Five Tips for Cooking with Unfamiliar Ingredients


Nearly every one of us can trace our roots back to one or more immigrants who arrived in this country seeking a better life, and immigrants continue to pour into the country today looking for the same thing.

Fortunately, there are sanctuary cities that “limit cooperation with the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration law.” These cities make life a little easier for immigrants by giving them peace of mind and certain protections, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other things to learn and get used to.

One of the biggest changes that is often overlooked is the ingredients that are used in recipes. Chances are, you won’t be able to find the same ingredients in your new neighborhood that you were used to back home!

Here are five tips that will help you get used to cooking with new ingredients, so your family can still enjoy your home-cooked meals.

Focus on One Ingredient at a Time

Ingredients can vary greatly from culture to culture, and getting used to all those ingredients at the same time can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s a good idea to focus on getting used to one ingredient at a time.

Search for recipes that include the one ingredient you’re currently trying to get familiar with. It will allow you to see how the ingredient is used in different dishes, and it will ensure you don’t end up throwing any of it out!

Add Familiar Ingredients to New Dishes

If you have picky eaters at home, it’s a good idea to try and make your food resemble the food they remember from back home. That means combining familiar ingredients with new dishes.

This style of cooking is often referred to as “fusion cuisine.” Tex-Mex is a good example of this style of cooking. It combines traditional American ingredients with ingredients from Mexico to create one-of-a-kind dishes.

Look for ways to incorporate some of your favorite flavors from home with new flavors in the US. You may even be able to find some fusion recipes online that do just that!

Take Time at the Grocery Store

Most people are looking for ways to reduce the time they spend at the grocery store. Although that can be a goal you set in the future, if you’re just getting used to using new ingredients, it’s much better to take your time at the grocery store.

By spending more time at the grocery store, not only can you discover all the ingredients it has to offer, you can learn about other services they offer that include:

  • Special orders
  • Cooking classes
  • Trimming cuts of meat
  • Chilling wine
  • Cleaning fish
  • And much more

Join a CSA

The best ingredients are local ingredients. If you’ve moved to the United States from another country, those local ingredients are going to look very different than what you’re used to. Learn more about what is grown locally, and add fresh flavor to your dishes by joining a local CSA.

Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) allows you to pay a weekly, monthly, or seasonal fee to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. They can tell you more about the kinds of food they grow, and they often provide their members with recipes, making it a great resource for those who are new to the area.

Follow the Recipe Carefully

If you’re getting used to new ingredients and cooking new dishes, it is important to look for recipes, and follow them carefully. In many cases, you’ll find that the way these new ingredients must be prepared is different from the ingredients you’re used to back home, and that can have a huge effect on the final dish.

However, after you have had a chance to cook a recipe once or twice, you can improvise. Try adding a little less of one ingredient that your family doesn’t care much for, and a little more of another ingredient you know they like. After you learn the recipe, you can even try swapping some ingredients, which allows you to work on your fusion technique!

If you’re responsible for feeding the family, learning how to cook with new ingredients can be stressful and time consuming. The key is to slow down and try and enjoy the process. With the tips on this list, you can become a master of the ingredients that are found where you live, all without compromising on that home-cooked taste your family has come to love.