How to Shop for a Paleo Pantry

These 14 foods are delicious and versatile, and hit the paleo trifecta: protein, plants and high-quality fats.

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Ghee or Duck Fat    

Although, technically dairy (which many paleo devotees avoid), clarified butter, a.k.a. ghee is OK, because it's pure butter fat, says Arsy Vartanian of popular paleo blog Danielle Walker, author of New York Times best-selling cookbook Against All Grain, agrees: "Ghee is my preferred fat to cook with." The milk solids are removed, so there is very little (if any) casein or lactose left, which are the dairy proteins that some people are sensitive to, explains Vartanian. Not much compares to the rich, nutty flavor that ghee—which has a high smoke point—adds to sauteed vegetables or browned meat, she says. Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat also keeps rendered duck fat in the fridge and coconut oil is another good alternative.

By Nicole Cherie Jones

Grass-Fed Beef and Organic, Pasture-Raised Poultry

Grass-fed meats have less saturated fat and more nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, than grain-finished beef. "I use them as one of my main protein sources in addition to poultry that has been raised without antibiotics or GMO feed," says Walker. "If I have a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef in the fridge, I know I'm only about 10 minutes away from a delicious dinner — browned and seasoned, ground beef is like a blank canvas that can be turned into just about any meal," says Joulwan. The only problem? Grass-fed beef can get expensive. "Purchasing a portion of a cow through a local ranch is the most cost-effective way to go," advises Vartanian.

Liver for DIY Pâté

When made using liver from healthy, pasture-raised animals, pâté — which is easy to make at home with a blender — is a true superfood, says Vartanian. "Liver is nature's multivitamin, rich in iron and other minerals, choline and vitamins, especially energy-boosting vitamins B6 and B12," she explains.

Salmon and Sardines (and Other Fatty Fish)

"Fatty fish are a great source of omega-3s, which most of us don't nearly get enough of, and canned sardines make a great paleo snack on the go," says Vartanian. Joulwan seconds that: "Just a little oily and not too fishy, sardines are power food, and the leftover oil is perfect for dipping raw veggies: red bell-pepper strips, cucumber coins, carrot sticks — instant lunch or snack."

Organic Eggs

Any time of day, eggs are a high-quality source of fast protein. "I keep a dozen hard-boiled on hand for egg salad or deviled eggs made with homemade olive oil mayo; or when I want a comforting dinner, an omelet does the trick," says Joulwan. "They are a great source of vitamins and minerals — including some not found in many other foods, such as vitamin D — and the yolks provide tons of choline, which is particularly important for a healthy pregnancy," says Vartanian.


"Low in sugar and packed with antioxidants, berries make a great addition to breakfast or an easy afternoon snack," says Vartanian. Joulwan likes them drizzled with coconut milk and topped with a few chopped nuts.

Collard Greens

"Kale seems to be the superstar of the paleo world, but I'm here to make a case for collard greens," says Joulwan. "They tenderize during steaming and sauteing without disintegrating into mushy territory and can be braised in a coconut milk curry, wrapped around meat fillings, baked in tomato sauce or sauteed in oil with seasonings to make a vitamin-packed side dish," she explains.


"Cauliflower is another kitchen quick-change artist," says Joulwan. Healthy comfort food, here you come: puree with coconut milk to replace mashed potatoes.


This unassuming vegetable can be turned into veggie "noodles" with a julienne peeler, pureed into a creamy soup, sliced thin for salads, or grilled alongside burgers or steaks. "What's not to love?" says Joulwan.


Sauerkraut and Kimchi

Regularly eating fermented foods — such as sauerkraut and kimchi — is a great way to increase the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, which keep things running smoothly when it comes to digestion, says Vartanian. "Fermented foods contain probiotics, which help us absorb nutrients better and have also been shown to improve immunity and reduce the risk of disease," she adds.

Macadamia Nut Butter or Sunflower Seed Butter

Peanuts are actually a legume — a paleo no-no — so skip the peanut butter. Almond butter is OK, but macadamia butter is a better choice, since it's much lower in omega-6 fatty acids compared with other nut options, says Vartanian. Joulwan also likes sunflower seed butter. Today, most people are eating way too many omega-6s — which are pro-inflammatory — and not enough omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. You might think inflammation is all bad, but some is actually essential, because it protects our bodies from infection and injury.

Almond Flour or Coconut Flour

Almond flour is high in protein, antioxidants and heart-healthy fats and is a great substitute for gluten and grain flours, says Walker. The best almond flour is made from blanched, skinless almonds that are finely ground into flour, she explains. The finer the grind, the better your baked goods will turn out. For those with nut allergies, another good gluten-free option is coconut flour, which is packed with dietary fiber and protein. 

Raw, Local Honey    

"Raw, local, organic honey has incredible health benefits," says Walker. "It is an energy booster and contains only monosaccharides (single sugars), making it easier for the body to absorb and process," she explains.

Coconut Aminos (in Place of Soy Sauce) or Fish Sauce

Soy sauce often contains gluten, so many paleo fans use coconut aminos — made from naturally aged coconut sap and blended with sea salt — as an alternative salty flavor booster, says Walker. She also uses fish sauce frequently. "It's common in Thai and other Asian recipes, but I also use it in recipes that would typically contain Worcestershire sauce, as it contributes a similar salty flavor," she explains. "Look for bottles that contain only anchovy and salt, such as Red Boat brand," she advises.