Exotic Flavors to Spice Up Your Pantry

March 27, 2020
| Created by Genevieve Daly, RDN, CD

Now that you have a well-stocked pantry, you may be wondering how to prepare some of these items to make them more flavorful. Sauces and pastes can transform an average food to a delicious dish in a matter of mere minutes. They can be added at any step during cooking, meaning you can cook a big pork shoulder with salt and pepper, then divide it into smaller portions to toss with a few sauces of choice. Cooking proteins and grains in large batches and flavoring towards the end saves you from doing extra work while still keeping your food interesting. Here’s a few exotic sauces and pastes to experiment with while you’re working through your pantry items:


What is it? A thick, spicy-sweet Korean style paste made from fermented soybeans, red chile pepper flakes, glutinous rice and salt. The fermented soybeans give it an umami (savory) flavor while the chile pepper flakes provide a layer of heat. The level of heat and sweetness will vary by brand, but you can always increase heat and sweetness by adding red pepper flakes and sweetener of choice.

Where to find it? In the international foods aisle near Sriracha.

How to use it:

  • Use it as a marinade or baste for proteins such as chicken, short ribs, pork, or tofu
  • Add it to mayo for a spicy sauce you can use for sandwiches and dips
  • Toss a spoonful of gochujang with canned tuna and serve over rice and steamed veggies for an easy bibimbap bowl
  • Cook gochujang with your canned black beans and lightly mash to make Korean style refried beans


What is it? A North African paste made from roasted red pepper, garlic, olive oil and a blend of spices. Like gochujang, heat levels will vary and can be adjusted by adding more chile powder to the paste.

Where to find it? In the international foods aisle near the curry pastes.

How to use it:

  • Blend it with canned chickpeas and olive oil for a delicious hummus recipe. Use as a dip for fresh veggies and pita or a spread on your favorite sandwiches and wraps.
  • Use with your eggs and canned tomatoes to make a flavorful shakshuka. Saute sliced onions and bell peppers, add canned tomatoes and a spoonful of harissa to a skillet and heat through. Crack eggs into small wells and cook until eggs are set.
  • Spice up your frozen vegetables by tossing them in harissa and roasting them in the oven until crispy. Some of my favorite veggies for this are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.


What is it? A Japanese paste made from mashed, fermented grains or legumes. Miso is known for its salty-sweet umami flavor and can be added to a variety of dishes, including vegetables, sauces, soups, and even desserts!

Where to find it? In the vegan section of our dairy.

How to use it:

  • Mix with rice vinegar and oil for a flavorful dressing you can use to dress vegetables or rice and noodle-based bowls.
  • Add a tablespoon of miso to a creamy pasta sauce, like carbonara or alfredo, for a richer finished dish.
  • Use 2-3 tablespoons of miso in a stir fry with frozen vegetables, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a dash of soy sauce. Pair with your protein of choice and a small side of grains for a delicious, filling meal.
  • Use as a glaze for seafood and poultry.
  • Add to baked goods like banana breads or oatmeal cookies.
  • Dilute miso with some water and add to grains like oatmeal, farro, or polenta.

Do you need help finding a recipe for any of your food pantry items? We’re here to help! Email our team of dietitians at Dietitian@HarmonsGrocery.com .