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17 Pro Chefs Reveal Their Absolute Favorite Ingredient For Cooking At Home

Take it from the pros.

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We're always interested in learning tips and tricks from pro chefs. So we asked a bunch of them about their favorite go-to ingredient that they use all the time in their own kitchens. Here's what they said:

1. Canned garbanzo beans

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Chef: Scott Conant (Fusco, Manhattan)

How he uses it: "I like to pan fry them, dry off the excess oil, and then toss them in a touch of smoked paprika and sea salt. Then enjoy like popcorn!”

2. Fish sauce

Stephanie Izard, Amazon

Chef: Stephanie Izard (Little Goat, Girl and the Goat, Chicago)

How she uses it: "I love fish sauce so much that my website of recipes has a special tag for it. I use fish sauce in my Girl & the Goat sautéed green beans, but I use it in so many more dishes, like a cheesy crab dip, a wintry beef stew, chimichurri, and more. My favorite brand is Red Boat because it’s gluten-free, so nearly everyone can enjoy it."


3. Hot sauce and pickled vegetables

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Chef: Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster & Streetbird Rotisserie, Manhattan)

How he uses them: "When I travel, I make sure to pick up local hot sauce and bring it back with me. You can add it to meat obviously, but you can also mix it in salad dressings, it's great on eggs, and many things! I also always have pickled vegetables in my fridge. They're a great accompaniment to dishes like salmon, fried chicken, meatballs, and salads."

4. Canned tuna

GT Fish & Oyster, The Fish Society

Chef: Giuseppe Tentori (GT Prime and GT Fish & Oyster, Chicago)

How he uses it: "I always have canned tuna in my pantry — my favorite is Ortiz Bonito del Norte from Spain. I use it to make quick easy meals like pasta tuna salad or boiled rice with tuna and hard boiled eggs.”

5. Unsalted European butter

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Chef: Christina Tosi (Milk Bar, New York & Washington, DC)

How she uses it: "I always keep a pound of really nice butter (like Plugra) in my fridge. Unsalted butter allows me to control the level of salt in the final product, and European style means the dairy is cultured before being churned so it's DEEP in flavor compared to the "regular stuff." Baking nearly always means pulling out the butter to start. In my everyday kitchen, butter is a must-have power player. I use it to grease muffin tins, sauté veggies, pan fry, bake a pound cake, or whip up a batch of pancakes. When I want something to have a little extra something, I brown the butter first for a toasty, nutty, complex flavor. One of my favorite recipes to make is a hand-me-down recipe from my grandma for her famous oatmeal cookies. The oats shine behind the deeply soulful butter flavor. I never skimp on butter quality, in the Milk Bar kitchen or at home — it's an important part of what makes a baked good or roast chicken unstoppable."

6. Canned tomatoes

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Chef: Michael Fiorelli (Love & Salt, Los Angeles)

How he uses it: "You can use them in, on, and for everything. My go-to dish to make at home is a pappa al pomodoro (a rustic Tuscan tomato bread soup) made with canned tomatoes and old bread, accentuated simply with a fried egg, parmesan, and fresh cracked black pepper."


7. Olive tapenade

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Chef: Katie Button (Cúrate, Asheville)

How she uses it: "Olive tapenade adds surprise flavor to weeknight vegetables like roasted broccoli, or asparagus. I’ll roast the vegetables in the oven until they are nice and brown. Then I toss them in a bowl with some of the tapenade, olive oil, a little lemon zest and maybe some chili flake. If all you have is the tapenade and olive oil, that will still do the trick. I also spread it on fish filets and broil them."

8. Bela smoked sardines

Bela Brand Seafood / Via

Chef: Matt Hyland (Emily, Brooklyn)

How he uses it: "I like toasted sourdough with a slab of cold butter, chopped cornichons, sardines and some Maldon salt sprinkled on top. It's very simple but it's usually what I am looking to eat after a night of cooking. If I am feeling ambitious I'll make a pate out of the sardines and spread it on toast with some chives, lemon, and dill."

9. Pickled jalapeños

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Chef: Troy Guard (TAG, Denver)

How he uses it: “I always have jars and jars of pickled jalapeños in my kitchen. Whether I am throwing them into a breakfast hash or using them in a marinade, they always add the perfect punch. A special trick of mine is using the pickled jalapeño juice and mixing it was a little mayo — it makes the perfect sandwich spread.”

10. Anchovies packed in oil

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Chef: Jared Braithwaite (Colonie, Brooklyn)

How he uses it: "The one misconception I know regarding anchovies is everyone thinks they are fishy. My favorite use for them is bagna cauda [which is an Italian-style sauce of garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter]. I'll put that on everything from raw radishes in the summer to bitter radicchios in the fall with cheese and breadcrumbs. They also make an unbelievably flavorful emulsion for some steaks brushed with fish sauce and grilled over coals."


11. Good French butter


Chef: Thomas Chen (Tuome, Manhattan)

How he uses it: "Of course, butter can be used in any dish to make it better, but my favorite ways to use good butter is for a grilled cheese sandwich or to baste steak or on pasta."

12. Sambal chili paste

Cultivar, Amazon

Chef: Mary Dumont (Cultivar, Boston)

How she uses it: "I put it on eggs, on rice, or in soups. It literally turns anything into something great."

13. Lap cheong (Chinese dried sausage)

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Chef: Jordan Keao ('Aina, San Francisco)

How he uses it: "It's fantastic over rice, great over noodles, and a perfect replacement for protein in any kind of Italian pasta. I'll often thinly slice it, sauté it until it's crispy — almost pancetta style. It's one of the key ingredients whenever I make fried rice at home."

14. Fennel pollen

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Chef: Steven Redzikowski (OAK at fourteenth and Acorn, Boulder & Denver)

How he uses it: "Fennel pollen has become my salt & pepper — it gives this cool licorice/anise–like flavor to all my dishes. I throw it on pizza, pasta, and even sprinkle a little into my vanilla ice cream.”

15. Sardines

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Chef: Casey Rebecca Nunes (Media Noche, San Francisco)

How she uses it: "Sardines are a recurring staple ingredient for what I call Broke Bitch Meals; cheap, delicious meals, made with an assortment of ingredients you find in your pantry, with the addition of a couple fresh veggies and protein. I use sardines for my "Sardine-y Linguine" pasta."

16. Harissa paste

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Chef: Jason Campbell (Mary Eddy's, Oklahoma City)

How he uses it: "I love to toss crispy chicken wings in the paste with chopped cilantro and lime zest — it's hot and funky from the preserved lemon in it and tasty with a beer. I use the powder to make a vinaigrette to toss cucumbers, mint and tomatoes as a side or for a lamb sandwich. Harissa also makes a great marinade — mix it with some yogurt and the dish really benefits when you grill with it."

17. Dried baby shrimps

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Chef: Paul Donnelly (Chinese Tuxedo, Manhattan)

How he uses it:I often rustle up simple Lo Mein Noodles — it’s so easy! I add a cup of water to a sauce pan with a tablespoon of the chicken bouillon. Dash a pinch of the dry shrimps and throw in a handful of noodles and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of chili, a drop of sesame oil and little vinegar. If you have any scallions or leftover protein in the fridge you could also add this!”