Being an aspiring chef in college can be a little challenging, especially when you’re on a budget and trying to cook like Gwyneth Paltrow, who pays $100 for a smoothie. I often find myself at the grocery store with a list of ingredients wondering “What the heck is clarified butter?”, “Why is this so expensive?” or “Can I reuse this, or will it just sit in my pantry until I realize it’s two months into its expiration date?”

Fear not, there are other everyday meals you can make with these random ingredients you may only find at specialty grocery stores or the ethnic food aisle. 

1. Clarified Butter (Ghee) 

broccoli, vegetable, pasta, sauce, sprouts
Carolina Lafuente

First used for: White Bean Puree with Turnip and Roasted Garlic recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s “It’s All Good” cookbook.

This stuff is actually pretty pricey and not as easy to find as you’d think — thank god for Trader Joe’s. I felt pretty bad buying this little bottle of ghee at the price of about $10 for 8oz. to use in just one recipe. But as it turns out, I can actually reuse this for almost anything that requires butter. My favorite thing to do is to mix it in some pasta for classic buttered noodles and parmesan.

P.S. Ghee can actually be healthier than normal butter.

2. Chipotle in Adobo

Carolina Lafuente

First used for: Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle + Coriander recipe from “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow.

These chipotles are usually found in the ethnic food aisle and come in a can with more than just one. Now, this stuff is pretty spicy so most recipes just call for one pepper at most (unless you’re a badass). Luckily for you, chili season is here and throwing in one of these peppers makes for a great spicy chili.

Or if you live in Florida and it’s still too hot for chili, you can always make a classic chipotle mayo for your Taco Tuesdays.

3. Mirin

Carolina Lafuente

First used for: detox teriyaki sauce for Teriyaki Chicken recipe from “it’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow.

So I actually had no idea what mirin was or where this would even be located when I walked into the grocery store. After some research, I found out that it’s a pretty popular ingredient in Japanese cooking. Mirin is a type of rice wine, much like sake but with a lower alcohol content.

Turns out that this cooking wine is actually really good for sauces and glazes. Thanks to The Food Network, I found a ton of super easy ways to reuse it. For example, by mixing mirin with 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, it makes a delish glaze for meatballs. C’mon, meatballs and peanut butter? It’s a childhood dream come true!

Cooking with ingredients you’ve never heard of can be pretty intimidating, especially when you have no idea what it even tastes like. However, this leap of faith can lead you to learn about a whole new type of cuisine and teach you to develop your palate enough to not even have the need for a cookbook someday. It’s college — take a chance and explore new things.