People Are Disclosing The Wildly Creative Tweaks They Make To Their Food That Are Entirely Game-Changing

    "They sell huge jars of it at Costco, FYI — much better flavor, and immensely less expensive..."

    As a home cook, I'm always looking for ways to take my meals up a notch, and I often find that the simplest additions go a very long way. So when redditor u/leeleez09 asked the r/Cooking community to share their "secret" ingredient, I was already taking notes. Here are the simple additions that home cooks swear by for leveling up their food.

    1. "In different dishes: anchovy paste, smoked paprika, aged balsamic, powdered shiitake, and tamarind."

    Hand holding a tube of Aurora anchovy paste over a kitchen counter

    2. "Fresh lemon and lime juice."


    "Yes! I learned about this only recently. Add it right at the end, don't cook it into the dish."


    3. "Miso. It’s pure magic!"

    Container of soybean paste on a counter

    4. "It's not a secret, but the answer is salt."


    "The answer is MORE salt. I recently made stewed lemon kale and seasoned it way more than I wanted to. It was delicious. I was shoveling back kale."


    5. "Angostura bitters. Just a dash adds a nice, subtle spice note to anything. Meat sauces, stews, and fruit desserts are particularly nice."

    Bottle of Angostura aromatic bitters on a table

    6. "I toast peppercorns in a skillet before putting them in a grinder. It is unbelievable how much better the flavor is, especially in eggs."


    "Bloom ALL your spices, and ideally, buy them whole and bloom them before crushing/grinding. Totally different game."


    7. "Better Than Bouillon Organic Reduced Sodium Vegetable Base."

    Person holding a jar of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base with two pots of soup on the stove

    8. "Onions. We always have red onions, white onions, shallots, and green onions ready to go. Pickled red onions elevate so much stuff, onions in my meatloaf or omelets, sprinkling green onions on top of something — gotta love an onion."


    9. "Nutmeg in a lot of dishes that most people around me wouldn’t consider putting it in. Also, a small spoonful of grape jelly into my Bolognese to cut the acidity."

    Person holding a small jar of a Schwartz whole nutmeg spice jar with a red cap

    10. "I brown butter before I use it, most of the time."


    "We recently made carrot cake with brown butter cream cheese frosting, and it was sublime. I also love brown butter Rice Krispies squares — so much better!"


    11. "Both Greek and Mexican oregano — using the right one makes a lot a difference in a dish."

    Pork ribs in a slow cooker garnished with fresh herbs

    12. "Powdered onion soup."


    "I’ve used it in potatoes, dip, and meatloaf and as a base for oven-fried rice."


    13. "MSG."

    A hand holding a crumpled bag of umami seasoning made of monosodium glutamate

    14. "Forty years ago, my foodie brother gave me my first bottle of balsamic vinegar, and he said with great emphasis, 'When you taste your food and it needs something, what it needs is balsamic vinegar!' Of course, it's not the only addition that can change foods for the better, but more often than not, it helps."


    15. "Parmesan rinds. When I’ve grated a chunk down to the rind, I chuck it in a bag that I keep in the freezer. It makes soups and sauces taste amazing (remove before serving, though!)."

    A simmering pot with various ingredients, including Parmesan rinds and mushrooms

    16. "Fish sauce and gochujang. Gochujang is a great addition to any cheap pasta sauce in a jar."


    17. "Nutritional yeast."

    Package of Bob's Red Mill nutritional yeast flakes

    18. "Sazón Goya. If you ever try to make Caribbean Latin food and it doesn’t taste right, it’s because you didn’t put any or enough Sazón in."


    19. "Roasted sunflower seed butter (whipped up in the food processor) adds body and creaminess to vegan tomato sauce, among other things, and it’s the only ingredient I can think of that zero of the 100 people I cook for every week are allergic to or offended by."

    A jar of Simply Nature creamy sunflower butter on a kitchen counter

    20. "Fresh-ground Cambodian white pepper. It has a sweetness that I find incredible. I like adding it to anything instead of black pepper. You just have to use less because while it has a sweeter flavor, it does add more spice."


    21. "Lately, granulated black garlic. It adds so much umami to a dish."

    A bulb of black garlic cut in half, revealing the cloves

    22. "Cocoa powder and pumpkin puree. A spoonful of cocoa is excellent in a savory dish, but most people don’t recognize it because we think of chocolate as sweet. Pumpkin puree adds a rich, creamy texture and beautiful color to soups and stews."


    23. "A pinch of instant coffee in all my gravies. It doesn't add a coffee flavor, just a little depth."

    Hand holding a jar of Trader Joe's 100% Colombian Instant Coffee in a kitchen

    Are there any secret ingredients you swear by in your cooking? Let us know in the comments, or fill out this anonymous Google form!

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