Skip To Content
  • Tips & Hacks You Totally Need badge

People Are Sharing Seriously Smart Cooking Hacks That Will Save You Money, Time, And Effort (And Make Your Food Taste Way Better)

"The taste is so subtle that it's imperceptible, but without it, it tastes like something is missing."

Every now and then you hear about a cooking hack or an ingredient substitution that makes you say, "Whoa, I seriously gotta try that." So I did a deep dive through the r/Cooking subreddit to find some of the most genius ones out there. Here are a bunch you might just want to try at home.

1. "Next time you make banana bread from boxed mix, substitute 2/3 of the water with Kahlúa. People always try mine and say, 'holy crap, that's good.'"

Slicing into a loaf of banana bread.
Getty Images

2. "Get a fish spatula — and use it to make way more than fish. I believe it's the most versatile spatula out there, but it's pigeonholed by its name. It's the best utensil to handle fish because it's incredibly delicate, but it's also the best tool to handle other delicate foods like fried eggs. And the lined slots prevent food from sticking to its face."

Flipping salmon with a fish spatula.
Getty Images

3. "Use your air fryer to reheat leftover food. Normally cold fries are done for, but not if you air fry them. And you can basically revive leftover pizza to delivery quality by getting it nice and crispy in the air fryer."

Chicken nuggets in an air fryer.
Getty Images

4. "The next time you make lasagna, try using béchamel in place of ricotta. It's popular in Egyptian and Greek cooking, and it's absolutely delicious."

Lasagna with béchamel sauce.
Romualdo Crissi / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. "If you're making mashed potatoes, bring them to boil with the water, rather than adding potatoes to already boiling water. It makes them way creamier when mashed."

Fluffy mashed potatoes.
Getty Images

6. "Try making falafel with fava beans (the Egyptian way) instead of chickpeas. The resulting falafel have a crispier exterior, a fluffier interior, a lighter texture, and are just way more flavorful."

Falafel in pita.
Getty Images

7. "If your homemade soup is too thin, try adding instant mashed potatoes as a thickener. I keep a box around for lazy days or emergencies, and they're a life-saver when you've added too much liquid to soup."

A pot of vegetable soup.
Getty Images

8. "My favorite lazy recipe is macaroni and cheese with sliced hot dogs. It's pretty much carbonara: pasta and cured pork cooked in a cheese heavy, rich, creamy sauce."

A bowl of pastas
Lauripatterson / Getty Images/iStockphoto

9. "If a recipe calls for light brown sugar or molasses, I always substitute dark brown sugar. Dark sugar makes baked goods taste so much better."

An apple galette with brown sugar.
Getty Images

10. "Add a bay leaf (and more than you might think is appropriate) to just about any soup, stock, or sauce. The difference is very subtle, but without the bay leaf it will taste like something is missing."

Bay leaf in a pot of stew.
Getty Images

11. "If you're in a pinch, fish sauce works just as well as anchovies in homemade Caesar dressing. It's the same, salty, savory, umami flavor.

Pouring Caesar dressing onto a salad.
Getty Images

12. "When making French toast, try using melted vanilla ice cream to replace 3/4 of the milk. It's unbelievable."

Cooking French toast in butter.
Moriyu / Getty Images

13. "You can make really good cookies by mixing a box of cake mix with half a tub of Cool Whip. Just bake at 350° and start watching them around 8 minutes or so. The cookies turn out delectably chewy."

Sugar cookies on a cooling rack.
Getty Images

u/nvmls

14. "Use Trader Joe’s boxed creamy tomato soup instead of milk to make macaroni and cheese. It is absolutely life-altering."

Hannah Loewentheil

15. "Check the international aisle at your grocery store whenever you need to buy spices or can't seem to find one. There’s a 99% chance you can get what you need for $1 instead of spending upwards of $7.99 on the big name brands."

A spice cabinet with labeled spices.
Getty Images

16. "Instead of traditional Italian breadcrumbs, add boxed dry stuffing mix to your meatloaf. It makes the final dish so much more moist and takes it to the next level."

Homemade meatloaf.
Getty Images

17. "Add butter to instant ramen in order to thicken the broth and make it stick to the noodles. It adds so much more depth of flavor and makes instant ramen taste more restaurant quality."

Instant ramen noodles and chopsticks.
Getty Images

18. "My mom always added apple sauce to cake mixes instead of oil, and they always turned out super moist. I now do the same thing and my cakes get so many compliments. The secret is apple sauce!"

A loaf of oatmeal bread with apple sauce.
Getty Images

19. "A pinch of sugar works for homemade tomato sauce, but a splash of good balsamic vinegar is even better. It really deepens the flavor and adds a little bit of sweetness. Add the balsamic after the sauce has simmered for a while and still has a few minutes left on the stove."

A wooden spoon in a pot of tomato sauce.
Getty Images

20. "Adding a dash of nutmeg to white sauces like gravy, cauliflower soup, or béchamel sauce. It gives the dish a bit of depth and makes the flavors more interesting."

White sauce in a pot
Mariha-kitchen / Getty Images/iStockphoto

21. "When baking banana bread, roast the ripe bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven on 300ºF for 15 to 20 minutes first. Then use them in banana bread, muffins, or cake. It makes the bread delicious and much more flavorful."

Roasted bananas.
Getty Images

22. "Add a spoonful of chive cream cheese (in addition to butter and milk) when making boxed mac 'n' cheese. It makes it so creamy, cheesy, and flavorful."

Mac and cheese with butter on top
Southernlightstudios / Getty Images/iStockphoto

23. "If you're breading something like a chicken cutlet, forget dredging it in egg. Instead, coat it in mayonnaise before the breadcrumbs."

Breaded chicken cutlets
Getty Images

24. "Add a layer of Greek yogurt on top of your salmon fillets before baking. It's delicious and prevents the salmon from drying out on the oven."

Three salmon fillets topped with Greek yogurt.

25. "Add an extra egg yolk to any cookie recipe for softer, fluffier cookies that taste as if they just came out of the oven for days."

Tomekbudujedomek / Getty Images

26. "No campfire? No problem. Make s'mores right in the toaster oven."

Toaster oven smores
u/bartarton

27. "Use milk powder to give your baked goods an added depth of dairy flavor. Powdered milk can be found in the baking section of most grocery stores, and it's the trick to amping up the flavor and texture of any baked good."

Various ingredients for cookies
Photo By Cathy Scola / Getty Images

28. "Sprinkle some baking powder onto chicken skin to make it extra crispy when you roast, sear, or fry it."

Crispy oven-roasted chicken wings.
Getty Images

29. "Adding a splash of orange juice to pumpkin or banana bread really adds nice brightness against the spices and gives it the perfect amount of acidity."

All Nea / Getty Images/500px

30. "Toss meat in the freezer for a quick 20 minutes before slicing it. It makes it much easier to cut it thinly for dishes like stir fry."

Steak and peppers in a skillet.
Chang / Getty Images

31. What did we miss? Share your favorite cooking hack, tip, or trick in the comments!