24 Multi-Generational Cooking Tips People Learned From Their Parents, Grandparents, And Great-Grandparents

Lots of families have recipes passed down through generations, cooking tips, and flavor-boosting techniques that are basically sacred. So redditor u/OoopsieWhoopsie asked, "What are some of your 'secret' family cooking tips?" Here's what people said, and I'm personally looking forward to trying some of these in my own kitchen.

1."My family owns a catering business, which was started by my grandparents, who came to the States from Portugal. One thing I've learned that greatly improves my meals is to add butter to your noodles when making saucy pasta like spaghetti in tomato sauce."

Pasta with tomato sauce partially eaten in a bowl
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2."My grandma would save butter wrappers in the fridge and use the leftover butter on them for greasing dishes when she baked. Now I can’t help but stockpile the wrappers. It really comes in so handy."

Buttering a springform pan
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3."Mustard powder in mac 'n' cheese. It's so necessary; otherwise mac tastes bland even when you use sharp cheddar. I also put in a bit of cayenne pepper."

Mac 'n' cheese in a pot
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4."Put a little fish sauce into any stew or sauce that needs an umami boost. It's basically anchovies in liquid form."

A pot of beef chili
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5."A tablespoon of ground coffee in brownies really kicks up the chocolate flavor a notch. The higher quality the coffee beans, the better."

Mixing brownie batter
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6."Sprinkle sea salt on cookies right before or right after baking. The extra salt brings out the flavors more and helps balance out the sweetness."

Chocolate cookies with sea salt
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7."I’m from a Midwestern Scandinavian family, and I have learned that cream of mushroom soup is kind of a universal solution for improving any dish."

Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
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8."My pumpkin pies are very well regarded in my friend circle, but the secret is the crust: It's just crushed-up Trader Joe's Triple Ginger cookies and melted butter."

A person slicing pumpkin pie
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9."Very gently fold whipped egg whites into pancake batter with a whisk. It makes the pancakes so much better, fluffier, and more decadent."

Pouring pancake batter into a skillet
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10."In my family we mix a heaping scoop of mayonnaise into cake batter, whether it's scratch or from a box."

Mixing cake batter
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11."I use almond extract in pretty much all of my baked goods. Often, if a recipe calls for vanilla extract, I will either sub almond for all of it or use half and half."

A person making muffins
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12."There is no better chocolate chip cookie recipe than the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip bag. Follow it to the letter. Everyone thinks I have the best of the best chocolate chip cookies."

a baking rack of chocolate chip cookies
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13."Add pickle juice to tuna or chicken salad. This adds just the right amount of tartness."

Tuna fish salad on a plate
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14."Add a packet of vanilla pudding when you're making cake. You can actually substitute any flavor of pudding. It makes the cake so much more moist."

Chocolate Chip Cookie Batter in a bowl with a wooden spoon
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15."I use vanilla or plain full-fat yogurt in my bathing mixture for French toast in place of milk. It turns out perfectly every time."

Simple French Toast Recipe photo
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16."If you're making bread bowls, don’t hollow them out. Rather, pack down the inner bread layer to create a thicker bottom. This will prevent leaks and sogginess when you serve your soup or whatever you're making."

Mushroom soup served in a bowl
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17."When I'm cooking anything that requires bread crumbs, I use crushed-up chicken-flavored Stove Top stuffing. I also use them as mini croutons in my salads."

Two breaded chicken cutlets in a skillet
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18."In my family, a decent aged balsamic vinegar adds depth to almost anything you're making. I use aged balsamic in literally everything from chili to spaghetti. It’s a fantastic addition, and you only need a tiny bit to make the flavors pop."

Balsamic vinegar
Annick Vanderschelden Photograph / Getty Images

19."Add a pinch of nutmeg to anything with dairy in it (for example, cream sauces). You can't taste the nutmeg, but it makes the dairy richer and taste better."

Spoonful of bechamel sauce
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20."When I make burgers, I mix a packet of Lipton onion soup mix and a couple dashes of nutmeg in with the ground beef. I let it sit for at least an hour or two in the fridge before I start grilling. It gives the meat a nice little oomph over just a plain salt/pepper seasoning."

A person putting condiments on homemade hamburgers
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21."Whenever I'm making a cheese sauce, I add a piece of processed cheese like Kraft singles. It basically turns it into Velveeta. It’s revolutionized my homemade mac 'n' cheese game."

Making cheese sauce
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22."My wife was stunned to learn that after 25 years together, she only just found out that I put lemon juice in my pancake batter. It's the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth pancake trick."

A person making pancakes
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23."Bacon always comes out better if you cook it in an oven, but the key is putting the bacon into the oven before turning the oven on. Preheating the oven ahead of time will make the bacon stick to the baking sheet, so putting it in as the oven preheats will mean that the fat renders out more easily (and therefore doesn't stick)."

Bacon on a wire rack
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24."My best tip for homemade mashed potatoes is adding some cream cheese into the mix. Sometimes I'll add veggie or chive cream cheese for a bit of extra flavor. So good!"

Mashed potatoes in a pot
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What's a family recipe trick that makes a serious difference in your cooking? Tell us in the comments!

Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.