minimalist kitchen essentials arranged on counter: pots, cutting boards, dishes, colander.

Inside: A list of minimalist kitchen essentials for starting a new kitchen or for decluttering your current kitchen, kitchen items our family considers essential (that might not be to you), plus questions for evaluating future kitchen purchases.

My idea-loving, not-so-minimalist husband bought a microwavable popcorn popper on a whim a few months ago. Something about being able to control the sodium?


Do you know where that popcorn popper is now? It’s in the donation bin downstairs, waiting for me to re-home it. 

Last year, my homeschooled kids wanted to make donuts, which is pretty challenging to do without donut pans. So donut pans got added to our kitchen inventory. 

Those pans ended up claiming a permanent place in our home, and we break them out every fall to make pumpkin donuts and apple cider donuts. Yummmm.

As a minimalist and the one in charge of cooking dinner most nights, having anything in the kitchen – appliance, pan, utensil – that only serves a single purpose doesn’t thrill me.

But because I keep the rest of our kitchen pretty minimalist, I can live with the occasional random addition that comes from having a big family with various wants and needs.

I try to remember that it’s not just my kitchen.

Sometimes, though, I do daydream about starting from scratch and what items would go into my minimalist kitchen if I did…

open minimalist kitchen cabinets with coffee, cinnamon, white bowls and clear glasses

A Minimalist Kitchen Essentials List (for Starting or Decluttering)

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Before I launch into this list of minimalist kitchen essentials, here’s a brief reminder of what minimalism is, and what it is not.

The best definition of minimalism I’ve come across is this one:

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”

Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

It’s not a contest to see how much you can get rid of, or how little you can live without. It’s not the new “keeping up with the Jones'”, but in reverse.

(Although, if it makes you happy to try going ultra-minimalist for a while, by all means, carry on. It could be fun?)

Plus, we are all SO different! Kitchen items you consider to be essential, I might not.

Minimalism is about intentionality, thinking through what you use day to day (and what you really don’t), what brings you joy enough that it’s worth taking up space in your home.

At the end of the day, the whole point of simplifying your kitchen is to make it easier to use. As long as it’s easy to put things away and your counters stay clear, keep what you love!

So with that disclaimer, here’s my minimalist kitchen essentials list.

P.S. Please, please, please do NOT go and get rid of everything in your kitchen that’s not on this list. It’s suggestive, not prescriptive.

You Might Also Like: 7 Minimalist Rules You Don’t Need to Follow (Unless They Work For You)

1. Sharp Butcher Knife

Those knife blocks? I find them to be an annoying waste of counter space. They also typically come with more knives than you need.

You really only need one good knife for chopping veggies and cutting meat. You can wash between uses.

I plan on replacing ours this Christmas with THIS one.

2. Quality Bread Knife

Cutting loaves of bread without a bread knife is pretty challenging. You can do it, but why?

If you plan on ever eating bread, choose a quality bread knife for your minimalist kitchen.

3. 2-3 Steak or Paring Knives

You could do 1-2 small knives, steak or paring knives.

We’ve lived with only 2-3 steak knives (plus the other two knives above) for years now, and I haven’t wished I had a paring knife once.

And we use knives all day, every day.

4. Kitchen Scissors

I use these every day, multiple times a day!

You need at least one good pair (two if you have small children).

5. Cooking Utensils Set

You need a pack of cooking utensils that includes things like…

  • Ladle
  • Cooking Spoon
  • Pasta Server
  • Spatulas
  • Tongs
  • Basting Brush
  • Silicone Whisk

I’ve tried to live without these things when we cook in a motel on vacation…it never goes well.

(You could add a bamboo spatula to this collection. I love mine and reach for it all the time!)

6. Vegetable Peeler

We have two of these because we use them every day, multiple times a day. They’re definitely minimalist kitchen essentials for us!

But one good one (Oxo brand usually wins) will do it for the average kitchen.

7. Cutting Boards (2)

I was going to say one good cutting board, but….

Multiple articles say that unless you thoroughly clean your cutting boards after using them for meat, you really need separate boards for meat and veggies.

So two cutting boards are ideal, but you could get away with one, using one side for meat and one for veggies. Make sure to mark it!

8. Ceramic Skillet

There are some things you can only make well on a non-stick, ceramic skillet.

We make eggs, pancakes, grilled cheeses and more on ours.

I replaced our old non-stick skillet with the most affordable ceramic Aldi pan last year, and it’s been amazing! Cleans up well, and I’m not worried about toxins in our food.

THIS ceramic one is similar and bigger. I’d steer clear of traditional non-stick because: toxins.

You could substitute a cast iron skillet (too high-maintenance for me) or THIS pan which claims to do just about everything.

10. Stainless Steel Stock Pot

If you are ever going to make a full pound of pasta effectively, you need a decent-sized stockpot.

I replaced our very old, probably toxic non-stick pot last year on Black Friday with THIS stainless steel version. It’s been more than adequate, but THIS one works, too, at a better year-round price.

11. 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

We use this for any skillet dinners, fried rice, alfredo, etc. I definitely consider this essential, although you could substitute an electric non-stick skillet if you wanted to.

Just make sure you get a flat and not beveled one (from someone who accidentally ought the beveled one).

12. 1.5 Quart Saucepan

It would be super annoying to break out the massive stock pot anytime you want to cook something small.

Grab (or keep) a 1.5 quart saucepan as part of your minimalist kitchen.

13. Pyrex Food Storage Set

Do yourself a favor and skip the Tupperware. Snag for THIS glass food storage set.

You’re welcome.

14. Handheld Mixer

You might be able to get away without these, but if you’re ever going to make whipped cream from scratch or beat a cake mix at high enough speeds for two-minutes to get the desired results, you need one.

We have THIS one. We love it, plus it comes with a whisk attachment that we occasionally use apart from the mixer.

15. Mixing Bowl Set

For baking OR cooking, I don’t know how you would go without mixing bowls.

We have a set similar to THIS one, but this one has lids, which is awesome. You could grab metal bowls, instead, and avoid breakages.

(My kids may or may not have taken one of the bowls outside and dropped it on the sidewalk…)

16. 9×13 Pyrex Baking Dish with Lid

I use this for baking everything from stuffed peppers to baked mac and cheese.

The lid is what makes it awesome – you can bake and move leftovers straight to the fridge without transferring to a different container.

It’s really difficult to find one with a lid, unless it’s bundled with a square pyrex with a lid as well. Maybe at a physical store like Williams & Sonoma (RIP Bed, Bath & Beyond)?

17. Colander

We have THIS exact set and use all three regularly for rinsing berries to draining pasta.

18. Box Grater

Use two sides for grating cheeses, and the other for ginger or zesting.

Personally, I prefer the box grater to the smaller, hand-held grater, but I do (reluctantly) have both.

If I had to get rid of one, it would be the hand-held grater.

minimalist kitchen items, including spatulas, can opener, tongs, spoon, and more.

19. Can Opener

Unless you buy all cans with those tabs on top (that don’t always work), you’ll find it pretty difficult to open cans without one of these, making it a minimalist kitchen essential in my book.

20. 2-Cup Glass Liquid Measuring Cup

I have mixed feelings about this one. If I were you, I would shop at thrift stores and hope to come across at old-fashioned one.

I’ve heard several reports that for new ones, the measuring lines on the sides wear off quickly, making them useless.

So you could get a new Pyrex one (maybe there was a bad batch?) and hope for the best, or just get measuring cups and use them for both liquid and dry measurements.

My professional chef brother would gasp in horror at this recommendation. Sorry, bro!

If you go with the Pyrex, just make sure to keep your receipt.

21. Measuring Cups and Spoons

If you cook or bake at all, you’re going to need these. We actually have two sets of each because we cook and bake so frequently!

22. Muffin Tin(s)

If you rarely bake, you could definitely survive with one, but cooking muffins or cupcakes goes much faster with two.

Get a matching set that fit together to save cabinet space.

23. Oven Mitts

Stick with silicone like THESE ones. They come in so many fun colors! Just don’t get them wet – it doesn’t end well.

24. Dish Towels

I’m currently on the hunt for the best dish towels. If you have a brand you love, please share in the comments!

We’ve tried a few different kinds over the past several years, and none of them compare to a couple Threshold dish towels that Target no longer makes (but I love).

25. Dishes, Cups and Silverware

You won’t get far without a set of dishes and some silverware.

Start out with simple set of dishes for four people, which includes salad and dinner plates, bowls and coffee mugs.

Grab a set of silverware that you can easily replace in pieces (we just replaced some of our spoons directly from Oneida), and a simple set of glasses.

26. Sheet Pan

I use my sheet pan for sheet pan fajitas and roasting potatoes.

I really can’t live without it! I’ve tried – can’t live without it.

27. Cookie Sheets

I wish roasting pans and cookie sheets could serve the same function. Unfortunately, they seem to be inherently different. Sigh.

This simple two pack will be enough for most home cooks/bakers.

28. French Press (or Coffee Maker)

I mean, if you don’t drink coffee, I suppose you could get away without this? You don’t drink coffee?! Just kidding. Kind of.

Coffee is essential in my world. Since I’m the only one in the family to drink coffee, I switched to a French Press years ago and haven’t looked back.

I don’t miss maintaining a coffee maker or worrying about it breaking, either.

(Oh, and the French Press does require a coffee grinder.)

29. Tea Kettle

A tea kettle is also essential for my French Press coffee, and also for things like tea and ramen.

We use ours multiple times a day.

30. Toaster and/or Toaster Oven

We happen to have both that we use daily: THIS simple, two-slice toaster and a toaster oven.

If you consider a toaster oven/air fryer to be a minimalist kitchen essential for you, I can’t recommend THIS toaster oven highly enough! It has a life-time, free replacement warranty that we have used to get it replaced twice.

31. Canisters for Baking Ingredients

I’m not huge on decanting stuff in containers, except when it comes to baking supplies.

I have containers for:

  • flour
  • white sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • chocolate chips

Everything else stays in its original bag or container.

minimalist kitchen cabinet full of spices, blender and a 9x13 casserole dish.

Additional Minimalist Kitchen Items Our Family Adores (& We Don’t Want to Live Without)

In no particular order, here are the things I consider minimalist kitchen essentials that others might not.

Rice Cooker

Can you make rice in a saucepan? Yes. Do I want to babysit my rice? No.

An Asian friend gave us this rice cooker for our wedding years ago. I plan on replacing it this year with an identical one.

It makes perfect rice every time.


Some people don’t trust microwaves. That’s cool.

But since everything can give us cancer these days (ya know, like rugs, tampons, shampoo), I’m hanging onto something that makes my life a whole lot easier. We have enough pots and pans to wash.

Pantry Organizer Bins

I bought an 8-pack of THESE clear bins from Home Edit to organize baking ingredients and spices.

I love them! They make it so much easier to find things, and I can pull out one bin to look for what I need.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to a Minimalist Pantry You LOVE (No Decanting Required)

Stand Mixer

This was handed down to us from my mom (thanks, mom!).

The main reason we keep it is for bread-making, which my husband does occasionally.

Would I spend hundreds on a new one? Probably not.

Baking Accessories

I hang onto things like extra cookie sheets for making Christmas cookies, and cake pans to make birthday cakes.

There’s the donut pans because my kids sometimes get up the urge to make donuts.

I’m getting ready to gather all the occasional use baking items up and put it in a bin downstairs, just so they’re out of my way.


We love smoothies in the summer months! And I’m pretty sure you can’t make smoothies without a blender.

We have had an Oster blender for forever, and it’s worked well for years.

Waffle Maker

We make waffles once a week most weeks.

We started out with a Belgian waffle maker. But after being given a mini Dash waffle maker, it’s more than sufficient, and the kids don’t mind waiting for fresh waffles one by one.

Square Metal Pans

We use these regularly for things like cornbread (to go with THIS easy, healthy chili), easy ham and cheese sliders, banana bread or brownies.

You could make use muffin tins or the 9×13 pyrex, instead. I prefer the square pans.

Quality Ice Cream Scoop

This single-use item is well worth having if you eat ice cream at home a lot. And with prices these days, I’m assuming many more families will be having ice cream sundaes at home, instead of out.

We have THIS one, and it works really well! Just don’t put it in the dishwasher.

minimalist baking items in pantry

7 Questions to Evaluate Potential Minimalist Kitchen Purchases

Before you buy anything new for your kitchen, ask yourself the following questions.

And be sure to follow the “keep it in your cart for 72 hours” before buying rule. You wouldn’t think three days would be a serious deterrant in our “buy in one click” culture, but it really helps!

How many people use the kitchen?

If you have multiple people using the kitchen all day every day like we do, you might benefit from having duplicates of things like measuring cups/spoons or spatulas.

If it’s only an annoyance once a year, though, then maybe stick with one set.

How often will I use this?

If you will only use it once, see if you could live without it.

For example, if you rarely cook frozen foods like fries or nuggets, you might be able to just use your oven and skip the toaster oven.

You could also buy a one-time use roasting pan if you only need it once a year, like for making ham at Christmastime.

Can I borrow this once, or to try it out?

While borrowing can get annoying for the non-minimalists you’re borrowing from, occasionally asking a close friend or family member for something like a serving platter or baking pan is probably fine.

Especially if it’s a one-time thing, like you need a punch bowl for a graduation party, try borrowing first.

Or if you’re wanting to try slow-cooker meals to see if you like them, you could borrow one for a week and then purchase your own (or if you hate slow cooker meals like we do – don’t).

How much time/money will this take to maintain?

Are you going to need to clean this new purchase a ton? Can it be thrown in the dishwasher or does it require hand-washing?

Could it break easily? Make sure to read the reviews, especially if it’s an expensive purchase.

Related: The Ruggable Review I Wish I’d Read – 6 Rugs & 3 Years Later

Is there another way to get the same results?

Could you just cut the apple with a paring knife, instead of using an apple corer? Could you use the box grater to zest the lemon, instead.

Where will this item live in my kitchen?

Anything new you buy for your kitchen needs a home! Especially if it’s a bigger appliance, think about where it’s going to go in your kitchen.

I try to keep most appliances off the counter. If you’re aiming for the same, consider your cabinet and drawer space before making a new kitchen purchase.

What do I need to declutter before buying?

Do you have room in your kitchen for something new? If not, you need to rearrange or something has to go.

If you’re living with a small kitchen as we did for years, you could consider using wall space for things like a knife magnet or to hang pots and pans.

But ultimately, you’ll hit a point where adding more without subtracting will render your kitchen less functional. And isn’t a functional, easy to use kitchen the whole point?

Related: 21 Minimalist Habits That Will Keep Your Home Clutter-Free for GOOD

minimalist kitchen with clear counters, sun room in background.

A Minimalist Kitchen Is Hopefully a Happy, Functional Kitchen

Is the kitchen the heart of the home? Maybe. Maybe not.

But at the end of the day, what I want most out of my kitchen is for it to be easy to use.

Clear countertops, spacious drawers and easy-to-find cooking tools can be the difference between cooking the dinner I planned on making…and throwing in the towel and eating out.

And since cooking at home most of the time really helps our bank account and makes our lifestyle possible, keeping my kitchen as minimalist as possible is pretty important to me.

I hope this guide helps you create your own minimalist kitchen that is a joy to use.

Or if you really hate to cook (I hear you), may it at least make cooking less frustrating and difficult.

Read Next: 21 Little Ways to Make Life Easier (Because Adulting Is Hard)

What did I not include that would be on your minimalist kitchen essentials list? Share in the comments!


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