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17 last-minute gift ideas from your pantry

Chances are if the title of this post caught your eye, there are still a few names on your gift list you just haven’t gotten around to shopping for – and now it’s the eve of Christmas Eve.

At this point I strongly advise against heading out of the house to shop, for you will only endure painfully long line-ups, grumpy sales clerks, crowded parking lots, and, if you live in the north as I do, slippery roads.

Instead, why don’t you slip into something cozy, wrap on an apron, choose an item or two from this list and create a delicious homemade food gift?

Here’s how you can get the most out of this post. There are 17 homemade edible gift items that are varied enough to suit anyone on your list. They are divided into three groups by the estimated amount of time it takes to make them.

Some recipes are included here, others are found elsewhere, although I’ve listed the ingredients for each recipe so you can see at a glance if your pantry has them in stock before you click through to the recipe. Salt is the only item not listed, as that is one staple I can safely assume each kitchen has!

Container Check

Before you get started, do a quick check of potential containers you have on hand that would work for presenting your recipe. Homemade food gifts can be transported in many different ways, but often the container can limit your choice of what to make.  If you’re loving the walnut and dried-fruit topping, for example, but have no jars, things could get a little sticky.

Here is a wide variety of suggestions to choose from:

  • Bags – clear cellophane or brown paper decorated with children’s art
  • Jars – any size or shape will do
  • Bottles – good for oils and vinegars
  • Tins – all shapes and sizes; antiques are particularly charming
  • Dishes – a pretty mug, an ice cream bowl, an espresso cup
  • Small boxes – you can cover them in Christmas paper
  • Small flower pots
  • Baskets
  • Wax paper and ribbon
  • Baking tins, mini loaf pans, or small pie pans

Now round up as much ribbon as you can — there should be plenty of leftovers from the Christmas gift wrapping — and get the kids set up with stiff paper and markers to make and decorate labels for your homemade gifts.



1. Homemade Jam, Jelly and Preserves

Don’t disregard this summer’s spaghetti sauce as too plain! As far as I am concerned, any type of home preserve is liquid gold.

2. Homemade Cookies and Holiday Baked Goods

That college student on your list is going to appreciate a tin of these.

3. Vanilla sugar

Pantry Items: sugar, vanilla bean

10 Minute Gifts

4. Salted Cocoa Roasted Hazelnuts

Pantry Items: nuts, butter, sugar, eggs, cocoa

5. Honey, Walnut & Dried-Fruit Topping

Pantry Items: walnuts, dried cranberries, dried apricots, honey

6. Herb oil

Pantry Items: Olive Oil, fresh herbs

Infused oil is a great way to add quick flavor to salad dressings, marinades, or vegetables dishes. I make mine with rosemary because I’ve got a big bushy plant of it, but you can use most any fresh herb here. Sage, thyme, oregano and tarragon would all be top choices for me, as well as rosemary.

Here is the basic method; estimate 4-5 generous stems of herbs for each cup of olive oil.

  • Sterilize bottles or jars.
  • Wash herbs and part dry.
  • Warm olive oil in a pot.
  • Stuff herbs in bottles.
  • Top with warm oil.
  • Allow to cool, then top with cork or screw cap.
  • Label and include instructions to remove herbs after a week.

7. Savory and Sweet Spiced Walnuts

Pantry Items: nuts, egg, sugar, whole orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

8. Cookies in a Jar

Pantry Items: flour, baking powder, baking soda, oats, M&M’s, chocolate chips, white & brown sugar, (pecans), eggs, butter, vanilla

You’ve heard of pancake mix and muffing mix, but Bakerella brings us a perfected ‘cookie kit’ that is too cute for words. Layer the dry ingredients in a jar and in the label or tag, include remaining ingredients to be added (egg,vanilla, and butter), as well as baking instructions.

9. Hot Cocoa Mix


Everyone loves homemade hot cocoa, especially at Christmas. It’s fast to stir together the ingredients and then package in bags or jars for gifts. Mix it up by layering mini marshmallows, crushed candy cane, cinnamon, espresso powder or mini chocolate chips in the jar–just not all at once! Include a mug and a spoon, if you have some to spare.

  • 2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Measure all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir until they are evenly blended.
Include these instructions in the packaging: Spoon 3 or 4 generous tablespoons of cocoa mix into your cup, add 6 oz boiling water, and stir well. Enjoy!

10. Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce

Pantry Items: unsalted butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla

30 Minute Gifts

11. Aimee’s Canadian Mincemeat

Pantry Items: apple or cranberry juice, whole cranberries (fresh or frozen), brown sugar, spices, currants, raisins, dried cranberries, apples, whisky or brandy, maple and/or vanilla extract, maple syrup, honey

Don’t be daunted by the lengthy list of ingredients; this yummy pie or tart filling is simple to make and a holiday classic.

12. Peppermint Bark

Pantry Items: semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peppermint extract, candy canes

13. Peanut Butter Fudge

Pantry Items: sugar, butter, evaporated milk, peanut butter, marshmallow cream, vanilla

14. Caramel Crunch Bars

Pantry Items: flour, instant coffee, cinnamon, butter, brown & white sugar, vanilla, milk chocolate, Heath toffee bits

spice rub

15. Garam Masala

Pantry Items: whole cloves, black cardamom, cumin seed, cinnamon stick, mace, nutmeg

If you have the ingredients on hand, my Garam Masala spice blend makes a stunning and fragrant gift.

16. Pork and Poultry Spice Rub

Here is a classic spice rub from Martha Stewart for pork or poultry:

  • 1/3 cup coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients, using your hands to break up the sugar. Package in small jars and label: ‘Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.’

And finally, a simple taco seasoning.

17. Taco Seasoning

  • 1 ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Ground red pepper flakes to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients together and package the same as the Spice Rub above.

Packaging and Labeling


Remember, less is more; a simple ribbon or handmade label is often sufficient decoration. Obviously, if you are making many gifts, hand-written is a lovely personal touch, but printing labels is the most practical.

Think about to whom you are presenting the gift. They would probably appreciate a thoughtful note included with the gift, rather than an overdressed jar, so keep it simple and have fun!

No question today; you’ve got to get busy and make those gifts! But feel free to share your last-minute thoughts on the holiday season.  Merry Christmas, one and all.

Reading Time:

5 minutes





  1. Charlie Park

    Really useful article. I’m not saying we’ve delayed *our* Christmas gift prep (cough), but this is great.

    Another super-fast tip, if you have little girls (~5yo): Odds are, if you’re like us, you’ve got some decorative soaps / bath gel samplers / etc. that are sitting in the back of your bathroom cabinet / closet collecting dust. They make great stocking stuffers, little girls like them a lot, and if they get used, there’s less clutter in the house.


    Great ideas! No matter how hard I try, I always end up scrambling for our neighbors… aquaintances, etc.

    I do have to say, though, that I looked into the infused rosemary (was planning on making it this year out of my huge rosemary supply), and there IS a concern for botulism! If there is any water/spores introduced to the solution, it can supposedly grow pretty easily. I don’t know anything about canning, and you may take steps I don’t know about to prevent it, but from what I read it’s easy for water in rosemary to cause it and you have to cook the rosemary for hours to kill the spores, which it doesn’t withstand. I know it’s rare, but it’s really, really serious. That being said, if you instruct folks to use it within a short time, it’s not a concern! I’d love to hear some other opinions on this!

    Here’s one link talking about it…
    .-=´s last blog ..Rip Van Winkle =-.

  3. Mariah@Playful Learning

    What a fun list—and so easy! Thanks for putting this together. I am going to “kirtsy it” 🙂

  4. Tiffany

    Thanks for linking to my peppermint bark. Your list is great. I’ve got to go check out the cocoa roasted hazlenuts – yum!
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows =-.

  5. Kara

    Aimee, these are genius! Thank you!

  6. Emily

    Those are inspiring ideas! Last year I threw together a basket of various raw nuts (along with some dates, maybe?) as a thank you gift for a couple at my church. They were very appreciative–getting homemade goodies is a lot more special, IMHO, than some impersonal “thing” you pick up at the dept. store out of desperation.

    And they take a lot less time to prepare than taking the trip to the store and agonizing over what to buy. 😉
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..The Marvelous Mushroom =-.

  7. Katie

    Thanks for these great ideas! I needed some last minute stocking stuffers for my parents. These will be perfect! Merry Christmas!

  8. MemeGRL

    These are fantastic ideas–thank you so much.
    Earlier this season, the day of my mom’s group’s cookie swap got away from me and I was left with a double batch of batter and no cookies…inspiration struck and voila! Freezable cookie dough! Still not sure if it was inspired or pathetic but people loved it, it saved me time and washup, and still allowed me to participate in the swap.
    Unlike that almost-fiasco, these look like I might actually have planned to do things this way–thanks for the good ideas!
    .-= MemeGRL´s last blog ..MPM–Ho Ho Ho! =-.

  9. tzigane

    thanks for the great ideas! i can’t wait to use some of them throughout this year and for next christmas!

    i also did homemade caramel sauce this year. not necessarily last minute as it does take at least 2 1/2 hours to do. but it is really simple; easy as boiling water!
    .-= tzigane´s last blog ..Merry Christmas from the Monda family =-.

  10. Cheryl

    Oh, I am making those cocoa hazelnuts for sure. Perfect for the impulse buy of a giant bag from Costco. I swear, I only went in for diapers!
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Potluck Recipes =-.

  11. Alissa

    Great ideas for last-minute gifts! I’d much rather stand in my kitchen than go to the mall ANY day, but especially Christmas Eve. 🙂
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..Mvelopes =-.

  12. Laura

    Thank you for these great ideas. I love the idea of layering ingredients in a jar! I made panettones yesterday and am bringing them as hostess gifts to our various holiday gatherings — I love to give something I spent time and love making.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Magic =-.

  13. PlanningQueen

    I made Chocolate Sauce this year and find food to be a great gift for teachers and also those hard to buy for people. Wishing all at Simple Mom a joyous and peaceful New Year.
    .-= PlanningQueen´s last blog ..Quick Egg And Bacon Tarts =-.

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