Secret ingredient recommendations?

I’m attending a small pot-luck where we all have to guess the “secret ingredient” (not visually apparent) in each other’s recipes. I’m hoping to make a savory vegetarian dish. Any suggestions for ingredient or recipe that’ll take one to two hours max to make? Tasting good is priority over the secret.

As an example, years ago I made a brownie recipe where everyone thinks there’s coconut, but it’s actually rinsed sauerkraut. I’m cool with such fun trickery, but if I can explore a subtle, unappreciated dimension of an ingredient it would be even better. Any ideas?

Ideally it would be a dish that I can drive across town, but I can do some last minute stuff (stir frying or boiling) at the host’s house. But no Aquafaba soufflés :slight_smile:

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Avocado chocolate cake or mousse
We once put edible crickets in brownies and everyone thought they were walnuts
Aquafaba meringues can be made in advance

ON the veg side maybe something with spaghetti squash or beet root.


Tea. Black, green, white, herbal…

Tea can be used in pickling, poaching, steaming. Dry tea can be pulverized and used as a seasoning. Simple applications are in fruit compotes or in the cooking liquid for rice. I’d be very surprised if anyone guessed it!


Brownies and cookies can hide all kinds of things - black beans, beets, chickpeas, zucchini, other squashes, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.

Puréed cauliflower as a creamy element - eg in béchamel for Mac & cheese

Mushrooms, walnuts, and/or brown/black lentils are meaty and make good “faux gras” / fake chicken liver pate.

Miso adds a great layer to many things and is hard to guess - tomato-based pasta sauce, pesto, salad dressings, bbq sauce, even brownies & cookies.


Tahini. I baked a batch of pb cookies using tahini and no one guessed correctly. Most liked the flavor.

Sweet or savory, tahini is a surprise ingredient beyond hummus.


Lemongrass infused rice.

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My Fauxtato Salad used dry large lima beans, soaked and cooked until the skins start to split. These are what is sold canned as butter beans, not the grassy green ones. Don’t sub canned, the texture is different. Use the cooked beans in any potato salad recipe. You’d never know they aren’t spuds. They should work as mashed potatoes to, if you put them through a ricer to remove the skins.

Steel-cut oats, used raw in cookies and cakes, are indistinguishable from finely chopped nuts.


The first pie here will fool tasters into thinking it’s pecan pie made with chopped pecans.

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That is genius! I’m bookmarking this to try it in November.

I bring to holiday parties every year and no one is vegan and this disappears before the cheeses and cured meats.
Secret ingredients- base of lentils and walnuts and mushrooms, soy sauce and the splash of alcohol they will never guess.


This is one of the pates I was thinking about upthread. I will say that I love pate and I can definitely tell that it’s lentils, but it’s tasty (and healthier).

This is the other one I had in mind, which has tofu:

Which reminds me - tofu is a great secret ingredient too! Look for silken tofu used in recipes for desserts or savory dishes instead of egg.


There are some great ideas for ingredients that will trick people. If you’re looking for an ingredient that people have trouble placing I’d suggest pomegranate molasses.


Thanks for all the great suggestions! I brought a vegetarian pate to a previous event, so can’t duplicate. I’m gonna pass on the fauxtato salad for this event, but have all the ingredients in my pantry and will make it for lunch soon— those beans are the best.

Combing some ideas from above, I could make some tacos— black beans made smoky with some lapsang souchong tea and extra savory with miso, a guacamole made “spicy” with horseradish and acidic with lemongrass and lime, and plain old pickled onions. If any part is a 90s fusion disaster, I’ll just serve the good parts with tortilla chips :slight_smile:


Potato “cheese”. You can replace normal potato with sweet potato.


If eggs are allowed the possibilities are near endless.


My version of Çilbir with silken tofu, laoganma, sesame oil, tamari and confit yolks.

Turkish version looks something like this. Has yogurt, poached eggs, melted butter etc. I wanted to make an Asian version and came up with the above.

Have you ever used tempeh?

And this one is just to trick your friends into thinking they are “scallops”.

Mushroom powder, marmite, liquid smoke and ketcap mannis (Indonesian sweet soya sauce) all make very nice gravy or to flavour non meat ingredients.

Perhaps you want to have a go at making peanut “tofu”? (look up jimamidofu)


Cardamom is another flavor infuser that keeps ‘em guessing.

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Green jackfruit “pulled pork”? Or is that already played out and too obvious?


Ritz cracker apple pie?

Tofu scramble?

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Silken tofu chocolate mousse?


OMG I’ve got the perfect secret ingredient!!! I can’t tell you though because then it wouldn’t be a secret!