Ten Flavor-Boosting Pantry Ingredients Worth Keeping On Hand

As promised in the last couple of newsletters, here’s a list of flavor-boosters. These are solitary ingredients that single-handedly lift a dish. If it’s boring plain old chicken breast or if it’s a slab of tofu that you’re wondering what to do with, you can incorporate one of these into a weeknight recipe (albeit you can’t just put a dollop on the side and call it delicious necessarily).

I’ve put in some culinary medicine notes with each item.

Ten Singular Flavor-Boosting Pantry Ingredients I Can’t Live Without

1. Preserved Lemon–not particularly a nutrient dense food, and can be heavy on sodium, but if you rinse the lemon rind/slice before chopping it up it’s still wonderful. I love this recipe. Don’t purchase this! It’s much too cheap and easy to make on your own.

2. Nutritional Yeast–heavy in B vitamins…this is good stuff ya’ll. Love it on Salt and Pepper Tofu. Just add a heavy-handed measuring to the salt/pepper/cornstarch mix. Then bake (or air fry) the tofu. Then add to a veggie-heavy tofu bowl. Add #8 at the table for serving and you’re set.

3. Sumac—citrusy and delicious. Not particularly nutrient-dense, though some spices are. Did you know about the density of some spices? There’s a Food As Medicine Academy episode on that!

4. Dried Ground Coriander–mainstay in Indian cuisine of many regions. Also not a nutritional powerhouse by itself…but paired with turmeric and cumin, it’s almost like the trifecta of spices of some Indian cuisines.

5. Rancho Gordo Beans–these are the best legumes. They each uniquely have their own texture and flavor. Now you can even get them at some supermarkets. I used to have to order them online. These beans have a cult following. Join the cult! 

6. Hazelnuts–if you get them super fresh, they’ll be crisp and crunchy. Chopped up these add unique flavor to salads and/or salad dressings. See this recipe; so good for Fall too!

7. Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Canned Tomatoes–now more pricey than they used to be, these canned tomatoes are even sometimes what I will choose over fresh tomatoes. The fire-roasting just brings out the tomato flavor I need in a chili or a marinara, without being overly acidic. A lot of brands add sugar to cover up this acidity. This one doesn’t. And remember, tomatoes have the lovely lycopene, one of a gajillion antioxidants out there. Likely best absorbed when cooked.

8. Chile Oil–yes oils have bad reputations, so be careful when you purchase a chili oil. OR make it yourself with an oil you respect. 🙂 We’ve covered oils at length in the Food as Medicine Academy and in the Memo so I won’t go into that today! 

9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil–I get ours from the Fresh Pressed Olive Oil company. Expensive but worth the polyphenol density I feel assured I’m getting, not to mention the outstanding delicate flavors in each varietal. (sounds like wine….it is!). This is the kind of olive oil I keep on the dining table vs the kitchen. This is one I savor and want to taste with the finished meal, but they give you many many recipes in the subscription for various uses.

10. Coconut Milk–use this in moderation; for some people depending on their labs and family history, it is not wise to use this every day, due to the limited knowledge we have currently about the type of fats coco milk has. Try to look for brands that just have coconut milk without the artificial thickeners in them.

I didn’t include the refrigerator items in this list, but generally it’s any fresh herbs you can keep on hand, excellent cheeses like feta or good parm or ricotta salata, and preserved lemon.

Foods like those above help make food as medicine yummy. It’s just about stocking the good stuff sometimes and then getting it on the plate. Hopefully the links above give you some inspo.

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