Of course, if you're serving guests or people with allergies, always give a heads-up on any unexpected ingredients you're cooking with.
1."Canned whole peeled tomatoes. I always stick to the brands I trust for freshness and flavor, and I check the labels to make sure they don't add a bunch of junk to them."
2."Instant ramen seasoning packets. Save them and use them as a flavor-booster for so many other foods. It's the trick to life-changing mashed potato gravy. I make my gravy with butter, flour, water, and a packet of beef or chicken ramen seasoning."
3."Za'atar spice mix. I use it with olive oil as a rub for chicken, and it's amazing. It's also great mixed with yogurt as a sauce."
4."Truffle salt. I just use a pinch of this flavored salt when I want a dish to taste rich without reeking of truffle. It’s really delicious in gravies."
5."Anchovies. There's nothing like a Caesar salad topped with anchovies. And the savory flavor they add to pasta or pizza is out of this world. You can mash them up and dissolve them into soups, stews, and sauces, and the flavor is imperceptible but so delicious."
6."Hungarian paprika paste, the kind that comes in a foil tube. It adds an awesome fresh peppery flavor to any dish if added at the end. Or if added at the beginning of cooking, you get a savory roasted pepper flavor."
7."A tube of tomato paste. Almost any dish that is lacking depth gets a squeeze. It keeps in the fridge for months and is so much better than canned tomato paste."
8."I love having a range of different vinegars, but apple cider vinegar is the one I can't live without. It's so versatile."
9."Oyster sauce. Add a spoonful to your marinades, soups, or even your ramen to take it to the next level. It's especially good in spicy foods because it imparts a more complex flavor."
10."Sumac. Get yourself a huge bag for, like, $15, and thank me later. It tastes lemony, salty, sweet, smoky, and earthy. Sprinkle it on toast, curry, chicken, steak, tacos, deviled eggs, even ice cream. It works on just about anything."
11."Good quality canned tuna, usually packed in olive oil. Even if there's almost nothing else in my fridge, I know I can always throw a meal together as long as I have tuna fish. Recently, I've been loving Fishwife. It's the gold standard for me."
12."Nutritional yeast. A little goes a long way. I often throw a bit into my sauces and stews for a little extra umami flavor."
13."Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding powder. It's so useful for baking. I substitute half the sugar I put into boxed cookie, cake, and cupcake mix for a packet of this stuff. It keeps baked goods super soft and moist for days."
14."Nutmeg, especially in cream-based sauces like béchamel. Even the smallest amount can take any rich sauce to another level."
15."Buttermilk. It's an underrated ingredient you can use in marinades and dressings as well as in baked goods like breads and cakes. It just adds that extra zippiness."
16."Dijon mustard. I use it in marinades for meat and fish and in salad dressings and sauces. I even put it in mac 'n' cheese to make the flavors pop. It's probably the most-used condiment in my fridge."
17."Capers! Fried capers in particular are an incredible topping for pasta, salad, or whatever else you're making. They're crispy and salty and so good. I love putting them on garlic bread before it goes under the broiler."
18."Soy sauce. It's one of the most useful condiments. I always add a few drops to savory dishes like bolognese. And I even use soy sauce as a substitute for salt in my eggs and omelettes."
19."Miso paste. You can use it in just about any soup or stew you're making. It adds a lot of complexity to food, and if you add it early in the cooking process, you can't even recognize the flavor of the miso."
20."Bacon grease. Save your bacon grease, and cook with it: Sauté onions and other vegetables in it, or use it in place of olive oil or butter when you're making anything that could use a little extra flavor boost."
21."White pepper. It adds a subtle warmth to your dishes and still lets other ingredients shine. It's a great addition to delicate fish, mac 'n' cheese, simple vegetables, salads, etc. Oh, and it's the key to the best mashed potatoes."
22."Sesame seeds. They’re nutritious, and they have such a subtle flavor that they can be added to pretty much anything. I put them in every salad I make, and I sprinkle them onto any meat or vegetables I'm cooking."
23."Maple syrup. It adds a deep flavor to so many dishes that require a little sweetness. It's ideal for quick cocktails that feel fancy. I also love adding maple syrup to marinades for fatty meats. It makes them taste even more delicious."
24."Gochujang. If you're making a savory dish that could use a spicy or umami kick, this Korean red chili paste is the answer."
25."Balsamic vinegar. I use it almost any time I'm cooking beef or mushrooms. I use just a little splash to deglaze the pan, or I cook it down into more of a sauce."
26."Tomato bouillon. I use it in my pasta, eggs, ramen, dressings, soup, and sauces. It works in pretty much anything savory and upgrades it."
27."Fish sauce. A bit of fish sauce in sauces and soups adds so much depth and flavor, and you would never know it's in there. It's so underrated in western cooking, but everyone should keep a bottle on hand."
28."Greek yogurt. I use it in place of sour cream or milk in tons of recipes. It's equally as creamy and great in dishes like curry."
29."Shallots. They are so versatile (use them wherever you'd normally use onions), and they keep better in my kitchen than onions do."
30."Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese packets. I use them to season other foods like popcorn. It's life-changing."
31."Chipotle peppers in adobo. Whenever I'm making something with ground taco meat, I mix in a chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce from the can. It gives the meat a smoky heat that really elevates the flavor."
So what's an underrated staple ingredient in your kitchen that makes a huge difference in your cooking? Tell us in the comments.
Track and field star Chari Hawkins is on The Rush chatting with Jared about her favorite and least favorite Heptathlon events, the brilliance of record-breaking hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, how torn ligaments and a broken foot made her a better runner and her hopes to represent the U.S. at World Championships. Plus, Chari will soon unveil the mental strength program “30 Days with Chari,” where she aims to help users accelerate their mental and physical toughness.
Texans' GM Nick Caserio received plenty of blowback for slow playing the Deshaun Watson situation, but it could be one of the greatest trades in NFL history. As our Tom E. Curran writes, Cleveland's dysfunction is New England's gain.
Brooks Koepka likes to boast about his honesty. Koepka once accused Patrick Reed of cheating by “building sand castles” in a waste area in the Bahamas. “I’m always going to speak my mind and tell you what I think, and I think everybody in this room knows that,” he said at a PGA Championship preview day in 2020.