The Sustainable Kitchen Holiday Gift Guide
Close your eyes and imagine you’re in your kitchen. Or at least you’re in what seems to be your kitchen, but perhaps in a slightly parallel universe. The room is familiar, but its contents are different. They’re brighter somehow, and everything looks like it’s built to last. The colors bursting out of your refrigerator and pantry are more vibrant. Some of the foods are familiar, some are new. All you can tell for sure is it’s making you want to put on an apron and bake.
So where are you? You’re in the sustainable version of your kitchen–or your parents’ kitchen, or your friend’s kitchen. And this holiday season, the way you gift can start to bring it to life.
I’m excited you’re here. I’ve compiled a list of the food items, kitchen tools, cookbooks, and more that you’ll love to gift this year and that can also make your or a loved one’s kitchen more sustainable. From teeny stocking stuffers to appliance purchases, this list runs the gamut – and I’ve vetted everything on it through my regenerative baking lens, which you can read about here. This list has a bias toward baking but includes cooking items too, and most importantly of all, the list may not be complete! I would love to know what you would add to it. Leave a comment and I might just incorporate it.
Note: Prices are current as of time of publication.
Food & Pantry Gifts
The gardener in your life might love one or a few packs of seeds from Row 7 Seed Co. A collaboration between plant breeders and chefs affiliated with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Row 7 breeds seeds that are great for soil health and culinarily showstopping. They also recently started selling their products at Whole Foods in the Boston area, so pick some squash and other produce up if you live in the area. I’ve highlighted to the squash seeds, but be sure to explore their whole collection.
Grown in Halifax, PA, this spelt flour is milled by the great team at Carolina Ground, a boutique mill in North Carolina. Support the diverse grains that’ll make up our food future and the small-scale food companies bringing that future to life. A 1-kilo bag runs $8.
For the exacting pastry chef or serious home baker in your life, you can’t get much better than a bag of flour from Anson Mills, arguably the most trail-blazing mill in the United States. Anson Mills preserves culinarily and culturally significant varieties of all sorts of grains, growing varieties adapted to the US South. This Red May pastry flour is an exact reproduction of pastry flour in the mid-1800s, known at the time for its crisping properties.
I fell in hopelessly and deeply in love with pâte de fruits while I was living in France. One of the oldest forms of candy-making, pâte de fruits at its simplest isn’t much more than fruit and sugar – essentially a very carefully cooked and dehydrated jam. Moister than gummies we’re used to in the US, the texture is a revelation. You can find pâte de fruits at a few commercial pâtissiers and chocolatiers in the US, but they often have lots of filler ingredients that frankly wouldn’t fly in France. I like sniffing out the talented home chef businesses on Etsy like this store that use just fruit purée, sugars, and pectin. Getting this candy right is really hard – and knowing that is part of what makes it so fun to enjoy.
Ghetto Gastro is a culinary collective based in The Bronx using ancestral ingredients like sorghum, a grain and sweetener you may have heard of if you were raised deep in the South, to celebrate black, brown, and Asian cooking. Literally everything Ghetto Gastro makes looks insanely delicious, but this sorghum syrup is at the top of my list.
From a Williamsburg, Brooklyn chocolate factory come these plant-based, organic, naturally sweetened chocolate bars, perfect for gifting or stocking stuffers. The company pays the farmers above fair trade wages, and sources 100% organic cacao–a rarity in the industry. Chocolate is threatened by climate change, so it’s one of the foods that are important to source from companies supporting sustainable land management and growing practices.
Diaspora Co sources spices directly from farmers and growers, with an emphasis on organic, fair wages, strong relationships, and freshness. As someone who’d previously always bought spices at the grocery store, my mind was blown when I tried their cinnamon. The spice trio ($33) would make a great gift, the cinnamon ($12) would kill it as a stocking stuffer, and the Just Date Syrup Chai Caramel ($18) should probably get drizzled over every dessert you make at the holidays this year.
Heilala sells vanilla extracts, pastes, beans, and other products in a range of sizes and prices, so these make great gifts or stocking stuffers. Heilala is the first certified B corporation in the vanilla industry, and grows its vanilla on the island of Tonga. You might know that most of the world’s vanilla is grown on the northern tip of Madagascar – a place that’s seeing more extreme weather, heat, and hurricanes, as climate change progresses. I’d really rather not lose vanilla to climate change, so I appreciate companies that are helping spread our vanilla eggs across multiple geographical baskets–and who are paying growers higher wages.
Perennial Pantry is a food company that’s experimenting to create delicious products with Kernza, a perennial grain whose long roots help prevent soil erosion and make farmland more resilient to climate change. Perennial Pantry makes pastas, tortillas, crackers, flour, pancake mixes, whole grains, and more, so their CSA-style membership box can be a ton of fun for an adventurous cook or baker. As a member, you also get to vote on new product development and on which products should make it into your box each month. The full share contains 14 products per month ($130), and the half share contains 7 ($70). You can also make a one-time purchase instead of a recurring purchase.
A more sustainable food future will have a more vibrant ecosystem of mid-size farms, mills, and food companies than we have today. That’s especially true for grains, because nearly all of the interesting experimentation with sustainable grains in the US is happening on small farms. If you’d like to gift someone a bag of grains or flours from a mill near you, check Amy Halloran’s list of mills to see what’s available in or near your state. But fair warning: Once you buy flour raised and milled near you, it’s really hard to go back.
Just type in your zip code to use Local Harvest’s search tool to find local farms with CSAs in your area. Then go to the farm’s website to sign yourself or a loved one up for a CSA membership. These are often very popular, so you might have to investigate a few until you find one that is taking new members. It’ll be worth the effort!
Pastry bags were a constant source of plastic waste in culinary school, so much so that it made the French chefs uncomfortable. And that’s saying something. Those guys have an odd set of values. As pastry students, we were always encouraged to use disposable piping bags preciously, and to never throw away plastic unnecessarily. One further step you can take in the direction of reducing waste is to invest in reusable pastry bags like these. The home baker on your list will love these for frosting cakes.
Why buy new when buying old can be way cooler sometimes? This Etsy shop sells all sorts of vintage kitchen stuff. I love this particular vintage cookie cutter set, but get creative and explore away – Etsy is full of vintage kitchen goods that can make wonderful gifts.
An alternative to plastic wrap, these beeswax food wrap sets make a nice sustainable stocking stuffer.
This set-of-3 reusable zip bags are a great alternative to disposable Ziploc bags.
Meema takes discarded denim and cotton and upcycles them into kitchen towels, aprons, placemats, and more. The designs are timeless, simple, and chic – it would be hard not to love receiving these.
Parents are always asking for painfully practical things for Christmas or birthdays, right? So take them literally this year, and give them a compost bin! Just don’t try wrapping it in wrapping paper. I’ve tried. It doesn’t go well.
Why does this salt cellar make it on the sustainable kitchen gift guide? Solely because that if you’re anything like me–or my mom, or any of my friends I’ve given salt cellars to over the years–this is an item you will keep your entire life, possibly even re-build your life around. It’s the kind of kitchen item that is frankly way more satisfying than it has any right to be. There’s something about having salt on hand for grabbing pinches or dumping into pasta water that unlocks a whole new level of culinary free-spiritedness. The magnetic slidy-lid just makes it all the better.
A splurgier salt cellar option, these custom-made salt cellars from The Wooden Palate are upcycled from Atlantic City Boardwalk wood. Allow three weeks shipping time since each is made to order.
Simply a gorgeous Bundt pan made by a brand known for its specialty Bundt and baking pans lasting forever. I’m pointing you to this particular shape because it’s the one I want – among Bundt pans, I think it’s the peak of elegance. If you can get the cake out of it, that is. But that’s a post-Christmas problem.
This carbon steel wok falls into the category of awesome pots and pans you can buy today that’ll be compatible with an induction stove when you eventually upgrade. Made by The Wok Shop, this wok is a J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recommendation, which means I want it. It comes in a variety of sizes – the flat-bottomed 16-inch is $49.95.
Another entry on our love it now, love it with induction later list, this saucepan is on sale at time of publication. All Clad’s D3 line is fully induction compatible, so you could safely direct your splurgier pots-and-pans purchases to their brand. There are sets to choose from as well as individual pieces, several of which are on discount at the moment.
I love this 4-QT Staub dutch oven because it’s gorgeous, classic, and you can keep it for a lifetime. I have the matte black (which I got a couple years ago for $99), and it has spent hundreds of hours in an oven at 550F and still looks brand new. If you’re getting it for bread-baking, go enamel-less black. But the enamel colors are of course stunning. I find various brands discount the Staub 4-Qt each holiday season, so it pays to search around online. As of publication time, I see Food52 carrying a few colors, as well as Williams Sonoma, Amazon, and Sur La Table.
If you happen to be buying a home or if you wield tremendous psychological influence over your landlord, get an induction stove this holiday season! This one seems to go on sale here and there at Best Buy.
Cookbooks & more
Probably my favorite book I read this entire year, Eating to Extinction is a masterful and engrossing journey through the world’s rarest foods–and why we urgently need to save them.
I interviewed Anne-Marie Bonneau about her cookbook Zero Waste Chef for my podcast last year, and I’ve been hooked on her low-waste kitchen tips and tricks since. This cookbook is a delicious overview of how to make the most of all the food in your kitchen, including inventive recipes for how to use scraps and even sourdough discard (the chocolate cake is great). You can’t get much better than this cookbook for a cook in your life looking to live more resourcefully.
Food and drink writer Alicia Kennedy’s first book comes out August 2023, and you can pre-order it now for a loved one who’ll appreciate what is sure to be a fascinating look at the cultural history and culinary future of plant-based eating.
Founded by Stephen Satterfield, host of the Netflix show High on the Hog, Whetstone Magazine explores food origins all over the world. Gift someone one print issue ($25) or a subscription ($100).
A 2021 release from chef and native foods educator Freddie Bitsoie, New Native Kitchen celebrates modern indigenous cuisine. It also gives a revelatory and grounding tour of the North American ingredient palette – some of which may be familiar, some perhaps unfamiliar. Baking and cooking with what evolved to thrive around us without extra inputs is a big part of how we can make our baking more sustainable.
A cookbook on my own holiday wishlist this year, Brian Levy’s Good and Sweet is dedicated to baking with naturally occurring sweeteners from fruits and grains. No white sugar here, and no syrup or honey either. Getting rave reviews by many of the bakers I follow on Instagram, this is sure to be a fun one to bake through.
Bakery owner and pastry chef Roxana Julapat offers a gorgeous collection of recipes for the grain revolution, from barley to spelt to buckwheat and more. Her spelt blueberry muffins were so good I made them twice in one week (and ate both batches all by myself).
Ghetto Gastro recently released their cookbook Black Power Kitchen as a plant-rich celebration of black, brown, and Asian cooking traditions. It’s high on my list this year – and I bet someone in your life would love it.