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Favorite "secret ingredient"?

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Wondering if anyone has any favorite go-to ingredients that seem to add something special to virtually anything they're cooking.

My dad snuck a little Lawry's Seasoned Salt into everything, and it's a kitchen standby to this day for me, too... but only in small quantities :)

Me, I have a couple of favorite secret ingredients:

• Bragg's Liquid Aminos. The amazing product with the unappetizing name. All it is is unfermented soy sauce, but it adds a wonderful hit of umami richness without the telltale "asian" soy-sauce flavor.

• Bacon Salt. It's kosher & vegetarian, but has a rich smokiness that resembles bacon. A little dash to savory foods adds a great smoky note without tasting like bacon.

• Tajin Seasoning. I found this stuff accidentally (at Epcot Center of all places!); it's a mixture of dried chili peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime. It's marketed as "fruit seasoning", but it's great for adding a spicy citrus tang to pretty much anything. Great on grilled veggies, fish, etc.

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  1. Mine is ancho chile powder...there are a few threads with similar topic:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560001
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3542...
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3183...
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5600...

    1. This thread ought to give you some ideas (has over 300 replies): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560001

      1 Reply
      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        Whoops! Thanks folks. That thread didn't come up when I searched the board for "secret ingredient", sadly. Ah well!

      2. Truffle oil. Dried porcinis. Hot sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: brooklynkoshereater

          Truffle oil is tricky stuff. It tends to overwhelm whatever I use it in and give it that lingering truffle flavor. Kind of amazing stuff, though.

          For hot sauce, I used to collect dozens of bottles, but now I'm down to three standbys: Frank's Red Hot (for all purpose spice), Tabasco Chipotle (for smoky spice), and Sriracha (for anything Asian).

        2. fish sauce for savoury dishes, and scraped vanilla beans for desserts.

          1. Fresh lemon juice -- not sure how "special" this is, but it perks up almost anything.

            1. What do you put the Bragg's in? I've seen it at the deli area of our coop and wondered about it.

              Does it have a taste you can pinpoint?

              1 Reply
              1. re: karykat

                I use Bragg's in pretty much any savory dish where I'd use salt. It's essentially soy sauce, but since it's not fermented or mixed with grain, it doesn't have the same dark, rich, characteristically "Asian" flavor as tamari or soy sauce. It has the same salty umami flavor as something like Marmite. On its own, it's salty and a bit sour/fermenty. But its flavor disappears into whatever you add it to and gives it a general flavor boost.

              2. This stuff here is pretty amazing, I've used it for over 20 years. Especially on a baked potato, you will have to have it for evermore.( I'm talking about the original product "all purpose") Really works great on beef roasts & steaks prior to cooking also.

                http://www.alpinetouch.com/