16 Pantry Staples You Should Grab From Costco

With its affordable membership, well-known quality, and plentiful locations, Costco is a great place to shop for pantry staples. While the huge warehouse store might seem overwhelming, seasoned shoppers know how to make their Costco trip even better. After all, it's one of the best places to buy seasonal goodies at Christmas time, its liquor department is legendary for its excellent selection and great prices, and a hot dog and a soda at the Costco cafe is one of the cheapest meals in town. 

A quick browse in the grocery aisles of your local Costco will reveal plenty of great pantry items, from baking ingredients like flour to packaged goods like tuna and pasta that are great to have on hand. You'll find plenty of name brands, as well as high-quality versions under Costco's signature Kirkland brand.

With the announcement last fall that there are no plans for a rate hike in its membership fees, there's no better time to join or renew your Costco membership, and stocking up on shelf-stable pantry items is one of the best reasons to be a member.

1. Olive oil

Sold in two-liter jugs, Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is sourced from olives grown throughout the Mediterranean region and is cold extracted. There's also a nonorganic version that features only Italian-grown olives. Since it came on the market, it's quickly become known as one of the best-finishing olive oils by home cooks and chefs alike. Sure, the big translucent green jug might be unwieldy, but you can use a smaller, refillable bottle or cruet for everyday use and store the jug in the back of the pantry or a closet until it's needed for refills.

Having good olive oil on hand in the kitchen is essential for whisking up vinaigrettes, drizzling over-cooked fish or roasted veggies, and even boosting the flavor of mashed potatoes. It's an ingredient you'll reach for again and again, and having the big bottle of Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your pantry ensures you'll never run out just as you're finishing dinner prep.

2. Mixed nuts

Having a container of mixed nuts on hand means you'll always have a quick and healthy snack when hunger strikes. Kirkland's Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts come in salted and unsalted versions in a 2.5-pound container that provides nearly 40 servings. This nut mix isn't filled out with inexpensive peanuts, either. The blend includes some of the most popular types of nuts, including cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil, and macadamia nuts, an assortment that provides an excellent variety of vitamins, nutrients, and other nutritional benefits.

These nuts can be enjoyed by the handful but can also be used in a multitude of ways. Next time you have friends over for drinks, try amping the flavor of your nut mix by roasting it for a few minutes in nut oil and serving warm. Or, for a hike, add some dried fruit and M&Ms for a trail mix. You can also make your own nut butter by pureeing them in a food processor or chopping them up and adding them to baked goods like brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or banana bread.

3. Pancake mix

There's a reason Kodiak Power Cakes is one of the best grocery store pancake mixes. This baking mix is versatile, easy to prepare, and super-healthy. It's made of whole-grain wheat and oat flour and contains 15 grams of protein per serving. You'll be reaching for it a lot, so it's good that Costco sells a 4.5-pound box of the buttermilk version. That's enough for nearly 100 pancakes, or 32 servings. Making pancakes couldn't be easier: just combine a cup of the mix with a cup of water and cook on a heated, greased griddle. The just-add-water feature of this pancake mix makes it ideal for taking on a camping trip or a vacation home rental.

The package has instructions for three different ways to use the mix: flapjacks, waffles, or muffins, along with variations of ramping up the protein content of the pancakes with milk and egg. You can also use the mix as a base for a variety of recipes. Try taking a cue from Giada DiLaurentiis's pancakes, which are leveled up by mascarpone cheese, almond paste, and almond extract. Or use the mix to make homemade funnel cakes.

4. Chocolate chips

Chocolate chips are one of those staple baking ingredients that are so handy to have in the pantry. Stir them into cookie dough, pancakes, or muffin batter, melt them to drizzle over baked goods, make a chocolate dip for fruit, or add them as a sweet addition to trail mix and yogurt parfaits. You'll find plenty of ways to use the 4.5-pound bag of Kirkland Signature Semisweet Chocolate Chips at Costco. This chocolate is the good stuff, too — sustainable cocoa that is fair trade grown and sold.

Semisweet chocolate is one of the most versatile types of baking chocolates; it contains 51% cacao and a bit of real vanilla, giving it a rich flavor and a creamy texture without too much sweetness. This makes the chips perfect for the most classic of uses in this chocolate chip cookie recipe. And if you don't have a favorite recipe of your own, there's one right on the back of the package.

5. Almond flour

Gluten-free alternatives to flour can be pricey, but Costco is a great place to buy your substitute pantry staple affordably. Costco's Kirkland Blanched Almond Flour is roughly the same price for a 3-pound bag that you might pay for a single pound at a regular supermarket. Sourced from California, this boasts a super fine texture and offers more fiber and protein in your baking applications than traditional wheat flour. 

This bag is perfect if you want to try baking gluten-free versions of pie crusts, quick bread, or even pizza crusts. It has a denser, crunchier texture than baked goods made with wheat flour and a deliciously nutty flavor. Almond flour is also the main ingredient in macrons, a cookie that is universally loved whether you keep a gluten-free diet or not. It's also an ingredient in frangipane, a versatile creamy, almondy preparation that can be used as a filling for almond croissants, fruit tarts, and other baking recipes.

6. Broth concentrates

Buy a couple of varieties of Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Bases next time you're at Costco, and you can stop lugging heavy cartons of stock and broth home from the store. This super-concentrated broth base is available in beef, chicken, and vegetable flavors in a 21-ounce jar that will last for ages. A single teaspoon mixed with hot water makes an 8-ounce serving of broth, which means that you'll get 100 servings per jar.

Seasoning bases are similar to the bouillon cubes your grandma might have used, but the flavor is closer to what you'd get if you made your own stock from scratch, and the gel consistency dilutes well in water with no gritty bits left refusing to dissolve. Better Than Bouillon brand is known to be one of the best chicken broth substitutes thanks to its full flavor. This pantry staple is crucial for making up the base of many soups, sauces, and cooking liquid for grains, braises, and more. 

7. Canned tomatoes

Italian canned tomatoes are arguably the best-canned tomatoes to buy, with a bold flavor and a texture that breaks down well in sauces and other recipes. And San Marzano tomatoes, which only come from a specific region in Italy but have many imitators and impostors, are the best of the best. They have fewer seeds and thicker flesh, making them less acidic and watery than other tomatoes. Costco carries 28-ounce cans of Cento brand-certified San Marzano tomatoes in a three-pack. Cento is an American brand but has a production facility in Campania, where these tomatoes are grown in soil enriched by the ashes from nearby Mount Vesuvius.

Having a few cans of these tomatoes in your pantry means you're never far from whipping up a tomato sauce recipe for pasta or a killer pizza sauce (Really, all it takes is throwing the whole can in the blender with a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of Italian herbs.) As the season approaches, hearty chili is also on order.

8. Pasta sauce

If you don't want to make your own tomato sauce with those canned tomatoes, Rao's Homemade brand sauces are an easy alternative. If this brand is your pasta sauce of choice, you're in good company: it's also a favorite store-bought sauce of Ina Garten. This luxurious jarred marinara is made of plum tomatoes cooked in olive oil, onions, garlic, basil, and other seasonings. It's consistently received high reviews from consumers and foodie publications for its decadent flavor and lush texture.

Outside of Costco, Rao's Marinara Sauce is known to be one of the pricier options, coming in at an average of $8 and up (at the time of publication). But Costco's two-pack of 24-ounce jars makes this sauce as affordable as some of the cheaper brands. Keep it in your pantry to use in spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, on pizza, or in any other way you like to use pasta sauce.

9. Dried fruit

Buying dried fruit can be expensive: most packages only have a few servings and can be pricey. But with package sizes of over a pound, Costco is an excellent source of dried fruit, such as raisins, dried cranberries, dates, and apricots. One of our favorites, however, is Kirkland Tart Montmorency Cherries, which are USDA Certified Organic and come in a 20-ounce resealable bag.

Montmorency cherries are one of the most popular varieties of tart cherries, known for their bright red flesh and delicious sweet-tart flavor. They're also a nutritional powerhouse, with studies demonstrating that they can help with arthritis and gout, exercise recovery, heart health, and sleep regulation.

When you have a bag of these cherries in your pantry, you'll find plenty of ways to use them. Try using them in place of raisins to make the ultimate oatmeal cookies, adding them to granola or trail mix, or chopping them up and adding them to a scone recipe. Dried cherries have a place in savory recipes, too. They're delicious in the filling of a turkey roulade or in stuffed acorn squash.

10. Chia seeds

Chia seeds have become a popular superfood thanks to their nutritional profile: they're high in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in fiber. But what's unique about these seeds is how they gelatinize in liquid, making them an excellent thickener. Since only a couple of tablespoons are typically needed in recipes, Costco's 3-pound bag of organic chia seeds will last you quite a while. This non-GMO, direct-from-the-farmer bag of chia also comes in two-pack cases for 6-pounds total.

These seeds can be used in a chia seed pudding by combining a couple of tablespoons with almond milk or coconut milk and letting it thicken overnight in the refrigerator. You can customize your pudding with various sweeteners and other flavorings, such as maple syrup, vanilla, honey, fresh fruit, and chocolate. There are other ways you can use chia seeds, from making overnight oats creamier to using a mixture of ground chia seeds and water as an egg substitute in baked goods.

11. Canned tuna

Tinned fish is the quintessential pantry staple. Keeping quality options on hand allows you to whip up a range of meals, create salads or tuna melts, add protein to a pasta dish, fry tuna croquettes, or try an elegant canned tuna totonno sauce. In a pinch, cracking open a can of tuna and scooping it onto crackers makes a quick and filling snack or dinner.

If you're used to tuna packed in water, you owe it to yourself to try an Italian-style, oil-packed variety instead.  One of our favorite canned tuna brands is Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil, which has a firm, moist texture and a mild flavor that lends itself well to lots of different applications. The tuna is GMO-free and is certified dolphin-safe. Genova tuna is a little pricier than more mainstream tuna brands, but buying Costco's pack of six, 7-ounce cans makes it much more affordable. With the high-quality flavor and texture of this tuna, you'll be finding ways to use it in a gourmet meal, whether it's as a filling for onigiri or in a tuna pot pie.

12. Maple syrup

There's nothing like real maple syrup on pancakes and waffles instead of the breakfast syrups that are mostly corn syrup. A one-liter jug of Kirkland Organic Maple Syrup doesn't cost much more than the smaller sizes you'd find in your supermarket, and it's Grade-A maple syrup from Vermont. The affordable price and generous-sized jug mean you don't have to be too frugal to use the syrup in other ways, like in baked goods, as a glaze for carrots or sweet potatoes, or as a component of marinade. 

In fact, when you have what seems like an endless supply on your hands, you'll be more likely to check out some of the more unconventional ways to use maple syrup in the kitchen. Imagine adding it to salad dressing or challenging your inner Laura Ingalls and drizzling hot maple syrup on finely crushed ice to make chewy candy. And stocking up on Kirkland Signature maple syrup isn't a bad idea: recent reports show that, as with many other things, climate change is impacting the production of maple syrup. In the near future, this sweet treat may be harder to come by.

13. Granola

Not just to be eaten in a bowl of milk, granola is a pantry staple that is remarkably versatile. Costco carries several varieties of granola in its typical large-scale sizes, including offerings from Quaker and Kirkland Signature brands. One of our favorites, though, is the 2.2-pound bag of Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Seed and Flax Granola. This sweet and crunchy mixture is chock-full of rolled oats, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, molasses, cinnamon, and other goodies.

Try granola in a breakfast parfait layered with yogurt, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey, or get creative with tasty ways to use granola, such as sprinkled on top of muffin batter for a crunchy streusel topping or finely crushed and mixed with butter to make a pie crust (this is particularly good for creamy types like Key lime). You can also mix granola with nut butter, chocolate chips, dried fruit, and other ingredients, roll the mixture into balls, and chill them to make healthy energy balls. Granola is a good source of fiber and protein, so you won't mind sneaking a handful from the pantry every so often.

14. Nut butter

If you want to expand your horizons beyond peanut butter, you'll want to stock your pantry with the 27-ounce jar of Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond Butter from Costco. It is available in regular or organic versions, and the only ingredients are roasted, ground almonds, so you know you're not ingesting any sweeteners or preservatives.

Almond butter can be used anywhere you'd use peanut butter, but it has a thicker consistency and a seedier, woodsy taste. Nutrition-wise, it doesn't contain as much protein per serving as peanut butter, but it does contain some valuable nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium. Like many all-natural nut butter, you'll see some separation of the oil, but that is a normal part of the mix. Use this Costco pantry staple in sweet or savory sauces, cookie recipes, or other baked goods; it even is one of the best substitutes for tahini. And, of course, it makes a great PB — er, AB — and J sandwich.

15. Everything Bagel Seasoning

It was a sure sign that this topping was having a moment when Jeni's Ice Cream turned everything bagel seasoning into an ice cream flavor that sold out immediately. Although introduced two years ago, the ice cream version of this seasoning is still on the market. (Thankfully for fans, it's also much easier to get one's hands on.)

It's a good thing, then, that Costco sells an 11.5-ounce shaker of Everything Bagel Seasoning from Olde Thompson, a size that claims to yield more than 400 servings. It's a kosher blend of dehydrated garlic and onion, sesame and poppy seeds, and salt — a mix that really does seem to go with everything.

What seemed like a gimmicky sprinkle is now a mainstay on the spice shelf of many pantries. For good reason, too, since everything bagel seasoning goes great on foods from deviled eggs to avocado toast to grilled fish. Ree Drummond even uses everything bagel seasoning to boost her sliders, brushing on melted butter to get it to adhere. There are certainly worse ways to use a Costco pantry staple.

16. Pasta

Every pantry needs a few packages of pasta. Mixed with jarred marinara for a quick dinner, layered in a casserole dish for a pasta bake, tossed with salad dressing for pasta salad, or made into homemade mac and cheese, pasta is an inexpensive and versatile staple.

Costco's six-pack of Garofalo Organic Pasta is imported from Italy and comes in three different fun shapes. There are two bags each of classic penne, Gemelli, and casarecce. The penne is great with a marinara sauce (jarred or homemade, your choice). Gemelli, with its twisty shape, is the best pasta to serve with pesto out of the bunch; it is also a good shape for cold pasta salads. The tube-like casarecce will trap thinner sauces and is also great with seafood, ground meat, or finely minced vegetables. Of course, many types of pasta shapes have traditional sauce and ingredient combinations, but you can also throw convention to the wind and mix your pasta with an abundance of finer toppings purchased with Costco savings.