15 Secret Pantry Ingredients That Make Your Recipes Better
Try these surprising ways to make your favorite recipes taste better, using everyday pantry items.
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 eight hours or overnight until the 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. These secret ingredients might just change the way you eat—just like these surprising secrets food manufacturers won’t tell you.
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 chili powder,) cumin, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Add a touch of sugar.
Amp up your eggs with …cream cheese
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. Spoiler alert: Sour cream is also the secret ingredient for the best brownies ever.
Make meatballs juicier with …applesauce
Grandmas have used this trick for decades. Combine 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, two 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 two to four 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! Never think you’ll have enough time to try all these secret ingredients? These brilliant kitchen shortcuts will cut down on cooking time.
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 two 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. Sauté 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 two 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.
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 one slice of bread, torn into pieces, right along with the vegetables (as per your usual gazpacho recipe) for a delightful texture and refreshing taste. Find more ways to make your recipes the best ever with these cooking tricks that are only taught in culinary school.
Bake focaccia with …instant mashed potatoes
Prepare the mashed potatoes according to package directions and cool for ten 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. Craving chocolate chip cookies after this one? Well, we just so happen to have lots of great cookie recipes with secret ingredients, too.