10 ingredients you’ve never heard of but should be cooking with ASAP!




The saying goes that there is nothing new under the sun. This may be true but maybe we just haven’t explored everything under the food sun just yet. Try “brightening” your palate and your plate by incorporating these lesser-known but delicious and versatile ingredients into your cooking. If you already use some of these, try a new one on your list this week and let me know how you like it! Post a picture of your recipe.



1.Nutritional yeast aka Noosh or Hippie Dust


What is it? A form of deactivated yeast flakes. Used often as a cheese substitute for vegetarians and vegans, it has a nutty flavor.


Why use it? Is considered a complete protein, is a good source of fiber, iron, folic acid and zinc. It adds B-complex vitamins to the diet. Plus it’s an option for the hard-to-find vegetarian option of obtaining the coveted B12 vitamin.


Where to buy it? Look for it at Whole Foods or any health food store.


Example of how to use it: Sprinkle over popcorn, pasta (like Parmesan), or add to soups, stews and in place of cheese for dishes like mashed potatoes.



  1. Liquid smoke


What is it? Made by chilling the smoke from smoldering wood chips – it condenses it into water droplets that trap the smoke flavor.


Why use it? For vegetarians, it adds that smoky, meaty flavor to your meat substitute dishes such as a seitan, chili or braised tofu. Note: It’s a nutritionally negligent “food” and really used for flavor. See this article for more information.


Where to buy it? Whole foods and most regular supermarkets.


Example:   See my African stew.



  1. TVP


What is it? TVP is a defatted soy flour product that acts like and has the texture of ground meat. It’s gluten-free and offers a rich nutritional composition.


Why use it? For vegetarians and vegans alike, the mouth feel is essentially like ground meat and thus is an excellent meat substitute for foods like chilis, sloppy joes, meat sauces etc. It is inexpensive, very versatile and a high quality protein source.


Where to buy it? Look for it in general supermarkets, Amazon and Whole Foods.


Example: Vegetarian Polenta Casserole


  1. Kimchi


What is it? Think of Kimchi as a garlicky, spicy pickle like sauerkraut or kosher pickles, but with more of a kick.


Why use it? It’s a natural way to get your probiotics, and its funky flavor enhances many dishes.


Where to buy it? It’s become so popular, you can now find it in most supermarkets.


Example of how to use it: Use it straight from the jar as a side dish; add it to grains, fish and seafood, vegetables and casseroles. Kimchi

mayonnaise is great for sandwiches and tofu salad.


  1.  Rice paper


What is it? It’s a thin semitransparent edible paper sheet made from starches such as rice and/or tapioca. Known as Bahn Trang in Vietnamese cuisine, it’s briefly rehydrated and used for summer rolls, or deep-fried for spring rolls.


Why use it? It’s incredibly versatile, neutral in flavor and provides great wrappers for foods such as spring rolls, summer rolls and dumplings.


Where to buy it? It is available in the Asian section of most supermarkets.


Example of how to use it:

Method: Immerse the sheet in a bowl of hot water for several seconds. Remove and place on a damp towel. Use immediately. Fill with any filling of choice, place on a plate and keep covered with a damp towel. Example: Use filling of choice, such as minced stir-fried vegetables, shrimp minced with ginger and scallions for dumplings, wrap around asparagus spears and deep-fry or fill with salads for summer rolls. Any Asian vinaigrette will make a great dip for these.


  1.  Preserved Lemons


What is it? Lemons preserved in a salt base.


Why use it?   It will liven up dull dishes that need a burst of flavor.


Where to buy it? You’ll find it at most gourmet or Middle Eastern markets. Better still, make it yourself. See recipe below.


Example: Chopped or in strips, it’s a great addition to fish and seafood, grains, salads and sauces. It pairs well with olives, tomatoes, and peppers and is great in a vinaigrette or mayonnaise.

Recipe: 6 lemons

Kosher salt

Olive oil

Make four lengthwise slits, through the rinds of the lemons, leaving them whole. Pour ¼” of the salt into a 1-quart sterilized jar. To sterilize, immerse the jar in boiling water for 1minute – do not wipe dry. Pack in the lemons. Fill the jar with enough salt to fill all the empty spaces. Cover and let sit in a cool spot for a week. With a spatula, press down on the lemons to release some of the juices. Add more salt, if needed to within ½ “ of the top of the jar. Add olive oil to within 1/4” of the top, secure the lid and let lemons sit in a cool place for 3-4 weeks longer before using. NOTE: Use the rinds, which come off easily, and rinse well to remove salt before using.


  1.  Berbere

What is it? It’s an African chili-based spice mix widely used in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


Why use it? It adds an aromatic complexity and some heat to any dish.


Where to buy it? It’s available in gourmet markets, and widely available on line.


Example of how to use it: It’s a great vegetarian and vegan seasoning and goes well with all vegetables, grains and beans, so you can use it in your soups and stews. It’s great mixed with some curry powder, sprinkled with a little oil on sweet potato wedges and roasted in the oven and served with sea salt.



  1.  Angostura bitters


What is it?   This is an alcohol-based mixture of concentrated herbs and spices originally sold in 1824 as a tonic. It has since become a very popular addition to cocktails.


Why use it? It is now becoming more widely known as a flavor booster for foods, adding a hint of bitterness and complexity.


Where to buy it? It’s available in most supermarkets.


Example of how to use it: It’s useful to offset dishes with a sweet accent like vegetable soups, root vegetable dishes or for additional interest to stews, fish dishes, marinades, vinaigrettes and fruit desserts.



  1.  Sorghum


What is it? A rich powerhouse of nutrition, this high-fiber ancient grain is making a comeback touting its delicious flavor. It’s also gluten-free!

Why use it? Rich in niacin, riboflavin and thiamin as well as an ample source of magnesium, iron and copper.

Where to buy it? Widely available in Whole Foods and other health food stores. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand the best!

Example: Did you know you could make popped sorghum? Try this recipe out!



10 .Shiso leaf


What is it? It’s an herb, sometimes known as Japanese basil. It is in the mint family and has a fragrant minty flavor with a hint of licorice.


Why use it? It’s best-used fresh in a fine chiffonade sprinkled over dishes and really enlivens flavors of foods it’s used with.


Where to buy it? Check your local Asian markets and it’s available on Amazon.


Example of how to use it: Use it with salads such as avocado and grapefruit, or cucumber with sesame oil, rice vinegar and a bit of sugar.


What are some strange or exotic ingredients you have been using lately?  Sound off below!


9 thoughts on “10 ingredients you’ve never heard of but should be cooking with ASAP!

  1. GiGi Eats says:

    Hippie Dust!! I am laughing so hard over that “other name”! 😉

    1. jennyberk says:

      hehehe. I like it too Gigi!

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks for posting. I have not heard of many of these items. I think I am going to heave to try some of these recipes.

    1. jennyberk says:

      Tim, Great! Let me know how they turn out!

  3. Candace says:

    So cool! I have used all but #7 – but my little chef {12yo son} makes his own seasoning and its so delish, my hubs wants him to bottle it. Great list!

    Candace @ and

    1. jennyberk says:

      That is so awesome that your 12 year old likes to cook! My kids love all the cooking shows but don’t like to actually use the kitchen to MAKE food. lol

  4. Dave says:

    Great list. I’ve used a few of these but there are a few ingredients ones I’d never heard of. I’m excited to try the preserved lemons and will definitely be referring to nutritional yeast as ‘hippie dust’ from now on!!

    1. jennyberk says:

      Haha! Glad you like the hippie dust Dave! Let me know how you like the preserved lemons!

  5. Zoran says:

    This stuff is funny and mind-blowing at the same time. 🙂 I never tried most of this stuff, but will definitely try in the near future. Thanks for making this list and for giving me the incentive to try some new things!

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