7 Unexpected Cooking Ingredients You Should Have On Hand In Your Kitchen

Cooking is an activity that you will get better at over time. Some cooks will struggle with portion size and cooking times when they first start out; however, others will take to the practice like a duck to water. This does not mean that you cannot continue to improve though.

The ingredients you use in your recipes can really make a difference, and sometimes it pays to go off the beaten path. If you want your next meals to taste unique, consider having some of these unexpected ingredients to hand in your kitchen.


Sugar is an obvious staple for most bakers, although, you will still find this ingredient useful when cooking up some savory dishes. When cooking something with vegetables, you will find that these ingredients contain their own natural sweetness. This helps to cut out some of the acidity in some meals, especially ones that are heavy on oil or vinegar.

However, not every dish will require enough vegetables to do the job. Therefore, you may find it beneficial to add a pinch of sugar to your bolognese or curry sauces to give them a bit more flavor.


On the topic of pasta dishes, there are two schools of thought when it comes to making these types of meals. Some cooks prefer to eat a runny bolognese, while others prefer to make theirs quite dry. If you fall into the latter category, then you will have noticed how difficult it is to achieve a drier bolognese, especially after you have made your sauce. Fortunately, there is a way to give your mince a dry taste without changing the consistency.

Once you have browned the mince, add a teaspoon of coffee grounds, and stir it in. The richness of the coffee will give your bolognese sauce the kick you wanted without you having to change the recipe too much. Also, you can learn more about coffee for beginners when you head to Cup and Bean. There are several styles of coffee that each brings out a different flavor. Therefore, you may want to experiment with all of these in your cooking.

Instant Mash

When cooking for a dinner party, it is normal to want to include a starter. Soup can provide you with the perfect starter dish for guests as it is relatively easy to prepare for a large audience. However, soup can go wrong quite quickly if you do not prepare it correctly.

The worst kind of soups come out of the kitchen too runny, and there is very little you can do to prevent this. However, one scoop of instant mashed potato should be enough to thicken up the broth without compromising the flavor. Stir a tablespoon of this ingredient into your soup and you will never have to worry about consistency issues again.

Salted Chips

Salted chips are always great to bring out as a party snack; however, they have more uses than you may think. Some larger dishes like a tuna pasta bake or lasagne can suffer from being too soft. This texture isn’t a problem in small portions, but it can get quite boring when this dish is your main meal.

That is why it is important for any rising chef to play around with textures. Next time you make a dish like this, try adding a layer of crunched-up salted chips between a layer of cheese. These chips won’t compromise the taste too much, especially if you use a cheaper brand, and you get a nice change in texture during your meal.

Black Pepper

Getting your kids to eat spicy food can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Most parents recommend adding a bit of spice to their kid’s meals and then slowly upping the level of spice until they get used to this new flavor. However, you don’t want to start out with chili powder.

Instead, try adding a bit of black pepper to some of your more creative dishes to see how they react. A bit of pepper goes a long way in a fajita or taco recipe, and it can introduce your kids to spicy food without pushing them too far. Getting into spicy food is all about increasing your tolerance, and black pepper is the best way to start.

Red Wine

A glass of red wine might be a nice way to relax at the end of a hard day, but there is another reason to keep a bottle of this stuff on hand. A splash of red wine has always been used as a staple in many Italian recipes, and it is the perfect sauce to marinate your meats.

Red wine brings out the acidity of your main ingredients, adding a bold flavor to the recipe. Therefore, you may find that an ounce of red wine is all that stands between your favorite meal and perfection.

Coconut Milk

A common problem for chefs when stocking their pantries often comes from their ingredients turning bad. You will only need to use some of these ingredients sparingly, after all. Fortunately, canned coconut milk will last you a long time and has plenty of uses in your kitchen.

Firstly, you can use this milk to thicken up your exotic curry sauces or soups. Secondly, coconut milk is a healthier alternative to cooking oil. Use this milk to prevent your meat from sticking to the pan and you will notice the difference. The acidity of cooking oil can sometimes ruin a meal, so switch to coconut oil and you will never have to worry about this problem again.


Cooking is an art form, and you will come up with all kinds of interesting dishes the more you experiment. However, it always helps to know where to start. The ingredients above will help you improve some of your favorite meals without compromising the initial taste too much. Once you get used to having these ingredients on hand, you can then expand your pantry further with your next set of creations.

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