They’re not the staples and not the budget buys, but they’re used often enough and make a big enough difference to dishes to make them essential.


If you regularly check out our recipes, you would have seen these specialty ingredients used before. As part of “you are what you eat” month, I’m sharing the 6 non-basic ingredients I always use and how I use them.


1. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional Yeast also goes by the names Nooch and my personal favourite hippie dust and is not to be confused with the yeast you put in bread to make it rise.

Nutritional yeast is a form of yeast fungi that’s been heated up and deactivated creating flaky edible sprinkles. Nutritional Yeast is also a complete protein, providing all 9 amino acids and has a lot of the B complex vitamins.


I use nutritional yeast in a lot of dressings, sauces and dips to give them a fuller flavour. It has a savoury cheese flavour making a great vegan alternative to cheese in pesto, like in this hemp seed pesto and cheese-like sauces, like this cauliflower alfredo sauce. I added some to this cashew cheese to make it taste cheesier. It was also added to this red pepper dip to give it a fuller flavour.


It also tastes great sprinkled on top of avocado toast or sprinkled over popcorn – add some dry herbs and you have a cheezy herb popcorn.


2. Tahini

I can go through a jar of tahini in a week as I use it for just about everything – both sweet and savoury.

It’s a key ingredient in hummus (see here, here, and here), or if you want a quicker no electricity needed dip, mix tahini with lemon juice, water, salt, garlic powder and finely chopped fresh parsley for Tahina which can be used as you would use hummus.

I also use it in a lot of dressings where you’d commonly see mayo used, like in a cabbage salad. Or just added to some water, lemon juice, some apple cider vinegar and mapple syrup and spices for a drizzle over grilled vegetables or buddah bowls.


You can spread some on toast and top with cucumbers and sprouted seeds or mix it with a little bit of honey or maple syrup and make a sweet spread. Spread that on toast with some berries for a nut free take on PB&J).


I’ve used it in dessert recipes like this fudge as well as in frostings for cakes and you can also use it to replace nut butter in most recipes, like these date bombs.


4. Hot Sauce

I’m not hot-sauce-in-my-bag swag, level obsessed; but obsessed enough to always have it in the kitchen.

I switch between Sriracha and Tabasco depending on the dish. Tabasco is great for fried eggs, a dash on top of avocado toast and I always add a few dashes into my hummus.

I prefer Sriracha for food bowls when you want something thicker like in a bibimbap, or noodle soup bowls. Mix sriracha with some honey it also makes a great marinade for fish or chicken.


4. Blackstrap Molasses

I don’t use Blackstrap Molasses as often as the other ingredients on the list, but it’s a key ingredient for making homemade BBQ sauce and gravies.


I also use it when I make pumpernickel and black bread – it gives the bread that darker colour and richer flavour.


A warning, it’s not something that can be eaten alone, it is not sweet and it is not a replacement for maple syrup or agave – there was an unfortunate incident involving an entire cake that was thrown away.


It’s also stronger than light molasses which you’ll see in gingerbread recipes (again use light, not blackstrap).


5. Lindt couverture Dark Chocolate 70%

I only discovered that Lindt sells a bulk dark baking chocolate about a year ago. Since then I’ve never been without it for longer than a week. A good quality non-dairy baking chocolate is hard to come by, and this is the best I’ve found available locally.

It’s available at Lindt stores, comes in a huge 2.5kg packet and is a chocoholics dream. While it may seem expensive spending over R500 for a bag of chocolate, I’ve worked out that it’s cheaper than the equivalent amount of dark chocolate slabs.

I use them for any recipes requiring chocolate and usually chop them up and sub them for chocolate chips in recipes requiring chocolate chips.


A bag can last a few months (and I use it often), so once you open it either close it with a bag clip or dispense it into containers so it doesn’t go stale. Because it’s actually a good quality chocolate, a square works wonders for killing chocolate cravings.


6. Fleur de sel

When it comes to table salt vs Himalayan salt I’m not fussy and honestly can’t taste the difference, but when it comes to salts that have unique purposes there is a huge difference in appearance, texture and taste.


Kosher salt comes in big flakes and tastes a lot saltier than regular salt (great for spice rubs), Pretzel Salt is square, taste like the salt you get on a pretzel and can help turn a piece of bread into a pretzel.


Fleur de sel, on the other hand, is a dessert salt, it’s flaky like Kosher salt but thicker. It’s the salt you’ll find sprinkled on chocolate and I use it either to sprinkle on top of chocolate bark and on top of cookies. It’s not essential but it adds a delicious sweet and salty quality to dessert. If you make homemade caramel, it tastes better with a dash of fleur de sel.

Because you only use a small portion at a time it also lasts a long time.


Share your non-basic essentials and how you use them in the comments below.



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