2020 Home Cook's Holiday Gift Guide: Dreamy Ingredients

Sometimes it just takes one special ingredient to give your favorite cook a much-needed boost. A next-level soy sauce, delicious berry preserves, a fancy olive oil - they deserve to try out the good stuff!

Cam Dechert

When you're cooking all the time, it's easy to get into a rut: this meal, those ingredients, that grocery list.

The problem is ... it can get a little uninspiring and take some of the joy out of cooking.

That's when it's a good time to shake it up with a new ingredient, an elevated essential, a small-batch specialty something that probably doesn't have a regular spot in the pantry but is just the thing to ignite a bit of curiosity.

Here are 10 dreamy ingredients that'll hopefully inspire and excite your favorite cook!

  • None

    Inspired by North African preserved lemons, which are cut into chunks and packed in salt brine, this savory purée perks up tagines, salads, and all kinds of soups, and eliminates the need to chop or grind your lemons ahead of time. Made with pure Meyer lemons, it has a lighter, delicately floral flavor compared to traditional Moroccan preserved lemons, and it's also a great base for a salad dressing.

    Alater and Oliter Preserved Meyer Lemon Puree, $14.99 from Snuk

  • Soom Chocolate Tahini

    Velvety smooth semi-sweet chocolate spread with a hint of nuttiness from nutrient-dense sesame seeds. Made with just three simple ingredients: Soom Tahini, premium cocoa powder, and powdered pure cane sugar.

    Use as a sweet dip for fruit, pretzels, or fingers. Perfect in baked goods, over pancakes, or as an ice cream topping. The possibilities are endless!

    Soom Chocolate Sweet Tahini, 2-Pack, $17 from Soom

  • Saskatoon Berry Jam

    Although similar in appearance to the blueberry, wild Saskatoon berries are actually related to wild apples and are native to North America. Prized for their sweet almond flavor, Saskatoon jam does wonders for ice cream, cocktails, and breakfast delights.

    Saskatoon Berry Preserves, $17.95 from Snuk


    York Imperial Apple Vinegar is the most appley cider vinegar you’ll ever taste, with a mellow sweetness drawn out by a yearlong stint in an oak barrel. Merlot Vinegar is like a red wine vinegar, but with a real faithfulness to its round, fruity wine origin. The Petit Manseng Vinegar is tart, but with a subtle and gentle honeyed balance that will make it your favorite white wine vinegar. The Stout Malt Vinegar is, likewise, a malt vinegar made from bourbon barrel-aged dark stout beer - deeper and darker than your average bear.

    Pantry Vinegar Gift Box, $27 from Keepwell

  • Smokehouse Spice Rubs

    Smokehouse masters across America use methods evolved over generations for infusing meats with the complex flavor of smoke. They experiment with woods, preparations, and length of smoking time, arriving at techniques that are both science and art.

    We have collected the essential spices to bring the best smokehouse seasonings from Milwaukee to Mexico to your steak, brisket, and pork.

    Smokehouse Collection, $38 from The Spice House

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  • Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

    Madagascar Bourbon is the world's most popular vanilla. A rich, creamy, sweet vanilla, mildly assertive, with old-fashioned vanilla flavor. An ideal all-purpose vanilla.

    For a tasty glaze on sweet breads, try mixing a tablespoon of sugar with a teaspoon each of water and vanilla extract. Brush over the bread before baking for a sweet, tasty shine.

    Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract, 8-ounces, $49.95 from King Arthur Baking Company

  • Oracle Olive Oil

    Oracle Olive Oil is a premium Greek extra virgin olive oil made from 100% organic Koroneiki olives, sourced from a collective of seaside olive farms in the Peloponnese — including one belonging to the family of Oracle’s founder. Koroneiki olives are unusually rich in polyphenol and oleocanthal, creating an oil with a very low acidity level of 0.27%.
    Oracle's flavor and unique characteristics make it especially well suited to everyday use, whether for cooking, dressing, or dipping.

    Oracle Olive Oil, $40 from Oracle Oil

  • Kishibori Shoyu

    Kishibori is a Japanese premium soy sauce imported from Japan. It's fermented in 100-year old barrels on a small island in Japan's inland sea. Smooth and balanced taste, Kishibori Soy has a milder fuller flavor than most soy sauce.

    Kishibori Shoyu (Pure Artisan Soy Sauce), $12.50 from Amazon


    Made from Sicilian pistachios and extra-virgin olive oil, Pistacchiosa is a creamy, aromatic spread you will want to put on all your desserts and, yes, eat straight out of the jar.

    Il Colle Del Gusto Sicilian Pistachio Spread, $19.95 from Milk Street


    Our Signature Harissa is the secret ingredient to add richness, depth and subtle heat to your favorite family dishes. It’s destined to become the condiment your pantry can’t live without.

    This is also one of a One Simply Terrific Thing pick for us! Read why we love it here.

    Signature Harissa,$12.95 from New York Shuk

  • Check Out All Our 2020 Gift Guides!

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  • 2020 Home Cook's Holiday Gift Guide: Giftworthy Cookbooks

    Cam Dechert

    If there was ever a year to gift a cookbook to the home cook in your life, this is the year! Here are 10 wonderful options, from celebrated new releases to classic favorites.