With the holidays fast approaching, we list down essential pantry items that you’ll need for your next handaan.
A joyous and much-anticipated time of year, Christmas is a special day for celebrations and gift-giving. But more than that, it’s a time for family, friends, and loved ones to come together.
And true to Filipino fashion, an occasion as well-loved as this is best celebrated with lots of good food to share—from party trays to homemade dishes, family favorites, and more.
Good food, however, goes hand-in-hand with equally good ingredients. And let’s not forget a tried and tested recipe, too. With that in mind, we list down 6 pantry staples that you can use to make your Christmases memorable—from the safety of your homes.
6 Pantry Staples for Every Filipino Christmas Feast
For homemakers who like adding a personal touch to your family handaan, here are some ingredients that you must have in your pantry:
We’ve adapted the well-loved Italian pastas for our celebrations, but with a uniquely Pinoy spin, of course. Normally a top of mind choice includes Pinoy-style spaghetti with its bright red sauce and abundance of hotdogs and cheese. But if you’re looking for something on the creamy side, served cold, and easy to prepare, then macaroni salad is your best bet.
Deliciously creamy and filled with your choice of sahog, Macaroni salad is a must in every table. From diced carrots to raisins, shredded chicken, and of course, soft elbow macaroni, this dish wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of mayonnaise.
For last-minute dishes, it helps to have an all-around ingredient that you can use in just about anything. Plus, if they can keep for a long time, all the better.
Whether for sweet or savory dishes, whole kernel corn fits the bill nicely. It’s so versatile that you can use it in soups, salads, side dishes, or even in desserts (Mais con Yelo, anyone?). Plus, buying canned corn saves you the trouble of shucking fresh corn, removing the kernels, and getting occasional bites of cob because you cut too deep into it. And trust me, when you’re in a rush, you can’t be bothered with all that.
4. All Purpose Cream
Another ingredient that can be used in sweet and savory, as well as hot and cold dishes, All-purpose Cream rightfully deserves its name because yes, it’s all-purpose. And versatile, too.
In line with Christmas festivities, all-purpose cream is a key ingredient in fruit salads. Likewise, you can use all-purpose cream to add a layer of richness in savory dishes like lengua, chicken ala king, and chicken pastel. But more often than not, it is essential in Pinoy-style carbonara—a definite must in Christmas parties.
3. Fruit Cocktail
Fruit salads are synonymous with Filipino celebrations—with some even elevating it into a Buko Salad. But with this kind of dessert comes the need for fruits… and lots of it, too. In order to reduce the prep time of buying and cutting fruits, you can stock up on cans of Fruit Cocktail.
So generously filled with a mix of different elements, like papaya, peaches, and even nata de coco, this can is practically a fruit salad in a can—sans the cream and sweetener, that is. Likewise, you can also use this Fruit Cocktail for different desserts—from refrigerator cakes to floats, fruit parfaits, and more. Yum!
2. Nata de Coco
When you think of fruit salads, halo-halo, and other cold desserts, Nata de Coco comes to mind. And really, what’s not to like? Although bigger than the usual nata that you find in milk teas and fruit teas, these OG coconut jellies are a must in every Filipino kitchen.
Adding a creative spin to a well-loved classic, you can even get flavored Nata de Coco in some cases! Visually a treat with its bright colors and fruity taste, these make your desserts more fun. Same chewy texture, same burst of sweetness, but now with a fruity addition of melon or pineapple, or the earthiness of ube, depending on which one you choose.
1. Queso de Bola
Heralding the festivities is quintessential Queso de Bola. Although imported in origin, these bright red balls have made themselves at home in almost every Pinoy kitchen. Saltier, firmer, and with a characteristic smoky flavor, even just a little dash of Queso de Bola in a dish is enough to pack a punch.
More often than not, Queso de Bola takes a supporting role in every handaan, but even so, its distinct aroma and flavor stand out. That is—unless it shines as the star in your charcuterie board. But usually, these are added in to elevate the flavor of your Pinoy spaghetti, emsaymada, or even the well-loved Noche Buena favorite: bibingka.