Secret Ingredients That Celebrity Chefs Love

Secret sauces, award-winning restaurants, and, of course, larger-than-life personalities — that’s right, we’re talking about celebrity chefs. After all, they didn’t become famous for doing things the way everyone else does. When it comes to cooking, they take their art form very, very seriously, and following a Betty Crocker recipe won’t cut it. The solution? Keeping a stash of secret ingredients in their back pocket.

Have you been wondering which go-to ingredient your favorite celebrity chef loves most? If so, we’ve got you covered. Thanks to Food Network Magazine, we have the skinny on the secret ingredients the most famous, or infamous, chefs can’t live without.

1. Alton Brown: Sumac

Late dinner alone in test kitchen. #cabbagesoup

A post shared by Alton Brown (@altonbrown) on

You may not use this spice much, but perhaps you should start, because apparently, it’s a win-win. As Alton Brown tells Food Network Magazine, it can really come in handy when cooking with starchy foods. “Add depth to anything starchy: beans, potatoes, rice, etc.,” Brown recommends.

Next: The king of BBQ 

2. Bobby Flay: Pomegranate molasses

Oh Bobby Flay, how you love to let the world know just how great you are. And we’ll admit it, too, because there’s no denying this guy’s got the secret sauce to one hell of a career in the food biz. One episode or Beat Bobby Flay or Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, and it’s clear to see this grill master has the chops to deliver delicious dishes time and time again. But, we digress.

So, what’s one of his many secrets? Pomegranate molasses. “I love to use it to balance out salad dressings,” Flay says.

Next: This chef needs no introduction 

3. Emeril Lagasse: Creole seasoning

How does everyone like their eggs? #breakfast #weekend

A post shared by Chef Emeril J. Lagasse III (@emeril) on

Emeril is one of the reigning kings of the culinary world. And for this seasoned chef, it’s all about just that, seasoning — creole seasoning, that is. “It’s my best friend in the kitchen,” Lagassee says. “It’s the perfect blend of salt, peppers and other herbs and spices and makes for a one-stop seasoning shop.”

Next: The queen of Italian cooking 

4. Giada De Laurentiis: Mascarpone cheese

Sayyy cheese cheesy mashed potatoes… coming soon on @thegiadzy! #behindthescenes #holiday

A post shared by Giada DeLaurentiis (@giadadelaurentiis) on

Not all too surprisingly, this Italian mama’s must-have comes in the form of a cheese — mascarpone cheese, to be specific. “I love to use it in both sweet and savory dishes,” De Laurentiis says. “It can be used in place of sour cream or cream cheese.” Noted.

Next: An Iron Chef who knows the power of a simple citrus 

5. Michael Symon: Lemon


A post shared by michael symon (@chefsymon) on

Even an Iron Chef knows the value of something so simple. Turns out, a little lemon juice goes a long way. “Cooking with as many fatty animals as I do, I can’t live without the acidity of lemon (both juice and zest) to cut through the fat,” Symon says.

Next: This chef’s creation dates back to the beginning of his career. 

6. Wolfgang Puck: Garlic, ginger, and green onion paste

It’s the combination of these ingredients that makes up one of Puck’s most prized possessions — his paste. In fact, he says that it’s been a secret weapon of his for years. So, what exactly are the not-so-secret components? One tablespoon chopped ginger, one and a half tablespoons chopped garlic, and three minced green onions. “I would add [the paste] to almost every dish, like sauteed chicken and vegetables or scallion pancakes,” Pucks says.

Next: Who knew there were so many butter choices?

7. Geoffrey Zakarian: French salted butter

Leave it to a food show judge and host to be particular. Would we know how to differentiate between different types of butter? Probably not, but that’s neither here nor there. According to Zakarian, “French salted butter is so creamy and amazing, and the salt adds such a luxurious richness to any sauce. It’s my go-to in finishing sauces, mostly fish.” Well, there you have it.

Next: This chef always means business. 

8. Alex Guarnaschelli: Worcestershire sauce

Join me today 12-2 @williamssonoma Short Hills for a book signing of “The Home Cook” !!

A post shared by Alex Guarnaschelli (@guarnaschelli) on

Anyone who’s ever seen Alex in action knows she doesn’t mess around. Case in point: She adds the oft controversial Worcestershire sauce into most of her dishes. “I use a splash of this in everything from scrambled eggs to clam chowder,” Guarnaschelli says. “It just seems to fill the gap in flavor that is so often missing. To me, it is a secret weapon because it can add a cooked-in saltiness even if it’s added at the last minute.”

Next: Plenty of people have a strong aversion to this food.

9. Guy Fieri: Anchovies

We can’t say that we’re too surprised by this one. Guy Fieri is the host of Triple D, after all. “Anchovies don’t get enough respect,” Fieri said. “I like to incorporate them in my sauce to add depth with a little bit of saltiness. They’re great to work with in Italian dishes.” And hey, maybe he’s onto something.

Next: It’s not just for your morning cup of coffee.

10. Marc Murphy: Espresso

As a regular judge on Chopped, along with returning roles on Guy’s Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay, and Worst Cooks in America, Marc Murphy has an impressive resume. So, when he says he uses espresso as more than just a warm beverage, we’re all ears. Murphy uses it “as a secret addition to chocolate mousse and also in marinades for meat.” Very intriguing, indeed.

Next: This ingredient is a staple in most people’s homes.

11. Nadia Giosia: Balsamic vinegar

Smile pretty.

A post shared by NadiaGStar (@nadiagstar) on

Nadia G. may not be everyone’s favorite, but with show named Bitchin’ Kitchen, what do you expect? Love or hate her, there’s one ingredient she can’t do without. “Balsamic aged for seven years or more adds tang  to sauces, makes a wonderful steak sauce (with equal parts maple syrup) and rocks with chocolate and berry desserts,” Giosia says.

Next: We’re not totally sure about this next ingredient. 

12. Sunny Anderson: Pickled jalapenos

When it comes to practicality, this Cooking for Real host knows how to turn out everyday dishes that viewers will love. However, her one secret ingredient, pickled jalapenos, may be a bit much for some folks. “This jar of love stays in my fridge 24/7 to add zip, heat and sweet to so much,” Anderson says. “I add ’em to my mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, salad dressings and more. Plus, people always ask me, ‘What is it I’m tasting?’ Yaaaaay!!” Even if you’re skeptical, it may be worth a shot.

Next: Who doesn’t love a little bacon?

13. Pat and Gina Neely: Bacon fat

Just in time for Fall weather! Spicy Corn Chowder Ingredients 4 pieces thick-sliced bacon, chopped 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 small jalapeno, chopped seeds and ribs removed 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 4 cups chicken stock 2 large red potatoes, well scrubbed and small diced 1 cup heavy cream 16 ounces frozen corn 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 bay leaf Directions In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon until crisp and browned and the fat is rendered. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel and reserve. There should be about 4 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan. Add the onions and red pepper to pan. Saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour until thoroughly combined. Cook the flour until it reaches a slight blonde color, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock and the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes; potatoes will become soft. Add the cream, corn, cayenne and bay leaf. Simmer for 15 more minutes. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved bacon.

A post shared by patneelybbqking (@patneelybbqking) on

This BBQ-loving duo knows what’s up, and that’s “Bacon fat, baby!” As Pat so perfectly poses it, “Who doesn’t love that smoky, hearty flavor?” We’re with you, guys. Furthermore, he says, “We like to chop up some bacon, throw it in a skillet, render the fat and use that flavor to sauté our veggies. Oink!”

Next: An Iron Chef uses this ingredient to spice things up. 

14. Jose Garces: Saffron

So, what exactly is saffron in the first place? Great question. For starters, it’s a spice that Iron Chef Jose Garces swears by. “I like to serve a very traditional dish called tortilla Española — basically an egg-and-potato frittata served with aïoli — and I add a touch of saffron to the aïoli for a flavorful punch,” Garces says.

Next: Feeling hot?

15. Marc Forgione: Sriracha

Hope to see some of you there tonight! #Repost @eatalyflatiron ・・・ We're excited to introduce to you our new Guest Chef Series, From New York To New York by Manzo! Chef @marcforgione will be kicking off the series tonight for dinner service, so book your tables now or swing by to say ciao. – – – EAT & LEARN: Tonight, from 6-10 p.m., Chef Marc Forgione will be here himself at Manzo Ristorante for From New York To New York, our newest guest chef series dedicated to the city! The dish is available all November long and the ingredients used are from local farms, and a portion of the proceeds will go to a local charity of the chef's choice. Tonight, from 6 to 10 p.m., Chef Marc will be in the kitchen and the dining room, talking with our chefs and guests alike. Only during opening night, his Prime rib carpaccio, squash, and wild edibles from @meadowsandmore dish will be 50% off (just $11!), and we will double our donation to @cityharvestnyc. To save your seat at this unique culinary event, simply book your table at Manzo. #myEatalyNYC

A post shared by Marc Forgione (@marcforgione) on

Lots of folks love the stuff, including this Iron Chef. “When I was first testing my Bloody Mary recipe I added some Sriracha, and it didn’t just make it spicier, it made it more flavorful,” Forgione says. “Now I add a couple of drops to everything from soup to eggs.” Hm, a Bloody Mary doesn’t sound so bad right about now.

Read more: 16 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Celebrity Cooking Shows

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!