10 Secret Ingredients Grandma Added to Her Bread Dough

Updated: Dec. 14, 2023

Grandmas always know best, and that's especially true when it comes to baking. Here are some of the little-known bread ingredients grannies love to use.

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Raw Green Organic Bell Peppers Ready to Cook With
Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker

Green peppers

When you think fresh bread, you probably don’t picture green peppers. But Gram would make sure you ate green vegetables no matter what! Adding hearty ingredients like green peppers and bacon to bread can take your loaf from a side dish to the main event, too. Try serving this Louisiana Pecan Bacon Bread at your next lunch gathering (it’s a staple at TOH ones!).

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Beer batter making with dark beer and butter;
Shutterstock / Imcsike


There’s a reason why Grandma always looked so jolly in the kitchen. Her bread dough only called for half a can of beer, so what was she supposed to do with the other half? Beer bread also saved her time, since you don’t need yeast in the recipe. It might be the easiest bread you’ll ever bake.

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Molasses on Granite Table
Kelvin Beecroft/Shutterstock


There is nothing more old school than baking with dark, sticky molasses. You don’t need to save it for gingerbread at Christmastime. Molasses gives any loaf of bread a slightly sweet flavor, perfect for breakfast toast. You and your family will fall in love with this old-fashioned brown bread recipe.

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Dried Cherry Pieces Ready to Eat
Shutterstock / Alp Aksoy


No one can resist a nice sweet bread in a breakfast spread, so your grandma may have added unexpected ingredients like dried cherries. They also keep bread rich and moist. (Here are more delicious cherry recipes that will make your mouth water.)

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Yellow corn flour in a glass jar on a rustic table.
Shutterstock / Sunlike


Your grandma probably learned to put cornmeal in the bread recipe that came from her own grandmother. It gives a crunchy texture, and cornmeal in the bottom of the loaf pan helps prevent the bread from sticking. It will pair perfectly with a winter stew or hearty chili. Just be sure to make a double batch, because this bread will go fast!

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Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


Grandma always knew what food to serve a hungry crowd, and that includes at snack time. Adding dates to your bread recipe gives that sweet flavor perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or late-night snack. This Date Pecan Tea Bread is irresistible with cream cheese spread.

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Dehydrated Onion flakes in a ceramic bowl;
Shutterstock / Dipali S

Onion soup mix

Remember the delicious smells coming from Grandma’s kitchen? One of them was probably baking bread with onion soup mix. This secret ingredient gives your bread loads of flavor and is such an easy addition. Simply dissolve the mix in hot water before adding it to the yeast for your dough.

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Close-up of a bowl of wheat squares
Rohit Seth/Shutterstock

Shredded Wheat

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes your grandma sprinkled crushed Shredded Wheat cereal into her bread. You probably won’t taste cereal in your slice of bread, but you will get a hearty wheat flavor. Try adding a cup of crushed cereal to your dough before kneading it.

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Lard on dark rustic background


If you ever wondered how your grandma’s bread always had such a light and chewy consistency, you can thank shortening. Adding shortening to your bread dough will keep your loaf tasting moist and buttery. It will also save you time because you won’t need to knead the dough. (See how it works in this easy banana bread recipe.)

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Grated citrus (orange and lemon) rind and grater.

Orange rind

Grandma never let anything go to waste, and that includes the peel of an orange. Try finely grating the rind of an orange into your bread dough or use it as the flavoring for a sweet glaze over your loaf. The light, citrus flavor pairs perfectly with sweet bread.