A fantastic list of single ingredients that will make your food sing


Apr 10, 2022

“It Will Taste So Much Better, But No One Will Be Able To Guess Why”: 33 Genius Cooking Hacks That Rely On A Single Secret Ingredient

“A friend of mine learned this in culinary school, and I’ve adopted it as my own ever since.”

by Hannah Loewentheil

BuzzFeed Staff🔥View 147 comments

I love to cook, and I’m constantly hearing about new kitchen tips and tricks. And while some can be forgettable, others really stand out in my mind and make me think, Whoa, I should really try that. So I browsed the subreddit r/cooking and comments from the BuzzFeed Community, and I compiled a list of the small but surprising cooking tips that seriously impressed me.

A couple making scrambled eggs

1. “I add pureed or shredded carrots to my tomato sauce. It really cuts the acidity without the extra added sugar. Everyone always raves about my pasta sauce.”

Gnocchi in tomato sauce





2. “I use Kraft Macaroni & Cheese packets to season my popcorn. It’s life-changing.”

Cheesy popcorn up close.

3. “If you’re making cookies from bagged or boxed mix (like Tollhouse), substitute whatever butter you usually use for Kerrygold butter. Something about salted Irish butter will take your cookies to the next level.”

A woman holding a partially eaten chocolate chip cookie.

4. “I add a pinch of salt to hot chocolate, and people go crazy for it. But it’s only hot cocoa mix, milk, and salt. The extra sodium doesn’t make it salty at all. In fact, it somehow brings out more of the chocolate flavor.”

Two hot chocolate drinks in mugs.

5. “The secret to incredible tomato sauce is butter. Try putting a decent amount of butter into your red sauce and let it simmer. It will taste so much better, but no one will be able to guess the secret.”

A ladle in a pot of marinara sauce.

6. “Try adding a touch of horseradish to your mashed potatoes…especially garlic mashed potatoes. It’s a game changer. It adds a ton of flavor without being too noticeable or overpowering.”

Mashed potatoes in a pan

7. “If you want a cheap and easy meal that will blow your mind, toss instant beef-flavored ramen with some peanut butter and sriracha. It’s creamy, savory, spicy, sweet, and totally divine.”

Instant noodles with peanut sauce

8. “If you’re used to making grilled cheese with butter, try swapping that butter for a light layer of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of garlic salt on the outside of your bread. It makes for an incredible grilled cheese sandwich.”

A crispy grilled cheese sandwich in frying pan on stove.

9. “Anytime a recipe calls for water, I always use chicken broth instead. It makes just about anything taste richer, more complex, and better.”

Chicken broth in a sauce pan





10. “Add a little bit of soy sauce to your tuna or chicken salad. It gives it that extra salty tanginess. I worked at Jimmy John’s for a while, and that was their secret. I’ve been making mine this way for 10 years now, and I could never go back.”

A blue ceramic bowl full of freshly made tuna salad

11. “I substitute half the sugar I put into boxed cookie, cake, and cupcake mix for a packet of Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding powder. It keeps baked goods super soft and moist for days.”

A close-up of a person mixing cake batter with an electric hand mixer

12. “Most people use overripe bananas for banana bread, but I have another great trick. I freeze the overripe bananas first, then I thaw them when it’s time to bake. Freezing them first somehow makes them taste even sweeter.”

13. “Crack an egg into your mashed potatoes when they’re almost ready. Forget about cream and butter — the secret to super-creamy mashed potatoes is adding an egg into the mix. (It works for pasta carbonara, so why not for mashed potatoes?) The heat of the mashed potatoes cooks the egg so it’s safe to eat, but it imparts a delicious richness.”

A person cracking an egg into a bowl

14. “For mac ‘n’ cheese that stays creamy even after it’s been refrigerated, add some cream cheese when you’re making the sauce. You can’t even taste the cream cheese, but the sauce stays moist and thick instead of being totally absorbed into the pasta.”

Boxed mac 'n' cheese being stirred with a wooden spoon in a bowl with cream cheese chunks

15. “Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to cook any grains that don’t need to be strained, like quinoa, rice, couscous, etc. It makes them taste so much more flavorful than simply cooking them in water.”

A big pot of couscous

16. “Add a bit of mayonnaise to your beaten eggs before scrambling them or making an omelet or quiche. It adds volume and makes them light and fluffy.”

A homemade quiche cut into slices

17. “Adding a pinch of baking soda to grits or polenta cuts the cooking time in half. It’s my favorite dinner time-saver.”

Close-up of a wooden spoon serving polenta from a plate on a dining table

18. “Replace some of the liquid in your waffle batter with seltzer or another carbonated beverage, like ginger ale. It’s the key to the fluffiest, airiest waffles ever.”

A person pouring batter into a waffle-maker

19. “Place an ice cube on any leftover food you’re microwaving to add moisture while reheating. The ice won’t melt, but it adds steam to your food. It’s especially useful for rice.”

Rice in a bowl heated in a microwave oven

20. “If you run out of bread crumbs and are in a pinch, just toast a slice of bread and grate it into fine pieces.”

Close-up of pieces of rustic bread

21. “Making your own flavored butter is so easy, and it’s the easiest way to upgrade a meal. Just soften a pat of butter and add anything from herbs or garlic to chili pepper. Shape the butter into a cylinder on waxed paper, roll it up, and freeze it. Whenever you want to use it, just use a warm knife to slice off a portion. I always have about five different-flavored butters in my freezer on any given day.”

Homemade compound butter rolled up

22. “Add a layer of Greek yogurt or mayonnaise on top of fish fillets like salmon before baking them. It prevents the fish from drying out on the oven, keeping it moist and flaky.”

A person preparing salmon

23. “Save leftover bacon grease and sauté onions with it, or just use bacon grease instead of olive oil or butter when you’re making anything that could use a little extra flavor boost.”

Bacon strips cooking on a skillet

24. “Instead of frying eggs in olive oil, give them a serious flavor boost by frying them in tablespoon of pesto.”

A jar of pesto and a spoon on a cutting board

25. “The trick to life-changing mashed potato gravy: the spice packet from your instant ramen. I make my gravy with butter, flour, water, and a packet of beef or chicken ramen seasoning.”

A jug of gravy being poured onto a bowl of steaming mashed potatoes

26. “I put extra yolks in my scrambled eggs. It makes them so much more decadent. So, for example, if I’m making eggs for two people, I’ll use four whole eggs and two additional egg yolks.”

Beaten eggs in a pan for scrambling

27. “Whenever I’m making something with ground taco meat, I mix in a chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. It gives the meat a smoky heat that really elevates the flavor.”

Ground beef in a skillet

28. “A friend of mine learned this trick in culinary school, and now I swear by it. If you’re making something savory and it just seems like it needs something but you’re not sure what, add a bit of mustard. Yellow mustard or Dijon always does the trick. I don’t know what kind of magic it is, but it totally works.”

A spoonful of yellow mustard from the jar

29. “Add a bit of brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup to pretty much any savory stews, soups, sauces, salad dressings, chilis, and marinades. It helps cut those sour, acidy, bitter flavors and adds another level of deliciousness.”

A woman marinating meat

30. “I always add a dollop of sour cream to my boxed mac ‘n’ cheese when it’s time to add the milk and cheese packet. It makes it creamier and so rich.”

Making boxed mac 'n' cheese with butter and cheese powder

31. “I worked in a high-end restaurant that was very well known for its cheesecake. The secret to the cheesecake: just cream cheese and marshmallow fluff blended together and set in graham cracker crust.”

A close-up of a slice of cheesecake with a fork

32. “Use a cheese grater or microplane to grate a small amount of butter over leftovers when reheating them in the microwave. Grated butter gives whatever you’re reheating the perfect amount of moisture and flavor without drowning it in liquid.”

Cold grated butter on a white plate

33. “If your homemade sauces or soups seem too thin or watery, try adding instant mashed potatoes as a thickener. Since I learned this trick, I’ve started keeping a box around for lazy days or emergencies. They’re a lifesaver when you’ve added too much liquid to soup.”

Person cooking tomato soup in kitchen

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