These budget pantry heroes are here to rock everything from salad dressings to pecan pie.
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Certain pantry items are workhorses in my kitchen, and stock cubes and powdered bouillon and stock pastes are maybe the most important of those. These magical ingredients can take your cooking to the next level and are maybe the thing I buy most of when I travel. And while I do use them to make broth or stock or to give extra oomph to soups, they do so much more than that!

See if you don't put them in a place of honor at the front of your pantry when you read these 12 creative ways to use stock cubes, powdered bouillon, and stock pastes in cooking and baking—all of which have nothing to do with soup!

Bouillon cubes
Credit: Getty / Suzifoo

How to use stock and bouillon in cooking water for grains or vegetables

Whether you are boiling and draining, glazing, or using the full absorption method, adding a stock cube or spoonful of powder to your cooking water will impart both saltiness and extra flavor. I just toss it in with the water to dissolve or put it in the bottom of my rice cooker or instant pot with the water before adding the other ingredients. One cube or one spoonful of powder or paste will give you a more subtle roundness to the flavor but won't make the whole dish taste of chicken or beef the way it would if you cooked in pure stock.

How to use stock and bouillon in baking projects

Whether I am using bouillon powder as part of a seasoning sprinkle on top of savory biscuits or blending it into homemade snacking crackers, there are all sorts of fun baking applications for these products. Miso paste or concentrate added to pecan or chess style pies gives you that salty-sweet thing that will add instant sophistication. If you like to make homemade seasoned popcorn or nuts for entertaining, bouillon powders can replace the plain salt for all sorts of delicious and addictive cocktail snacks. And if you make savory breads, adding a bit to the dough to replace some of the salt will add some complexity.

How to use stock and bouillon in sauces

Whether it is a slow-simmered gravy or a fast pan sauce, these intense flavor boosters can save the day. If you find your sauce a bit thin or lacking oomph, a single crumbled cube or small spoonful of powder or paste can really make a huge difference. Obviously, you can add a beef cube to beef gravy and chicken to chicken, but with sauces based on meat drippings, often I turn to a vegetable version so that the meat flavor already in the sauce doesn't compete. In sauces like red or white wine reductions, I might use a mushroom or onion stock cube instead of one that contains any meat. You can also use them instead of salt to flavor salad dressings; I love using vegetable bouillon in Italian-style vinaigrettes.

How to use stock and bouillon in caramelized onions

I love the extra something special that a stock cube or powder can add when caramelizing onions. I find that sometimes onions done plain can get a bit too sweet, and when I want them more savory, I'll sneak in a cube. I have onion-flavored cubes that work well but have also used mushroom flavor with great success. Dissolve in a small amount of hot water and add about halfway through your cooking process.

How to use stock and bouillon in sautés and stir-fries

This fast-cook method brings great flavor out of all sorts of vegetables and proteins, but often I don't want to fuss with complicated sauces. A great stock cube in a complementary flavor is sometimes all I need to bring in some pep and is my ideal cheat on a busy work night when I want food on the table fast.

How to use stock and bouillon as a coffee substitute

Finally, if you are trying to break a coffee or tea habit and still need a hot beverage midday, having a variety of flavors of stock cubes on hand can make that afternoon slump a savory treat! I tend to buy Knorr or Maggi brand cubes and powders, and Better Than Bouillon pastes, but when you travel abroad, be sure to check out what is available at local grocery stores!

Some creative stock and bouillon flavors to check out

There's a big stock and bouillon world out there that goes way beyond vegetable, chicken, and beef. Some of the more unusual stock cubes I find especially useful are porcini, chicken and tomato, Creole with annatto, and onion. Always remember that these products tend to contain a lot of salt, so when experimenting, go lighter on regular salt until after the stock cube or powder is added and then season to taste.