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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, where the ingredient is a secret from the chef, not a secret of the chef's.
- Same situation on Chopped.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Doublemeat Palace" there's much talk of the secret ingredient in the Doublemeat Burgers. Buffy starts to suspect that it's the fast food workers themselves. Subverted when it turns out the company is using soy product and the secret ingredient is only beef flavouring.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 pork chops is salt.
- The secret ingredient for making a Flaming Homer cocktail is "Krusty Brand Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup".
- Plankton's schemes in SpongeBob SquarePants 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!"
- 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 ground oregano, chili powder, ground sage, basil, marjoram, pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and monosodium glutamate).
- The "secret formula" for Coke.
- 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.