Skip to main content

On any given episode of Barefoot Contessa, chances are, Ina Garten will mention a “good ingredient.” So what are her so-called “good ingredients”? And what does she actually mean when she calls for one? Ahead, learn why Garten started using “good ingredients” and get a list of her favorites. Plus, possible substitutions for those times when the kitchen isn’t stocked with “good ingredients” to rival the Barefoot Contessa’s pantry

Ina Garten ‘good ingredients’ include Hellman’s mayonnaise, Olio Santo olive oil, and more

Wonder no more when Garten uses “good” mayonnaise or “good” olive oil on her Food Network show. Her preferred “good” mayo is from Hellman’s. She might even shout out the brand name in her recipes. 

As for olive oil, the Olio Santo brand has the Barefoot Contessa stamp of approval. In fact, as she told Bon Appétit in 2018, it’s been her preferred olive oil for decades. 

“I like California olive oil better than I like Italian. It’s fruiter. It doesn’t have that little turpentine-y edge or bitterness from the olives,” she said. “I use it for everything. I use it for sautéing, I use it for dipping, I use it for finishing a salad. My favorite one is Olio Santo. I would say I’ve been using it for the 20 years that I’ve been writing cookbooks, but probably long before that too.”

Garten’s official Barefoot Contessa website also has a “Shop” page complete with a selection of ingredients. When the Food Network star mentions “good ingredients,” visit her list. It features what she might refer to as “good chocolate,” “good pasta,” and “good cocoa powder.” 

Below is a list of some Barefoot Contessa “good ingredients: 

  1. San Marzano canned tomatoes
  2. Hellman’s mayonnaise
  3. Olio Santo olive oil
  4. Extra-large organic eggs
  5. Italian parmesan cheese
  6. Fresh herbs
  7. Maldon sea salt
  8. Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  9. Grey Poupon or Maille dijon mustard
  10. Tellicherry black peppercorns

‘Good ingredients,’ according to Ina Garten, ‘don’t have to be expensive but they need to be chosen thoughtfully’

Garten discussed what she means by “good ingredients” in her latest cookbook, 2020’s Modern Comfort Food

“People tease me because I call for ‘good ingredients,’” she wrote on page 20 alongside photos of various “good ingredients.” “I know, why would use bad ingredients??” she continued, before sharing why she began using them. 

“I started calling for specific ingredients because they do make a difference when you’re cooking,” she said. “They don’t have to be expensive but they need to be chosen thoughtfully; which olive oil tastes the freshest and which vanilla delivers the best flavor to balance that sweet chocolate?”

Garten went on to highlight the importance of salt, an ingredient she once said is commonly used incorrectly. “Salt is probably the most important ingredient of all,” she wrote, explaining why she uses different types for cooking, baking, and finishing a dish. 

Potential substitutions for Ina Garten’s ‘good ingredients’

For a dish to taste like it came straight from Garten’s barn in East Hampton, New York, ideally it would be made with her preferred “good ingredients.” However, kitchens aren’t always stocked with Barefoot Contessa essentials. 

That’s where substitutions come in. Garten makes homemade vanilla extract (she’s had a jar of the stuff going for decades). For those times when her preferred “good vanilla” isn’t available, there’s another Barefoot Contessa-approved option. The cookbook author is also known to like — and use — store-bought vanilla extract from Nielsen-Massey. 

Other substitutions might depend on personal preference. For instance, when a recipe calls for “good” dijon mustard and Garten’s preferred brand is nowhere to be found go with the next best thing, a personal favorite. 

As for chicken stock, which Garten includes in every cookbook and considers a must-make-from-scratch ingredient, get the next best thing. Get creative at the grocery store. See if the store makes their own and sells it as an easy substitution for homemade. If that’s not an option, there’s always the “storebought is fine” route.