9 Tasty Recipes With Completely Unexpected Secret Ingredients

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Secret Ingredients Cover
Cheapism / AmalliaEka/istockphoto / eBay / Sonja Filitz/istockphoto

This Recipe Calls for WHAT?!

Secret ingredients are a tale as old as time. From the quirky things Grandma used to put in her dishes to some ingredients that make perfect sense as elevating agents, we love a good surprise addition to a dish. Here are some of the most unusual and unexpected ingredients that make us scratch our heads — while some might simultaneously make our mouths water.


1. Chili con Carne

Secret ingredient: Dark chocolate

We'll admit, this isn't the most earth-shatteringly shocking secret ingredient. After all, chocolate isn't an unheard-of ingredient in Mexican cuisine (mole, anyone?), and chili recipes are notorious for including some off-the-wall flavor boosters, from molasses to coffee grounds. Still, the dark chocolate in this chili con carne recipe does give off a bit of jump-scare when scanning the list of ingredients. 

Recipe: BBC Good Food

moist, juicy, fresh chocolate cake from the oven in moody, atmospheric, dark setting
Sonja Filitz/istockphoto

2. Black Magic Chocolate Cake

Secret ingredient: Tomato soup

Alright, let's get ready to bake a chocolate cake. Flour? Check. Cocoa powder? Got it. Buttermilk? Right here. One can of condensed tomato soup? Excuse me, what? Weird, right? Tomato soup is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strange secret ingredients found in chocolate cake recipes. You might also stumble upon mayo or sauerkraut (yes, really) on the hunt for the tastiest chocolate cake.

Recipe: Food.com

Traditional German braised beef cheeks in brown red wine sauce with herbs as closeup in black plate.
Vegetarian mushrooms chickpea stew in a iron pan and rustic grilled bread on a gray background, top view. Healthy vegetarian food concept. Vegetarian chili

4. Garbanzo Bean Stew

Secret ingredient: Hard-cooked egg

This garbanzo bean stew recipe gets its thickness from an unexpected source. It requires the home cook to prepare a hard-cooked egg and add it to the mortar with garlic and some baguette pieces, pounding them into a paste.

Recipe: Spain on a Fork

Related: Five-Ingredient Soups and Stews for an Easy Meal

Warm Homemade Gingersnap Cookies

5. Molasses Cookies

Secret ingredient: Black pepper

Who doesn't love a good batch of molasses cookies? While we've always loved the tried and true spice blend that Grandma swore by, this recipe brings black pepper into the mix in a surprise twist.

Recipe: Good Dinner Mom

Homemade tasty hamburger with beef, cheese and caramelized onions. Street food, fast food. Copyspace

6. Burgers

Secret ingredient: Cola

Never mind forming plain ol' ground beef into a patty and charring it on the grill to ultimately place it between a bun with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and the other usual suspects. Instead, this recipe brings saltine crackers, egg, French dressing, and — drumroll please — cola to the mix. We're going to go out on a limb and guess that these burgers probably don't taste very bland.

Recipe: Taste of Home

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Avocado chocolate mousse

7. Chocolate Pudding

Secret ingredient: Avocado

If you want to sneak some healthy fats and vitamins into your indulgent chocolate pudding, this recipe embraces avocado, which adds creaminess and since the fruit's (yes, avocado is a fruit) flavor is pretty mild, this is one of those ideas that kind of makes perfect sense. 

Recipe: Allrecipes

Baby Back Ribs

8. Smoked Ribs

Secret ingredient: Dr. Pepper

Not only is Dr. Pepper a part of the braising liquid used in this recipe for smoked ribs, but it's also a key component of the barbecue sauce. However, we will say we think the pairing of buffalo sauce with Dr. Pepper in a braising liquid is more unusual than the Dr. Pepper in and of itself. Still, we're on board for this one because the flavor profile of Dr. Pepper fits smoked BBQ like a glove.

Recipe: Hey Grill Hey

Related: Fantastic Regional Rib Recipes

Baked Apple Pie Hand Pies