Food is the perfect gift. And I’m not talking about a homemade lasagna or dip you bring to the potluck. I’m talking about the fancy, almost-ridiculous stuff you’d never buy for your own pantry, but would love to receive from someone else. Fussy jams, expensive salt, the chocolate that’s four times the price of a Hershey’s bar at the checkout aisle. Things you don’t “need” but always want. The home cooks in your life will appreciate them, but so will your friends who can barely boil a can of soup.
Slide tins of infused salt
As we know, salt is complicated now. But these sleek tins from Jacobsen make it easy to have a little bit of a lot of different flavors on hand. The set includes flavors like rosemary, black garlic, and lemon zest, as well as pure flake salt that can finish any dish. They’re also immensely portable, if you have that one friend who thinks everything they eat is undersalted.
Fly by Jing’s newest chile crisp
The brand that put chile crisp in everyone’s pantry has followed up with a new version that promises even more crisp. Chengdu Crunch is made with fava beans, pumpkin seeds, and yellow split peas for more texture and crunch in each bite. As with any chile crisp, it can be drizzled on anything from noodles to ice cream, but Alexandra Domrongchai at Food & Wine says she’s eating it straight from the jar.
Fruit spreads in cheffy flavors
It’s hard to improve upon a good strawberry jam, but sometimes your breakfast toast calls for something a little more upscale. Small Batch Kitchen’s jam sets come with flavors like blueberry basil, cherry bourbon chipotle, and brandied pear. There are also savory options like roasted garlic and hot pepper.
An ube babka wreath
Ube is the latest ingredient to feel like it’s nearly ubiquitous. But this babka wreath, a collaboration between Umamicart and Filipino dessert company Kora, dabbles in fusion while still respecting the ingredient. Ube is used as a filling, woven between sweet babka dough, creating a beautiful, edible centerpiece for any holiday party.
A trio of halva
Seed + Mill is known for its impossibly creamy tahini, and its decadent, flaky halva. Any of them would make a good gift, but you can’t go wrong with a trio of the company’s most popular flavors — classic toasted sesame, pistachio, and dark chocolate sea salt. They’re a great treat for your gluten free, vegan, or kosher friends. And while technically you can bake with halva, it probably won’t last that long.
Extremely adult chocolate
To’ak specializes in the kind of chocolate that reminds you this wasn’t always considered dessert. This Tasmanian Whisky chocolate was aged in an ex-Tawny cask used by serious whiskey brand Sullivans Cove, creating a deeply smoky chocolate bar with notes of dates and plum. And with all that peat, no one will have to worry about their kids trying to steal it.
Sophisticated chocolate bonbons
If filled chocolates are more your friends’ style, this box from Monsoon Chocolate contains flavors straight from the company’s headquarters in the Sonoran desert. There’s caramel made from prickly pear, cocoa nib horchata, and a classic sea salt dark chocolate. And their beautiful shapes make them just as good for displaying at the holiday party as eating.
Beautiful Palestinian olive oil
The competition for best and most aesthetic olive oil continues, but it’s hard to beat the elegance and history of Canaan. Canaan works with family farms who harvest from olive groves that are thousands of years old, which grow olive varieties indigenous to the region. And while it offers olive oil in flavors like garlic and lemon, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to its classic Rumi, a fruity oil with that peppery finish you’ll want to sop up with bread all day long.
A gift box of elite Swedish fish
For your cousin who always insists on Swedish fish at the movies. Now you can blow their mind by showing them the candy exists in flavors other than “red.” This gift box from Swedish candy company Bon Bon features the gummy treat in flavors like sour elderberry, sour peach, and wild strawberry. But just like their lowbrow counterparts, they’re still perfect for movie binging.
Make-your-own cheese log kit
A sphere of cream cheese and cheddar rolled in nuts is always a good holiday party addition; this kit from Murray’s cheese is for when you want that vibe but a little fancier. It comes with three logs of Vermont Creamery chevre, along with toppings like rosemary, marcona almonds, sundried cherries, bacon, and walnuts. You can mix and match the toppings, or leave them all out for guests to choose. Perfect for your friends who covet fancy charcuterie boards, but can’t for the life of them figure out how to make them as pretty as they are on Instagram.
Rubirosa pasta sampler tin
Okay, so this does require some cooking. But what better gift for your sister who insists she can’t cook than a bunch of dry pasta, literally the easiest thing there is to make? Riffing on the classic popcorn trio, this tin is filled with three pasta shapes: trottole, casarecce, and lumache. Each is good for specific kinds of sauce — but also, it’s pasta, you don’t need to be too precious about it. Toss any of them with a jar of tomato sauce or a bunch of olive oil and cheese and you’ll be just fine.
Noma’s fermented sauce set
Take advantage of the restaurant’s pivot to a direct-to-consumer vinegar brand (or something). Currently, the brand offers a set of some of its fermented products, like corn yuzu hot sauce and wild rose vinegar, a byproduct of making pickled roses. There’s also smoked mushroom garum, a vegetarian version of an ancient Roman fermented fish sauce that was an early precursor to ketchup, and which Rene Redzepi has been a big fan of. No, it’s not the same as going to Noma, but you were never going to go there anyway.
A whole bunch of snacks
I feel pretty confident in saying that everyone loves snacks. Sure, some prefer dried fruit over popcorn, or chocolate over salty pretzels, but everyone has something they would love nothing more than to eat by the handful. This gift box from Nuts.com covers a wide range of snack cravings, featuring dried apricots, peppermint malt balls, chocolate-covered espresso beans, salted pistachios, and more. There are plenty of other options for custom sets too, so you can give your family exactly what they crave.
Gift set from Brooklyn Delhi
Brooklyn Delhi’s simmer sauces and achaars are those rare products that make incorporating Indian flavors into one’s cooking easier, without sacrificing flavor or tradition. The achaars are especially foolproof, working as well on more traditional Indian dishes as on eggs, pizza, and sandwiches. This “celebrations” set includes three of its achaars — tomato, mango, and roasted garlic — and four stainless steels compartment plates with a rainbow finish, perfect for celebratory eating while making sure your curries don’t run into each other.
Poilâne cookie tin
Your grandma will probably always use her Dansk cookie tin for her notions. But this elegant tin from Poilâne featuring sweet illustrations by Guy Untereiner might inspire new storage ideas. The cookies contained therein, simple and impeccable shortbread from Paris, are also perpetual crowd pleasers.
Eleven Madison Park’s granola
Eleven Madison Park has probably not succeeded in encouraging the world to eat more vegan. But it has made its granola, which it sends guests home with after their meals, a covetable next-morning breakfast. You don’t even need a reservation now to enjoy it, EMP sells its granola the jar online in cherry pistachio, chocolate hazelnut, and apple cranberry flavors. Send your guests home with it as your own holiday party favor.
Pura Macha salsa
Masienda is known for its heirloom corn masa, which is farmed with equitable practices that it outlines in its sourcing reports. But unless you’re certain your recipient wants to start making their own tortillas from scratch, you can start with giving their salsa macha trio. These sauces center the rich flavors of chipotle or guajillo chiles, which pair with other ingredients like cocoa nibs, cranberry and hazelnut. Perfect for any chips, including ones they may one day make themselves.
Spanish potato chips
Whatever potatoes they’re using in Spain always blow my mind, and the chips made from them are some of the best out there. These sunny yellow chips are a great accompaniment to a plate of olives and cheese, cured jamon, some tinned fish, a dollop of caviar — basically everything cool you could be serving right now. And the bucket they come in is endlessly reusable.
Big Night’s ‘Tinned Fish Riches’
We were not getting through a gift guide without tinned fish, which, though there is a backlash brewing, remains the food world’s hottest snack. This gift box from perpetually on-trend Big Night features selections of fish and shellfish from some of the coolest purveyors of tinned fish, like Fishwife and Island Creek. Perfect for the cousin who wants the most Instagrammable holiday haul (and who also has a big salty tooth).
Everyone (except those with nut allergies) can appreciate a jar of Italian pistachio cream, to go with pistachio perfume, pistachio candles, and pistachio cocktails. Pistacchiosa can be used as a pastry cream, mixed in pasta sauces, mixed into an aioli and spread on a mortadella sandwich, or just spooned on toast for a nutty, sweet breakfast. Plus, Nutella is so passé.
A box of dates
Good dates are a thing of beauty, equally satisfying as a solo snack, wrapped in bacon and baked, or chopped and folded into a sticky toffee cake. The dates from Rancho Meladuco in the Coachella Valley are always plump and juicy, never dried out like so many disappointing grocery store finds. A beautiful, two-pound box is plenty, but for the date fiends in your family, a 15-pound box is also an option.
Great Spanish ham
Jamon Iberico is considered the Cadillac of hams, but lomo might be the... Rolls Royce? Sorry I don’t actually know cars. But lomo, aka cured pork tenderloin, is fattier and more decadent than your typical pork leg charcuterie. This version from Mercado Famous is made from cross-bred Iberico and Duroc pigs, and says it pairs well with sherry, melon, and great baguettes. The importers call it “Spain’s best-kept secret.” Pretend like you knew all along.
Yun Hai Taiwanese dried fruit sampler
Yun Hai sources its dried fruit from Taiwanese farmers and farm co-ops, who needed a more reliable source of income after China began banning Taiwanese imports. Flavors include guava, wax apple, and two kinds of mango, which are all sliced thick and dried with no additives except salt and sugar. It’s just good fruit, and someone deserves to have it.
Really good fancy pickles
Vlasic just doesn’t cut it anymore in any tasteful home kitchen. Give your salt-loving friends some pickles worth showing off. Fishtown Pickles has sour spears and sweet onion slices for sandwiches, as well as more experimental flavors like sweet horseradish and ginger gochujang. And then use the brine to experiment with pickletinis.
Restaurant-quality bottled cocktails
New York’s perpetually hot Via Carota has done what feels like the impossible — made bottled cocktails that are actually good. They stick with stirred classics like the negroni, martini, and Manhattan, with an espresso martini in there because, of course. But pulled straight from the freezer and you’d never know they weren’t made to order. The bottles are also beautiful enough to display in their own right. The perfect gift for someone who loves to host, but would rather be socializing among guests than stuck in the kitchen mixing cocktails all night.
A nonalcoholic aperitivo
The nonalcoholic aperitivo market feels like it’s fully saturated, but Figlia is a standout. You can drink the cranberry-red faux spirit on its own, but it also works in a toddy, mixed with seltzer, or in a host of other mocktails. And notes like rose and clove ensure you don’t just feel like you’re drinking fancy juice.