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15 Secret Ingredients and Substitutions

Whether you're missing an ingredient or want to spice up a classic dish, these swaps and secret ingredients are sure to surprise.

By
Bruce and Jeanne Lubin,
secret ingredients

Savory Secrets

10. Sweet Addition to Chili
Although it may sound unusual, chocolate makes a great addition to chili. Save it for the last hour of cooking. Just chop up one milk chocolate bar and add it to the pot to meld with the flavors. Once you try it, you’ll add it every time!

11. Take Tomato Sauce To A New Level
After you’ve simmered your favorite recipe, remove the sauce from the heat. Then stir in most of the zest from lemon, reserving some for sprinkling on top.

12. Your New Favorite Breadcrumbs
Look to the side dishes in your pantry for crisper, more flavorful alternatives to breadcrumbs. Instant mashed potatoes flakes pair perfectly with fish, and chefs swear by them by frying up amazing onion rings. Or try grinding Arborio rice to use in place of breadcrumbs—it caramelizes beyond compare.

13. Bring Cookies to Dinner
Slow-cooker pot roast is an easy meal for families on the go. But you can make it extra tasty by sprinkling some crushed gingersnaps over the top of the roast. The mix of sweet and spice is perfect. Comfort food with cookies—what could be better?

14. Shake Up Beef Stew
Making beef stew? Shake up a bottle of Italian dressing and brown the meat in it to infuse flavor. Add about ½ cup per 3 pounds of beef.

15. Don’t Pour That Pickle Juice!
Did you know that the acid in pickle juice acts as a meat tenderizer? Use that juice mixed with garlic and your favorite spices as a marinade for pork, steak, or chicken. Let sit for at least an hour or overnight. You can also use pickle juice to add zing to boiled potatoes—just add a little to the boiling water.

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