50 Grocery-Store Products Chefs Love (100% Unpaid Endorsements)
"I am so snobby about Hellman's mayonnaise. It has that pure flavor and none of the off-putting vinegary-ness."
Ree Drummond — The Pioneer Woman
"For many sauces, there is room for innovation. But when it comes to ketchup, Heinz is a classic that I just wouldn't want to mess with."
Alex Garcia — A.G. Kitchen, New York City
"I love La Baleine sea salt so much, I use it at home and in the restaurant. It has a great texture that makes it easy to sprinkle consistently out of your hand."
Ben Pollinger — Oceana, New York City
"What Thai chefs prize in coconut milk is the cream (aka coconut oil). Chaokoh coconut milk is the richest and creamiest."
Jet Tila — Oceana, New York City
"My go-to for a weeknight supper when I have no time to shop are Angelo Parodi Portuguese sardines. They're great in pasta, on a sandwich or in a salad."
Mary Sue Milliken — Border Grill, Los Angeles
"I love to eat Kettle Brand potato chips with mashed California avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon from my tree and sea salt."
Susan Feniger — Border Grill, Los Angeles
"Temp Tee whipped cream cheese is just so light, fluffy and delicious."
Josh Capon — Lure Fishbar, New York City
"I'm crazy about Georgia Olive Farms olive oil because it's green, bright, fruity and from my home state."
Alton Brown — Cutthroat Kitchen
"The Rolls-Royce of cornbread mixes is Jiffy corn muffin mix."
Sunny Anderson — The Kitchen
"Muir Glen organic tomatoes are some of the best tomatoes you can buy in a can. They come diced, whole and crushed. My favorite are the fire roasted; they're an easy way to add flavor to whatever you're cooking."
Jenn Louis — Lincoln Restaurant, Portland, OR
"The creamiest and fullest-flavor boutique creamery butter that you can buy in a grocery store is Vermont Creamery butter."
David Myers — Hinoki & The Bird, Los Angeles
"When I was growing up, Claussen pickles were always in our fridge, and I still find myself buying them today."
Josiah Citrin — Mélisse, Santa Monica
"I love JENNIE-O ground turkey because it is all natural."
Willie Degel — Restaurant Stakeout
"My wife and I like Goya garbanzo beans slightly warmed with fresh tomatoes, cured sardines, onions and sometimes a hard-boiled egg. It's a good quick salad in the summer."
Fabio Trabocchi — Fiola, Washington, D.C.
"At home we throw Trader Joe's almond butter into smoothies for extra protein, and my son loves it on toast or in PB&Js."
Victor Scargle — Lucy Restaurant & Bar, Yountville, CA
"The Rondolino family takes every painstaking step to produce Acquerello rice — you can make the best risotto with it."
Doug Psaltis — RPM Italian, Chicago
"I'm loyal to Illy. It's a great cup of coffee."
Lee Schrager — Director, Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival
"Black Diamond cheddar is consistent, has great flavor and is perfect for a snack, on a burger or in fancy mac and cheese."
Andrew Zimmerman- Sepia, Chicago
"I love to eat Bonne Maman preserves throughout the year according to the season: I put a small dollop of the wild blueberry in my summer blueberry pies. I eat the four-fruits flavor on toast in spring. In fall, I go for the marmalade, cherry or fig."
Alex Guarnaschelli — Iron Chef America
"Tamazula hot sauce — reliable, affordable, easy to find, delicious."
Rick Bayless — Red O Restaurant, Newport Beach, CA
"I grew up eating Bush's baked beans, so it's a product-loyalty thing. All other brands are grossly inferior."
Mike Lata — The Ordinary, Charleston, SC
"The only kind of ketchup I can tolerate is Sir Kensington's spiced ketchup — perfect on grilled burgers and french-cut fries."
Gayle Pirie — Foreign Cinema, San Francisco
"I have at least one package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry in the freezer at all times. It has the best 'puff.'"
Melissa d'Arabian — Ten Dollar Dinners
"The zero-percent-fat variety of Fage Greek yogurt is much creamier, thicker and smoother than other brands."
Laurent Tourondel — Arlington Club, New York City
"Open up a jar of your favorite tuna, add baby spinach and smother it all with creamy, tangy Cindy's Kitchen buttermilk ranch dressing."
Nadia G — Bitchin' Kitchen
"Kewpie mayonnaise has a superior taste to others. It's the perfect thing on a soft roll with roast chicken and avocado."
Shaun Hergatt — Juni, New York City
"When I am trying to eat healthy, I pour Kikkoman rice vinegar over brown rice and chicken to add flavor."
Tony Gemignani- Tony's Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco
"Rustichella d'Abruzzo pasta is the top dried pasta available. I visited the operation in Abruzzo, Italy, and it is first class."
Gerard Craft- Pastaria, St. Louis
"Nothing besides French's yellow mustard will work on things like boudin or bologna sandwiches."
John Currence- City Grocery, Oxford, MS
"You need to seek them out in specialty-food stores, but Ortiz anchovies are the best!"
Rick Moonen- RM Seafood, Las Vegas
"I buy HORIZON organic eggs because they are reliable."
Amanda Freitag- Chopped
"Canada Dry seltzer seems to stay fizzy much longer than other seltzers."
Anita Lo- Annisa, New York City
"I like adding Bear Naked granola to my yogurt."
David Burke- David Burke Kitchen, Aspen, CO
"To start the day, especially in the colder months, I think MCCANN'S steel-cut Irish oatmeal is good fuel. I really like the texture—other oats tend to get soft and mushy."
Jose Garces- Iron Chef America
"I use Red Jacket Orchards Fuji apple juice to create cocktails and elixirs. It is brighter in flavor and appearance than cider."
Luke Venner- BLT Fish, New York City
"Martin's potato rolls are the best for hamburgers and sandwiches—bar none!"
Ralph Scamardella- Tao, Las Vegas
"I make Rotel Dip: I cut Velveeta into cubes, mix in Rotel tomatoes, microwave it and then dip with Fritos. It's the best."
Ford Fry- The Optimist, Atlanta
"There are hundreds of salts on the market, but Jacobsen sea salt is the top one for me. The texture is great."
Chris Cosentino- Incanto, San Francisco
"Sugar in the Raw turbinado sugar adds a crunchy but not overly sweet texture to the top of scones, pies and turnovers. And it's great in coffee."
Tiffany MacIsaac- Birch & Barley, Washington, D.C.
"Why make your own marinara when RAO'S marinara saucetastes homemade? It's simmered for hours with good tomatoes, basil, garlic and oregano. I use it as a base for pasta sauce or lasagna."
Ina Garten- Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics
"The best ice cream on the planet is Blue Bell ice cream. My favorite flavor is Rocky Road."
Tim Love- Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Fort Worth, TX
"You can never have too many hot sauce options, but I always go back to Sriracha from Huy Fong Foods."
Thomas McNaughton- Flour + Water, San Francisco
"I use Orlando Greco giardiniera on sandwiches. Nothing beats it!"
Rick Tramonto- Restaurant R'evolution, New Orleans
"No other peanut butter besides SKIPPY has that rich, roasted nut flavor that's ever so salty. It's just how I like it!"
Kelsey Nixon- Kelsey's Essentials
"If Progresso Italian-style breadcrumbs were good enough for my mother to use in her recipes, they're good enough for me."
Steve Martorano- Café Martorano, Las Vegas
"I don't care what anyone says: Kraft American cheese makes the best grilled cheese and cheeseburgers on earth. My kids love it, too."
Ken Oringer- Clio, Boston
"I love Earth Balance spread as a [vegan] butter substitute to finish off sauces."
Tal Ronnen- Crossroads, Los Angeles
"I love Sparrow Lane vinegar and the small-batch varieties they offer. These vinegars are just perfect."
Bradley Ogden- The Tavern at Lark Creek, Larkspur, CA
"For clean flavor and granules of consistent size, I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt."
Tony Maws- Craigie On Main, Cambridge, MA
"Steve Sando sells heirloom varieties of his RANCHO GORDO beans that nobody else is cultivating. Prices are higher than mass-produced brands, but for a great pot o' beans, it's worth it."
Ted Allen- Chopped
Most of the products in this story are available in grocery stores nationwide. Look for these items in specialty stores or online:
Acquerello rice: williams-sonoma.com
Angelo Parodi sardines: worldmarket.com
Chaokoh coconut milk: worldmarket.com
Georgia Olive Farms olive oil: georgiaolivefarms.com
Jacobsen sea salt: jacobsensalt.com
Kewpie mayonnaise: amazon.com
Orlando Greco giardiniera: amazon.com
Ortiz anchovies: amazon.com
Rancho Gordo beans: ranchogordo.com
Red Jacket Orchards Fuji apple juice:redjacketorchards.com
Rustichella d'Abruzzo pasta: amazon.com
Sir Kensington's spiced ketchup: sirkensingtons.com
Sparrow Lane vinegar: sparrowlane.com
Tamazula hot sauce: amazon.com
Vermont Creamery butter: murrayscheese.com
Think beyond butter: Here are dozens of ways to top your toast.
Photographs by Levi Brown