Tea Is the Secret Ingredient That Makes Pretty Much Everything More Delicious

Cooking with tea is one of the best kept secrets.

What's better than a piping hot mug of tea? Tea is cozy, packed with flavor, and filled with health benefits, from oolong tea's antioxidant properties to chamomile's natural ability to induce calmness and yerba mate's anti-inflammatory perks.

And while we love sipping our tea, this ingredient is vastly under-recognized for its use in cooking. Tea—especially one as fragrant as Earl Grey or as complex as matcha—can elevate a dish more than you'd think. Its rich, herbal taste makes it the perfect "secret ingredient" in baked goods like cakes and cookies, marinades, glazes, and so much more. Try infusing tea with fresh herbs to yield a flavor-packed cooking liquid for fish, or adding chai to a hot toddy for a sweet-and-spicy aromatic cocktail. These seven recipes are all delicious ways to use up a tin of tea leaves (or better yet, an excuse to go buy one).

01 of 07

Matcha Layercake With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Matcha Layercake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Greg DuPree

This decadent dessert gets its gorgeous green hue from 2 1/2 tablespoons of matcha powder, a Japanese green tea made from drying and crushing young tea leaves to form a light green powder. It adds a deeply satisfying umami flavor and hint of creamy sweetness to the airy cake, which is a perfect match for the double layer of vanilla buttercream frosting.

02 of 07

Tea-Glazed Drumsticks

Tea Glazed Drumsticks grilled
Corey Olson

Keep napkins handy for these sticky chicken drumsticks. The glaze is a simple mixture of brewed tea, orange juice, and honey. Zesty, assertive, and sweet, this sauce will surely stay on rotation whether you're grilling, searing, or using the oven.

03 of 07

Chocolate Earl Grey Cake

Chocolate-Earl Grey Cake
Add a cup of Earl Grey tea into the batter to infuse the cake with bergamot flavor and fragrance. Get the recipe: Chocolate-Earl Grey Cake. Susie Cushner

Adding a cup of Earl Grey tea into the batter infuses this decadent chocolate cake with bergamot flavor and delicious herbal fragrance.

04 of 07

Chai Hot Toddy

Chai hot toddy served in tall glass and finished with frothed milk, cinnamon, and anise pods.
Getty Images

This homemade hot toddy recipe uses chai tea in a deliciously creative way: By infusing it into a heavily spiced rum cocktail. To take your warm tea cocktail to the next level, try frothing the milk before you stir it into the chai, then finish it off with a cinnamon stick garnish.

05 of 07

Wild Blueberry and Chai Bread

Wild Blueberry and Chai Bread cut into slices
Greg DuPree

In this recipe, chai tea bags are used to infuse the batter with sweet and spice notes while cinnamon, ginger, and allspice are added to round out the overall flavor profile.

06 of 07

Berry Matcha Smoothie

Anti-Inflammatory Berry Matcha Smoothie in a glass
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Short on time? This quick and easy smoothie is packed with antioxidant-rich berries and will keep you full until lunchtime. And, you can use fresh or frozen blueberries - whatever you have on hand will work.

07 of 07

Mini Chocolate Olive Oil Cakes

Mini Chocolate Olive Oil Cakes

Victor Protasio

These vegan mini cakes are made with two special ingredients - earl gray tea and olive oil. The brewed earl gray tea brings a citrusy, floral note to the cakes and the olive oil makes offers richness to keep them moist.

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