Instant coffee can be a cook's secret ingredient, adding deep, rich flavor to all manner of dishes.

Instant coffee can be a cook's secret ingredient, adding deep, rich flavor to all manner of dishes.

You'll likely need to experiment to determine how much suits your tastes. Start small, tasting as you add it. Too much instant coffee produces bitter, off flavors.

The good news is that if you do add too much, a little sugar, honey or maple syrup usually mellows the bitterness.

Here are some winners worth buying a jar for:

Chocolate cake — Mix a teaspoon or two of instant coffee into the milk for the batter for an exceptionally rich chocolate cake. It also can be added to chocolate frosting. Pancakes — Mix a teaspoon of either instant coffee or espresso into pancake batter for a delicious accompaniment to morning coffee. Butter — Soften a stick of butter in the microwave, then place it in a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon instant coffee and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate. Use on toasted bread or muffins. Cream cheese — Use the same method as above, substituting cream cheese for the butter. To 8 ounces cream cheese, add about 1/2; teaspoon coffee, 3 to 4 tablespoons honey and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.Chili — Add a tablespoon or two during simmering. You won't taste coffee in the finished product, but it deepens the dish's savory flavors, adding a wonderful richness. Seafood or meat rub — In a blender or food processor, combine 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Process until well-combined, then use to dust or rub broiled or grilled meat or salmon.

— The Associated Press