​Top 10 Must-Have Filipino Grocery Items

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.

Have you visited your Filipino friends’ houses and noticed they keep the same grocery items in their pantry? Well, there are some kitchen staples unique to Pinoy households that remain essential no matter where they are in the world.

Filipinos love to cook great-tasting food using these grocery items and they are known to put a premium on serving other people they invite to their home. You are guaranteed to get a warm welcome that will not just touch your heart, but also your stomach.

If you’re looking to stock up on some Filipino-ish pantry essentials, this list is all you need while you learn why they love to hoard these items, especially during typhoon season.

So before you do a grocery run for this week, make sure to consider these top 10 must-have Pinoy grocery items on your checklist:

1. Ketchup (Filipino Banana Ketchup)

Filipino Banana Ketchup

The Americans introduced this kitchen staple to Filipinos. However, bananas are the main ingredient used to make ketchup in the Philippines instead of tomatoes. Banana ketchup contains spices, sugar, vinegar, and bananas, hence the sweeter flavor compared to tomato-based ketchup.

The reason behind using bananas instead of tomatoes in Filipino-made ketchup dates back to World War II when bananas were more abundant in the Philippines than tomatoes. With its sweet taste, Filipinos practically put ketchup on almost every food they eat including fried eggs, rice, and even spaghetti.

2. Instant noodles

Pancit Style Filipino Instant Noodles

Another grocery staple that Filipinos always include in their food supplies is instant noodles. The convenience that comes with a pack of noodles makes it one of the must-haves in the kitchen. There are many different flavors to choose from, and you can cook them with or without the soup – pancit canton style or noodle soup dish.

Instant noodles are so easy to prepare, even kids can make them at home. You can add some boiled egg and white rice to complete your meal. In the Philippines, you can buy instant noodles from sari-sari stores (neighborhood stores). Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or something to eat while trying to sober up, pinoy-style noodles can give you instant relief.

3. Canned Goods

Filipino Canned Afritada

Perhaps, canned goods are the most common grocery item that you will find in a Filipino home. This is particularly important during typhoons and other calamities that often hit the Philippines. A real must-have because you can eat it right away or re-heat it if you want. Also, canned goods are convenient when you don’t have time to prepare food from scratch.

There are plenty of options in the canned goods section including beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, and even fruits. You can also find canned versions of caldereta, afritada, sisig, and other popular Filipino dishes. The easy-open cans make it even much easier to consume canned goods whenever you feel hungry. However, they contain sugar and sodium so it’s not recommended to eat them every day.

4. Vinegar

All homes need a bottle of vinegar for cooking purposes, but Pinoys treat sukang maasim (vinegar) as a kitchen essential because many of the local dishes use vinegar such as paksiw (fish or meat simmered in vinegar), adobo, and atsara (green papaya relish). The Philippines is also a tropical country so adding vinegar to any cooking recipe serves as a natural preservative.

The most popular type of vinegar that Filipinos love to use is the white distilled vinegar which is basically made from sugar cane. It has a more mellow taste than other vinegar variations, so it’s often used as an all-around flavorer. In provinces, fermented coconut water vinegar is more commonly used which has an acidic taste and yeasty note. This condiment is also used in making dipping sauce, especially for chicharon (pork cracklings).

5. Soy sauce

Filipino Soy Sauce

Originally made in China, toyo or soy sauce is a Pinoy favorite among the condiments usually found in the pantry. It’s made from roasted grain, brine, fermented soybeans, and a mold called Aspergillus sojae, which is used for the fermentation of grains and soy. This Asian condiment is an ingredient that gives savory flavor to Filipino dishes including adobo.

If you need to marinade the meat to make it tangy and savory, soy sauce is the ultimate ingredient you need. It’s also used to make sawsawan (dipping sauce) by mixing it with calamansi (Philippine lime) and chilies. Whether you’re eating fried tilapia (St. Peter’s fish), or steamed okra, soy sauce with some lime juice is the best dipping sauce to make.

6. Rice

If we are going to talk about the “most important staple food in the Philippines”, rice is the only answer. It provides the body with the daily recommended caloric intake, although too much can lead to weight gain. However, there’s not enough local supply of rice, hence making the Philippines a rice-importing country.

Any Pinoy kitchen should have a good supply of white rice in the pantry since this is essential for every meal – breakfast (fried rice), lunch, and dinner. Normally, Filipinos eat at least two rice meals per day; giving them the carbohydrates their body needs for energy. You can buy a few kilos of rice in grocery stores and put them in a container instead of one sack to ensure you get good quality every time.

7. Biscuits

Biscuit, cookie, or cracker, whatever you may call it, biscuits are one of the favorite Pinoy snacks both for young and old. There’s a wide range of baked delicacies that are locally made including Paciencia, Uraro, Barquillos, Otap, and Rosquillos. If you want to pair your biscuits with a cup of coffee in the morning, the square-shaped Jacobina biscuits are a popular choice for Filipinos.

They say Jacobina biscuits are the Philippines’ most famous biscuits and it’s easy to know why. These biscuits look like the thicker versions of galletas de patatas and were originally created in 1947 by Paterno Noceda of the Noceda Bakery. Today, it remains a trademark and is truly one of the Filipino favorite snacks.

8. Sandwich Spreads

Jams Variety Sandwich Spreads

Whether you’re eating crackers or a slice of plain bread, you can spread it on your favorite palaman (sandwich spread) to make it more delicious. Some of the most popular choices regarding Pinoy spread include margarine, mayonnaise, and peanut butter. Margarine is often chosen over butter because it is often touted as a better option when it comes to heart health.

Another Pinoy favorite is the chicken sandwich spread which is basically made of boiled shredded chicken, mayonnaise, chop cooked carrots, and some spices. If you want to add more sweetness to your sandwich, you can opt for local jams such as mango jam, pineapple jam, strawberry jam, banana-langka spread, calamansi marmalade, and even watermelon jam.

9. Bihon Noodles

Rice Bihon Noodles

Filipinos believe that rice bihon noodles or pancit are a symbol of long life. This is why you’ll always find pancit guisado and bihon in many Pinoy celebrations including birthdays, baptismal, and fiestas. If you serve it on New Year’s Eve, it means good health and good luck. This must-have grocery item is also versatile because you can cook it with different seasonings to achieve a variety of flavors.

Pancit and bihon may sometimes be used interchangeably, but they are two different types of noodle dishes in the Philippines. There are actually many types of noodles, flavor profiles, and proteins to consider when cooking a Filipino noodle dish. If you want to try them out, you can easily find bihon noodles in most Asian grocery stores near you.

10. Tocino

Filipino Bacon Tocino

In Spanish, tocino means bacon, a sweet and peppery cured meat that is popular in Filipino breakfast meals. For example, tosilog is a meal combo that consists of tocino, sinangag (fried rice), and itlog (fried egg). See how it got its name? Traditionally, this is prepared by curing the thinly-sliced pork belly meat using seasonings and spices including annatto or atsuete seeds (red-orange food coloring and condiment), anise wine, soy sauce, and sugar.

Once the curing is done, you saute the meat to give it a nice caramelized coating. This is also a popular go-to ulam (viand or dish) if you want easy-to-cook food for lunch or dinner. In the Philippines, people often bring their own baon (packed meal) to school or work and tocino is one of the favorite choices for ulam.

Final Thoughts on Your Filipino Grocery Items List

There are many other grocery items that are commonly found in Filipino pantries, but this list gives you a good idea of the most popular and must-have staple foods in the Philippines. Even thought they are numbered, there really is no best on the list…. They are all great and are essential in their own right! If you want to experience how it is to go grocery shopping for a Pinoy kitchen, consider all these items on your checklist.

So, which of these grocery items are currently in your pantry? Do you use them often or are they not essential in your cooking process? For the pantry staples that you are not familiar with, feel free to try them and see how they improve your eating experience… or better yet, try cooking a pinoy dish! Try one making one of our favorite Filipino street food options.

Honeyj So

As a content writer/journalist, I write about people, places, cultures, innovations, and experiences. Since 2014, I create engaging content that focus on brand awareness as well as fun learning.


More to Explore