Food is never the wrong gift idea, especially when shopping for a hard-to-please host, second cousin you don't actually know all that well, casual acquaintance, or that friend that doesn't want more stuff in her life. Whether you’re getting stocking stuffers or want to pick up something sweet to add that extra touch to a larger gift, this guide of condiments, baked goods, and cooking staples — all available nationwide — is your friend.
Salt on the Go
This tiny container of salt makes the ideal stocking stuffer for the very particular person in your life who always needs more flavor. The small size means it’s perfect for backpack compartments, clutches, or suit jacket pockets, so salt fiends can keep the slide tin around 24/7 to provide the finishing touches to their meals.
Jacobsen Salt Co. // Two for $5
New company Snacks of Africa takes coconuts imported from Africa and toasts them in a Harlem kitchen to make super thin, crisp chips that are both sweet and savory. Give these to your constantly snacking friend, or anybody who’s looking for a (healthy!) new take on toppings — these work well on salads and ice cream sundaes alike.
Snacks of Africa // 12 for $42
Seattle chef Renee Erickson — of The Whale Wins, Bar Melusine, General Porpoise, and more — isn't just an empire builder: She also has a wonderfully intriguing line of pickled fruits. Go for the cherries, whose deep flavor is magnified when pickled. Or for a cheffy gift that veers more to the sea, try the smoked herring instead.
Boat Street Pickles // 1 for $12 or 6 for $70
Baker Umber Ahmad garnered a fanatic word-of-mouth following for her luscious brownies, cookies, tarts, and marshmallows well before she opened her brick-and-mortar bakery in New York this year. Her focus on the branding and style of the packaging is almost as impressive as her baking skills, making Mah Ze Dahr goodies a chic and delicious gift.
Mah Ze Dahr // Starting at $12
A craving-driven search for kaya — South Asian coconut or coconut-pandan jams — led Eater to Hey Boo. The original srikaya is smooth and sweet, a great addition to any breakfast bread. The mango version brightens the classic (try it in lieu of lemon curd), and the coconut caramel sauce takes baked goods, ice cream, fruit, and drinks to the next level.
Hey Boo Jams // $12 per jar
Charleston’s Burnt & Salty has three products out on the market: Korean mustard, a Thai-style glaze, and coconut suka, a spicy vinegar made with fermented coconut water. Purchase individually, pair with a kitchen gift (any new college grad would welcome a slick new pan and some sauces), or pick up the trio to bring to your next holiday party.
Burnt and Salty // $9-$30
Pies for All Occasions
What’s the perfect present for a far away pal? Pie. We tasted through about a dozen of the pie offerings from food marketplace Goldbely so you wouldn't end up with any clunkers. Send crack pie to an NYC expat or Baltimore bomb pie to the friend who won’t stop talking about Berger cookies, or remind your partner of last year’s trip to Montana with starry triple berry pies. Our Miami resident want gaga over this Killer Key Lime pie, and this Michigan cherry pie made it feel like summer all over again at Eater HQ.
Goldbely // $45-$59
Eater Young Guns winner Irene Li and her siblings own Mei Mei — food truck, shipping container restaurant, brick-and-mortar space — in Boston, where they serve Chinese American fare. The team's line of sauces (apple hoisin, cranberry sweet and sour, smoked maple ginger) are perfect for spice-averse cooks looking for a ton of flavor.
Mei Mei // 3 for $28
A Cassoulet Pan for the Modern Cook
The carbon steel pans from Blanc Creatives rival any of the hand-me-down cast iron your roommates swear by. Try the cassoulet, available in a 10- or 12-inch version, which comes pre-seasoned and ready to use. With loop handles and a lot of surface area, it's the only pan you need — whether for a frittata on the stovetop or something broiled in the oven.
Blanc Creatives // $265 for the 10-inch
Salt & Time does meat right. The butcher shop in Austin, TX, sources whole animals straight from local ranchers, then cuts, ages, cures, dries, and smokes in house. The mail-order salumi (pecan salame, chile pequin and desert oregano salame, and a top-notch coffee lomo) are available nationwide. For the holidays, get all three plus the n’duja tejano in a gift set.
Salt and Time // $75 for the set; $9-$22 each
These chile sauces and pastes add punch — they're flavorful, but not too spicy — to just about any dish. The original paste is closest to the traditional Korean condiment, while the sauces (tangy, garlic, and sesame) allow for more versatility and innovation in the kitchen. The company makes small-batch kimchi, too, and sells a neat DIY kimchi making kit.
Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi // $35 for a set of 4
Restaurant-Approved Olive Oil
Possibly Brooklyn’s most well-known neighborhood restaurant, the original Frankie’s Sputino at 457 Court Street puts out a range of restaurant-quality oils with smart packaging sure to look great on any kitchen counter. Try the classic extra-virgin olive oil, or check out the grape seed oil, which comes in an ultra-sleek black and silver bottle.
Frankie’s // $40 for 1L
East Harlem's Hot Bread Kitchen creates opportunity through careers in food — the non-profit provides paid training to women facing economic insecurity and runs an incubator program. Purchase freshly made breads and baked goods from cultures across the globe: Parker House rolls, challah, Moroccan m’smen, a tortilla kit, and much more.
Hot Bread Kitchen // Starting at $14