These must-have ingredients will help you whip up flavor-packed dishes with ease.
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

As much as we'd love to make dinner every night with layers of flavor that come from hours of cooking, time constraints and busy schedules don't always allow for that. Instead, reach for one of our five favorite ingredients for adding delicious depth to any meal.

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Balsamic Vinegar

Paying a little extra to buy good quality, aged balsamic vinegar is worth the investment. The taste is sweet and smooth, making it a mild acidic addition to many recipes. Use balsamic vinegar to add deep flavor to salad dressings and pasta sauces. You can also make a balsamic glaze, which is great for drizzling on chicken breasts or over pizzas, by simmering the vinegar and a little sugar on your stovetop for a few minutes until slightly thickened.

Flavored Salts

While salt by itself can boost flavor, it can also be an unhealthy ingredient if used overzealously. To get a good boost of umami flavor, along with a salty hit, try one of our flavored savory salt recipes. With flavors like tomato, olive, and porcini mushroom, just a sprinkle adds a subtle level of taste to dishes like scrambled eggs, open-faced sandwiches, and grilled steak.

Coconut Aminos

If you're looking for a salty boost to your next marinade or stir-fry, reach for coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Lower in sodium than traditional soy sauce, coconut aminos are also naturally gluten-, soy-, and alcohol-free. These aminos have a mildly sweet flavor to balance out the salty, making it perfect for drizzling on dishes or for sushi dipping.

Sun-dried Tomatoes

Sun-drying tomatoes concentrates their flavor, packing these fruits with a punch of umami. Add finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes to burgers and meatloaf, or thinly slice them and mix into pasta for a tasty addition. You can find sun-dried tomatoes that are jarred in oil or packed dry. If using dry, be sure to rehydrate the tomatoes before using. Any extra oil from the jarred variety can be drizzled on pasta or used as a flavorful salad dressing base.


Miso is a salty-sweet paste made from fermented soybean paste. Often used in miso soup, this savory condiment is also a wonderful addition to many other dishes. Use it to add a salty depth to marinades and stews, whisk into salad dressings and dips, or stir a dollop into caramel sauce to make wow-worthy salted caramel. Since miso is fermented, it's a natural probiotic that can help boost your gut health. To get all the great health benefits, use miso at the very end of cooking to avoid killing off all of the probiotics with heat.