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15 Secret Pantry Ingredients that Make Your Recipes Better

Try these surprising ways to make your favorite recipes taste better, using everyday pantry items.

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Plain yogurtJeniFoto/Shutterstock

Make guacamole better with yogurt

Yogurt and sour cream can add so much zing to guacamole. Line the bottom of a strainer with cheesecloth, a coffee filter or paper towels and set over a medium bowl. Spoon in 1/2 cup plain yogurt, cover and chill 8 hours or overnight until yogurt ‘cheese’ is thick and creamy. Mix all your favorite guacamole ingredients in a large bowl. Then fold in the yogurt cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream to make an amazing dip. Check out these cookie recipes with surprising secret ingredients.

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LemonsEvgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Squeeze lemon over pasta

Skip the salt when you boil the pasta, instead squeeze in half a lemon. You’ll give your pasta some zip, and cut down on your sodium intake. Take a look at our 75 best pasta recipes of all time.

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Honey coffeeTaste of Home

Perk up your steak with coffee

Mix fine coffee grounds into a spice rub for a rich, aromatic flavor. For an especially good combination, mix together ground espresso or other coffee, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt. freshly ground black pepper and a touch of sugar. Here are some more delicious recipes that are made with coffee.

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A block of cream cheese on a white plate over weathered wooden backgroundMAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock

Amp up your eggs with cream cheese

Once you try this dish, you may never want your eggs any other way. Cream cheese gives the eggs a smooth texture that is irresistible. Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup cream cheese in a skillet before adding the beaten egg mixture. Cook over medium-low heat until the eggs are just firm yet moist.

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Whole wheat breadTaste of Home

Thicken gazpacho with bread

Most soups are enriched with cream or a mixture of butter and flour. Give your gazpacho body with a different thickener: bread. Just puree 1 slice of bread, torn into pieces, right along with the vegetables for a delightful texture and refreshing taste. Check out these cooking tricks that are only taught in culinary school.

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Wake up potato salad with horseradish

Potato salads tend to be mild and creamy from mayonnaise or sharp and puckery from vinegar. But for a truly amazing potato salad, prepare your usual potato salad recipe, and simply stir in a teaspoon or two of prepared horseradish.

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Sour creamDONOT6_STUDIO/Shutterstock

Add sour cream to pasta sauce

To give your sauce a rich flavor, stir in 1/4 cup sour cream per 2 cups sauce. Cook over low heat until sour cream blends into the sauce. Keep the sauce warm over low heat, but don’t allow it to boil or the sour cream may curdle.

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Old-fashioned applesauceTaste of Home

Make meatballs juicier with applesauce

Grandmas have used this trick for decades. Combine 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 cup applesauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Shape into balls and roll in flour. Brown them in a skillet and then add your favorite pasta sauce and simmer until cooked through. Take a look at these secret ingredients Grandma put in her bread recipes.

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Put crackers on your chicken

Use cheese crackers, such as Cheez-Its, in the breading. First soak the chicken in evaporated milk and fresh lemon juice for 2 to 4 hours, then dip in seasoned flour, beaten egg and finally the crushed cheese crackers. Pan-fry or bake as usual.

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Salad dressingvanillaechoes/Shutterstock

Add salad dressing to soup

Stir in some bottled blue cheese salad dressing toward the end of cooking your soup and enjoy the mouthwatering results! Try these brilliant kitchen tips you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Give ribs zest with V8

Combine 1 1/2 cup spicy V8 juice, 2/3 cup peach or apricot nectar, 1/2 cup spicy barbecue sauce and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Mix with 3 pounds boneless spare ribs in a baking pan, cover with foil and bake at 350°F until tender, about 2 hours.

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TeaShulevskyy Volodymy/Shutterstock

Brew a sauce with Earl Gray

To make an orange-scented sauce for pan-seared chicken or pork, remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Saute 1/3 cup chopped shallots in 1 teaspoon olive oil in the same pan. Add 1 cup chicken broth, 3/4 cup fresh orange juice and 2 Earl Gray tea bags. Boil until the liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup. Remove the tea bags and whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoon honey and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. This is the secret technique for the best scrambled eggs ever.

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Mashed potatoesTMB Studio

Bake focaccia with instant mashed potatoes

Prepare the mashed potatoes according to package directions and cool for 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Stir the mashed potatoes and the yeast in as per your favorite focaccia recipe. Need a focaccia recipe? Try our favorite.

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Tomato ketchup, chilli sauce, puree with chili pepper, tomatoes and garlicSea Wave/Shutterstock

Add ketchup to Pad Thai noodles

When you’re craving Pad Thai but don’t have the ingredients on hand, turn to ketchup. This condiment works as the base for a basic sauce. In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup ketchup, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Voila! Stir-fry with meat, veggies and cooked noodles.

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Chocolate chipsrukxstockphoto/Shutterstock

Put chocolate chips in your chili

For deep, rich tasting vegetarian chili, stir in a few semi-sweet chocolate chips. After you’ve cooked the chili, remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips, salt and pepper. Next, read about the most common cooking mistakes and how to fix them.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest