Surprising Ingredients You Didn’t Know Were Versatile

Balsamic Vinegar

As an ingredient balsamic vinegar offers a sweet and tangy flavor to recipes, making it a popular choice for salads and dressings. However, this versatile ingredient can also marinate meat, roast vegetables, and even enhance the flavor of desserts. Try drizzling balsamic vinegar over grilled fruits or vanilla ice cream for an interesting twist on classic desserts.


Wine is delicious to drink and can also be a versatile ingredient in cooking. Deglaze a pan with it to create a flavorful sauce for meats or vegetables. Doesn’t braised red wine beef with gorgonzola pearl couscous sound delicious? Or add a splash to marinade ingredients, soups, or stews for added depth of flavor.

Miso Paste

Miso paste is a very popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine but can also work in other cuisines as well. This fermented soybean paste has an umami flavor that can enhance soups, stews, and marinades. You can even try adding it to your salad dressings or using it as a sandwich spread!

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is common in Southeast Asian curry dishes, but it’s also an ingredient you didn’t know was so versatile. Try using it as a cream substitute in your baking recipes or as a base for smoothies and shakes. Additionally, coconut milk can make a creamy broth for soups. You can also use it as a substitute for regular milk in your favorite breakfast recipes.

Canned Pumpkin

When you think of canned pumpkin, you may associate it with pumpkin pie or other fall-themed desserts. However, canned pumpkin is useful for more than just sweet treats. It can add a creamy texture and subtle sweetness to soups, stews, and even pasta sauces. Add a few tablespoons to your favorite chili recipe and watch it add complexity to the flavor of your other delicious ingredients.


Harissa is a North African hot chili paste that adds a spicy kick to any dish. While people typically use it as a condiment, you can also use it to marinate meats or vegetables, spice up soups, or make a dip for vegetables or crackers. Harissa can even pair with mayo to create a spicy and creamy spread for sandwiches. 

Flavor Concentrates

Flavor concentrates are a valuable addition to any home cook’s pantry. In fact, the different applications for flavor concentrates include baked goods, beverages, and homemade candies. They’re also perfect in marinades, sauces, and homemade ice cream for a burst of intense flavor. With a wide range of flavors available, like vanilla, peanut butter, and even bacon, flavor concentrates provide endless possibilities for
experimentation with flavorful ingredients.