The Secret Ingredient That Will Change Your Pot Roast Forever

If you like pot roast, you're in luck. The internet houses a virtual trove of recipe variations that cater to the myriad tastes that make our palates unique. Many call for soup mix (such as this one from The Spruce Eats), some for ranch dressing mix and pepperoncinis (like this Mississippi pot roast from Belle of the Kitchen), and there's even one suggesting you bathe your roast in a bottle of beer and a shot of whiskey (via Just a Pinch). But we've got an unexpected, at-times polarizing ingredient that we're sure will win over even the most skeptical of diners: ginger snaps.

That's right, the oft-maligned, molasses-laden, spice cookie that many associate with a grandparent's pantry steps into the savory spotlight when it is incorporated into a recipe for tender, unctuous pot roast. There are plenty of recipes available, but this one from is a great starting point that yields a tasty, perfumed final product.

Admittedly, cookies and hunks of beef don't seem the likeliest of pairings, but take a moment to consider the qualities of pot roast — its warmth, its richness, the cavalcade of spices that pepper the broth. When you think of it like that, pot roast doesn't seem that far removed from ginger snaps, with their heady dose of molasses and sultry ginger bite.

So, who was it that had the bright idea to add cookies to their braised beef?

From Germany with love

If you have even a passing familiarity with German cuisine — which is by no means monolithic, but rather a patchwork of unique regional styles — then you know that there is generally a predilection for rich braised and roasted meats. This comprehensive post from Taste Atlas outlines a few of the nation's most famous meaty main courses, including jägerschnitzel, eisbein, and rouladen. But topping their list is sauerbraten, likely one of the progenitors of the pot roast we know and love today.

Sauerbraten literally means "sour roast" or "pickled roast," owing to the use of red wine, vinegar, or both to marinate the meat, according to the Daring Gourmet. Typically, a tough cut of beef is used, such as the bottom round or rump. Alternately, Quick German Recipes notes pork, lamb, and venison sometimes take a starring turn. Regardless of the protein used, nearly every recipe for sauerbraten calls for ginger snaps — or, gingerbread — to thicken and flavor the roast's gravy.

In "The James Beard Cookbook" (3rd revised edition, pg. 199), the famously-fastidious gourmet outlines a lengthy, but assuredly-worthwhile process. He allows the beef to mingle with two types of vinegar, red wine, mirepoix, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, and peppercorns for no less than three days before slow-cooking it all for several hours. Always a stickler for authenticity, Beard finishes off his sauerbraten with a hearty handful of ginger snaps.

More than one use for ginger snaps

While sauerbraten is certainly the original melding of beef roast and ginger snaps, one needn't feel beholden to delicious, but time-consuming recipes to enjoy the cookies' contributions. The recipe referenced at the top of the article – here it is again if you don't want to scroll back — applies the sweetening and thickening properties of ginger snaps to a fairly straightforward pot roast recipe.

Further, pot roast and sauerbraten aren't the only savory dishes to highlight ginger snaps. In Food & Wine, Grace Parisi uses them to crust a holiday pork tenderloin. has another germane recipe wherein the cookies are employed in a unique panade for Swedish meatballs. And finally — though there are countless recipes not mentioned here – Yummly offers up a stew of rich chicken legs and thighs, potatoes, wine, and ginger snaps.

So, the next time meal planning has got you stumped or you're feeling blah about the same old recipes, consider a cruise down the cookie aisle to grab an unexpected ingredient that may well become your spicy secret weapon.