15 Pantry items I can’t live without

By Khanya Mzongwana, 19 June 2024

In this economy, shopping without a list (and sticking to it!) is a foolhardy exercise only to be attempted by those with godly levels of self-control. For the rest of us, I’ve thrown together a list of pantry items I simply can’t do without. I’m not fancy but I have items that feature in my pantry as a matter of necessity. Add them to your shopping list right now if you haven’t already. I hope this is helpful!

1. Woolworths dhania chutney

Remember Mrs Balls? No, you don’t. This dhania chutney is the sweet, spicy, not-so-new girl in town. If you love coriander as much as I do, get out your hot, crispy samoosas, this is about to be your new favourite dipping sauce. Trust me on this one.


Find the recipe for dhania chutney and cheesy stuffed rolls here.

Shop Woolworths dhania chutney here. 

2. Woolworths chicken stock powder

I know this is the least fancy thing on this list but hear me out. Egg-fried rice will never be the same once you shake some of this onto it while cooking. It’s got a delightfully savoury flavour, reminiscent of Aromat, but not exactly the same. It’s also well priced and a perfect base for stews and soups.

Find the recipe for nacho fried chicken here. 

Shop Woolworths chicken stock powder here. 

3. Woolworths spicy seasoning

Woolworths really snapped when they made this. I tell everyone to buy it; it’s my favourite do-it-all seasoning for just about anything. I sprinkle copious amounts on veggies right before roasting, and if you’re wondering which spice to use on your braai meat, this is the stuff right here. It’s also a perfect seasoning to shake onto slap chips and needs no additional spices. Or combine it with melted ghee and rub onto sweetcorn before placing on a hot grill.

The world’s best slap chips

Find the recipe for the world’s best slap chips here. 

Shop Woolworths spicy seasoning here. 

4. Mielie rice

If you haven’t had mielie rice before, this is your sign to give it a try. It’s like a finer version of samp and cooks considerably faster. You can serve it the same way you would samp, accompanied by a rich, hearty stew. Perfect comfort food. Try this awesome lamb tagine with a side of creamy mielie rice.

Find the recipe for Mielie rice here. 

5. Marmite

I grew up avoiding this stuff, but now I can’t stop using it. Try it in my beef stroganoff soup, it has the tiniest bit of pleasant bitterness and adds bold, savoury flavour to almost anything.


Find the recipe for stroganoff soup here.

Shop Marmite here. 

6. Woolworths smoked cod roe paste

The country was rocked when fish paste was discontinued. This is as close a replacement as I can find. It hits all the notes – it’s deliciously smoky and fishy (I know that sounds weird, but don’t knock it till you try it) and a cool, trendy feature to add to your next sea-cuterie board.


Find the recipe for roosterkoek with smoked cod roe butter here. 

Shop Woolworths smoked cod roe paste here.

7. Woolworths black quinoa

I LOVE this stuff! Granted, it might be a little on the pricey side, but it’s such a rich, versatile grain and looks striking in a salad. I even stir it into my mphokoqo for texture when I'm feeling extra.

Uphuthu with black quinoa

Find the recipe for Uphuthu with black quinoa here. 

Shop Woolworths black quinoa here. 

8. Woolworths burger mayonnaise

I won’t attest to not being able to live without it, but life is considerably harder without Woolies’ burger mayo in my pantry – or technically fridge, because it doesn’t stay sealed for more than a day in my home. This is the glue in all the best burgers and sandwiches.

Find the recipe for French onion burger here. 

Shop Woolworths burger mayonnaise here. 

9. Maldon salt 

This is the ultimate cook’s salt. There’s no way to explain it; it’s the salt of dreams. It’s less salty than regular table salt and enhances everything you add it to. It’s so delicate and beautiful to look at that it’s tough to go back to regular coarse salt once you get started on it. Sprinkle a bit of Maldon on a scoop of Woolies’ Belgian chocolate ice cream to add dimension.

Find the recipe for salted chocolate-chip cookies here.

Shop Maldon salt here. 

10. Peanut butter

This may seem basic, but it’s something I often forget to buy, and I always need it. I’m a simple gal – a generous slather of smooth peanut butter and a drizzle of honey on a bagel is breakfast in my house.

Find the recipe for Nutella-and-peanut butter French toast here. 

Shop peanut butter here. 

11. Woolworths mosbolletjie-style rusks

Is a South African pantry complete without a good rusk? I think not. These long, luxurious rusks were born to be dipped in a cup of sweet, milky rooibos and eaten nice and soggy. The addition of caraway seeds makes these delicious rusks extra unique. Warning: keep these on the top shelf if you’d like them to last more than just a few days.

Shop mosbolletjie-style rusks here.

12. Xigugu

Xigugu is an utterly beautiful product, and I will never shut up about it. It’s a popular Tsonga snack that Praising Mabunda brought to Cape Town’s shores from her home town in Mpumalanga. It’s made by Tsonga women in previously disadvantaged communities and ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. It’s simply a paste of dried maize, open-fire roasted peanuts and a bit of sugar. It’s so versatile and can be enjoyed as a nut butter or stirred into soups and stews, or just enjoyed by the spoonful. To order a jar of xigugu, email Praising at xiguguroyalty@gmail.com, or follow @xigugu_royalty on Instagram.

Find the recipe for xigugu-and-coconut roast chicken here. 

13. iBhisto

I’m a Gqeberha girlie, so of course my pantry is always stocked with ibhisto! This is our version of a simple tomato smoor, and Woolies was kind enough to recreate the sweet, salty, acidic relish and bottle it for our enjoyment. I love spooning it onto cheesy scrambled eggs on toast, and it makes a good base for pizza, too.

Shop iBhisto here. 

14. Biltong

If I ever have biltong in the house, it means I’m probably out of town and haven’t been available to tear through it in the few minutes it usually takes me. The price of biltong these days has made it something of a luxury item, so I enjoy it sparingly like the indulgent, fatty treat it is.

Shop Biltong here.

15. Apricot jam

Apricot jam is life itself. This product falls under my list of spreadable nostalgia and takes me back to simple lunchboxes when my mom would spread fresh white bread with margarine and chunky apricot jam, accompanied by a bottle of ice-cold Oros.

Jam doughnut cupcakes

Find the recipe for jam doughnut cupcakes here. 

Shop Apricot jam here. 



Khanya Mzongwana

Article by Khanya Mzongwana

If you're anything like our deputy food editor Khanya Mzongwana, you're obsessed with uniqueness and food with feeling. Cook her family-tested favourites, midweek winners and her mouth-wateringly fresh takes on plant-based eating.
View all articles
Load more