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Here's Why Pro Chefs Love Instant Espresso Powder

Chocolate's biggest cheerleader.

Oftentimes, the difference between a good dish and a great one all comes down to just one ingredient — and one of those special ingredients that chefs reach for over and over again is instant espresso powder.

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For those of you who don't know, instant espresso powder is brewed espresso that has been dehydrated and processed into granules that easily dissolve in liquids. While you technically could use it to make espresso for drinking, most people keep it in their pantry to add it to baked goods and other recipes. It has a rich, somewhat bitter coffee flavor that makes chocolate shine and brings excitement to savory dishes.

And I know what you're thinking, isn't that just instant coffee? Well, no! The coffee flavor is a lot stronger, richer, and more concentrated. It's also less harsh and doesn't have the sour taste that some instant coffee brands do. If you're in a pinch and have to use instant coffee, you can; but the flavor will not be the same. You'll have to use a lot more instant coffee to get the flavor found in espresso powder — about 50% more to be exact.

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To showcase just how versatile of an ingredient instant espresso is, we rounded up eight unexpected ways to use it:

1. Season your steaks with it before cooking them to give 'em a rich, somewhat smoky flavor.

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Adding espresso powder to your dry rubs and spice blends adds a depth of flavor that you wouldn't necessarily know was coffee. It adds a complex, slightly smoky note that pairs perfectly with warming spices like cayenne, and it gives the outside of your steaks a beautiful dark brown color.

Get a recipe for steak rubbed with chipotle and espresso powder.

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2. Use it to amp up the flavor of chocolate in baked goods.

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Espresso powder + chocolate are a match made in heaven. The espresso powder makes the chocolate pop and enhances its naturally bitter flavor. While you wouldn't necessarily know the espresso powder was there, the chocolate will be stronger and more intense. Just think of espresso as chocolate's biggest cheerleader.

Get a recipe for Ina Garten's chocolate cake that uses espresso powder to amp up the flavor.

3. Add it to braises, chili, and stews to add richness and depth.

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Have you ever seen a recipe that braises meat in a coffee-based liquid? Or one with a hint of chocolate or cocoa powder added to the broth? Well, adding espresso powder to braises and stews is the exact same idea. It makes them richer and more complex, all without making the stew actually taste like coffee.

Get a recipe for pot roast made with espresso powder and whiskey.

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4. Add it to drinks, such as cocktails, hot chocolate, and smoothies, to add a strong coffee flavor without watering them down.

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While espresso powder isn't typically used for beverage applications, adding it to cocktails, smoothies, and other drinks is a great way to add a pop of coffee flavor without watering them down. This comes in handy with blended drinks or ones where you want a strong coffee flavor without the water content that comes with standard brewed coffee.

Get a recipe for toasted coconut espresso smoothies.

5. Make an unexpected vinaigrette to wake up your salads.

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Adding espresso powder to your salad dressings and vinaigrettes gives them an extra pop of flavor that's both unexpected and surprisingly savory.

Get a recipe for grilled green salad with a coffee vinaigrette.

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6. Add it to toasted nuts or homemade granolas.

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If you're a fan of making homemade granolas and toasted nuts, try seasoning them with espresso powder instead of the more typical spices. The espresso pairs perfectly with nutty flavors, and it's more exciting than cinnamon.

Get a recipe for hazelnut espresso granola.

7. Add it to homemade barbecue and steak sauces to amp up their savory flavors.

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Espresso powder is especially good in homemade barbecue and steak sauces. It pairs perfectly with the smoky flavors and adds a background note that you wouldn't necessarily know was there but that helps take them to a whole new level.

Get a recipe for homemade steak sauce made with instant espresso powder.

8. Use it as a finishing spice to sprinkle over foods needing an extra pop of flavor.

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Similar to flaky sea salt, espresso powder can be used as a finishing component sprinkled over foods at the very last minute. Sprinkle it on top of desserts, lemon sorbet (really!), or even salads. The granules have a ton of flavor and add excitement to dishes.

Learn more: Check out four unique ways to use espresso powder, including sprinkling it on top of lemon sorbet.

Ready to start cooking with instant espresso powder? Get a two-ounce bottle of Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso on Amazon for $7.20.

And if you're looking for even more cooking and baking tips, check out these posts:

33 Genius Baking Tips Every Beginner Needs To Know

16 Genius Baking Tips Straight From A Professional Pastry Chef

12 Practical Cooking Tips For Relying Less On Recipes

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