Stock your pantry with these miracle-workers.

By Stacey Ballis
February 19, 2021
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Feeling like you're in a bit of a cooking rut? Tired of the same old flavors? Here are 5 ways to add flavor to your go-to dishes without adding extra calories. Stock these salts, seasonings, and vinegars in your pantry to add fresh flavor to everything from weeknight veggies and proteins to rice, potatoes, and more.

Asian Spices

Asian cooking has some amazing products that can take your dinner from blah to wow in seconds. These creative flavors come from liquids like citrusy ponzu or sweet and sour black vinegar; heady oils like toasted sesame oil or chili oil; textural garnishes like fried garlic, shallots, and spicy crunchy chili crisp; and even sprinkles like furikake seasoning. A dash or a pinch on everything from proteins to vegetables to rice or potatoes bring big flavors to every meal, no matter how basic.

Flavored Salts

These days you can find salts in every flavor: truffle and vanilla, seasoned with citrus zests or herbs, even smoked salts. Black lava salt brings mineral flavor along with visual punch, and there are even complex blends—I love the company Beautiful Briny Sea, which makes both single flavor salts and wonderful mixes. Their French Picnic salt that combines Dijon mustard with garlic and herbes de Provence with their sea salt is a one-step wonder that brings deep French flavor to anything you sprinkle it on, even just plain old buttered toast.

Spicy Chicken
Credit: Getty / istetiana

Spice Blends

From a barbecue rub to an herb blend like Italian seasoning, a dash of intense flavor can perk up any part of your plate with the flick of your wrist. You can make your own blends to keep on hand, or simply buy great mixes from your favorite spice purveyors.

Seasoning Vinegars

A sprinkle of a flavored or infused vinegar like tarragon or chive blossom, or a glaze-style vinegar like balsamic, can bring brightness and acidity to a boring dish. They add plenty of punch and no extra calories. You can even use things like pickle brine, which is great on chicken and potatoes!

Citrus Zest or Juice

If you have a piece of citrus fruit lying around, you have instant flavor. Grab that lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit, and with just a fast bit of work with a microplane or a quick squeeze of a wedge you'll have some intense citrus flavor that will make any dish sing.