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Secret Ingredient
Have you ever noticed how Auntie Alice's food always tastes so much better than anyone else's? It might be simply because Alice is a better cook, but it might be because of a Secret Ingredient she uses.

Truth in Television, as many chefs will keep part of their recipes secret.

If the secret ingredient is humans, see The Secret of Long Pork Pies, or I Ate What? if the ingredient is not intended to be food. For intangible ingredients (often "love"), see Insubstantial Ingredients. If the ingredient is kept secret to prevent viewers from recreating dangerous items themselves, it's And Some Other Stuff.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In a Donald Duck comic book story, he insisted on putting ketchup on all of Daisy's cooking, much to her annoyance, because it just didn't taste as good as Grandma Duck's food. When Daisy checks with Grandma, it turns out the old lady's secret ingredient is...ketchup, which she puts in everything.
  • Astérix: The magic potion of the Gauls that gives them invincable powers also contains a secret ingredient. Over the years the reader has learned some of the ingredients, but not all of them and it seems to be that new stuff is just added in there at random: oil, for instance (Asterix and the Black Gold).
  • Nero: In De Man Zonder Gezicht professor Adhemar gives a man without a face a face. He needs the others to bring him the following ingredients for his potion: 1) Some tears of a Mexican virgin 2) A sneezing fit from a sjabrak tapir and 3) an autograph from Mao Zedong.

Film
  • Invoked but ultimately averted with the "Secret Ingredient Soup" in Kung Fu Panda: Po's (adoptive) father eventually reveals that there is no "secret ingredient" apart from its maker's skill.
  • Ed's secret sauce from Good Burger.
  • In Demolition Man John Spartan eats a burger made in the underground sewers by the people that live there. He keeps saying how great it is and then is told they are rat burgers. Most people would be disgusted, but he just keeps on eating it. Likely case of beggars cant be choosers since he literally couldn't find a better burger in a vegetarian only society.
  • In Planet Terror, a subplot deals with JT trying to find the perfect BBQ sauce recipe. Before he tastes a sample, it gets mixed with some of his blood, leading him to correctly deduce from it that all that was missing was a little bit of salt (since human blood tastes salty).

Literature
  • Superman - Last Son of Krypton. Clark Kent makes a bet with his rival Steve Lombard that his mother's (Mrs. Kent's) soft drink was the best drink ever. While on the planet Oric, he obtains a spice so powerful that a drop of it added to his mother's drink would make it irresistible to the human palate.
  • George's Marvelous Medicine: George accidentally makes a medicine that makes everybody grow to enormous proportions. He uses all medicines he can find on his parents' farm and in their kitchen, except from the medicine cupboard, because his parents had forbode him to open it, because it contained stuff that could kill you and he had promised them that he would never do it. Later when he tries to recreate the stuff the new medicines don't have the desired effect, because there's always some ingredients missing, and as his mother puts it: you also need to put the exact same amount of everything in there.

Live-Action Television
  • Cake Boss: Buddy has ordered the cameraman to stop filming a couple times, so Buddy can add a secret ingredient without the show's viewers learning what it is.
  • On Angel, Angel once drinks a cup of blood with an unusual taste. He's told "the secret ingredient is otter."
  • Reversed on Iron Chef and Chopped, where the ingredient is a secret from the chef, not a secret of the chef's.
  • When Jesse and Walter are held captive by Tuco in Breaking Bad, Tuco notices them carrying a small bag of meth that smells differently then what they gave him before. Jesse tells him that it's a new mixture they're working on, and the secret ingredient is chili powder. It's ricin. Unfortunately, Tuco doesn't like chili powder, so he sets it aside.
  • Man v. Food does this a lot: everywhere Adam Richman goes to pork out (or indeed to make mere porking out look like anorexia by comparison), the eaterie inevitably has a "secret spice" or a "secret ingredient".

Tabletop Games
  • Played with in one of the "Grimtooth's Traps" books. A butcher shop's offerings have a "mysterious and forbidden flavor". If the adventuring party takes the wrong exit after lunch, they end up on the menu — the unlabeled "meat" is from other dungeon delvers who walked into the processing department.

Video Games
  • Played with in Tales of Vesperia during the following skit where Yuri talks about his "secret ingredient". But gets averted by Rita's skit, when she threatens to use her own secret ingredient!
  • Used in Skyrim during the Dark Brotherhood penultimate quest. You imitate a world-known chef and have to cook a meal; at the end of the cooking, you can tell the cook helping you to close her eyes as you add "secret herbs" to the recipe. It's actually poison since your target is the guy who will eat the meal.

Western Animation
  • In Phineas and Ferb ("Meatloaf Surprise"), the secret ingredient in the Doofenshmirtz family meatloaf recipe is hate. "Usually it's love, but Great-Grandma Gretel had some issues."
  • In Courage the Cowardly Dog, the secret ingredient in all of Muriel's cooking is vinegar. Even in candy.
  • In an episode of The Proud Family Suga Mama's cooking is so delicious because she put her foot in it. Normally this is just a turn of phrase, but she meant it literally, and revealed it on a national TV show which caused everyone to get sick.
  • Arthur: Arthur & Buster enter a cooking competition and bake a cake; their secret ingredient is double the amount of chocolate the recipe calls for. Then DW accidentally uses up all the baking powder.
  • Futurama, "The 30% Iron Chef": After Bender wins a cooking competition using drops from a crystal flask filled with "the essence of pure flavor", Professor Farnsworth runs a chemical analysis and announces the mystery liquid is "Water! Ordinary water!" Immediately after Fry concludes that all Bender needed to cook well was confidence, the professor adds, "Yes, ordinary water, laced with nothing more than a few spoonfuls of LSD."
    • Also the secret ingredient of Slurm is slime from the slug queen. In fact, it's the only ingredient.
    Grunka-Lunkas: Grunka lunka dunkity dasis,
    The secret of Slurm's on a need-to-know basis.
  • At the end of the Back at the Barnyard episode, "Chez Pig", all of the barnyard animals ask Pig for the secret ingredient of his grandma's Truffle Pies, Pig finally gives in but when he reveals the secret ingredient, a duck shows up and quacks, completely drowning out what Pig said. However, the other animals are heard exclaiming in disgust, implying that the secret ingredient was actually disgusting.
  • The opening narration of The Powerpuff Girls:
    "Sugar! Spice! And everything Nice! These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction... Chemical X. Thus, the Powerpuff Girls were born!"
  • In The Simpsons:
    • Marge's secret ingredient for lamb chops is salt.
    • The secret ingredient for making a Flaming Homer (Or Flaming Moe's) cocktail is "Krusty Brand Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup". A drink company's analysis of the cocktail reveals the secret ingredient is love.
    Frink: According to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is... love?! Who's been screwing with this thing?
  • Plankton's schemes in Sponge Bob Square Pants revolve entirely around discovering the secret ingredient of the Krabby Patty at business rival Mr. Krabs' The Krusty Krab. At one point (after overtaking the restaurant with the help of his millions of hillbilly brethren), Plankton finds out that the secret ingredient is actual plankton (Plankton and his family do not take the news well), but Mr. Krabs reveals that it wasn't the real secret ingredient, just a fake one used to dupe Plankton. Another episode involves the entire restaurant going into lockdown as the secret ingredient is air-lifted in.
  • When Johnny Bravo wins a trip to the factory where they make Jake's Jerky, he sees his friend disappear into the vat labeled "Secret Ingredient," not realizing that his friend was only investigating it for himself. He then bursts into a press conference shouting, "Jake's Jerky is people!"
  • While she hasn't appeared in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Coconut Cream from the Generation Four My Little Pony toy line has a description reading "Coconut Cream makes delicious pies to share at parties and picnics. The only thing she won't share is the secret ingredient!"
  • On Family Guy the gang start a lemonade stand to help Joe raise money. Joe comments on how well the stand is doing, and Peter says that it's because of his secret ingredient: vodka.

Fan Fiction
  • In Nightmare Night and Nyx, a fanfic of Past Sins, which is itself a fanfic of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Flitternote  really likes Twist's candy canes. It turns out they have love as a secret ingredient. Literally. Flitter turns out to be a changeling, a race of shapeshifters who eat love.

Real Life
  • Truth in Television. Just a pinch of the right herb or spice can work wonders on a meal, it's no surprise some may want to monopolize on it. However, usually the secret ingredient will be something simple, like a dash of herbs de provence, or a bit of lavender, rather than something exotic. Since the average consumer has an exaggerated impression of the secrecy, however, a company can deny revelations by spiteful former insiders or an attention seeker who just happens to get it right.
  • KFC's "eleven herbs and spices" (which, for the record, are probably something like ground oregano, chili powder, ground sage, basil, marjoram, pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and monosodium glutamate). The actual "secret" to the flavor, however, is more about KFC's particular technique for pressure-frying the chicken.
  • The "secret formula" for Coca-Cola.
    • However, a 2011 episode of This American Life seems to have cracked the secret.
    • Coca-Cola has one more advantage than its secret recipe, however. They're the only company legally able to import great numbers of de-pharmaceuticalized coca leaves, which are still used as flavoring a century after cocaine was removed from the recipe.
  • Cooking show chef Emeril always adds a dash of "essence". Bam! However, given how Emeril Lagasse has made the recipe for "essence" publicly available, this is less a Secret Ingredient and more a Trademark Ingredient.
  • The "history of the company" plaques in Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers restaurants are titled "Everything But What's in the Sauce."
  • The secret sauce on a McDonald's Big Mac. Lots of restaurant spices in general, actually.

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