Cooking with the Most-Impossible Mystery Basket Ingredients

Discover 15 of the most-impossible Chopped mystery basket ingredients, and learn tips for making them less impossible from the chefs of Food Network Kitchen. Competitors, take note!

The Most-Impossible Ingredient

Browse through the gallery to see which ingredients made the list.

Buddha's Hand

The flavor of this peculiar-looking fruit is similar to other citrus fruits and is great in vinaigrettes and marinades. You can also add some of the zest from a Buddha's hand to sugar for a flavored sugar you can dust on desserts.

Green Tea Leaves

Green tea leaves are an incredibly versatile ingredient — they have a bright perfumed flavor with some fruity undertones, so they're excellent in desserts (try them in shortbread cookies or smoothies). Or, for a more savory option, add them to chicken soup for a deep herbaceous flavor.


Like other mollusks, geoducks have a delicate, clean, slightly salty flavor (like the ocean). Try slicing the geoduck very thinly — since it can be chewy — and make a ceviche out of it, or add the meat to a creamy chowder.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Only available in the spring, these tightly coiled greens have become a favorite spring ingredient for their flavor and appearance. Fiddlehead ferns have a delicate vegetable flavor — somewhat like asparagus, spinach or artichoke. Try adding blanched fiddlehead ferns to other vegetables and greens for a seasonal spring salad.

Squid Ink

Squid ink — the dark, cloudy liquid cephalopods like squid release — has a salty, briny taste with very little fish flavor, so it's useful for seasoning fresh pasta or rice dishes. An added bonus: It makes dishes a visually stunning deep black.

Black Garlic

What happens when you take regular garlic and ferment it? You get black garlic. The once pungent, white cloves are now soft, caramelized and black in color, and the flavor is similar to balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, making it a great addition to vinaigrettes and marinades.

Cold-Smoked Kippers

Cold-smoked kippers are herring that have been split open, salted and smoked at a low temperature. The flavor is slightly fishy, but the predominant flavor is smoke. While they're fine to eat as is, cold-smoked kippers are essentially raw, so try pan-frying to heat the fish through and to add crispy texture. Or try grilling the kippers to deepen the smoke flavor and to add nice char.

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon kind of looks like a small, bumpy cucumber. It starts out pretty bitter and gets even more bitter as it ripens. When you cook with it, you might want to blanch it to tone down the bitterness. After that you can add it to a stir-fry with fresh vegetables and shrimp.

Vegetable Yeast Spread

This cult-favorite condiment enjoyed by Brits and Aussies is made primarily from leftover brewer's yeast extract. Think of it as a very salty, very pungent peanut butter. Try adding a small amount to a sauce to add thickness and depth of flavor, or mix it with mayo and spread on a sandwich.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky mountain oysters aren't actually oysters at all — they're bull, pig or sheep testicles. The flavor varies depending on the animal, but all have an intense, gamey flavor. Try marinating the rocky mountain oysters first, then bread and fry them, or grill them until they're nicely charred.

Stinging Nettles

Use gloves when handling stinging nettles — they really do sting! Blanching the leaves in simmering water removes the stinging chemicals from the plant, making it safe to eat and handle. Try pureeing stinging nettles in a pesto with other fresh herbs and nuts, as it has a similar flavor to spinach. It's also great paired with ricotta.


"Sticky fermented Japanese soybeans" is the best way to define natto, which is traditionally eaten on its own or with rice, but the strong fermented flavor and sticky texture might be more of an acquired taste. Try pureeing or blending natto to address the texture factor, then add the puree to a soup or stew for a bright, fermented flavor profile.

Lotus Root

Lotus root's flavor is very mild, making it easy to adapt and take on other flavors. Lotus root has a creamy, starchy texture, so it would be great thinly sliced and fried (like a potato chip), or blend it into a smooth puree (like mashed potatoes).

Reindeer Pâté

Reindeer pâté is texturally very similar to any other pâté, but it is more gamey in flavor. Serve it on buttery toasted bread, or blend it with butter for a rich, gamey steak sauce.

Pickled Pig Lips

Usually stored in brine, pickled pig lips have mainly a salty, vinegary flavor. The texture, however, is spongy and chewy, so it can be tricky to use. Try dicing the pickled pig lips and tossing them into a stir-fry for a strong punch of acid.

More from:

Unique Flavors