We all have those mysterious ingredients that appear in our pantry after group dinners and then collect dust for the rest of the year. We use one, maybe two teaspoons of them, if we're lucky and then they're banished behind the non-perishables. For me, this ingredient is balsamic vinegar. 

Until recently, the only balsamic vinegar recipe in my repertoire was the classic caprese salad. It had never occurred to me that balsamic vinegar could be used for other things than salad dressing. However, after spending three weeks in Italy, I discovered there's a whole world of balsamic vinegar recipes out there just begging to rescue your poor bottle of balsamic from the back of the pantry.

1. Caprese Wrap

vegetable, cheese, salad, lettuce
Anastasia Dukakis

Caprese salads are one of the greatest (and simplest foods) you can throw together in a pinch that look hella classy. Their only fault? They're not ideal if you're looking for something you can wrap up and take to the beach for your lunch. But what if they could be portable? Ladies and gents, I present the updated caprese wrap. It's all the same delicious flavors you know and love, plus you can enjoy it on the go. This updated version of everyone's favorite salad also features more greens (three cheers for being healthy!), chorizo, onions, and cucumbers.

2. Traditional Bruschetta 

vegetable, tomato, meat, bruschetta
Hailey Maher

When it comes to fancy finger foods that look deceptively tricky to make, bruschetta holds the throne. Bruschetta is easier to throw together than making a sandwich, but looks like a dish you'd find at any five-star Italian restaurant. Always a crowd pleaser, a platter of bruschetta is a fantastic way to make a dent in your bottle of balsamic vinegar. 

3. Apricot, Goat Cheese, & Almond Bites

Goat cheese is one of those foods that simply screams 'high-class.' Pairing this tangy cheese with sweet apricots and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar is nothing short of bougie. These apricot bites are the holy trinity of appetizers: they're easy, they're healthy, and they're bound to impress all of your friends.  

4. Strawberry Caprese Salad

vegetable, salad, pepper, tomato, strawberry
Sofia Gonzalez

A massive fruit fan, I can never leave a grocery store without picking up another carton of fresh, juicy strawberries. If you didn't think caprese salads could get any better, think again because this next recipe includes strawberries for that sweet, summery taste that's perfect for your next picnic.

5. Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Crostini 

cheese, cream
Carlile Willett

Crostini is another one of my favorite Italian discoveries. Toast with yummy toppings, what could be better? Versatile beyond belief, crostini is an appetizer that everyone should have in their recipe repertoire, because you can put almost anything on it and it will taste good and look good too. By opting for pre-toasted bread, you can throw this crostini together in no time at all, making it a perfect dish for a last minute potluck.   

6. Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

This next recipe is beyond simple and can transition from a  perfect summer dessert into a healthy picnic snack just by substituting Greek yogurt for vanilla ice cream. Using four ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, it might just be the easiest of the balsamic vinegar recipes. It's time to retire your classic strawberry shortcake in favor of this sweet n' tangy dish. Take my word for it, you'll never want to eat strawberries any other way again. 

7. Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes 

These beautiful balsamic roasted tomatoes are the epitome of summer snacking. And the best part? You only need four ingredients: tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan, and chopped basil to taste. In one dish, you've got all the delicious flavors of bagel bites and they're healthy. Ready to eat in 15 minutes, they're the ideal finger food for your next backyard barbecue. 

#SpoonTip: Lightly salt your tomatoes to bring out more of their flavor.

8. Mediterranean Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Pizza with Feta and Balsamic Glaze

Friday night pizza is a sacred tradition in my house. While you can never go wrong with the classic cheese and pepperoni pie, I'm always looking for new recipes to experiment with. This Mediterranean balsamic glazed pizza is one of my favorite finds for when I want a pizza that's a bit on the lighter side but still packed with flavor. You might as well delete your Domino's app now, because grilled chicken, balsamic vinegar, feta, and peppers are a combo that will make you say, "marinara sauce, who?"

9. Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze

This is one of the balsamic vinegar recipes I was most nervous about trying. Bacon and fruit is a flavor pairing that I never thought would be good until I tried it and was proved way, way wrong. Married by the ever-so-versatile balsamic vinegar glaze and that hit of smoke from the grill, this unexpected couple can hold its own at any cookout. 

10. Balsamic Chicken and Feta-Stuffed Peppers

Don't get me wrong, I'd never turn down a cone of homemade coffee Oreo ice cream from my favorite shop, Sundae School, but sometimes my body needs a break from the constant sugar and grease that comes with my favorite summer foods. Whenever I'm in the mood for something healthy, I return to my much-loved bell peppers. Stuffed with balsamic chicken, pearl barley (or rice), and feta cheese, this recipe is a perfect way to shake up your summer meals.

#SpoonTip: If you want a sweeter dish, go for red, orange or yellow peppers. If you want a more savory dish, choose green.

11. Strawberry Cheese Balsamic Bites

They say that good things come in threes, and evidently this is true when it comes to balsamic strawberry recipes. This third (and final) balsamic strawberry recipe takes little to no effort to make, but will instantly class up any buffet table. It's got cheese, it's got fruit, it's got crackers—what more can you even ask for from a summer snack?

11. Rosemary Balsamic Chicken

rosemary, balsamic
Mackenzie Barth

Over the course of my 20 years of life, I've tried nearly every variation of chicken under the sun. At the top of my list is this rosemary balsamic chicken. It's easy to make and so flavorful. One of the best things about this simple chicken breast is that it can be eaten by itself as an entree, or you can cut it up and use it to spice up your salad or favorite wrap. From prep to plate, this recipe only takes 30 minutes to cook, making it the perfect dish to make after a long day at the beach. 

12. Parmesan, Cranberry, & Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

cheese, balsamic
Lydia Eisenbeis

One year ago today if someone had told me that I would include a recipe for Brussels sprouts in a recipe round-up, I would've thought they were insane. However, these are no ordinary Brussels sprouts and they have beyond earned their spot on this list. The beauty of these Brussels sprouts is that they're so flavorful that they can be enjoyed by themselves, as well as with your favorite grilled steak. The balsamic vinegar, Parmesan, and cranberries transform every picky eater's least favorite vegetable into a dish you'll actually look forward to eating. 

13. Balsamic Eggplant Stir-Fry 

Shalayne Pulia

Stir-fry has always been a dining hall staple for me because it can be made so many ways. You can pretty much add any toppings or sauces you want to create a different dish every time. This colorful stir-fry is loaded with different veggies that your body will certainly thank you for. Topped off with balsamic vinegar, this creative take on stir-fry is an unexpected way to keep making dents in that bottle of balsamic. 

14. Vegetable Pesto Quinoa

couscous, quinoa, cherry
Jody Brimacombe

The vegetable pesto quinoa is another one of those dishes that has the potential to look so impressive for such little effort. It tastes just like a caprese panini and it's packed with protein and other goodies from the quinoa. Say goodbye to the world of bland quinoa bowls that you know you should eat because they're good for you, and enjoy this healthier take on your favorite Italian cuisine. 

15. Balsamic Glazed Salmon

I'm going to finish off with another of my top balsamic vinegar recipes: the balsamic glazed salmon. Like Brussels sprouts, eggplant, and many other objectively normal foods, salmon was a college discovery for me and now I eat it at least twice a week. As much as I love my blackened salmon, sometimes I need to switch it up with something else. Enter, Giada's balsamic glazed salmon. The sweetness of the glaze combined with the savory salmon is beyond perfection and makes me regret waiting 19 years to try it. 

Summer is the season of cookouts, picnics, and potlucks. The era of the potato salad has passed and it's time for your balsamic creations to take center stage. With all the classiness of a five-star restaurant's hors d'oeuvres and none of the toil, these simple balsamic vinegar recipes will fly off the buffet table.