A lot of us are cycling through recipes that we know by heart just to get dinner on the table every night. But that effort can put you in a cooking rut.

To break that spell, we gathered a batch of flavor-boosting ingredients that you can add to dishes you know and love, as well as a slew of recipes from our Recipe Finder that feature these ingredients so you can experiment with them even more. You might just find a new favorite or two.


This is not related to the itchy plant. The sumac shrub produces red berries that are dried and ground into a citrusy-sour, deeply red spice. It’s often used as a spice rub for meat and fish, especially when a grill is involved. Use it by the tablespoon or add just a sprinkle on top of dips or savory spreads. Try using it in addition to or instead of a squirt of lime or lemon.

Roasted Carrot and Cashew Soup, above. We’re still seeing chilly evenings this spring, so here’s a warm and hearty soup for those nights. You’ll find that sumac can bring a citrus-like brightness but without the sharpness.

(Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Sumac Sweet Potato Fries. Sumac’s tang adds a level of complexity to your average sweet potato fry. A coating of polenta helps these fries get extra crunchy.


You’ve seen it in jars, but what is horseradish? It’s a root vegetable — and yes, it is related to the radish, as well as to wasabi, mustard and broccoli. If you need a serious jolt to liven up your food, turn to horseradish.

(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Crushed Potatoes With Horseradish Cream. Eating horseradish straight up is maybe too bold, so temper the flavor by mixing it into creamy Greek yogurt.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Horseradish Deviled Eggs. Vinegar usually adds a tang and sharp touch to deviled eggs, but for more zing, use horseradish.


This Korean fermented chile paste can pack a seriously spicy punch so be careful to check the spice levels on the container. You’ll find that it has a deep, concentrated chile flavor with a slight sweetness. I like to use it absolutely everywhere — on burgers, on roasted veggies, in noodles dishes. The versatile condiment needs to be stored in the fridge after use, and it will keep for a very long time. Use it in place of your usual heat source and see what happens.

(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Gochujang-Honey Skirt Steak. There’s little wonder why gochujang works so well on steak. With a little floral-sweet honey alongside the deep chile flavors, you’ll end up with a delicious, smoky char that tastes great with a side of potatoes or sliced in a taco.

(Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post)

Korean Soft Tofu StewThis quick soup gets the bulk of its flavor from gochujang and its good friend kimchi. It’s good for your gut and for your spirits!


Think of miso as an umami-rich salt. This Japanese fermented soy-based paste has a couple different varieties: white miso is the mildest with a light sweetness, yellow miso is still mild, but has been fermented longer, and red miso is the saltiest and most assertive of the bunch. There are other varieties as well, but these three are the most common.

(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwiches With Miso Butter. Grilled cheese sandwiches are already perfect. Make them ethereal with deeply caramelized onion and a little slick of salty miso-butter inside.

(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Amanda Soto/The Washington Post)

José Andrés’s Miso-Roasted Asparagus.
Reporter Becky Krystal has been seeing a lot of asparagus in her CSA box. If you’ve got the same “dilemma,” mix up your usual rotation by replacing salt with miso and taste how the flavors deepen.

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