30 “Secret Weapon” Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread – Bored Panda

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There’s something about swirling around the kitchen that makes you instantly channel your inner Gordon Ramsay. Because cooking is an adventure where a bit of creativity and, let’s face it, running out of key ingredients is usually the start of the mouth-watering creations that follow. Whether you’re a cooking newbie or a seasoned pro, it’s satisfying to take your gastronomic skills to the next level.
One thing that can up your culinary game right away is an added bit of deliciousness and extra flavor that instantly elevates your dishes. So today, we will talk about the unfailing components enthusiasts use to enhance their meals. People on the ‘Cooking’ subreddit have been sharing their pieces of wisdom after user PhilipLynott asked: “What is one ingredient that completely changed the way you cook and now you use it all the time?”
The Redditor kicked off the thread by saying that miso paste is “absolutely fantastic for vegetables, soups, spuds, the way it makes things taste is unbelievable!” We have gathered some of the most illuminating responses to share with you. So grab a pen and a notebook, and enjoy scrolling through this list. Keep reading to also find our interview with food and travel blogger June d’Arville. Then be sure to upvote your favorite replies and let us know about your own “secret weapons” in the comments!
This post may include affiliate links.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Acid. Almost any dish will benefit from at least a touch of some kind of acid.
Zack_Albetta , Lisa Fotios Report
If you’re not sure what it needs, add acid or citrus and be amazed.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Smoked paprika.
RoslynLighthouse , Karolina Grabowska Report
This is my key ingredient to everything. Turns nearly all foods into Wow!
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Sesame oil!
C1nnamon_Apples , Alpha Report
Had to scroll down way too much to find this!!! It can be added to anything! Add chili and soy sauce for a dressing, or salt and pepper to dip your protein, or even just a splash and sesame seeds to plain white rice, perfection.
Everyone has a different relationship with food. But even when some of us manage to burn everything we lay our hands on, cooking is still an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience. And no matter your skill level, there are always benefits to learning something new.
Sure, numerous complicated techniques allow aficionados to produce fantastic dishes. But this also reveals a common misconception that you need to know the ins and outs of the cooking business and learn countless complex tricks before you can create spectacular dishes. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
To gain more insight from an expert about easy ways to make food look and taste fantastic, we reached out to Belgian food and travel blogger June d’Arville. Feeling a deep love for everything food-related since she was a child, June started a blog with her husband called Luc & June. In an attempt to share their passion, they have been endlessly blogging about cooking, delicious-looking food, fascinating stories, and advice on travel destinations around the world.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread I love how simple you can go with your food if you just add a few fresh herbs. It really elevates anything.
janbrunt , Suzy Hazelwood Report
Very much agreed, but this covers a whole lot of ground.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Mushroom powder. I often find large boxes of discounted gourmet mushrooms and dehydrate them, then reduce the smaller bits into a powder I can then add to many dishes that needs a bit more of umami and depth of flavor.
roxxxayp , Content Pixie Report
Dried shiitake mushrooms. When reconstituting them in water, use the water to flavor many dishes.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Nutritional Yeast. Add to eggs before scrambling. Add to chicken noodle soup. Add to.. whatever. Its umami time!
ImAMindlessTool , Tony Webster Report
It’s called nutritional yeast because it has a fair amount of protein in it. Add it to popcorn for a cheesy flavor.
“Recipes are nothing without ingredients,” June told Bored Panda. Components are a major aspect of cooking, and, most importantly, they are often the key to what it takes to make or break a dish.
“I remember a chef once said that the food you prepare in your kitchen is only as good as the quality of the ingredients that you use. You can’t buy the cheapest steak and expect it to taste like wagyu,” the food blogger explained.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Shallots. You can use them in any recipe that calls for an allium. If garlic would be too pungent or overwhelming they are perfect. They’re often more delicately flavored than onions. Fried crisp and they make an amazing garnish. Pickle them and serve them with salads. They are an essential ingredient in dressings. You can grate them into sauces (especially yogurt based ones) for a great oniony depth.

Hell, you can bake them up on their own and eat them too.
AbortedWalrusFetus , Annie Mole Report
Roast them in olive oil in the oven and they spread on bread like butter for the BEST bread with spaghetti you’ve ever tasted. Usually on sale as well.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread For me it’s Miso paste. Absolutely fantastic for vegetables, soups, spuds the way it makes things taste is unbelievable!
PhilipLynott , Richard Masoner / Cycleli Report
I’ve heard this so many times, but no miso paste I’ve tried was ever good. I wonder what brands are the best.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Does pasta water count?
TheSalsaShark , Rex Roof Report
Absolutely!!
Moreover, when we gather good products to make a successful dinner, they don’t require a lot of side flavors. “In cooking, the term ‘less is more’ is a beautiful thing but, unfortunately, highly underrated. That is why working with substitutes in a recipe is quite a challenge as well.”
June pointed out she sometimes receives comments or emails from readers, saying they tried out this or that recipe and it wasn’t good at all. “But they changed or left out half of the ingredients or condiments and used another protein. Substitutes are just close alternatives, not a magical wand,” she said.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Capers. Kinda ignored it for a long time, till lately. It’s a nice added zingy touch to my Italian cooking and I’m liking it
Routine_Ambition7304 , Valeria Boltneva Report
Good in tuna salad as well
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Salt. I had to learn how to use it with purpose so that flavors are enhanced and not overwhelmed by it.
Aneros_74 , Sue Thompson Report
Sea salt. If you use salt, sea salt is so much nicer than regular, especially when you are using it at the table. A sprinkle of sea salt on your potatoes is surprisingly better.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Relatively basic, but. Crushed red pepper flakes. A decade ago they’d never *been* in our house. Now I use them basically every day.

More recently: those little tubes of tomato paste. Being able to add just a small amount of tomato to a dish that would benefit from it is a godsend.
chronolynx , Derek Gavey Report
Can confirm. Having a little spice to certain dishes makes it taste better.
One truly fascinating thing about cooking is that it offers endless opportunities for experimenting. Of course, being told to use your creativity in the kitchen when all you did in the past was follow the recipes to a T can be intimidating. And when we finally gather the courage to shake things up and something goes wrong (and it often does!), it can also be discouraging. But every once in a while, it’s oh-so-rewarding to see our efforts lead to wonderful creations in the kitchen.
Vinegar, lemon, any kind of acid. Years ago I read or saw some cooking show saying that if your dish is tasting kind of meh or it tastes like it needs more salt but you already added plenty, you add some sort of acid and it brings out the flavors.
anon Report
I heard this many times. I need to retain it and put the knowledge to work one of these days!
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread For me it’s ghee. Ghee is clarified butter and when I went to Ayurveda school, I did my thesis on ghee as I am also a biochemist and in Ayurveda it is considered the “best of all oils” for health reasons. It also has a high smoke point for cooking and I use it a lot for things like scrambled eggs and sauteed vegetables. Ghee made from butter from grass fed cows has heart health benefits as well!
femsci-nerd Report
Ghee whiz! Sorry
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread If you like ramen at home, a splash of fish sauce is a force multiplier.
SCP-173-Keter , Kanesue Report
So are sweet roquito chillis. Tiny and juicy :]Sometimes, it’s best to see cooking instructions as guidelines and inspiration. One thing that makes this process much easier is becoming more aware of the countless ingredients our world has to offer.
“The more you cook and experiment with food and cooking, the better you will become at it,” June noted. “If I look at how I cooked, let’s say, 15 years ago, I hardly knew anything about it. If you would have asked me then to make, for instance, a ramen soup, I would have scratched my head not knowing where to start. Food blogging made me explore and experience different flavors and cuisines I didn’t grow up with. It takes time, but enjoy the culinary ride!”
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Fresh, non-chinese, garlic.

Early on, I used to use pre-minced garlic and then I transitioned on to the whole, but cheap, rooster garlic from China, which is everywhere. Now, finally, I have learned to appreciate fresh local garlic. My god, does it make a huge difference.
75623 , Dwight Sipler Report
I’m sure the photo is of giant spring onions ..edit ..thanks I now know its green garlic, i’ve never seen it 🙂
Sorry to sound mundane but mustard and mustard seeds did it for me.
th00ht Report
My life was changed when I learned that mustard was a lot more complex than the plastic bottle of yellow mustard I could buy at the store
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Tabasco Chipotle sauce. Adds a smokey flavour without any real heat to so many sauces. Its my new secret ingredient and transforms so many dishes by just adding that something extra
Hairy-Motor-7447 , KittyKaht Report
The chipotle pepper is a smoked, ripe jalapeno.
We wanted to know if June could share some of her favorite ingredients that could immediately elevate our skills, and she was kind enough to reveal a few. “I am an avid user of fish sauce,” June told us. “I like the subtle salty flavor it adds to food, especially in soups and marinades. And it is not as harsh as the usual pinch of salt.”
“Sugar is also another ingredient that I learned to appreciate while traveling in Asia and taking cooking classes there,” she added. “I do not have a sweet tooth at all, so for me, adding sugar to food was a huge no-no. Until I started to see what sugar can do to savory dishes, such as marinades, winter dishes and tomato sauces.”
The food blogger pointed out that finding the right balance between the sweetness and saltiness in a dish is such a satisfying challenge. “Fresh herbs is another thing that can really brighten up a dish without any effort. Think of fresh mint and cilantro.”
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Might sound really strange as I am European, but wine. I never liked drinking it so the thought of cooking with it was strange to me. Until I made my first authentic Bolognese. Went to buy some more bottles, a wine opener and reusable plastic corks to reseal a bottle that same week.
Yorudesu , Eli Velikova Maytham Report
I don’t drink, but red wine and red meat cook deliciously together 👌
Dill. Y’all need to add a little dill to more things. Game changer
weatherbeknown Report
Fresh dill in a salad is a nice touch.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Sour cream, even just a small dollop, makes gravies and sauces richer and creamier (if you add a lot, you wind up turning all your food into stroganoff, so be judicious). This is particularly useful when you’re reheating leftovers and the texture is off, or if things are overly seasoned because sour cream dilutes the intensity, especially when it’s salty or spicy. I also like to add a hefty spoonful of sour cream when I make casseroles without going the “use cream of whatever soup” route — you get a creamy texture, but without so much heaviness and salt.

A small amount of sour cream (like, 1 tablespoon for 2-3 eggs) is also terrific blended into scrambled eggs before you cook them. The eggs get fluffy and silky as a result.
oregonchick , Sue Thompson Report
Do they have créme fraiche in the US? It’s like sour cream but doesn’ts split on cooking – comes in full- and half-fat varieties!
So if you strive to learn more about the joy of cooking, just keep going! “Learning how to cook takes time, but you will definitely get there. Be patient,” she advised. “Start off by making dishes that you like and know well. And along the way, throw in a couple of cooking challenges, small ones in the beginning. Like making fresh pasta, or folding gyoza, or making a Thai curry.”
“Make simple store-bought foods from scratch for a change, like green pesto or fresh tomato soup. Gradually start to get used to flavors and condiments you don’t know well. Write down what you do, why not start a blog about your experiences? Enjoy your creations and learn from your mishaps. Just take your time and keep it fun,” June concluded.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Kimchi. I honestly put kimchi in everything: soups and stews, with eggs, sandwiches, on grilled cheese, in burritos…! I love it the spice + fermented bite + crunchy cabbage is just perfect for me in a lot of dishes.
SnooCrickets7159 , Kim Deachul Report
It’s also good in Raman noodles.
Balsamic Vinegar.

I’ve never been a fan of sour food (salads, cakes, soup, citrus, ect.). I would just never ate more than three bites of any sour foods. That was until my mom brought a bottle of balsamic vinegar to recreate a salad we ate at a restaurant once. That bottle changed the way I approached salad/bread.

Now I have a bottle on my dinning table. I put it on any salad I ate. I put it inside of my sandwiches for the flavor. I toast bread just to eat it with the balsamic vinegar. I even dipped potato chips in them just to get some more. I ate literally anything that have hot bread/cold vegetables with the vinegar. My family doesn’t really like the taste (maybe because I used it way too much and way too frequently and prob not in the proper dishes) but after I moved out that became less of a problem. I have a problem. Please help.

P.S. Tried Miso paste. Was mid. Not for me (prob because our cooking used a lot of fish/oyster sauce + MSG so the flavor isn’t needed)
PythoonFrost Report
Have never heard of sour cake…
Cumin
Agitated-Brilliant35 Report
Yes! Cumin is what makes my airfryer chickpeas work 🙂 recipe if ur curious 1 can chickpeas Olive oil Paprika Cumin Garlic powder Onion powder cayenne Anyother spices in your cabinet that look interesting Air fryer for ~ 10 min keep an eye on it though Enjoy your crispy flavor packing ~nutritional~ snack!!
White pepper. It adds a unique ‘je ne sais quoi’ to anything you put it in, it’s my secret ingredient in so many things.
Facepalmitis Report
It’s one of the spices that gave the original Kentucky Fried Chicken its bite. Delish and invisible!
Nothing crazy – oregano. But growing up no one put seasonings in sandwiches, just mayo and the like. Oregano goes great in ham sandwiches, turns out. Now I use spices in all my sandwiches, p. much, haha
JustScrollsPast Report
Yes! My favorite sandwich is a soft, slightly sweet wheat bread with smoked turkey, cheddar, bacon, ranch dressing, and a sprinkle of oregano. The oregano really sets it all off!
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Gochujang has changed my life. I don’t find the one I’ve bought all that spicy (sometimes I add gochugaru for some extra kick) but the flavor is just so unique and delicious. This is kind of sacrilege, but I like the make a mayo out of it for a spread or dip that makes everything better.
mycophyle11 , inazakira Report
Gochujang is awesome on tofu.
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix that I now believe the be the finest mix available. It can be quite hot but the depth of flavor is incredible. A simple corn and cheddar quesadilla gets transformed into fine dining with a quick dusting of this stuff!
D_Malorcus , Michael Coghlan Report
My fave is harissa, which is ridiculously easy to make and lasts for months in the fridge
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread I don’t know if it changes the way I cook, but I recently started adding Szechuan peppercorns into my pepper mill along with tellicherry, roughly 1:3, and that’s been really nice
SingAlongBlog , David Davies Report
It counts!
30 "Secret Weapon" Ingredients That Transform Recipes Into Mouth-Watering Meals, As Shared In This Online Thread Anchovies (in oil) – great umami boost to almost everything, and they absolutely ‘disappears’ in most foods, so don’t worry about the texture.
windcape , shellac Report
I always add a few when making a tomato based spaghetti sauce.
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Ieva is a writer at Bored Panda who graduated in Scandinavian studies from Vilnius University. After learning the Swedish language and getting completely lost in the world of Scandinavian mythology, she figured out that translating and writing is what she's passionate about. When not writing, Ieva enjoys making jewelry, going on hikes, reading and drinking coffee.
Ieva is a Photo Editor at Bored Panda. Art was always a big part of her life. She studied at Vilnius Academy of Arts, worked in the art supplies store and learned a lot about artsy tools. Later on she got to work at the art gallery and met lots of artists, mastered the picture framing process and sold a great number of paintings. After gaining some experience Ieva decided to focus on creating art herself. Boogie Studio – analog collage art studio was born. Ieva's love for images and layering goes well with both creating collages by hand and working with digital images as a Photo Editor.
My husband says I make the best carmelized onions for burgers and the like. I have a secret carmelized starter cheat, to the butter add two to three beef buillon cubes and about a scant tablespoon of brown sugar. Umami, sweet, and rich to cut through the onions, it just takes them over the top.
Ooh I’m stealing this thank you!
Ever since I first made vodka sauce a few years ago, i caramelize onions then thrown in vodka until it basically all evaporates off. I feel it adds extra sweetness and enhances the flavor
Not to be a grammar nazi but: caramelized.
UK spelling, we’re not all from the USA.
No it’s not: caramelised (UK) or caramelized (US). Carmelized is neither
Celery leaves in soups. Freeze the extra leaves from the heart even the shorter stalks in the heart add flavor.
I do this too! But I have to take them out of my husband’s bowl when I serve.
Dehydrate the celery leaves and then grind into a powder with a blender … A partial tsp of this goes a long way..!
I do that and also broccoli leaves and things
Going to try!
Worcestershire sauce. When you’re making stocks and broths adding a splash is like adding cooking time in a bottle!
I always think Worcestershire is like miso, and fish sauce: just variations on umami, originated in different food cultures. Works a charm
I love it – I literally drink it straight. Also put it in all my rice
I buy that at Costco I go through so much of it, lol
My husband says I make the best carmelized onions for burgers and the like. I have a secret carmelized starter cheat, to the butter add two to three beef buillon cubes and about a scant tablespoon of brown sugar. Umami, sweet, and rich to cut through the onions, it just takes them over the top.
Ooh I’m stealing this thank you!
Ever since I first made vodka sauce a few years ago, i caramelize onions then thrown in vodka until it basically all evaporates off. I feel it adds extra sweetness and enhances the flavor
Not to be a grammar nazi but: caramelized.
UK spelling, we’re not all from the USA.
No it’s not: caramelised (UK) or caramelized (US). Carmelized is neither
Celery leaves in soups. Freeze the extra leaves from the heart even the shorter stalks in the heart add flavor.
I do this too! But I have to take them out of my husband’s bowl when I serve.
Dehydrate the celery leaves and then grind into a powder with a blender … A partial tsp of this goes a long way..!
I do that and also broccoli leaves and things
Going to try!
Worcestershire sauce. When you’re making stocks and broths adding a splash is like adding cooking time in a bottle!
I always think Worcestershire is like miso, and fish sauce: just variations on umami, originated in different food cultures. Works a charm
I love it – I literally drink it straight. Also put it in all my rice
I buy that at Costco I go through so much of it, lol
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