5 Healthy Ways to Add More Flavor to Your Meals
Ready to take your meals to the next level? These are my top tips to add more flavor to any food! From fresh herbs to umami tastes, here are five simple tips that you can use to add a boost of flavor!
While we tend to rely on condiments for added flavor, this often means extra sugar or fat being added to our meals. And while mayonnaise might feel like a sandwich necessity, there are other ways to add flavor to a final dish!
1. Check the expiration date on your spices
Seasonings don’t last forever. As a general rule, the shelf life for whole spices is 3-4 years. Ground spices should last for 2-3 years, leafy herbs (like oregano and parsley) should last 1-3 years. That sounds like a long shelf life but be honest with yourself, when was the last time you picked up a new jar of ground ginger?
If you’re buying a spice for a specific recipe and you don’t think you’ll use it very often, get the smallest amount possible. I like going to spice stores like Penzys because you can buy tiny quantities of spices. If I only use nutmeg twice a year, I don’t need a 6oz jar of it.
2. Try blooming your spices for more flavor
When cooking with dried spices, you can amplify the flavor by “blooming” them. This is a simple step that involves cooking the spices in a little bit of oil over medium heat, for just a minute or two. For example, rather than adding red pepper flakes into a soup, you might toast them on the stovetop in a bit of oil to bring out more flavors. I find this works particularly well in dishes with a lot of dried spices like cumin and chili powder.
3. Add a squeeze of citrus juice
A squeeze of lemon juice on a salad or a drizzle of lime juice over a plate of pad thai can add a deliciously fresh, acidic flavor to your final dish. A little bit of acid can really brighten the other seasonings of the dish. You don’t need much, just a 1/8 of a teaspoon is usually enough to bring out lots of flavor!
You can also add a little citrus zest to a dish to give it a fresh taste! Try a little lemon zest on a creamy pasta dish or lime zest on a southwestern salad!
4. Add fresh herbs into salads and soups
I love adding chopped cilantro or parsley right into my salad mix. It adds lots of flavor and I find that I use less salad dressing when I add herbs to my salads. Fresh herbs can also add more flavor to soups and stews, especially frozen or store-bought meals. Adding a handful of chopped chives on potato soup or sprinkling fresh basil on top of a frozen lasagna will add an extra hit of fresh flavor.
Keep in mind that when you add herbs to a dish can make a big difference, too. Hearty herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, and sage should be added earlier in the cooking process so they can release more flavor. Delicate herbs like cilantro, parsley, and basil should be added at the last minute, so they don’t lose their flavor or color.
5. Try a splash of umami, especially in meat-free dishes
Meat adds a lot of hearty, umami flavor to a dish, so when cooking a vegetarian or vegan meal, I look for other ways to incorporate that flavor. This can be done with a splash of soy sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, or a dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce. (Make sure it’s vegetarian, some brands contain fish.) A splash of soy sauce in this hearty vegan chili recipe or few tablespoons of tomato paste in this quinoa taco skillet can make a big difference in terms of umami flavor!
These little tips can help you add more flavor to a dish without requiring more oil, sugar, or salt. I hope this gives you new ideas to spice up your next meal!
What’s your favorite seasoning tip?
I’ve been seeing a lot of mention of blooming spices in oil, and wanted to ask for clarification as to why spices (or even nuts) would be “toasted” in oil as opposed to toasting them in a dry pan – I’m a self-taught cook, so am curious as to the ‘why’ behind the technique.
Also, I and many in my family are of the make to whom cilantro tastes like soap – what other fresh herb(s) would you recommend in place of cilantro, for any purpose?
Absolutely love your emails and recipes – thanks so much for sharing!
I used lemons, onions, and the fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme grouping + oregano, plus celery , carrots, parsnip and some cloves of garlic to stuff the Turkey this year. Used an oven roasting bag, well vented. Added the same vegetable/herb mixture underneath the bird. Then 32 Oz of homemade no sodium Turkey stock in the bottom of the bag. The bird got oiled with olive oil. After roasting Mr Turkey tasted sublime without a grain of salt added, beyond what the ingredients naturally contain. Just for my husband I stretched 2 pieces of Turkey bacon over the breast, I eat only dark meat. The meat was moist and tasty throughout. The juices in the bag went into a giant gravy strainer with a bottom exit (my new toy). I had to do it in batches, but strained the drippings, the remaining Turkey broth, and the broth from the giblets, gizzards, and neck. Combined them well together in a soup pot, then measured out 8-10 cups for making gravy. Then I combined the 2 techniques for making gravy, using a roux of 50% butter/50% olive oil. I stick of butter for the whole bird. The broth mixture was perfectly seasoned, the secrets to good gravy are using great seasonings and really browning the roux. The new strainer meant no lumps at all. I used whole wheat flour for the roux to deepen the flavor. When the gravy was done, I did some fine corrections using garlic powder, onion powder, and white pepper. If I could have afforded an Organic, Uninjected, Turkey it would have been perfect and even more healthy. But they were just too costly this year. That’s how I kicked a healthier Thanksgiving dinner this year. Americans are too dependent on the Salt Shaker to season everything. There are so many healthier ways to season up food. BTW, all the herbs were fresh.
How would you replace fish sauce in Asian cooking. I’m not overly fond of it. I use the lowest sodium varieties I can find, for soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Coconut Aminos and Unsalted Rice Vinegar.
Have you tried Ocean’s Halo’s vegan fish sauce? I haven’t personally tried it but that could be a good option! https://oceanshalo.com/products/sauces-dressings/