Melissa d'Arabian's Ultimate Secret Ingredient

Melissa d'Arabian, the Season 5 winner of the hit reality competition show "Food Network Star," knows a lot about cooking on a budget. Per her website, d'Arabian specializes in "affordability" when it comes to food and cooking. After winning over the judges, d'Arabian was given her own show, "Ten Dollar Dinners," which came with a "$10 promise — four people, ten bucks, infinite possibilities." That concept is definitely easy on the pocketbook!

But what makes her unique is that d'Arabian truly understands what it's like to be on a tight budget. According to HuffPost, the celebrity cook's mom could not afford to send her daughter to school with lunch or money to buy what the school offered. A school receptionist became aware of the family's financial challenges and introduced d'Arabian to a program that earned her a "free lunch." d'Aradian said, "I would serve lunch to the other kids during the lunch recess. Then when they went out to play I could sit down and eat for free. That small action on the part of the receptionist had a huge impact on the trajectory of my life."

While her show was on the air, d'Arabian shared some tasty and economical recipes using ingredients that wouldn't break the bank. Some of our favorites include her Petite Nutella Pochettes and her Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs. But have you ever wondered what this budget-thoughtful guru's secret is to keeping her recipes flavorful? Melissa d'Arabian's ultimate secret ingredient may surprise you.

Melissa d'Arabian uses this in vinaigrettes

Melissa d'Arabian revealed to Food Network that her ultimate secret ingredient is soy sauce. The cookbook author said, "This is my secret weapon in vinaigrettes. Whisk together 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and add a splash of soy sauce." Soy sauce is definitely a salty flavor enhancer, and if you are looking to save a few cents, soy sauce can definitely be a budget-saver. Per Foodiosity, soy sauces run the gamut when it comes to price, but they warn that the cheaper versions are often times not equivalent to "authentic versions" of this staple.

d'arabian definitely uses this ingredient in many of her recipes. From her soy-marinated salmon, to the drizzling sauce she makes to accompany her turkey lettuce wraps, soy sauce is a key ingredient. Kikkoman, a purveyor of this brown liquid, shares that soy sauce is the perfect substitute for table salt and adds an "umami" of flavor to whatever you are making. Not to mention, per Health, soy sauce is low in calories, making it a great addition to your favorite vinaigrette recipe. Epicurious points out that there are a lot of soy sauce brands on the market, so sample away until you find the one that makes your taste buds sing!