How to Setup an [Ultra] Minimalist Kitchen

braised greens7

Last year I wrote a series of blog posts on how to set up a minimalist kitchen in terms of essential equipment and what to avoid.

I also wrote about how to stock a minimalist pantry.

The lists were based on my standard cooking style and situation where I’m mostly cooking for only the two of us but do love entertaining large groups from time to time.

When I was recently in New York City for a month, I got a chance to explore more extreme minimalist cooking.

With so many amazing food choices at their fingertips, I can understand why New Yorkers wouldn’t ever bother with getting their kitchen dirty. It finally made sense to my why Carrie Bradshaw would keep sweaters in her oven.

My tiny apartment in Soho had a suitably spartan kitchen, so I decided to have a little project to see just how minimalist I could be for my month in the city that never sleeps.

To be fair I wasn’t cooking all that much. But I was happy with just these few essentials. Which makes me think how few things you really need.

What about you?

What would make your ultra minimalist lists? Would love to hear in the comments.

My Ultra Minimalist Kitchen Equipment List

1. sharp knife
Cooking without a sharp knife is no fun for anyone. I just picked up a cheap cooks knife which was fine for the month. For longer term I’d make sure I had a good sharpening system as well.

2. chopping board
Nothing fancy, but big enough to be able to chop a whole bunch of cavalo nero is perfect.

3. medium frying pan with lid
Rather than trying to figure out how to work the oven, I chose to focus on super quick things that could be cooked in one pan. Choose a frying pan with a lid for braising things like greens in the recipe below. Make sure the sides are high enough so you could make a small batch of soup if you felt the urge. No other pot required!

4. a bowl per person
A shallow bowl is most versatile for eating pretty much everything. No plates required!

5. cutlery for each person
You could get by with a set of chopsticks and a spoon or a knife, fork and spoon. Whatever works best for you.

6. salad bowl
This is a personal one because I love a large salad as a quick meal so need a bowl large enough to toss the leaves properly. I ate about half my meals in the shallow bowl and the other half from the salad bowl. I guess if you really wanted to be extreme you could just choose one or the other.

7. a glass per person
Normally I would have invested in a couple of decent wine glasses even if only in a place for a few weeks. This time we made do with glass tumblers for all beverages. Not exactly ideal from a wine appreciation perspective, but at least we weren’t swigging straight from the bottle.

8. bottle opener
With a wonderful little wine shop around the corner, it was great fun exploring the US wine scene. While the quality was wonderful, I was surprised that most wine was still bottled under cork. In Australia you could probably get away with passing on the corkscrew and buying wine with screw caps but not in NYC.

9. can opener
Another one that you might be able to get away with. Although I was happy that I had a can opener on hand when I hadn’t even thought to check if I needed to make sure I only purchased self-opening cans.

My Ultra Minimalist Pantry Essentials

1. sea salt
While it was a no brainer to make sure I had some great sea salt, I kinda surprised myself on the pepper front. Normally I’m a die-hard pepper fan and wouldn’t dream of spending a whole month without freshly ground pepper. But when I was shopping for a disposable pepper grinder, all I found were ones with mixed peppercorns. And the black pepper purist in me decided to go without rather than enduring white and pink peppercorn.

2. extra virgin olive oil
Normally I keep a cheaper EVOO around for cooking and a more expensive peppery one for salad dressings and drizzling. But for just a month I used the good oil for everything.

3. sherry vinegar
One of my all-time favourite ingredients, I’m the type of person who can happily slurp good vinegar from a spoon. Essential for salad dressings and adding a little acid and sharpness to freshen things up when seasoning.

4. soy sauce
My go-to salad dressing uses a splash of soy to season and add depth of flavour. You could do without but it just wouldn’t be as good.

5. nuts
I like to have nuts on hand for snacking emergencies. Pistachios, brazil nuts and almonds all made an appearance on my pantry shelf at some stage during my NYC sojourn.


braised greens7

Braised Greens with Butter

This is one of my favourite things to cook and eat. I never get bored with experimenting with different greens. When I was in New York I was lucky to be able to try collard greens and dandelion leaves for the first time. So delicious with that wonderful feeling that you’re doing yourself good.

To turn this into a more substantial meal, add a handful or roasted nuts, some prosciutto, a handful of cooked lentils, some crumbly cheese, canned tuna or even a fried egg. The possibilities are endless!

enough for: 1
takes: 15 minutes

1 clove garlic, peeled & finely sliced
1 bunch greens, washed (I used cavalo nero today)
large knob butter
splash sherry vinegar

1. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid.

2. Add garlic and cook over a medium high heat while you chop the greens. Slice the greens crosswise, the finer you slice the quicker they’ll cook.

3. Add greens to the pan with a splash of water. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes and adding water if it starts to burn.

4. When the greens are tender, add butter and let it melt. Season with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry vinegar or lemon juice.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


dairy-free – use olive oil instead of the butter.

complete meal / more substantial – add a handful or roasted nuts, some prosciutto, a handful of cooked lentils, some crumbly cheese, canned tuna or even fried or poached eggs.

no sherry vinegar – use lemon juice or other wine vinegar.

hot! – add a little fresh red chilli.

different greens – great with kale, chard (silverbeet), spinach, mustard greens,

Prepare Ahead?

Absolutely! I often cook up a big pot of greens to eat during the week. Will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Can be frozen.

Video version of the recipe

Happy cooking!

With love,
Jules x

ps. Need more help with setting up a simple kitchen?
See these posts:
Setting Up a Minimalist Kitchen Part 1.
Setting Up a Minimalist Kitchen Part 2.


  • If you have a Swiss Army knife, you don’t need to buy corkscrew, bottle opener, and can opener, maybe not even the sharp knife if you are comfortable with the size of the Swiss Army knife. I’d probably get a grater for parmesan, although that could also be done with the saw of the Swiss Army knife.

    Regarding glasses, I would use the opportunity to try the stemless Riedel O Shiraz as the universal glass for everything.

    And I would not go anywhere without a bottle of Tabasco!

  • As an American ex-pat, I truly appreciate the Australian preference for the screw cap on the wine. Never have tasted a corked bottle of wine with a screw cap. Unfortunately, in the 60s and 70s screw cap wine in America was associated with terrible, cheap plonk. It will be quite sometime before America wakes up that excellent wine can come in a screw top bottle. It is so funny here in South East Asia to see very large Australian wine makers with their screw caps while there American sold bottles look exactly the same except with a polymer or true cork. Hope that explains it. Regards,

  • Sounds like my kitchen in France… 4 electric burners, no oven. Well, there’s a microwave that claims it’s also an oven, but it’s so old, I don’t think I want to try.

    The only bit of equipment I’d add to the list is a pot big enough to make lentils in. I find I do more ‘cooking’ – and I use that term loosely – when we’re there in the winter. Swap-out the your nuts for my dried fruit, and our lists are pretty much the same!

  • I would include a dutch oven, mixing bowl and plates. I can’t imagine trying to cut my favorite local sausage in a bowl and the dutch oven is quite possibly the most versatile cooking medium out there. I would drop the salad bowl (unless we are talking about something big enough to pass as a mixing bowl) and can opener though. Canned goods are expensive and when I woke up to that fact I realized that if I can’t get it fresh I usually try getting it dried; typically I stick to fresh and in season. I absolutely agree with the sea salt, vinegar (though mine would be apple cider vinegar) and EVOO. My pantry staples would leave out the soy sauce and would include butter and flour. For us, the proving ground is when we go camping which lends itself to minimalist thinking very well.

  • i don’t see why it’s necessary to have a minimalist kitchen. i love having all the tools i need at my disposal and an abundance things without being cluttered.

  • I agree with Marie – you need one pot as well!

    In my submarine kitchen in Germany I used to have 2 round river pebbles that served as decoration – but also as what I ground pepper or coriander seeds with and also served as fantastic nut crackers!

  • Greg
    I’d forgotten about the swiss army knife – you’re right – it would have really cut down my list. I used to have one with a little pen in it as well. So cute.

    Ahh,.. the old microwave that thinks its an oven.. I’ve had a few of those in holiday rentals..
    I actually cooked lentils in my frying pan – the sides were quite deep and I didn’t need that many… but you’re right – a pot could be handy.

    I’m thinking your mixing bowl is my salad bowl.. and I agree camping is a brilliant testing ground for minimalist thinking

    If abundance is your thing then I guess minimalism isn’t for you – but thanks for pointing out that it isn’t for everyone.. I was just sharing my experience – not implying that everyone should live like that.

    Loving the sound of your river pebbles… so versatile!

    would you believe I actually went a whole month without making anything with chickpeas.. being in a different hemisphere obviously had a bigger effect on me than I thought… off to make something with chickpeas now ;)

  • I’ve always taken the opposite approach to glassware! Wine glasses (good ones) are mandatory. Any other liquid can be consumed out of a wine glass! Life’s too short to drink wine out of bad stems! ;-)

  • erin
    I’m normally a wine glass first girl but the apartment came with tumblers… I agree with you though about life being short.

    thanks stephanie!

  • You’ve prompted a kitchen cleanup at home – though the things I want to toss belong to my husband. How do I point out we haven’t used the electric grill, the bread machine or the ‘spare’ toaster for 7 years now? I think the op shop is going to love me if I get this stuff out of the cupboard and out the door (we are still married, otherwise this would not be a problem).

    We also have alot of mugs (2 full shelves – some are stacked!!!), too many whisks and various gadgets he bought for serving spghetti (we use a set of plastic tongs that came with our house….) and ALOT of knives (problem here is that I was the culprit when we visited Japan and Germany – the knives were so beautiful and I had to have them!!!! I only use 4 on a regular basis (normally only 2 unless I chop a chook in half in one go and decide to use a proper breadknife).

    I want my cupboard space back.

  • wow alex
    a spare toaster… how about that.
    it’s a great feeling having clear cupboards.
    I know where you’re coming from with the Japanese knifes… I’m actually like that with shoes, so have decided it’s OK to have a ‘collection’ as long as it’s only one collection ;)

  • I love the idea of a minimalist kitchen and minimalist style to cooking. I live in NYC in a studio with a microscopic kitchen. Minimalism is key! The less bowls I own the less bowls end up dirty in the sink…. I miss dishwashers…. Great advice! Interesting about the shallow bowl idea…. A sort of “Plowl”, if you will. I am going to link to your site on my blog. I love it!

  • I’m probably in the same position as you are in now – staying a month in Sydney and I’ll have to admit that I can’t run a minimalist kitchen! I’ve been heading down to Coles and Woolworths every few days to buy new items, but I’ve to say that some of my essentials, on top of what you’ve listed, is pepper (black or white), flour, sugar, butter and spatula. Enough for me to bake breads and such and cook properly :)

  • Janine
    There are some wonderful bakeries in Sydney you should try while you are in town. Bourke Street Bakery, Sonoma and the best sourdough is Iggys!

  • I have been working on “minimalizing” my kitchen for about a year now. I have gotten rid of many things, but the exceptionally large seeming amount of stuff I still have is all stuff I use on a regular basis. I’m a little disheartened to see that I wasn’t able to work down to less. I do have a couple of frying pans that I could possibly get rid of, but I do find myself using them at times. I don’t know if that is just because they are available or if I am finding a true need for them.

  • Instead of a frying pan with lid I would have my rice cooker. I don’t think that I have ever cooked rice in it, but I use it for nearly everything else. When I was eating grain (which I no longer do as I am eating low carb) I made oatmeal in it. It is wonderful for making small batches of soup. I cook ground meat for Mexican style dishes in it. Since we no longer have a microwave, I heat up left overs in it. A Minimalist Kitchen appeals to me since I am also dreaming of living in a tiny house.

  • Great article. I am very fond of cooking and I have almost all the kitchen equipment mentioned in the article. Frying pan is an important multipurpose kitchen tool that can be used to cook various things.

  • I like the suggestions, but since I drink coffee instead of wine, I would trade in the bottle opener for a French press and mug. Loose leaf tea might also be doable with a press. Love sampling different types of tea and coffee!
    I probably would keep my filtration pitcher too, since in my part of the country most tap water isn’t fit to drink.

Comments are closed.