goods such as desserts, breads, pizza dough, pie crust, holiday favorites, and more.

Baking Pantry Staples

Shelf-Stable Baking Staples

All-Purpose Flour

  • Serves as the structure for most baked goods
  • Use to make: Bread, cakes, cookies, pastries, pizza dough, pancakes, waffles, etc.
  • Gluten free flours such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 Baking Flour and King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour are fantastic alternatives if you avoid gluten. I use these often and love them.

Granulated Sugar

  • Sweetens and adds moisture to baked goods
  • Use it to make baked goods sweeter: Cookies, muffins, cakes, cobbler, candied nuts, etc.

Powdered Sugar aka Confectioners Sugar

  • Adds sweetness and consistency to icing, frosting, whipped cream
  • Also use it to dust on finished baked goods (sprinkling on pancakes pizzelles, kolackys, and waffles)

Light or Dark Brown Sugar

  • Adds sweetness, moisture, and a hint of caramel flavor. Be sure to wrap it tightly so it doesn’t dry out
  • Use brown sugar in cookies, gingerbread, brownies, caramels, zucchini bread, and more

Baking Soda

  • Acts as a leavening agent when combined with an acidic ingredient
  • Use it to make cookies, muffins, pancakes, some types of cakes

Baking Powder


  • Helps dough rise in yeast-leavened recipes
  • Recipes: Yeast breads, chocolate chip waffles, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts

Cacao Power, Cocoa Powder


  • Enhances flavor and can also strengthen gluten structures in some baked goods
  • Table salt works as does sea salt for most baking needs
  • If using salted butter, you can often omit salt
  • Many desserts and bread recipes require salt 

Pure Vanilla Extract

  • Choose pure extracts, not imitation which may contain palm oil derivatives
  • Used to provide subtle vanilla flavor in many sweet bakery items
  • Make vanilla frosting, homemade whipped cream, etc.


  • Sweetens baked goods and can replace sugar in some recipes
  • Use in date bars, granola, granola bars, muffins, etc.

Real Maple Syrup

  • Sweetens baked goods
  • Buy real maple syrup, not pancake syrup which contains many chemicals and often contains palm oil derivatives
  • Often interchangeable with honey; depends on the taste you want and if you want it to be vegan
  • Use in homemade granola, date bars, muffins, etc.

White Vinegar

  • Combine with whole milk to make buttermilk
  • Use in recipes that require buttermilk.
  • Can use in muffins, pancakes, and more


  • Used to thicken custards and some types of dough
  • Uses: Custard, shortbread cookies, pie fillings

Vegetable Oil

  • Adds moisture to cakes and breads
  • I love using avocado oil because it’s tasteless in baked goods
  • Olive oil is useful to make savory baked goods
  • Use in carrot cake, muffins, quick breads, etc.

Real Chocolate (bars, chips, or chunks)

Rolled Oats

  • Adds texture and can act as a base for some recipes
  • Gives cookies, breads, and bars a hearty, chewy texture
  • While oats are naturally gluten free, choose certified gluten free oats if you avoid for an allergy as oats are processed in plants that handle wheat. I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.
  • Use in: Oatmeal cookies, granola bars, granola from scratch, oat bread, apple crisp topping, etc.

One of my new favorite baking pantry staples is quinoa. I have been buying puffed quinoa or quinoa flakes. I use them to make quinoa date bars. Sometimes I make date bars using a combination of oats and puffed quinoa and/or flakes.

Spices (Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Rosemary, Chili Powder, etc.)

Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)

  • Nuts texture, flavor, and crunch
  • Use in lots of recipes including muffins, cookies, banana bread, nut bread, pancakes, pie, cakes, and more

Dried Fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc.)

  • Adds sweetness and texture; used to enhance recipes
  • Use to make fruitcake, oatmeal cookies, scones, add-ins for granola, bars, muffins, pancakes, waffles, breads, etc.


Coconut (shredded or flaked)

  • Provides texture and tropical flavor
  • Avoid sweetened coconut which usually contains Propylene Glycol which is made from palm oil
  • Use to make coconut macaroons, coconut cake, German chocolate cake frosting, coconut bread

Peanut Butter – Be sure to read ingredients!

Bread Flour (If you want to bake bread)

  • Helps form more gluten, giving breads a chewy texture
  • Make yeast breads, bagels, pizza dough, etc.

Canned Pumpkin

  • Provides moisture and flavor to fall-themed baked goods
  • Uses: Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin nut waffles, etc.


  • Thick, sweet, and slightly bitter syrup that adds a robust flavor
  • Use to make gingerbread, molasses cookies, certain types of pies
Ingredients to use in baking

Ingredients such as honey and maple syrup can be excellent replacements for sugar in baking ~ Image credit: Calum Lewis

Refrigerated / Perishable Baking Staples

Unsalted Butter and Salted Butter

  • Adds richness, moisture, and helps with leavening
  • Usually when you use salted butter, you can omit the salt in the recipe
  • Used to bake cakes, cookies, pastry, frosting, etc.


  • Provides structure, leavening, and flavor
  • Egg yolks add richness; egg whites can provide lift
  • Choose organic eggs when possible.


  • Adds moisture; can help with browning and flavor
  • Note: Read ingredients. Choose whole milk to avoid Vitamin A Palmitate which is added to fortify other milks, including plant-based milks.
  • Use in cakes, breads, pastries, waffles, etc.

Lemon/Lime Zest


  • Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are nice to have to top baked goods
  • Use to fill pies, and to top pancakes, waffles, cakes, tarts

Nice to Have But I Usually Have to Buy Special

Cream Cheese

  • Used for creamy fillings, icings, and adds richness
  • Cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, filled pastries

Sour Cream

  • Adds richness and tenderness to baked goods
  • Coffee cake, sour cream cookies

Canned Coconut Milk

  • Used for tropical-themed desserts and as a dairy-free alternative
  • Use to bake coconut cake, dairy-free ice cream, vegan desserts

Baking Ingredients that Often Contain Palm Oil

Be sure to avoid these ingredients common in baking. Read labels before buying any of these ingredients. 

  • Imitation vanilla
  • Vanilla flavor
  • Food coloring and food dyes — Even when say “natural”
  • Almond bark, melting wafers, vanilla candy coating
  • White baking chips
  • Shortening
  • Peanut butter unless it’s just peanuts or peanuts and salt
  • Sweetened coconut if it contains Propylene Glycol
  • Canned frosting — Do not buy! It always contains palm oil.
  • Margarine 
  • Pancake syrup
  • Sprinkles, jimmies, other decorations to top cakes, cupcakes, etc.
  • Fondant 
  • Milk — Dairy milk contains palm oil unless it’s whole milk or organic whole milk. It’s in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate which is added to fortify milk.
  • Nut milk and plant milk — Palm oil is in Vitamin A Palmitate and mono- & diglycerides.

If you are vegan, check out this list of vegan pantry staples. They are also palm oil free. 

Having Baking Pantry Staples on Hand

If you’ve been following my blog, you may know my son gets sick from palm oil. There are also the environmental concerns with palm oil. For these reasons, my family avoids palm oil.

I used to buy premade everything. I bought cookies, sweet breads, muffins in containers, colorful cakes and more from my local grocery store. “Baked from scratch” to me meant using a box mix and canned frosting or baking frozen cookie dough.

I have come a long way. Having the basic baking pantry staples and following basic recipes gave me the confidence to try new things to bake. Now, I never buy premade desserts.

Please think about a few things you would like to bake from scratch. Take stock of what ingredients you already have, what may be old and you need to replace, and what you need to buy. Make a list of ingredients to start creating a prepared pantry. In addition to avoiding palm oil, there are many reasons to bake from scratch

Learn about Ingredients in canned frosting

Featured image credit: Erin Waynick, Unsplash