Food & Nutrition

12 Ingredients That Will Make You a Better Cook

Ready to add some pizzazz to your favorite dishes? These versatile ingredients will help.

Instant flavor boosters

Keys misplaced in a fridgephotoschmidt/Shutterstock

If you ask us, “bland” is the worst thing anyone can call our food. We spend so much time planning menus, carefully measuring ingredients, and cleaning up afterward that our food had better be flavorful! Fortunately, you don’t have to scrap a bland meal entirely. Adding a few ingredients will transform your entree or appetizer from “meh” to “magnificent.” Whether you want to take a so-so dish to new heights or add some pizzazz to fail-safe favorites, here are 12 flavor boosters everyone should have in their kitchen. Ready to raise the bar even higher? Try adding these other pantry staples that will make your recipes way better.

Vanilla extract

LLANO, TEXAS-DEC 24, 2014: Small bottle of McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract with baked cake in background. Horizontal with copy space.; Shutterstock ID 239758756Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock

Consider vanilla extract the gift that keeps on giving. A consistent crowd-pleaser, it’s sweet enough to satisfy your craving without adding mounds of sugar. Go ahead, add a couple of drops to plain milk, a fruit smoothie, or Amish oatmeal.

Worcestershire sauce

THREE GLASS BOWLS FILLED WITH WORCESTER SAUCE; Shutterstock ID 621760739CKP1001/Shutterstock

There’s a reason Worcestershire sauce is one of the most versatile condiments around: It starts as anchovies fermented in vinegar and includes chili peppers, garlic, onions, salt, and sugar. While the thought of combining sweet, savory, and…well…anchovies…may be cringe-worthy, we have to admit it’s delicious in meatloaf and Bloody Marys.

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