7 Old-Fashioned Ingredients That No One Uses Anymore (But Should!)
We live in an era where we are constantly seeking faster, better, and newer. After all, we love to take classic recipes and add a modern twist to them. Modern times have evolved the way we shop for our ingredients as well as the actual foods we shop for. Today, it's common to have your groceries delivered to your doorstep or at least delivered right into your lifted car trunk. It's also common to eschew old-fashioned ingredients for new time-saving pre-prepped ingredients. But it's a mistake to discount these underrated ingredients, say experts.
Are any of those groceries you're adding to your Instacart canned pineapple or canned peaches? Or maybe tarragon or simply beans? While these ingredients may seem old-fashioned or boring, just because they're old-school, that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of your purchase. In fact, there are a variety of underrated ingredients that make up classic recipes rival to your grandmother's meals that you should have on your weekly shopping list for their culinary uses and for potential health benefits.
We asked an award-winning nutrition expert and chefs to highlight their favorite underrated old-fashioned ingredients no one is cooking with anymore, but really should be. The results were varied and eye-opening, and we dare say, potentially very delicious.
Jasmine Golden, the owner and chef at Golden Truffle, says that polenta is making a comeback at home and in restaurants. Polenta is a type of Italian cornmeal and it can take the place of mashed potatoes or rice in many dishes. Golden praises it for being incredibly versatile.
"Polenta can be cooked into a range of dishes, including polenta cakes, baked polenta with cheese and mushrooms, or creamy polenta porridge," says Golden. "The nutty flavor it brings to
dishes makes it perfect for adding richness and complexity."
Get our recipe for Light Meatballs With Polenta.
Canned Peaches and Pineapple
Canned peaches and pineapple are an easy—and tasty—way for people to add more fruits to their daily meals. Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND award-winning nutrition expert states that "According to the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines for Americans, only 15% of Americans are meeting their daily recommended amount of fruit."
And, she says, just because these canned fruits come in a can, doesn't make them any less than nutritional as opposed to fresh fruit. "Canned pineapple and peaches are an excellent way to get more fruit with their long shelf life and inexpensive cost," says Amidor.
Aside from slurping the fruit straight from the can, Amidor shares that these pantry staples can be used in a variety of dishes and bakes. "Canned pineapple and peaches can be used to sweeten oatmeal (using the liquid and fruit), added to batters for muffins, cakes, and pancakes, and even used in smoothies."
Try this recipe from The Spruce Eats.
Cottage cheese may have been something you hid under your napkin as a kid, but don't overlook this protein and calcium-rich cheese today. "Some believe cottage cheese was one of the first cheeses made in America" shares Amidor. She continues, "This cheese provides protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and A, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium."
For a quick breakfast or healthy snack, combine two old-fashion ingredients, cottage cheese and canned peaches for a nutritious nosh. "In the 1980s, cottage cheese and canned peaches were listed on many diner menus, and can still find them on some menus to this day. Cottage cheese has since become less popular, but is still a very nutritious food that I do include in recipes in each of my nine cookbooks." Amidor uses cottage cheese as a component in everything from smoothies, and dips, to eating it topped with fruit and granola.
Try her whipped cottage cheese with berries and pistachios for a mega morning pick-me-up.
Celeriac or celery root is a root vegetable with a lot of good-for-you properties. "It's also high in fiber which can help support heart and gut health. Celeriac makes a tasty addition to soups and stews" says Amidor. Celery root can also be mashed and is a good low-carb stand-in for potatoes in a number of dishes. Use raw, shredded celeriac to add a fresh element to slaws and crunch to salads. It is also a great stand-in for rice if you're cutting carbs or are on a gluten-free diet.
Get our recipe for Chicken Kababs With Celeriac Rice.
In addition to her book and website, Spice Spice Baby, Kanchan Koya is a chef and she holds a Ph.D. in Biomedicine from Harvard University and has training from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. A spice that Koya would like to bring back into savory foods is cinnamon.
"Cinnamon is typically reserved for baking or holiday treats, but historically it was used to prevent food spoilage and even season savory dishes," she says. "I suggest we bring it back to enliven savory preparations like lentil or meat bolognese, soups, and toasted winter vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes." As a bonus, it has blood sugar balancing effects, a complex peppery and sweet flavor profile and its scent alone may be a mood booster, she says. She uses a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to bring out the flavor of the roasted butternut squash in her Spiced Up Fall Salad.
Try her recipe for Spiced Up Fall Salad.
The simple basic bean is considered a longevity-promoting food because of its fiber and phytonutrients, says Koya. "Many people shy away from them in modern times because they think they're lackluster, too basic, or too difficult to digest I believe people should enjoy beans regularly whether soaked and cooked into a stew-like preparation with ginger, cumin, and bay leaf to improve digestibility, or mashed into an everyday favorites like avocado toast with a drizzle of lime juice and fresh herbs. I even like to sprinkle them over crunchy lettuce like Little Leaf Farms, along with red onion, cherry tomatoes, and corn to make a taco salad."
Try her take on a plant-based feijoada.
Tarragon used to be beloved in classical French cuisine but has so much to offer in the modern kitchen, says Koya." I love adding to baked fish or tofu for a delicate herbaceous note or whisking it into a mayonnaise-based creamy dressing with red wine vinegar drizzled over an apple fennel red onion salad with Little Leaf Farms' crispy lettuce. "
Try her recipe for Sweet Paprika Fish With Tomato Tarragon Chutney.
A previous version of this article was originally published in July 2022. It has been updated with new information.