13 Dishes Martha Stewart Improves With A Secret Ingredient

Martha Stewart is revered for many talents — from being a fantastic gardener, having an impeccable eye for decorating, and achieving supreme hostess goals, she is somewhat of a domestic goddess. Of course, Stewart is also an expert chef and super-savvy businesswoman. Many of her recipes are well-known standards, but an abundance of them feature secret ingredients, making them stand out in the most amazing ways.

Whether you're an established home cook looking to expand your repertoire or a true beginner on all fronts, Stewart's unique recipes are just what your arsenal of kitchen skills needs to take your dishes to the next level. To find a collection of yummy recipes Stewart incorporates secret ingredients into, I searched through her blog's collection of recipes, her social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more.

Keep reading to learn about 13 dishes Martha Stewart improves with a secret ingredient so you can wow your friends and family with a delicious celebrity-backed recipe. Even if a couple of the 13 dishes described below sound a bit unusual at first, Stewart's expertise will inspire you to make them for yourself. Trust me, your taste buds will absolutely thank you! 

Chili with cocoa powder

Martha Stewart's easy beef chili recipe appears to contain all the typical ingredients, but when you take a closer look, you notice a secret component: cocoa powder. The addition of cocoa powder adds a rich, deep flavor to chili that is undeniably delicious. It complements the tomato and meat in a subtle, yet noticeable way. As Stewart states in one of her Instagram posts, she considers this to be a quintessential chili recipe. It's so easy to make, she knows you'll want to make it repeatedly.

Notably, this chili recipe also lacks beans. While they are a typical ingredient, Stewart leaves them out this time (she has other chili recipes that include them). However, that doesn't mean you can't add cocoa powder to chili containing beans. Even if you're enjoying canned chili, a touch of cocoa powder goes a long way when it comes to enhancing flavor. In fact, there are lots of secret ingredients you should be using in your canned chili, but cocoa powder is one of the best. Considering Stewart uses it in her chili, you know it can only make things better. Give it a try the next time you whip up a batch, canned or homemade, and see what a difference a dash of cocoa powder makes.

Deviled eggs with butter

Deviled eggs are a classic appetizer perfect for eating with your hands and enjoying at gatherings. They are super easy to make and most people absolutely love the traditional recipe. Still, Martha Stewart's rich deviled eggs recipe takes this long-standing favorite to new heights — and all you need to add is butter. According to one of her Instagram posts, she used to make her rich deviled eggs the traditional way, with just a mayo, mustard, and egg yolk filling, but the addition of butter is something she won't be leaving out again. This simple secret ingredient amplifies flavor and gives deviled eggs a decadent (dare we say buttery) taste that won't get overlooked by anyone who gets a chance to savor them.

In addition to butter, Stewart stresses the importance of not over-cooking the eggs. She recommends cooking them for eight minutes. If you accidentally cook for longer, it leads to an unappetizing change in color and texture.

Once you get the hang of the standard deviled eggs with butter recipe, Stewart also recommends branching out to include a variety of unique ingredients in your deviled eggs. Anything from pesto to smoked trout to spicy hummus tastes great as filling for this legendary appetizer. So, while the basic recipe is outstanding (especially with butter whipped in), there's really no limit to what you can do with deviled eggs when you branch out from the ordinary.

Pancakes with soda water

Martha Stewart's secret ingredient for pancakes may be surprising, but it leads to fluffy, drool-worthy results. Her recipe for pancakes (described in an Instagram post) calls for all the usual suspects, like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, vanilla, and butter, but it also includes buttermilk and soda water. Buttermilk is somewhat common when making rich pancakes from scratch, but soda water is pretty unique. The bubbles in soda water add air to the recipe, giving pancakes an extra fluffy, pillowy texture, even after cooking. If you love maple syrup and other toppings on your pancakes, which most people do, this technique also allows them to soak up more of the good stuff. Yum!

Stewart's recipe specifically uses ½ cup of Sodastream water, but we're thinking any plain soda water will do the trick. Of course, if you have a Sodastream in your kitchen, incorporating it into pancakes will be much easier. That does not mean you need to go out and buy a whole system. Who knows, though? After you give Stewart's pancake recipe a try, you may be tempted to do just that.

Tuna salad with chopped apples and fresh basil

When it comes to tuna salad, Martha Stewart does things a bit different. She adds a couple of unique ingredients that give it a bright, slightly sweet, yet entirely balanced taste. In Martha Stewart's favorite tuna salad sandwich recipe, you find all the essential ingredients like mayo, celery, and canned tuna, but she also tosses fresh chopped basil and apple into the mix. The basil adds a fresh flavor that isn't always found in tuna salad. And the chopped apples give the recipe tons of crunch. This effect can be achieved with celery alone, but apples have a much sweeter taste and juicer consistency, both of which adds an entirely new element to the classic recipe.

Stewart recommends McIntosh or Gala apples when making tuna salad. However, with all the amazing varieties available at the store, don't get hung up on this detail — use what you have. Regardless, if you add fresh basil and apples to your tuna salad, you'll wind up with a summery, bright flavored concoction that takes your typical recipe from everyday to extraordinary.

French toast with brandy and orange zest

In a segment called Cooking In Pajamas with Martha Stewart (posted on Today food's Facebook), Stewart describes how she makes French toast, one of her four favorite breakfast foods. Stewart's famous french toast sneaks in two secret ingredients that significantly elevate the taste overall. So much so, that once you take a bite, they probably won't be a secret anymore. What are they? Brandy and orange zest. She substitutes vanilla for about 2 tablespoons of good brandy because she says it brightens up the flavor and adds sweetness. Stewart also zests a bit of orange peel into the batter for a citrusy bite and an even brighter taste. She says you can use lemon zest or a combination or both, whatever you prefer. Just make sure to wash the fruit before zesting the peel.

Because it's Stewart, she also uses farm fresh eggs in her French toast (she's basically got unlimited amounts thanks to her chickens). While the freshness of the eggs definitely makes a difference when cooking, you can still replicate her recipe if you don't have access to a chicken coop. What you buy from the store is more than fine. Stewart also uses fluffy brioche bread for the base, something you should definitely try if you haven't before. It soaks up the egg batter in epic proportions, further adding to the mouth-wateringly delicious results you achieve with the recipe.

Banana bread with sour cream

Instead of milk or buttermilk, Martha Stewart uses sour cream to level up her banana bread. This creamy secret ingredient does wonders not only for the taste of banana bread but also enhances texture. When ½ cup of sour cream is used in banana bread it makes it much easier to slice and ensures the texture is super moist and dense. Plus, it adds a tangy flavor that goes great with the sweetness of the bananas and other ingredients.

In Stewart's best banana bread recipe, she also notes that you can swap out sour cream for plain Greek yogurt if that's what you have. Regular yogurt works as well, but it isn't quite as thick as Greek yogurt or sour cream. This is also a great substitution if you enjoy a tangier flavor in your bread (as Greek yogurt is tangier than sour cream). Either way, when you're ready to enjoy super moist, mouth-watering banana bread, give Stewart's secret ingredient a try. She won't let you down.

Chicken pot pie with cognac

Chicken pot pie is a beloved comfort food full of savory flavors, hearty vegetables, and more. Of course, there's delicious crust, too. While there are countless ways to make chicken pot pies (you can make the filling with just about anything you have in your fridge), Martha Stewart uses an unexpected ingredient — cognac — to add complex, mouth-watering flavor. As she describes in one of her YouTube videos, many years ago a friend taught her to add cognac to her pot pie and she says it is "just phenomenal."

Infusing chicken pot pies with rich cognac flavor is as easy as cooking the filling with ½ cup of cognac. In her video, Stewart notes that the cognac plays two roles. First, it deglazes the pan bottom. Second, it adds a rich flavor to the sauce. As a result, it's a win-win when it comes to making better pot pies. Stewart begins her pot pie recipe by baking a chicken. However, if you already have some leftover chicken, that's fine to use and makes the task much quicker and easier as a whole.

Minestrone with parmesan cheese rind

In a Facebook video, Martha Stewart shares her recipe for vegetable minestrone soup. True to her style of cooking, it has a secret ingredient — this time, it's the rind from a block of parmesan cheese. Typically, minestrone soup is served with a bit of grated parmesan cheese on top as a garnish. In fact, that's what Stewart recommends in her classic minestrone recipe. However, she takes it a step further in her video by adding it straight to the soup while it cooks. Well, kind of.

Stewart doesn't add grated parmesan cheese to her minsetrone while it cooks, but that would most likely taste fantastic as well. Instead, she adds two large chunks of parmesan cheese rind and allows them to simmer in the pot with the other ingredients. While it cooks, the rich parmesan flavor spreads throughout and infuses the entire dish. Parmesan cheese rind is also one of the secret ingredients you should be using in your spaghetti sauce, so adding it to minestrone isn't much of a stretch. Besides, if Stewart says it's a good idea, we're inclined to believe her.

Grilled cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise

Martha Stewart believes the best way to get perfect, crispy, golden crust on a grilled cheese sandwich is by slathering the bread with mayonnaise. She's not as strict about what kind of cheese and bread you use, but mayo is a must. It's not just Stewart that feels this way, either. In general, people seem to agree that you should be using mayo for the crispest grilled cheese. While the debate goes on about whether or not you even need butter, Stewart believes a mixture of both achieves the ideal results.

In her favorite grilled cheese recipe, Stewart expresses that a combination of butter and mayo is the way to go. Butter adds a rich flavor and mayo helps the bread crisp up to perfection and develop a drool-worthy golden color. The recipe asks you to mix the butter and mayo before spreading it on the bread, which makes sense as far as getting the proportions right. Other than that, there's nothing out of the ordinary. Still, the simple addition of mayo on the bread leads to amazing results that many people rave about.

Scrambled eggs with clarified butter

According to Martha Stweart, there are various secrets to making scrambled eggs. One of Stewart's tricks for making the best scrambled eggs involves cooking them in clarified butter. During a demonstration at the Food & Wine Classic, she recalled how she first tried cooking her scrambled eggs in clarified butter with leftovers in a pan from the night before and the results were astonishing. Not only was the color "golden, beautiful," but she also went so far as to say they were "the best scrambled eggs in the whole world." Coming from Stewart, that's quite the endorsement. Fortunately, you can easily buy clarified butter from the grocery store. Or, you can make ghee, a type of clarified butter with a bit of time and patience.

Speaking of patience, that just so happens to be Stewart's second secret to making the best scrambled eggs. Take your time. In a tutorial on her site, she notes that you shouldn't turn up the heat, even if you're in a hurry. Due to the delicate nature of eggs, they easily lose their soft and creamy consistency when cooked at high temperatures. She also says it's important to stay at the stove and stir while they cook. Otherwise, they may not turn out how you want. So, patience is key to cooking delicious, fluffy scrambled eggs.

Meatballs with mushrooms

Martha Stewart has a whole slew of different meatball recipes on her website, and as you may have guessed, some of them call for a secret hearty ingredient. In her test kitchen's favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe, she utilizes a special ingredient to ensure heartiness and umami flavor throughout the meatballs: Cremini mushrooms. If you practice a plant-based diet, don't get too excited. The meatballs are still made with beef, as per usual, but Stewart adds chopped mushrooms to infuse them with a complex flavor.

In addition to bringing another layer of rich flavor, the mushrooms create perfectly textured meatballs. According to the recipe, quickly cooking them under the broiler helps develop a crispy exterior. Any areas that don't develop a crust are ready to soak up extra sauce, further enhancing flavor throughout.

Making meatballs with mushrooms hidden inside is a great option for kids that resist eating vegetables. Of course, adults will love them too. If this flavor combination sounds a bit confusing, just remember classic dishes like stroganoff or even Swedish meatballs which often combine beef and mushrooms. Plus, mushrooms have a meaty texture, and they'll blend right in. Psst! So much so that an unsuspecting kid may not even know mushrooms are mixed into the beef unless you tell them.

Guacamole with hard-boiled eggs

This next secret ingredient has the potential to be somewhat controversial. In fact, it's fair to say that you could easily argue that it isn't necessarily an improvement, but simply a creative rendition. Even so, Martha Stewart swears by adding a hard-boiled egg to her guacamole. To start, Stewart's guacamole begins just like any other standard recipe. She adds diced jalapeño, tomato, and white onion to an oversized mortar and pestle. Then she seasons it with salt, lime juice, and cilantro, just like any classic guacamole recipe. Then, right at the end, she dices up a hard-boiled egg and tosses it into the mix.

Something tells us guacamole purists everywhere will cringe when they read about adding hard-boiled eggs to guacamole. Still, considering it's Martha Stewart sharing the recipe, don't discount it just yet. In the TikTok video where she demonstrates the recipe, she clearly says guacamole is one of her favorite things to eat, so who are we to begrudge her a unique rendition? Commenters on TikTok had a lot to say about this unique secret ingredient, and many people were not pleased. Stewart didn't care, though. Instead, she made another TikTok video to address the haters where she said she likes the way guacamole tastes with egg, and she has tons of farm fresh eggs to use so she's going to keep doing it.

There are lots of game-changing ingredients you can add to guacamole – but who would have thought eggs were one of them?

Mashed potatoes with cream cheese

Every chef has a special way to make mashed potatoes that they swear by. Sure, Martha Stewart has several mashed potato recipes on her blog, but the secret to making her favorite mashed potatoes from her childhood is cream cheese. Incorporating cream cheese into mashed potatoes gives them a rich, creamy texture and drool-worthy taste. This simple ingredient addition may not be noticeable at first glance, but the flavor will definitely grab your attention.

In this specific mashed potato rendition, called Big Martha's Mashed Potatoes, she credits her mother for the recipe, so it's no wonder it reminds Stewart of her childhood. As opposed to many other recipes, it only calls for a small amount of milk and cream (¼ cup and ½ cup). It also has butter and seasoning, but instead of ample milk or cream, she uses 8 ounces of cream cheese to add most of the moisture and much needed creaminess. Stewart also notes that the cream and milk should be warmed, which we're sure helps soften and integrate the cream cheese. Once it's done, Stewart surprisingly notes that you can keep it warm for up to two hours before serving as long as it is in a covered bowl and over simmering water. Mashed potatoes are typically best when served straight away, but this trick allows them to stay like new for quite a while. It could be super useful when you're making an elaborate meal.