Cooking is a skill that a lot of people learn but never really master. They learn the basics but never take advantage of using simple ingredients that will add a lot to their food.
On Reddit, experienced cooks have taken the time to share their favorite ingredients that are extremely simple yet add a lot to a dish when used properly.
Salt and pepper are so stupidly simple, but they are so vital and important. I agree with salt in that it’s vital in literally every flavorful dish.
Black pepper is more just a sign of people needing to season their food. It’s not a mandatory spice for even half of the foods, but it can be helpful. Story credit – Reddit/metalshoes
Smoked paprika in anything tex-mex. I mean, smoked paprika in anything can be really good if you know what you’re doing. Don’t be too overzealous with the spice, though. Too much can easily ruin your meal.
In Poland, smoked paprika is a big thing. Look up a polish recipe, and you’d be surprised how many dishes you can find with smoked paprika in them. Story credit – Reddit/MasQuesoPorFavor
The difference between using vanilla extract and vanilla beans in a baking project is astounding! Beans are expensive, so I tend to save them for special occasions, but it really does add extra flavor.
I like to leave the bean that I’ve scraped in my sugar jar. It can tend to clump up, but it’s a small problem to have vanilla sugar. Story credit – Reddit/Lucky_Asian
Turmeric and cumin. They’re the secret touch to a lot of the things I do. I do this with just a little yellow curry (even in pasta marinara sauce) goes well. Ginger goes well with these ingredients too.
But by far, the best ingredient to use is fresh turmeric. It’s so much better than powdered, but it’s a little harder to work with. Story credit – Reddit/madkeepz
Butter, real butter! I couldn’t believe how delicious butter was when I first tasted it as a child. I always hated margarine, so as soon as I moved out on my own, I began buying butter instead. Many years later, I’ve never looked back.
We have a butter churn at home. I never used it, but my wife’s granddad used to churn his own butter. Story credit – Reddit/Xylorgos
Take a branch in your hands and scrub them hard. You’ll Smell Paradise. There’s a giant rosemary bush near my house.
I love picking off a tiny sprig, crushing, and smelling it. So fragrant! Cooking with rosemary fills the kitchen with its mouth-watering scent, and it’s the best with roast lamb or any other similar meat. Story credit – Reddit/uswforever
I recently started fridge pickling onions, made a bottle of 1:2:3 ratio of vinegar, sugar, and water, and whenever I got excess from cooking, I put them into a small jar and pour the solution on top, and put it in the fridge. Massive game changer for sandwiches. Usually too lazy to start chopping onions for fillings.
But seriously, if onions were rare or hard to grow, they’d be treated with so much more respect than they deserve. Story credit – Reddit/heittokayttis
Sumac is a great spice. It adds some subtle sour and bitter elements. It’s red, so it looks like paprika but really adds some depth. I think it is best used in vegetable salads.
I make onion salad which I use as a condiment for sandwiches. Sometimes I use it as a cold side dish. It’s really good on cucumber salad too. Story credit – Reddit/UniqueFlavors
So much less of it, for so much more impact than salt. I have a little blend that I use to spice up any sort of pre-packaged food I might pick up for when I’m lazy.
Just mix a few cooking staples like garlic and onion powders, some Cayan cause I like the spice, and just a tidbit of MSG and some other secrets. No one makes a can of soup as good as I can. Story credit – Reddit/SquirtleSquadSgt
Not just hot peppers, but any type of peppers, really. It’s crazy how much just adding a chopped pepper to a dish really adds a depth of flavor. Ground pork for tacos is kinda boring, but just adding some chopped or roasted poblano makes it way more interesting for almost no extra work.
Same with simple Asian dishes, a basic egg fried rice is brought to another level when you add a little chopped red chili in there. Fresh or roasted peppers make basic weeknight meals instantly taste way better. Story credit – Reddit/yawninggourmand79
Mushrooms. Not the portobello variety but maitake, oyster, chanterelles. The depth of flavor they can achieve is magnificent. Growing your own is a labor of love. Finding them anywhere feels like a blessing.
I got to try king oyster mushrooms not that long ago, and holy hell, they’re delicious. Story credit – Reddit/blueqquartz
Top chef tip: when you are having trouble balancing salt/acidity while cooking – add some sugar/sweet before adding more salt/acidity. Usually, people don’t think to add a little sugar/sweet while seasoning their dish as it’s savory.
Bengali cuisine does this ALL the time! In our savory fish stews, chicken curries, egg kosha, etc., you always add a tiny pinch of sugar, so all the flavor elements are balanced. It’s a fab technique! Story credit – Reddit/[deleted]
Salt and sugar for a dry brine. Leave some fish packed in it overnight, and it’s basically magic how much liquid it pulls out. It really makes a huge difference, and once I found out, I never went back.
Once figured out how easy it was to make smoked salmon, I decided never to buy it in the store again. Story credit – Reddit/mind_blight
Peanut butter. If you’re making an Asian dish like a stir fry, and you are making a sauce for it, I recommend using sugar, soy sauce, and a little bit of peanut butter.
You can even go the extra mile and put anything else that strikes your fancy to give it more flavor and substance. The beauty of peanut butter is that it nearly goes with anything. Story credit – Reddit/[deleted] In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.