15 Secret Pantry Ingredients that Make Your Recipes Better

Try these surprising ways to make your favorite recipes taste better, using everyday pantry items.

from Extraordinary Meals from Ordinary Ingredients
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    Make guacamole better with ...yogurt!

    Yogurt and sour cream can add so much zing to guacamole! Line the bottom of a strainer with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or paper towels and set over a medium bowl. Spoon in 1/2 cup plain yogurt, cover, and chill 8 hours or overnight until yogurt 'cheese' is thick and creamy. Mix up all your favorite guacamole ingredients in a large bowl. Then fold in the yogurt cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream to make an amazing dip.

    Squeeze lemon over pasta!

    Skip the salt when you boil the pasta, instead squeeze in half a lemon. You’ll give your pasta some zip, and cut down on your sodium intake.

    Perk up your steak with ...coffee!

    Mix fine coffee grounds into a spice rub for a rich, aromatic flavor. For an especially good combination, mix together ground espresso or other coffee, paprika, chili powder (or pure ancho chile powder,) cumin, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Add a touch of sugar.

    Amp up your eggs with ...cream cheese!

    Once you try this dish, you may never want your eggs any other way. Cream cheese gives the eggs a smooth texture that is irresistible. Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup cream cheese in a skillet before adding the beaten egg mixture. Cook over medium-low heat until the eggs are just firm yet moist.

    Thicken gazpacho with ...bread!

    Most soups are enriched with cream or a mixture of butter and flour. Give your gazpacho body with a different thickener: bread. Just puree 1 slice of bread, torn into pieces, right along with the vegetables (as per your usual gazpacho recipe) for a delightful texture and refreshing taste.

    Wake up potato salad with ...horseradish!

    Potato salads tend to be mild and creamy from mayonnaise or sharp and puckery from vinegar. But for a truly amazing potato salad, prepare your usual potato salad recipe, and simply stir in a teaspoon or two of prepared horseradish.

    Add sour cream to pasta sauce!

    To give your sauce a rich flavor, stir in 1/4 cup sour cream per 2 cups sauce. Cook over low heat until sour cream blends into the sauce. Keep the sauce warm over low heat, but don’t allow it to boil or the sour cream may curdle.

    Make meatballs juicier with ...applesauce!

    Grandmas have used this trick for decades. Combine 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 cup applesauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Shape into balls and roll in flour. Brown them in a skillet and then add your favorite pasta sauce and simmer until cooked through.

    Put Cheez-Its on your chicken!

    Use cheese crackers such as Cheez-Its in the breading. First soak the chicken in evaporated milk and fresh lemon juice for 2 to 4 hours, then dip in seasoned flour, beaten egg, and finally the crushed cheese crackers. Pan-fry or bake as usual.

    Add salad dressing to soup!

    Stir in some bottled blue cheese salad dressing toward the end of cooking your soup and enjoy the mouthwatering results!

    Give ribs zest with ...V8!

    Combine 1 and 1/2 cups spicy V8 juice, 2/3 cup peach or apricot nectar or pineapple juice. 1/2 cup spicy barbecue sauce, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Mix with 3 pounds boneless country spare ribs in a baking pan, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F until tender, about 2 hours.

    Brew a sauce with ...Earl Gray!

    To make an orange-scented sauce for pan-seared chicken or pork, remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Saute 1/3 cup chopped shallots in 1 teaspoon olive oil in the same pan. Add 1 cup chicken broth, 3/4 cup fresh orange juice and 2 Earl Gray tea bags. Boil until the liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup. Remove the tea bags and whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons honey and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

    Bake focaccia with ...instant mashed potatoes!

    Prepare the mashed potatoes according to package directions and cool for 10 minutes. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Stir the mashed potatoes and the yeast in as per your favorite Focaccia recipe.

    Add ketchup to Pad Thai noodles!

    Pad Thai is one of those dishes you never feel like you can make at home. Well, we found something in your pantry that packs all the right flavors -- ketchup! This condiment works perfectly as the base for a Pad Thai sauce. In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup ketchup, 3 tbsp. fish sauce, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 2 tbsp. lime juice. Voila! Stir-fry with meat/veggies and cooked noodles as per the directions of your favorite Pad Thai recipe.

    Put chocolate chips in your chili!

    For deep, rich tasting vegetarian chili, stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips at the end of cooking. After you've cooked the chili, remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips, salt and pepper.

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    Your Comments

    • Laura

      BLAH!!! Would not try any of these, some sound downright disgusting. And I NEVER have instant potatoes as a staple.

    • http://www.arthur-in-the-garden.com/ Arthur

      I have begun to add turmeric to just about everything, or cumin. I love them both!

    • http://www.superbrecipes.com/indian-chicken-pasta/ Non Veg Recipes

      Lemon in pasta sounds like a great taste variation! The doc has asked me to cut down on sodium so i’ll definitely try this out on my favorite chicken pasta. 

    • http://www.superbrecipes.com/indian-chicken-pasta/ Non Veg Recipes

      Lemon in pasta sounds like a great taste variation! The doc has asked me to cut down on sodium so i’ll definitely try this out on my favorite chicken pasta. 

    • Caegwyrdd

      Please list an option of having a printable version of these,all on one page!

    • Caegwyrdd

      Please list an option of having a printable version of these,all on one page!

    • Brenda

      Yellow mustard added to baked beans, mac and cheese, chili, barbecue is good too.

    • Pslattin

      I’d love to read the 15 ingredients that make foods better, but I’m not going to look through 16 pages to see them.   List them all on one page.

      • Wiserone56

        Actually I agree with this, it’s annoying to not have them all on one page!

      • Guest

        I can not even get past the first page. I do not know why. I would like to see the rest of the 15 ingredients.

      • PapaGary

         Click on PRINT – all on one page!

        • http://www.arthur-in-the-garden.com/ Arthur

          Smart people are sexy- PapaGary! :-)