25 ingredients and foods we couldn’t be without

To celebrate Good Food's 25th birthday, we've been asking the nation which ingredients they just couldn't do without. Here are the top 25 as chosen by you, along with new ways to enjoy all of your favourites...

25 foods we couldn’t be without

We've been getting all reflective in the run up to our 25th birthday. We wanted to know how the nation cooks, shops and eats - starting with the everyday ingredients you and your kitchen simply couldn't be without. We put the question to our Facebook and Twitter fans, as well as a nation-wide survey of 10,000 people and asked for a list of go-to foods. Do you agree with the top 25? 

The nation speaks: The 25 ingredients we couldn't be without


1. Chicken

With its juicy texture and mild flavour, chicken is extremely versatile, and is consistently the most popular search term on bbcgoodfood.com. Therefore, it's perhaps not a surprise that in our nation-wide survey the big bird topped the list of ingredients at 55%.

Running our of new ideas for poultry? Take a look at our chicken collection for fresh inspiration and make the most of your bird with our video guide to jointing a raw chicken.


2. Cheese

The universal cry from our Facebook and Twitter fans when asked which ingredient they couldn't be without was cheese. From crumbly feta and meaty halloumi to tangy Parmesan and melt-in-your-mouth brie, cheese can transform any meal into something extra special.

Browse through our cheese collection for new ways to use old favourites.

3. Bacon

It's not hard to imagine why so many of our social media followers picked bacon, as the smell of juicy, crispy and salty rashers has been known to coax even the heaviest of sleepers out of crumpled sheets on a weekend morning. However, you don’t need to confine your bacon to breakfast spreads alone.

Have a look through our bacon collection for ways to sneak in your favourite all day long.

4. Bread

The smell of freshly baked bread is said to be so inviting that it can even help to sell your house. The nation demonstrated their loyalty to the loaf in our national survey, as it was picked as a must-have ingredient by 52% of respondents - putting it a close second to chicken.

Check out our bread collection for our favourite bakes, or turn toast into something special with our top tips for artisan toast.

5. Pasta

A fantastic budget storecupboard favourite and classic student staple, pasta can be dressed up or down as the mood takes you. Almost half of our survey participants agreed this was one everyday item they could not live without. 

To get your fix without the stodge, try our healthy pasta recipes or have a go making your own shapes from scratch with our video guide.

6. Chocolate

Chocoholics may be surprised this one isn't higher up the list as it’s many people’s go-to comfort food. Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, enjoy a few cheeky squares as an afternoon pick-me-up, or fall in love over a chocolate fondant pudding. And if you like the dark stuff, it’s can be good for you in moderation.

Left wanting more? Satisfy a craving with our top chocolate recipes.

7. Rice

Rice forms the basis of delicious dishes such as risotto, paella, jambalayakedgeree and countless more, so we are actually a little surprised only 35% of people said they'd be lost without it.

Try our favourites or explore more ways with rice.

8. Fish

A great source of protein and healthy omega-3s, fish can be prepared and served in a huge variety of dishes – great news for the 29% that claimed to be at sea without it. 

Visit our fish collection for inspiration and find out how to eat ethically with our guide on sustainable fish and how to cook it.


9. Salmon

Polled seperately to other ocean-dwellers, we asked the nation what they thought of salmon as a stand-alone fish favourite and they loved it. Flaky, succulent chunks may feel like an indulgence, but it’s actually very healthy. Try poaching or grilling fresh fillets, or make your own cured gravadlax.

Leftover smoked salmon? Try our top tips for using it up.

10. Chilli

Clearly Britain likes it hot, with 17% of those surveyed selecting chilli among their must-have ingredients. Whether chopped fresh or sprinkled into stews and soups dried, chilli peppers are a great way to give your cooking a spicy kick.

If you like spicy food, check out our chilli collection or watch our video to find out how to prepare chillies.

11. Tomatoes

We're not surprised that tomatoes made our social followers' most-loved ingredients. Ripe, fresh tomatoes make a welcome addition to any salad, while tinned tomatoes cook down into a rich sauce, perfect for storing in the fridge and adding to weeknight dinners. Many soups, sauces, curries and stews all begin with the humble tom, so browse our collection for inspiration.

Want to make your own passata? Read our guide to find out how.

12. Eggs

Another entry in the top ten on Facebook and Twitter, eggs' versatility means they can be used in a huge variety of dishes, from quiches to meringues, or simply soft-boiled with soldiers. Here are our pick of the best ways to use up a dozen


13. Fruit

With studies suggesting we should be aiming for 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, it's fantastic to hear that so many of you on social media pack a nutritional punch while satisfying your sweet cravings. Fresh or canned, fruit is great as a snack, dessert or incorporated into a cake or bake.

We’ve got hundreds of recipes to use up a garden glut, but if you’ve still got too much, watch our video for how to freeze different fruits.


14. Garlic

Our social fans gave a huge shout out for pungent garlic, which many recipes rely on for a depth of flavour, to complement other ingredients, or as the star of the show. We can't get enough of garlic bread, garlic butter and garlic mushrooms - and for the true garlic fans amongst us, garlic soup. With so many health benefits, you don’t need to hold back on cooking with those cloves.

15. Potatoes

Fifth most popular with our Facebook and Twitter users, potatoes are a great starchy vegetable to thicken up soups and stews, with a huge range of uses beyond the classic Sunday roast side.

Browse through our new potato collection, or pile up the fillings with our ideas for baked potatoes

16. Onions

Many savoury recipes would be seriously lacking if it weren’t for the humble onion, as our social followers know well. Find out about the health benefits of onions or follow our video to make onion rings.

Feeling inspired? We have thousands of recipes to use up those onions.


17. Butter

Our Facebook and Twitter followers know that there are few simpler pleasures than butter melted over hot toast, sweetcorn on the cob, or a fluffy baked potato. Butter is also crucial to many baked goods, including cakes, biscuits and tarts - watch our video to learn how to rub together butter and flour to make pastry.


18. Bananas

Bananas are nature’s perfect pick-me-up, complete with their own peelable wrapper, so it's no shock that so many of you nominated the yellow fruit as your favourite on social. Chuck one in your bag to reap the health benefits of this portable snack, or try one of our favourite banana recipes.

Don’t throw away those over-ripe bananas, try our top ten tips to use them up.

19. Cake

Our site stats reveal that us Brits are baking mad, with classic Victoria sandwich, tangy lemon drizzle, creamy cheesecakemoist carrot cake and rich chocolate fudge just a handful of our most popular cake recipes.

Head over to the Bakes & cakes section of the site to find your perfect bake.

20. Chorizo

In our survey, 9% of you chose smoky, spicy chorizo as an ingredient you couldn't live without - great for adding warmth and flavour to stews, sandwiches and salads. Our collection should give you plenty of ideas, but if you’re still stuck, try our handy guide for what to do with chorizo.

21. Quinoa

As a relative newcomer to the British food scene, we're not surprised that only 2% named quinoa as their must-have ingredient in our survey. An ancient South American crop, quinoa has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its fluffy, grain-like texture and impressive health benefits. As a vegetable source of complete protein, quinoa is a great choice for vegans. Get started with our quinoa collection, or serve in place of rice or couscous.

22. Lemons

Many of our social users told us that you love tart and tangy lemons. Use a squeeze to lift and freshen savoury flavours, or sweeten it up in bakes and desserts. We’ve got recipes for both in our lemon collection.

23. Curry paste

As you reminded us on Facebook and Twitter, us Brits love an Indian takeaway, but it’s much cheaper, tastier and healthier to make your own. If you’re looking for new ways to spice up curry night, take a look at our curry collection.

24. Avocados

Creamy, indulgent AND good for you - no wonder so many of you commented on social in favour of this soft green fruit. Avocados are full of healthy fats, and we have loads of tasty ideas in our collection.

Not sure how to prepare your avocado? Follow our easy video


25. Mushrooms

Finally, it seems our Facebook and Twitter fans would be lost without their favourite funghi. Delicious in stews, stir-fries and sauces, mushrooms are robust enough to replace the meat in dishes such as vegetarian stroganoff or Portobello burgers. There’s a wide variety of mushrooms to choose from, so check out our collection for our favourites.


Have we identified your favourite ingredients? Is life complete with our top 25 or have we missed out a crucial foodstuff that you couldn't live without? Let us know your must-haves below...


Comments, questions and tips

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5th Oct, 2014
what about milk? I couldn't live without!
1st Oct, 2014
Personally you can delete the chocolate, cake and quinoa. As for the curry paste, I always make my own. I would, however, add Worcestershire Sauce as it enhances virtually any stock or gravy.
1st Oct, 2014
Must-have for me is flour, basic essential for so many delicious sauces - not to mention the basic ingredient in thousands of desserts
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