It’s easy to get into an ingredient rut—buying the same seasonings, staples and standbys week to week. While buying the same things at the grocery store may make meal prep easier, your kitchen may be missing a few versatile ingredients that can kick your cooking up a notch. These five unusual ingredients go the extra mile in the kitchen—and beyond.
This nutritional powerhouse whole-grain is made from whole wheat that’s been parboiled, cracked and dried. It is high in fiber and low in fat making it a healthy choice for your kitchen. Bulgar is also an extremely versatile ingredient. It can be made into hot cereal, baked into breads, tossed into salads and even used as a substitute for rice.
Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are protein-packed and good for you. They’re part of the legume family and are a staple in the Middle Eastern diet. They may not look like your average bean, but they cook up like any pinto or cannellini. However, their uses go way beyond soups and stews. They can be pureed into hummus, tossed into salads or roasted for a flavorful snack.
Coconut oil is gaining in popularity, though it’s still not as widely used as its canola and olive counterparts. However, coconut oil is usually a lot less processed than canola or vegetable oils, which makes it a more nutritious choice for cooking. Coconut oil is sold in a white solid state and has to be heated to become oily again. It’s great for sautéing and in place of other oils in baking recipes. Coconut oil also has many uses outside the kitchen. It’s a great moisturizer and can even be used to help treat skin conditions like psoriasis.
This funky sounding (and smelling!) condiment is a staple in Asian cooking. Fish sauce is adored for its salty, savory, rich flavor—and no, it won’t make the entire dish taste like fish. Splash a few drops of it into marinades, dressings, stir-fries and on vegetables before roasting for an added depth of flavor.
In a culture where pour-over is preferred and grinding your own beans is a must—instant coffee can seem less than ideal. However, these little packets of coffee granules have more uses than just stirring into hot water. Add granules to chocolate chip cookie batter for added depth of flavor, substitute instant coffee for brewed coffee in baking recipes (just be sure to dissolve it first!), and even whip it into homemade frosting for a mean mocha flavor. Instant coffee isn’t just reserved for sweet treats. Keep some stocked in your kitchen cabinets and combine it with other spices to make a tasty rub for grilling meats!
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