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Everyday Cooks Are Sharing The "Fancy" Ingredients That Are Worth The Hype, And Even As A Budget-Conscious Shopper, I'd Splurge On Several

"It seems wild to spend it on a jar that small of anything, let alone something that I go through in a month or so, but I'll always find room for it in my budget."

With inflation causing grocery prices to reach new highs, I've turned into a proud budget shopper. For most food items I purchase regularly, my shopping strategy hasn't had to change all that much. Opting for generic brands and swapping in lower-cost alternatives (like chicken thighs for chicken breasts) has kept my bank account mostly happy, but TBH, I'll admit that there are still some "fancier" products that I'll always find room for in my budget. They taste so good, IMO, that I find they're almost always worth the splurge.

looking inside grocery freezer door with shopping basket

Recently, u/Ashamed_Maybe7725 asked redditors who cook to share "fancy ingredients" they've tried that are completely worth the hype, and after reading the responses, I've gotta say I strongly agree. These are some of the most worthwhile ones — and I even added several of my own that I'm strangely passionate about, too.

1. "Real aged balsamic vinegar. Not even necessarily the overly-pricey stuff. The best brands run around $20-30 for an 8-ounce bottle. And trust me: It'll blow all the glazes and un-aged versions out of the water."

pouring thick balsamic vinegar into a tasting glass

2. "Free-range eggs. The first time I fried one up for breakfast, I was honestly astonished at how much more flavor they packed when compared to conventional eggs."

conventional egg yolk vs a free-range one that's much more orange

3. "High-quality olive oil. I got some from a farm in California, and it was amazing. So fresh, fragrant, and flavorful."

comparing two types of olive oil with arrow pointing to expensive one

4. "I love buying slightly higher-end butter, since it tastes so much better. Kerrygold is always a solid choice!"

butter melting in a pan

5. "Good maple syrup. As a New Englander, I won't eat pancakes when I visit Southern relatives. I truly don't care how good you make pancakes — if you're not putting maple syrup on them, why are we bothering?"

arrow pointing to real maple syrup in a bottle on table with pancakes

6. "Kewpie mayo. This Japanese-style mayonnaise is becoming super popular at many American restaurants, and keeping a bottle in your fridge is an easy way to add tons of flavor to any dish where you'd normally use conventional mayo — from sandwiches to chicken salads to rice bowls."

kewpie mayo vs regular mayo on a plate

7. "Parmigiano Reggiano cheese instead of 'Parmesan.'"

cutting a massive wheel of parmigiano reggiano cheese

8. "Wild mushrooms like morels, chanterelles, and maitakes taste so much better than the conventional ones, even if they can be a bit hard to find."

wild mushrooms on a plate

9. "Investing in good quality peppercorns for freshly cracked pepper. The amount of extra flavor is astounding."

costco whole black peppercorns being measured by size

10. "Luxardo cherries for cocktails. It seems wild to spend $20 on a jar that small of anything, let alone something that I go through in a month or so, but now, it's just a non-negotiable part of my budget."

dark red luxardo cherries compared to bright red maraschino cherries

11. "Black garlic. Thank you Bob's Burgers for that tasty treat."

bob from bob's burgers asking gene to get black garlic in the kitchen, with inset image of black garlic clove for reference

12. "Duck fat. I recently discovered that it's not much more expensive than high-quality butter or olive oil, so now, I use it for lots of stuff — like eggs, poultry, and really delicious and crispy potatoes."

pouring yellow rendered duck fat into a glass container

13. "High-quality, oil-packed tuna. I don't even love canned tuna, but the slightly pricier brands are indescribably more delicious than the classic ones I grew up with...and kinda hated."

tuna in oil in a can

14. "Fancy flaky salt, like Maldon. It comes at a ridiculous price, but it actually makes a huge difference for anything that you'd normally sprinkle with salt before serving, like salads or roasted veggies."

flaky salt piled high on a wooden board

15. "Watching the Salt Fat Acid Heat documentary made me want to try real soy sauce."

holding small ramekins of thick, syrupy soy sauce

16. "If your grocery store or an Italian market near you sells fresh pasta, it's worth every penny. If you can't find the fresh stuff, check the freezer aisle, too. It's a little more expensive than buying a box of dried pasta, but it's also a really simple way to turn an otherwise ordinary meal into something totally memorable."

plastic container of store-bought uncooked rigatoni

17. "'Fancy' cheese. Honestly, I'm always skeptical when someone makes a cheese board that has any kind of ridiculously expensive cheese. Like, there's no way this is worth $50 a pound or whatever...and every time, I eat my words (and it, of course)."

fancy cheeses arranged on a cheese board

18. "Local honey, especially from different pollinating sources. You can truly taste the difference between honey from bees that pollinate clover, for instance, in contrast to the ones that pollinate apple trees."

different colors of honey in mason jars

19. "Whole nutmeg for baking. I bought about three or four whole nutmeg seeds a few years ago, and I use them fairly regularly for eggnog and baked goods. I can't believe how long I used pre-ground nutmeg."

grated nutmeg and nutmeg seed in a small glass bowl

20. "Splurge on Gruyère cheese for the best mac 'n' cheese ever."

two pieces of gruyere cheese on cutting board

21. "Vanilla bean paste. It's so much better than using vanilla extract."

vanilla bean paste slowly pouring into an amber jar

What higher-end or "fancy" products do you always splurge on for your own kitchen? Tell us your faves in the comments below.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.