"Even If My Fridge Is Empty, I Always Have This": People Are Sharing The Underrated Kitchen Staples They Absolutely Swear By

·7 min read

If you love to cook, there are probably a few ingredients you always have on hand that serve as your secret weapons in the kitchen. So Redditor u/solojones1138 asked, "What's something you consider a kitchen staple that other people underrate?" Here's what people said.

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."

Whole peeled canned tomatoes in juice.
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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."

Cooked instant cup noodle.
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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."

Hummus dip topped with za'atar spice blend and olive oil.
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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."

A small bowl of truffle salt.
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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."

Ingredients on. a cutting board including olives, pepperoni, and anchovies.
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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."

A chicken dish with paprika in a Dutch oven.
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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."

Ingredients for stew on a tabletop.
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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."

Pouring apple cider vinegar in pressure cooked beef gravy.
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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."

A close-up of a bowl of ramen soup.
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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."

Sweet potatoes and kale over yogurt sauce with sumac and spices.
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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."

Tuna salad with cucumbers, corn, olives and red onions in a white bowl.
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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."

A lasagna topped with nutritional yeast.
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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."

Cake batter in a bowl on a wooden table.
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14."Nutmeg, especially in cream-based sauces like béchamel. Even the smallest amount can take any rich sauce to another level."

Penne pasta in a cream sauce.
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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."

Pouring buttermilk into batter.
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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."

Traditional dijon mustard in a glass jar.
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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."

A piece of cod with fried capers and roasted tomatoes.
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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."

Pieces of fish and different ingredients for marinade.
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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."

A close-up of miso paste.
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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."

Bacon frying in a skillet.
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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."

White plates with black and white peppercorns.
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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."

Hummus with sesame seeds.
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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."

Woman pouring maple syrup over thin pancakes with blueberries.
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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."

Preparing homemade Korean BBQ pork belly lettuce wraps.
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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."

Grilled sliced beef steak on cutting board drizzled with balsamic.
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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."

Close view of Spanish paella with tomato rice.
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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."

Someone cooking with fish sauce.
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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."

A small container of greek yogurt with a spoon in it
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29."Shallots. They are so versatile (use them wherever you'd normally use onions), and they keep better in my kitchen than onions do."

Slicing a shallot.
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30."Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese packets. I use them to season other foods like popcorn. It's life-changing."

Noodles with butter and cheese seasoning.
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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."

Chipotle peppers on a cutting board and a bowl of adobo sauce.
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So what's an underrated staple ingredient in your kitchen that makes a huge difference in your cooking? Tell us in the comments.