Cooking with the Five Tastes, Chopped Mystery Basket Style

Learn how to mix and match flavors to create dishes that excite all five (maybe even six) parts of your palate.

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Taste: Savory

This taste is probably the most predominant, though often overlooked. When you think "savory," broth or stock often comes to mind for its soothing properties. Fragrant and succulent, the following basket ingredients are sure to get your mouth watering.

Basket Ingredient: Bacon

You may have heard that everything is better with bacon, and the Chopped chefs prove its versatility: They’ve put it in everything from bread pudding to wild-boar meatballs.

Meatball Madness

Basket Ingredient: Barbecue Sauce

Smoky and tangy, this savory sauce is best known as something you slather on wings or use to glaze meat before grilling. The Chopped chefs take this ingredient to the next level by using it to flavor meatballs, dumplings or ragout.

Hero Chefs

Basket Ingredient: Duck Confit

This French dish is prepared by cooking duck in its own fat, making it moist, rich and extremely tender. Duck confit is often enjoyed on its own as an entree, but the Chopped chefs turn it into an appetizer by adding it to a salad or frying it in wonton wrappers.

Oui, Oui, Confit

Basket Ingredient: Cocktail Sauce

It's not just for seafood anymore, and the chefs of Food Network Kitchen prove that this ingredient is more of an all-purpose item than you would ever have thought.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Chicken Legs with Cocktail Barbeque Sauce

Basket Ingredient: Smoked Pork Chops

This ingredient may seem like a meal by itself, but Chopped is always trying to expand food horizons to take things to the next level. In this recipe the smoked pork chops lend smoky flavor to a rice bowl.

Get the Recipe: Nuoc Cham–Marinated Smoked Pork Chops with Carrot Salad and Rice

Basket Ingredient: Sopressata

On first glance most cooks would look at this Italian salami and think it had no possibilities, but that's not the case when it comes to Chopped chefs. In this recipe it's used to flavor broth served beneath fish.

Get the Recipe: Pan-Seared Halibut with Soppressata and Fennel

Taste: Salty

While it seems as if there's nothing we don't know about this taste, Chopped succeeds in showing us all that we had been missing. Saltiness no longer seems so commonplace after all.

Basket Ingredient: Oyster Sauce

Most chefs would put this salty condiment in a noodle dish or stir-fry, but when asked to use it in a dessert, one inventive Chopped chef turned it into a rich caramel sauce. 

Dr. Deckle & Mr. Fried

Basket Ingredient: Salt-and-Vinegar Chips

Salt-and-vinegar chips may seem like a difficult ingredient to use in a dish, due to their distinctive flavor, but the Chopped chefs showed that when crushed into a powder, this salty-sour snack makes a perfect crust for fried fish.

Four Fathers

Basket Ingredient: Pecorino

This sharp Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk is usually grated over pasta. Though its use is sometimes limited by its saltiness, one amateur chef used this flavor to great advantage as seasoning in a salad. 

Amateurs' Brawl

Basket Ingredient: Smoked Salmon

Using a staple in both sushi and bagel dishes, this recipe mixes those two worlds expertly and deliciously into a fun appetizer or lunchtime dish.

Get the Recipe: Everything Bagel Sushi Rolls

Basket Ingredient: French Fries

Though it's arguably one of the more popular foods on this list, you can still use this well-known ingredient in an inventive way. Try out this deliciously unexpected recipe, which uses fries for a meal shortcut.

Get the Recipe: Creamy French Fry and Scallion Soup

Basket Ingredient: Movie-Theater Popcorn

Just because popcorn is salty doesn't mean it can't be incorporated into a dessert. And the Chopped judges show just how delicious it can be when added to a dessert in a special After Hours episode. 

Watch the Video: After Hours: Circus

Taste: Sweet

You may think you're well versed in this saccharine taste, but the following Chopped ingredients might just throw your sweet tooth for a loop, especially when you see all of the unexpected outcomes, which aren't necessarily desserts.

Basket Ingredient: Condensed Milk

This thick, syrupy milk product lends itself to desserts, but its super-sweet flavor can be overpowering. Luckily, the Chopped chefs know how to balance it out by combining with fresh fruit to make ice cream, putting it in baked goods like bread pudding, or even cutting the sweetness with alcohol.

$50,000 Tournament: Part 1

Basket Ingredient: Maple Syrup

Everyone loves maple syrup drizzled on warm pancakes or waffles, but the Chopped chefs prove that it also makes a great glaze for meat and seafood.

Give It Your All

Basket Ingredient: Duck Sauce

Transform this sweet-and-sour condiment into a dessert, as the Chopped chefs do, by adding it to pralines or mixing it with another basket ingredient, sangria, to make a sugary sauce.

We Love Leftovers!

Basket Ingredient: White Chocolate

This chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar, giving it a sweet flavor that makes it perfect for baking. But what happens when the Chopped chefs are asked to use it in a savory appetizer? One chef melts it down into a creamy sauce with cheese and red wine.

Chocolate Rush!

Basket Ingredient: Coconut Butter

Smooth, sweet and easy to melt, this ingredient is healthy and packed with coconut flavor, making it perfect for meals like this recipe, in which it functions as both a cooking oil and a flavoring agent.

Get the Recipe: Curried Pot Pies

Basket Ingredient: Acai Juice

Fruity, chocolatey and super sweet, this ingredient isn't one you would peg for an entree, but Chopped puts it to great use as a braising liquid in this recipe to lend its color and flavor to cabbage and sausages.

Get the Recipe: Bratwurst with Sweet and Sour Cabbage

Taste: Bitter

Being bitter isn't always a bad thing, although for many bitter is an acquired taste, as is the case when it comes to something like beer. But in fact, the following Chopped ingredients prove that some of our more common (and favorite) foods have this quality.

Basket Ingredient: Coffee Beans

Coffee is for more than just drinking, and can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. The Chopped chefs reveal this ingredient’s versatility by grinding it and using it as a meat rub or adding it to a caramel sauce for dessert.

Bird in the Pan

Basket Ingredient: Bitter Melon

The chefs on Chopped know how to offset this fruit’s bitter flavor by adding sugar, pickling it or mixing the diced melon into cream cheese to create a cooling relish.

Turbot Powered

Basket Ingredient: Beer

Beer can range in taste from fruity to floral, but these undertones can often be hard to pick out because of its immediate bitterness. On Chopped, the chefs bring out beer’s other flavors by cooking it down into a sauce or using it as a glaze for meat.

Tailgate Party

Basket Ingredient: Broccoli Rabe

Transform this flavor-packed bitter green vegetable into a hearty autumnal soup, which also includes another bitter ingredient — beer — and cheddar cheese for a dose of comfort.

Get the Recipe: Broccoli Rabe and Cheddar-Beer Soup

Basket Ingredient: Dark Chocolate

Don't be mistaken: This ingredient isn't just for dessert, as the Chopped judges prove in another episode of After Hours. Aarón Sánchez makes good use of it for chocolate cake pops in his mole sauce.

Watch the Video: After Hours: Chocolate Competition

Basket Ingredient: Radicchio

This lettuce's nature makes it great for a variety of dishes, adding peppery notes in every bite, but it also complements another Chopped basket ingredient, yellow miso paste, in this recipe.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Caesar Salad with Yellow Miso

Taste: Sour

The word itself triggers an almost immediate reaction. Although your face might pucker at the sight or thought of certain sour ingredients, like lemons, the following basket items seek to expand your preconceived notions of the taste.

Basket Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar

The tartness of balsamic vinegar makes it a great dressing for salad, but as the Chopped chefs demonstrate, it can also be reduced into a sweet syrup to drizzle on top of desserts or fresh fruit.

Unsung Heroes

Basket Ingredient: Sauerkraut

Try using the acidity of sauerkraut to cut through the heaviness of richer ingredients like cheese and meat by incorporating it into a vinaigrette or ragout, as the Chopped chefs do.


Basket Ingredient: Buttermilk

Buttermilk has a distinctly tangy flavor. Take a page out of the Chopped book and balance out the sourness by adding sugar and turning it into a custard or mousse.

Green Apps and Lamb

Basket Ingredient: Sour Cherries

These tart cherries are used frequently in cakes, pies and compotes. They aren’t common in savory dishes, but that’s not going to stop the chefs on Chopped, who make this ingredient more versatile by cooking it into a sauce or glaze. 

Drawing a Flank

Basket Ingredient: Pickle Juice

Before you pour this zesty, vinegary liquid down the drain, get an idea of what the Food Network Kitchen chefs did with it first. Then you can use it for many recipe possibilities.

Get the Recipe: Pickled Shrimp and Fried Tomatoes

Basket Ingredient: Grapefruit

It has a distinctly biting taste, but when paired with something sweet — like honey in this salmon recipe — its sourish and bittersweet flavor gets muted, making for a pungently delicious meal.

Get the Recipe: Grapefruit and Honey Salmon

Bonus Taste: Umami

The surprise sixth taste! Maybe the term is new to you (it's a Japanese word), but you probably have experienced it before in things like soy sauce, miso soup, cheese, sauerkraut or instant ramen. The following basket ingredients emulate that glutamate/fermented taste but in a unique and inoffensive way.

Basket Ingredient: Clams

Clams and BBQ might not immediately be associated, but one Chopped chef coats clams in chipotle sauce to create a spicy appetizer.

Big Barbecue Bout

Basket Ingredient: Truffle

This high-priced mushroom is desirable for its strong, earthy aroma, but can be overpowering if used in excess. The Chopped chefs use just the right amount to infuse their dish with umami flavor by finely grating truffle over a salad or simmering it in red wine to make a sauce.

Let's Do Lunch

Basket Ingredient: Fish Sauce

This seafood-based condiment often used in Asian cuisine has a powerful fish flavor, but it can be used in plenty of ways. One Chopped chef incorporates fish sauce into a Korean barbecue sauce, while another mixes it into a vinaigrette. 

Floundering Around

Basket Ingredient: Camembert Cheese

Creamy and, yes, stinky, this famous cheese is perfect on its own and quite familiar on a cheese board, but this recipe highlights the umami, especially when it combines with ham for a comforting casserole.

Get the Recipe: Camembert and Ham Bread Pudding

Basket Ingredient: Yellow Miso Paste

Don't be too intimidated to introduce your palate to this particular ingredient from the Japanese kitchen. This recipe thinks outside of the box, using it to flavor grilled chicken in a unique take on a popular salad.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Caesar Salad with Yellow Miso

Basket Ingredient: Kimchi

When you think kimchi, you probably don't immediately associate it with Italian food, but this is Chopped, after all. The tangy Korean condiment adds layers of flavor, along with bacon, to this homemade pizza.

Get the Recipe: Kimchi Pizza with Bacon

Become a Chopped Insider

Visit Chopped headquarters to go behind the scenes of the competition, meet the judges and challenge yourself to cook like a champion using recipes inspired by basket ingredients.


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