5 Toppings to Boost Flavor July 20, 2016

by Eat

Get your taste buds ready; it’s time to pour, drizzle, and sprinkle on these five mouth-watering toppings!


There’s a whole lot of super complicated science that goes into our sense of taste, like molecules and ions and other obscure things that we would probably understand had we actually paid attention during high school science class (oops).

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to five main taste sensations (which, after all, are what we really care about): sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami.

Whether you have a soft spot for salty pretzels, down chocolate bars like it’s your job, or land somewhere in the middle, I think we can all agree on one thing: the more flavor, the better.

For ideas about how to transform meals from drab to fab with the help of flavorful toppings, we turned to our expert in-house dietitian, Rebecca. Here’s what she came up with:

1. Vinegar


This ingredient isn’t too far behind salt, pepper, and oil on the list of kitchen staples. Formed through a fermentation process, vinegar is high in acetic acid and renowned for its health benefits; it not only helps the body absorb nutrients, but also works wonders to stabilize blood sugar. And on top of it all, it’s incredibly low in calories (just 25 for a 1/2 cup!).

Most people use vinegar to whip up salad dressings or deglaze pans. But that’s not all it can do. Next time you’re looking to add some flavor, skip the excess butter or salt and reach for this versatile ingredient. It can:

  • Add a little something extra to those boring veggies
  • Marinate your meat with a bit of tang
  • Bring out the sweetness of strawberries without any added sugar
  • Perk up the flavor of beans at the end of the cooking process

You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging without any mouth-watering HelloFresh recipes, did you? Of course not! Try our mushroom ragu over crispy polenta cakes (using balsamic vinegar) or honey roasted pork chops with Swiss chard and sweet potato mash (using red wine vinegar).

2. Citrus Zest


Did you know there’s actually more flavor in the zest of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges than in the juice of the fruit itself? Add these aromatics to brighten up your scrambled eggs, fish dinners, and baked goods. You can even freeze citrus zest to use at a later time!

Some things to keep in mind while getting zesty…

  • Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry the fruit.
  • Once you reach the skin’s bitter white layer, stop grating.
  • Zest and then juice – in that order. We speak from experience when we tell you that grating tiny wedges is NOT fun.

Try our vegetarian burrito bowl with salsa and crispy black beans for a kick of lime zest flavor.

3. Nutritional Yeast Flakes


These gluten free flakes are an inactive yeast grown on sugar cane and beet molasses and then dried into a flake or powder form. But if you didn’t know any better, you would totally think it was cheese; the flavors are so similar! And as if the irresistible lure of cheesy flavor wasn’t enough, nutritional yeast is also jam-packed with vitamin B12 (talk about a win-win). Sprinkle these flakes on popcorn, into pesto, on pasta, or even in scrambled eggs or omelettes!

4. Romesco Sauce


Originating from the Catalonia area of Spain, this sauce lends a deep, rustic flavor to everything from fish and poultry to meat and vegetables. Although there are countless variations, most involve a combination of olive oil, roasted peppers, garlic, almonds and/or hazelnuts, and tomatoes. Sometimes, there’s even some firm white bread thrown in there for added thickness!

Our personal favorite variation? This blackened steak drizzled with romesco sauce and served alongside roasted cauliflower salad and Israeli couscous. We literally dream about this meal.

5. Herbs


Whether you’re slathering on sunscreen or buried under a mound of snow, herbs are always a good idea. Enjoy parsley year round, rosemary and oregano in the winter, sage and thyme in the fall, chives and mint in the spring, and tarragon and basil in the summer. Add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking for a beautiful burst of color and elevated flavor without extra calories, fat, or salt. They’re the magic ingredient to give your dish that “ahhhh” factor and transform it from ordinary to extraordinary!

It was not easy to narrow down a recipe for you, but we ultimately decided on this drool-worthy Parmesan and herb-crusted tilapia with buttery potatoes and carrots.

For more topping inspiration, check out these 5 mayo recipes!

Happy (and flavorful) Cooking!

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Susan Fairchild says:

What are the ingredients in Herbs de Provance. Is it store bought or do I make it myself?
I’m new to French cooking so any information would be great.

Jacqueline says:

Susan – the typical herbs found in herbes de provence are savory, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme. However, you don’t have to go through the trouble of creating it yourself – it’s just as good when purchased at a store!!

Happy Cooking,

Paul Walker says:

Where would one buy nutritional yeast flakes?

Jacqueline Parisi says:

Hi Paul! You can find nutritional yeast flakes in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores.

I started receiving HelloFresh menu boxes a month ago and I am thrilled that I did. Having been married for more than 33 years, I was completely burned out with trying to fix meals other than the same old, same old.
I have a renewed interest in cooking again and my husband, who has a limited and finicky palate, is enjoying the “adventure”.
Just read your newsletter for the first time. It’s interesting and helpful, too. Thanks!!

Jordan Schultz says:

Amazing, so great to hear! We’re happy to have you in the family, and thrilled that you love our newsletter (coming from the newsletter team).

Pam says:

What is Herbs de Provence? It is shown as an ingredient in one of the recipes in your article of Five Toppings to Boost Flavor. Where can we find the herb mixes that come in the boxes of dinners?

Here are the ingredients in our Herbs de Provence mix, Pam: Equal parts: Savory, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Tarragon, Lavender Flowers.

Susan says:

I can’t find your Fajita Spice recipe on this site? Anyone know what it is? Loved the pork fiesta bowls and want to make for guests.

Hi Susan, you can view the ingredient list here: 4 parts paprika, 1 part each onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and oregano 👍

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