You know when you taste something spectacular, and you can’t figure out why it’s so damn good? We’re going to let you in on the secret—the secret ingredient! Seven food pros fess up about what they’ve used to totally transform an otherwise basic dish. Go ahead—steal their secrets!

Star Anise Burgers

star anise burgers with spice inset
Credit: Photography by Tara Donne

"Thirty years ago, I ate an amazing beef dish that had some flavor I couldn't quite place. It was elusive and licoricey, and it made the food taste extraordinary. I asked the chef, and he told me it was star anise. I've since added it to all kinds of beef dishes, and it always gets oohs and aahs." –Dorie Greenspan, food writer and author of Dorie's Cookies

Try Dorie Greenspan's Star Anise Burgers

Pineapple & Turmeric Margarita

pineapple and turmeric margarita with spice inset
Credit: Photography by Tara Donne

"I was actually doing a juice cleanse when I came up with this. Every morning started with a shot of pineapple-turmeric juice, and I wondered how the turmeric would work in a margarita. So once the cleanse was over, I gave it a try—for work, of course!—and I fell in love with the subtle, earthy flavor." –Marcela Valladolid, cohost of The Kitchen and author of Casa Marcela

Try Marcela Valladolid's Pineapple & Turmeric Margarita

Shrimp Stew with Allspice

shrimp stew with allspice inset
Credit: Photography by: Tara Donne (stew); Peter Ardito (allspice inset)

"Most people don't think of allspice for savory foods, but in New Orleans, many classic dishes call for a dash or two. It adds a subtle smokiness that pairs perfectly with this briny shrimp stew." –John Besh, chef and co-owner of Restaurant August in New Orleans and author of Besh Big Easy

Try John Besh's Shrimp Stew with Allspice

Curry & Cardamom Fried Chicken

curry and cardamom fried chicken with spices inset
Credit: Photography by: Tara Donne (chicken); Peter Ardito (spices inset)

"This all started from social media jealousy. A friend posted fried chicken on Instagram, which made me crave it. To make it my own, I used curry powder—since it's a blend of spices, it's a crazy flavor booster—and cardamom, because I add that to basically everything." –Samin Nosrat, chef and author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Try Samin Nosrat's Curry & Cardamom Fried Chicken

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Herbes de Provence

creamy broccoli soup with herbes de provence with spices inset
Credit: Photography by Tara Donne

"My mom is a nurse, and our diet was very vegetable-heavy when I was growing up. She always bought too much broccoli, and a great way to use it up was to throw it into the blender and make soup. I do the same for my daughter, but to modernize it and give it a little herbaceousness, I add herbes de Provence." –Padma Lakshmi, host of Top Chef and coauthor of The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Warm Cinnamon Dressing

shaved brussels sprouts with warm cinnamon dressing with spice inset
Credit: Photography by Tara Donne

"I grew up in the Middle East, where cinnamon is used in both sweet and savory dishes, so it surprises me when people think of it only for dessert. Vietnamese cinnamon is floral, sweet and acidic and lends itself well to vegetable dishes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. It mellows the cabbagey scent of Brussels sprouts—great for people who think they don't like them." –Lior Lev Sercarz, chef and owner of La Boîte in New York and author of The Spice Companion

Vegan Chocolate Chip & Ancho Chile Cookies

vegan chocolate chip ancho chile cookies with spice inset
Credit: Photography by Tara Donne

"There are so many chocolate chip cookie recipes out there—I wanted one that was a little more sophisticated. Dark chocolate and ancho chile go together like peanut butter and jelly!" –Sam Talbot, chef-owner of Pretty Southern in Brooklyn and author of 100% Real