Must-Have Minimalist Kitchen Essentials

This list of must-have kitchen essentials will help you achieve a well-equipped, minimalist kitchen and more efficiency and enjoyment while cooking. Grab your free printable kitchen essentials checklist below!

Whether you’re moving into your first apartment, a new home, or are looking to refine your collection of kitchen gear, this curated kitchen essentials checklist will bring both functionality and simplicity to cooking while helping you minimize kitchen clutter.

How to get your printable kitchen essentials checklist

I’ve created a free printable checklist to go along with this guide. This handy digital download will allow you to easily keep track of what you have and need as you acquire the essential items for your minimalist kitchen. Simply add your name and email address below, and it’ll land right in your inbox. If you feel inspired to declutter your kitchen, I have a kitchen declutter checklist as well.

Kitchen essentials list

When it comes to creating a minimalist kitchen, the secret is having tools that serve your cooking needs without adding unnecessary clutter. The purpose of this list is not for you to run out and buy one of everything —it’s to get you to think about your own cooking style and the meals you frequently make. By keeping things minimal and having the right kitchen tools, you’ll maximize your efficiency and enjoyment in the kitchen and also be able to make some pretty delicious meals.

I curated this list while going through my own kitchen and have linked to many products I own and love below. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). I only link to brands and products I believe in, so thank you for your support!

Kitchen tools & utensils

  • Knives We’ve used our Wusthof knives for over a decade, and they’re still pristine. I highly recommend investing in a quality knife set if you can because they will truly last a lifetime. The staples I recommend for everyday food prep:
    • Chef’s knife (if you can only afford one good knife, let this be it!)
    • Paring knife
    • Serrated knife
    • Bread knife
    • Honing steel for keeping your knives super sharp between professional sharpenings (which you really only need to do once per year).
  • Cutting boards When it comes to chopping boards, I like having a couple of different sizes —a large one for when I’m chopping major veggies or watermelon and a small one for slicing fruit or dicing the odd onion. I recommend getting one of each size and adding more of the size you use most if you find the need.
  • Mixing bowls Look for ones with lids for easy transport to parties and storing leftovers. A set of 3 is probably adequate for most. This is the set from Cuisinart that I’ve been using for 10+ years, and they’re still in excellent shape.
  • Prep bowls Smaller than mixing bowls and nice for holding everything from pre-measured ingredients to toppings and garnishes when serving.
  • Glass measuring cups Handy for measuring larger volumes of liquids as well as mixing and pouring runny batters. My Pyrex set has served me well for many years (I use the 2, 4, and 8-cup the most), but Amazon also makes a slightly less expensive set.
  • Measuring cups are important for measuring accuracy when cooking or baking. If you do a lot of cooking, consider a set like this with  ⅔ and ¾ cup options. They come in handy! If you need measuring spoons as well, this is a great starter set.
  • Measuring spoons These measuring spoons that fit inside spice jars might just change your life.
  • Whisk One medium-sized whisk is perfect for beating eggs and making batters. I also love my mini whisk for mixing dipping sauces and marinades
  • Can opener
  • Vegetable peeler A veggie peeler is a must to quickly and easily peel fruits and vegetables with minimal food waste. I highly recommend the OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler.
  • Garlic press Yes, you can mince garlic with a knife, but if you cook a lot, this tool is worth its weight and the small amount of space it takes up.
  • Grater Get a multi-purpose grater like this one for shredding cheese, zesting citrus fruits, or slicing vegetables. This one is also grate (couldn’t resist the pun!) if you want to go minimalist or have a small kitchen.
  • Colander Get a colander for draining pasta, washing vegetables, or straining liquids.
  • Mesh strainer Perfect for sifting dry ingredients, straining liquids, rinsing fruits, vegetables, beans, and rice, and removing small particles from sauces or gravies.
  • Oven mitts Protect your hands with heat-resistant oven mitts when handling hot dishes or pans. They can also double as hot pads when placing hot pots and pans directly on the table.
  • Wooden spoons Inexpensive and won’t scratch your non-stick pans. Woot woot!
  • Slotted spoon 
  • Ladle
  • Spatula (turner)
  • Silicone spatula This OXO set of three has all the shapes and sizes you need.
  • Silicone basting brush (pastry brush)
  • Vegetable brush
  • Tongs These OXO tongs are handy for turning food, tossing salads, or serving.
  • Hinged corkscrew with bottle opener
  • Ice cube tray Even if you have an automatic ice maker, silicone ice cube trays are handy for freezing small portions of leftover soup, sauces, fresh herbs, and other ingredients you don’t want to waste.
  • Kitchen shears or scissors
  • Digital kitchen scale
  • Digital meat thermometer
  • Citrus reamer or citrus press A handheld press will be too small for oranges and grapefruits, so I recommend a reamer if you’re looking for one tool to juice all types of citrus.
  • Cookie scoop I find these helpful for making evenly-sized fritters, meatballs, and cookies. It can also double as a small ice cream!
  • Olive oil bottle A true workhorse in our kitchen for convenient, one-handed olive oil dispensing
  • Steamer basket If you have kids who prefer the texture of steamed vegetables (like mine), this might be worth having. The fit may not be perfect, but you can also steam veggies using a mesh strainer and a medium-sized saucepan. 
  • Salt & pepper shaker/grinder
  • Water filter This may or may not be essential depending on the quality of your tap water and whether or not you have a built-in filtered water dispenser in your fridge.

Cookware & bakeware

Below is a list of basic kitchen equipment handy for cooking and baking. If you bake often, you might need additional items like cake pans, muffin tins, or a rolling pin.

  • Nonstick pan Ceramic skillets are non-stick like Teflon but a healthier, more environmentally-friendly choice. I like to have a small one and a 10-12” one as well.
  • Cast iron skillet Ideal for cooking at high temperatures (for example, searing meat or roasting a chicken) but can be used for pretty much anything. The 10-12” pans are a great size.
  • Saucepan: A small stainless steel pot or saucepan is useful for warming soup, steaming veggies, and making sauces. 
  • Large pot (soup pot or stock pot) Useful for cooking everything from pasta, chili, soups, and stews to bone broth. Sizes usually range from 5-12 quarts. I find an 8-quart is plenty big for our family of four, and then some.
  • Dutch oven Great for making soups or sauteeing larger volumes of veggies (especially with liquid) but can also be put in the oven for braising meats, baking bread, and more.
  • Rimmed baking sheets Nordic Ware is my favorite bakeware brand. I recommend getting the largest size that will fit in your oven, as well as 2 quarter-sheet pans for smaller batch cooking or roasting foods with different cooking times. Rimmed baking sheets can also be used as trays or for containing messes in the kitchen, like when you’re grating cheese or for catching juices when slicing or shredding meat.
  • Baking pans A 9×13, square, and loaf pan are some of the most versatile sizes to have.
  • Cooling rack Great for cooling baked goods, as well as pancakes and waffles for storing. Find a size that fits into your rimmed baking sheets, and they can also be used during baking to get foods (like these chicken tenders) extra crispy.  
  • Rolling pin A bottle of wine also works in a pinch if you don’t bake much!

Dinnerware & serveware

  • Cutlery set Forks, knives, and spoons
  • Steak knife set 
  • Plates 6, 8, and 10-inch are practical sizes; unless you host large gatherings often, a 6-piece set is probably enough for a family of four. 
  • Bowls Smaller bowls for ice cream, soup, and cereal, larger bowls for noodle or rice bowls, and meal-sized salads
  • Coffee mugs
  • Glasses These 7-ounce Bodega glasses stack to save cabinet space and are great for water, juice, wine, and even bubbles when you have something to celebrate. 
  • Platter Great for serving everything from sliced turkey and roasted veggies to appetizers, fresh fruit, and bite-sized desserts.
  • Serving spoons 2-3 serving spoons are great for big salads and family-style dishes


Not essential, but good to have if you use regularly: 

  • Instant Pot Not a must for everyone, but the Instant Pot is a great minimalist kitchen appliance because it is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice maker in one. It’s a true workhorse and a major space saver in our kitchen.
  • Air Fryer My other favorite “essential-but-not” kitchen appliance. I use our air fryer several times a week for everything from crispy homemade chicken tenders to quick frozen fish sticks, crispy tofu cubes, roasted veggies, and more.

Storage & organization

  • Food storage containers Glass food storage containers are non-toxic, more durable than plastic, and safe to use in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer. Some can even be used in the oven. I do also have a few small plastic ones for packing school snacks.
  • Food storage bags These Stasher silicone bags are my absolute favorite. They are durable, easy to clean, and more economical and eco-friendly than single-use plastic bags.
  • Glass jars I find these handy for making and storing salad dressings as well as freezing sauces and cooked beans.
  • Food wrap supplies Some to consider include reusable wax food wraps, wax paper, parchment paper, aluminum foil, and biodegradable cling wrap
  • Storage bins and organizers These keep cabinets, drawers, and your pantry organized. If there’s one you absolutely need, it’s a drawer organizer for cutlery and cooking utensils.

Cleaning & upkeep

Tips for a minimalist kitchen

  • Declutter regularly. Making the time to declutter your kitchen once or twice a year can help you maintain a clean, organized, and clutter-free kitchen that functions efficiently and that you enjoy working in. Purge your pantry, eat up your freezer stash, and purge mismatched Tupperware. 
  • Prioritize multi-purpose tools and appliances. Multipurpose tools and appliances are key in a minimalist kitchen. Having one tool that can be used for different purposes not only saves you space and money but time and energy too. My Instant Pot and my 2-in-1 food processor/blender are two multi-purpose appliances I cannot live without.   
  • Don’t add items you don’t truly need. Watch out for gimmicky kitchen gadgets (hello, avocado slicer), freebies (including water bottles, wine openers, and take-out condiments and utensils), and sets that have way more pieces or parts than you need.
  • Opt for good quality, durable items. High-quality, durable kitchen tools and appliances are typically more reliable and durable and perform better than cheaper, lower-quality options. Investing in quality kitchen gear can save you significant time, money, and frustration while reducing waste and environmental impact. It’s a win-win! 
  • Borrow items you don’t need for everyday cooking. Borrowing infrequently used kitchen items from friends and family can help you maintain a minimalist kitchen and avoid cluttering your own space with seldom-used tools and appliances. Some things I borrow rather than own include a turkey roasting pan, turkey baster, an extra fondue pot, and a few extra place settings when we host large holiday gatherings. 

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Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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