10 Ingredients to Upgrade Your Cooking

Best pantry staples to upgrade your recipes

10 Ingredients to Upgrade Your Cooking

Easy ways to make your meals a whole lot more interesting

Restaurants continue to close across America and that stockpile of frozen foods will only get you so far. So as we cook more at home, we'll need to find ways to make things a little more interesting—especially as we stretch into the fourth or fifth week of quarantine and those go-to recipes are starting to get a bit boring. But even the simplest pasta and egg dishes can be made a lot more interesting by upgrading your flavors. These easily-obtained pantry additions are guaranteed to improve your nightly dinners (and lunches and snacks).

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Best Pantry
Staple Upgrades

Gin Mayo

Mossel en Gin, a laidback seafood restaurant just outside the center of Amsterdam, makes their own mayonnaise, which is exactly what it claims to be. Mayo infused with gin. Is it alcoholic? (Yes, but just barely.) It's a little sweet, with just the right amount of tang and a salty kick. In short, it's perfect on just about anything.

$6 at East Fork

Heritage Bacon Salt

Two good things married together for the ultimate finisher. Amola bacon salt has but two ingredients: sea salt and heritage pork. No fancy gimmicks, no weird preservatives or unnecessary fillers. Amola's most popular salt to date, Bacon Salt goes great on everything from popcorn to fried eggs and will make you enjoy roasted vegetables a whole lot more.

$10.95 by Amola Salt

Umami Seasoning Salt

Known as the illusive "fifth taste," the savory richness of umami is captured perfectly in this seasoning mix. An organic blend of natural umami ingredients like sea salt, porcini mushrooms, wild-harvested kelp fronds, garlic, smoked paprika and nutritional yeast, this shaker has everything you need to give simple chicken, tofu, popcorn and potatoes a unique depth of flavor.

$9 by Seed Ranch Flavor Co.

Olo’s Chipotle Paste

Hot sauce is for dribbling on top of food that's cooked and ready to eat. This chipotle paste? It's for when you're cooking and want to add the earthy taste and zest of chipotle peppers to your dish. Spice up soups or store-bought hummus, mix it with your mayo to supercharge your sandwiches or make a marinade for tasty meal-prep chicken breast.

$7 at Sur La Table

Premium Tahini

Tahini is an essential ingredient for Asian-inspired sauces and is the secret element to make desserts a whole lot more sophisticated. This one is a favorite of chefs, with white humera sesame seeds sourced from northwestern Ethiopia, yielding an intensely nutty flavor and ultra-creamy consistency.

$8.95 by Soom

Sardines with
Lemon and Olive Oil

There are countless ways to use tinned sardines. Especially the high quality ones that are prepared and canned in the traditional Portuguese fashion. These are preserved in olive oil with lemon, meaning you can pop the top and serve it on toast and you've got a legitimately gourmet meal. Or add it to pizza, toss it on a salad or swap it in for the meat in your tacos.

$7.99 by Jose Gourmet

Roasted Garlic Spread

This is officially made for garlic bread. And the pulverized roasted garlic cloves, parmesan cheese and parsley is, of course, great for that. But it also makes for the perfect shortcut when cooking things like chicken or mashed potatoes. One spoonful and you've got a perfectly-seasoned dish, no measuring and mixing needed.

$8.95 by Stonewall Kitchen

Spicy Chili Crisp

This is a unique condiment and frankly, it's not for everyone. But if you're into authentic Asian street food like noodles and satays, you'll appreciate this spicy, crunchy topper. Slightly thick and textured—thanks to an abundance of dried chilies that are fried and crushed—there's a nice tingly heat from Sichuan peppercorns and a welcome funkiness thanks to fermented soybeans. Let it spice up scrambled eggs or perk up frozen meals and sub-standard takeout.

$14.99 by Lao Gan Ma

Genovese-Style
Pesto Sauce

The ultimate time-saver. A good quality jarred pesto is a shortcut that makes cooking as easy as turning on the stone and popping open this jar. This one, from Public Goods, is a traditional Genovese-style pesto made with vibrant green basil, premium Parmigiano Reggiano and a blend of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and cashews (for extra creaminess). Add a dollop to sandwiches, use it as dip or spoon it over baked chicken or shrimp. Of course, toss it with pasta for an impressive 15-minute meal.

$4.25 by Public Goods

Key West
Lime Juice

Should you use this to make proper margaritas at home? Yes. But you'll soon find this cute bottle comes in handy in all sorts of situations. Splash it on chicken or pork, or mix it into a lively vinaigrette for salads. Let it provide a pop to your morning smoothies or turn subpar avocados into a really good guacamole. Why's it so good? It uses real key limes for a more flavorful and aromatic juice and no lime oil (often found in store-bought lime juices that result in a floor cleaner scent and flavor).

$8.81 by Nellie & Joe's

FYI

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, downloads of the Instacart grocery delivery app are up over 218% versus last year.

NOTE: Items featured in this story are independently selected by the editorial team. Purchasing via our links may earn Valet. a portion of the sale, which helps fund our editorial mission.

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