Dining, Feature Story

Extra Flavor

It’s easy to fall into a routine with what we cook and eat, but the culinary world is packed with bold, exciting flavors to experiment with in the kitchen. Here are a few trending ingredients you can use to punch up what you put on your plate.

Americans are obsessed with avocados. Sales of the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) have grown steadily recently, and the country consumes billions of them each year. And honestly, what’s not to love? The versatile ingredient is packed with nutrients like potassium and vitamins C, E and B5 and offers plenty of health benefits. Plus, it’s not just for guac and toast anymore. You can use it to top burgers, create frozen treats like popsicles and ice cream, and even substitute it for butter in your favorite baking recipes.

elder flower
The delicate, white blossoms got a major PR boost this year when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrated their nuptials with a lemon elderflower wedding cake. It offers a sweet, floral flavor comparable to lychee. Raw elderflower can cause illness, but it’s perfectly safe when cooked down into a syrup used for baking and flavoring drinks. Don’t have access to fresh flowers? Use an elderflower cordial like St-Germain.

This North African paste is primarily made from roasted peppers like Baklouti, serrano and other varieties. It’s garlicky with a fiery flavor. Traditionally, it’s served with bread, stews and couscous dishes, but there are plenty of ways you can incorporate it into your everyday meals. Use it to add a spicy kick to salad dressing or blend it into ketchup or mayo to top burgers. It also nicely complements eggs, chicken wings and pasta.


This root vegetable is high in antioxidants and fiber and is an excellent choice for those looking to boost their heart health. It’s often eaten raw and is a staple of both Mexican and Asian cuisines. Julienne it for salads and slaws, dice it to add a refreshing crunch to salsa and guacamole, or use it to add texture and flavor to spring rolls.

This spirit is made from agave and is known for its strong, smoky flavor. It’s often consumed straight in Mexico, but you can use it to add unique flavor to a variety of cocktails. Put a smoky spin on the Mai Tai, Paloma or Old Fashioned, or check out Mezcal-specific libations. Plus, you can cook with it! Add it to chocolate sauce for an extra kick, cure fish and meat in it for added smokiness, and use it in ceviche and other seafood dishes.


Rich in probiotics, this Korean fermented cabbage dish can help with digestion, immunity and maintaining a healthy weight. It also adds a burst of spice and texture to a variety of recipes. You can use it in traditional Korean dishes like kimchi-jjigae (stew), kimchi-bokkeum-bap (fried rice) and kimchi-jeon (pancakes), but really, the sky’s the limit. Use it in scrambled eggs instead of hot sauce, add some spice to a grilled cheese, or mix up your standard pizza toppings.

kabocha squash
This Japanese gourd may look a little like a pumpkin, but it’s closer in flavor and texture to a sweet potato. It’s high in antioxidants and fiber. Plus, it can boost the sweetness of a dish without adding sugar. You can roast the seeds like you do a pumpkin’s, and it can replace pumpkin, butternut squash or acorn squash in any recipe.

shishito pepper
This Asian chili is sweet and flavorful without being too spicy … most of the time! While typically mild, about one out of every 20 shishito peppers packs a little extra punch. The spicier ones tend to be milder than a jalapeño, but they still can take diners by surprise. The flavor is grassy and citrusy with a hint of smoke. The peppers are popular to grill or stir fry and are often tempura-fried.