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People Are Revealing The Secret Ingredients That Make Their Home Cooking Taste Dramatically Better, And I’m Memorizing All Of Them

"A dash or two of this ingredient and you can't even identify the flavor in your food. It just imparts an amazing depth of flavor."

Have you ever tried a dish and thought, "wow, there's something special about this!" There are certain ingredients that are total flavor boosters. So redditor u/Battle4Seattle asked, "What is your one secret (or not-so secret) ingredient that you add to a dish to make it dramatically better?" Here are some of the responses.

1. "I use the spice packet that comes with instant ramen as a popcorn seasoning. Mix the powder with some melted butter or margarine and then toss with the popcorn."

u/Thea_From_Juilliard

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2. "I always add a dash of pickled jalapeño juice to deviled eggs, macaroni salad, and potato salad."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

3. "I always buy anchovy paste and use it in place of soy sauce in recipes that call for it. Just a tiny bit gives you the same salty umami flavor as soy sauce but without tons of sodium."

Milk Street / Via store.177milkstreet.com

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4. "I add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to savory dishes like stews, meat lasagna, Bolognese sauce, and more. Just a dash and not enough for the flavors of the spices to be perceptible. It imparts an amazing depth of flavor."

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5. "Whenever I make chili I always add dark cocoa powder, cinnamon, and coffee. It makes a huge difference in flavor."

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6. "Shallots. Use them in any recipe that calls for an allium (onion, garlic, leek, chives, etc...). Often, if garlic seems like it might be too overwhelming of a flavor, shallot is perfect. It's a bit more delicate than an onion. You can also fry them into a crispy garnish, pickle them and serve them with salads, or grate them into sauces and dressings."

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7. "Rice vinegar. If a recipe calls for soy sauce, I also always add rice vinegar, even if it's not called for in the recipe. It adds the perfect amount of acidity and I swear, it takes dishes like fried rice to the next level."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

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8. "Fish sauce in Caesar salad. I had the best Caesar salad at a friend's house, and she revealed her secret is using fish sauce instead of anchovies. I was floored and jealous I didn't think of it first."

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9. "Brown sugar. If a baking recipe calls for sugar, I make 1/4 of the sugar brown sugar, even if it's not called for. It makes your baked goods and sweet taste amazing, especially homemade waffles."

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10. "Mustard in mac 'n' cheese. Unless you use a crazy amount it isn't noticeable, it just adds a little bit of zest and depth of flavor. Many recipes for baked mac and cheese suggest adding a little Dijon mustard, but I've used whole grain and it's still been delicious."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

11. "Tajin seasoning. It's a spice mixture of dried chiles and dehydrated lime juice. It goes well in most any Mexican-inspired recipes, but it's unexpectedly delicious on fruit, particularly on mango. Try it on corn on the cob, too."

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12. "Soy sauce. Add it to anything savory like tomato sauce for pasta, chili con carne, even mushroom risotto."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

13. "I buy pure MSG powder and add it to everything — soups, sauces, gravies, rice, pasta, marinades. It’s delicious."

Amazon, Getty Images

u/delicious_downvotes

"Usually when I tell someone I cook with MSG I still get that look. It's too bad that people still believe that old myth that MSG is bad for you. It always makes my food taste delicious."

u/PandemoniumPanda

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14. "Put a little instant coffee in your chocolate chip cookie batter. Trust me."

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15. "Miso paste, I put it in anything that it will dissolve in — like pasta sauces, stews, gravies, marinades, and more. I love the extra punch of umami it brings to any dish."

Hannah Loewentheil

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16. "Fish sauce goes in almost anything savory. That stuff is magical. If you're making vegetables, meat, chilis, or even a sauce, a dash or two gives you more of that salty, meaty, savory flavor."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

17. "Adding chopped and lightly sautéd anchovies to almost any dish gives it a nice depth."

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18. "Instead of cooking my grilled cheese sandwiches in butter, I fry the bread in a mixture of mayo, hot sauce, a pinch of garlic powder. It's freaking delicious."

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19. "I add a dash of olive brine to my tuna salad instead of loading it up with salt. It offers savoriness with a bit of depth."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

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20. "I love cardamom in any sweet dish. I make Alton Brown’s homemade marshmallows, and put a tiny pinch of cardamom in them while they’re whipping. It elevates them from great to absolutely incredible."

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21. "I put cinnamon into basically every Mexican dish I make. Tacos, enchiladas, beans. I even sprinkle it in quesadillas sometimes. It works really well with all the other spices you usually end up using in those dishes like chile powder and cumin."

Hannah Loewentheil, Getty Images

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22. "Mayonnaise in chocolate cake. Once you realize that mayo is mostly eggs and oil, it's not so hard to believe why it tastes so good."

Hannah Loewentheil

23. "Nutritional yeast. It sounds like a health food, I know, but this stuff has a wonderful cheesy, nutty flavor. In my house, it has its supreme place next to salt and pepper."

Hannah Loewentheil

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24. "Sour cream in scrambled eggs. Some people will say to use crème fraîche, except you probably already have mayo on hand and the taste is pretty much the same. The eggs turn out super light and fluffy. You don't even taste the sour cream. It just tastes like the best scrambled eggs ever."

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25. "I put smoked paprika in lots of things like mac 'n' cheese, roasted vegetables, egg salad, and more and it lends that delicious and smoky flavor."

Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

Do you have a favorite ingredient that instantly upgrades whatever you're cooking or a particular dish? Tell us in the comments below!

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