56 People Share Their Food Mistakes And Hilarious Ingredient Mix-Ups

From school and the office to relationships and even the kitchen, we all make mistakes. Some of them, however, are a tad more embarrassing than others. Like not realizing that coriander and cilantro are the same thing and then not being able to find what you need in the supermarket after you move to another country, like what happened to redditor u/annamagda. Or being me and honestly not understanding how onions, shallots, scallions, and spring onions are any different from one another.

Redditor u/annamagda asked the people browsing r/Cooking to make them feel better after their coriander/cilantro fiasco and share their very own food mix-ups and cooking mistakes. It’s honestly a lot of fun reading what these redditors shared, and we’ve collected the very best responses for you, dear Pandas. Don’t forget to upvote your fave answers and if you’d like to spill the tea about your own supermarket and kitchen sins and blunders, Gordon Ramsay will take your confession in the comment section.

I spoke about (im)perfection in the kitchen and making food-related mistakes with well-known pie artist, food expert, and author Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin. She urged everyone to embrace mistakes because “they are the best teachers!” Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview with her about developing a growth-oriented mindset and shedding our fears of making blunders.


My husband learned last year that popcorn is corn.


When I first moved out and started cooking I decided to get fancy and make a lasagna. The sauce called for 3 cloves of garlic. It was so cheap compared to everything else I assumed it meant 3 heads of garlic. That lasagna was intense.

Image credits: vinsanity820


I just learned three years ago that paprika is just dried ground-up red bell peppers. I'm 44. I felt like the world had betrayed me.

Image credits: duffs007

According to pie artist and food expert Jessica, we ought to think of mistakes as small opportunities to get better. However, in order for this to happen, we actually have to be able to learn from them.

“We want to make sure we learn and grow from our mistakes, or they can quickly lead to frustration,” she warned Bored Panda, stating that there are, generally, two types of mistakes—good and bad—when it comes to everything related to the kitchen.


This reminds me of the first time I made Lasagna. This was before the internet and I was a teenager. I was working with a poorly translated recipe from a magazine in South Asia. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of red chili powder for the meat sauce. That would be paprika I know now. I only knew of our red chili powder. I used 2 tablespoons of our Indian red chili powder and I kept that up for many more tries to come. It was the first-ever “Italian” recipe for my family and friends, made for fancy occasions only because of how difficult it was to procure the cheese. Everyone ate it with gusto, wiping tears pouring down their face, and commenting on how strangely the heat of the chili complemented the “coolness” of cheese in the dish and that Italians were oh so intelligent for that.

Image credits: allamadehshat


I've lived for about 7-8 years in Germany broken up over 20 years, but from the US. I try to do most of my shopping in the local grocery stores as opposed to the American store. One thing I never buy in the American store was cheese (except sharp cheddar). But I kept thinking how odd it was that the German stores didn't carry Swiss cheese, considering Germany borders Switzerland. Any time I had a recipe that needed it, I'd sub in edamer or emmentaler or titilser or gouda or whatever. It wasn't until like this past fall, after living here and shopping here for years, that I put it together that the Swiss probably don't call it Swiss cheese. I don't exactly know which of the 18,000 varieties of cheese my store carries is what I know as Swiss, but they're all good.


I was making a cake at school that called for cream of tartar... I used tartar sauce.. fishy kinda cake it was.

“Good mistakes are the ones that come from intentionally trying something new, just to see what will happen. Bad mistakes are ones born of haste or ones that compromise safety,” the expert explained to me that the intention behind the mistakes that we make matters a whole bunch.

For instance, mistakes born from experimenting with ingredients, recipes, and styles of cooking are generally positive experiences because we can quickly improve our skills as we iron out any errors that we make. However, mistakes made from carelessness aren’t all that positive and we need to be aware that they can happen so that we don’t repeat them.


All my life i thought that curry is a spice on it‘s own but in reality curry is just a mix of many spices

Image credits: nobrahh


At 38, I learned that pickles are cucumbers. My wife’s still laughing years later. I feel the pain!

Image credits: SlowSteadyThumping


My parents met and married in the States. My dad is from Scotland. They moved to Scotland shortly after getting married, because my dad had been on scholarship and part of the terms was that he had to work for the Church of Scotland for a few years, so off they went.

My mother had wanted to bake something with coconut. She couldn’t find it on her own. She asked my dad. My dad told her that you could not buy coconut in Scotland. It just wasn’t something you could get. My mother, in her naïveté, said to the women at a church group that it was too bad she couldn’t buy coconut in Scotland. Needless to say, the women were quick to tell her that wasn’t true and where she could get it.

My mother went home and tore a strip off my father because he knew full well you could, he just wanted to see how long he could keep it going. They’ll be married 46 years in June. I’m honestly surprised my father lived to their first. It still comes up.

Image credits: canbritam

According to Jessica, some mistakes that we can definitely classify as ‘bad’ include things like not reading all the way through the recipe before you start cooking or not having a proper BC fire extinguisher “handy in the kitchen” in case you need it.

In the food expert’s opinion, a lot of silly mistakes get made because we’re not attentive enough. “To ensure that you have only the ‘good’ type of mistakes and fails, I recommend making your recipes ‘as is’ the first time so you get a feel for what the chef’s intended outcome is before you start tinkering with your own spin and substitutions,” she told me that anyone who is a cooking beginner and isn’t feeling overly confident should follow the rules without making major changes.

Though, this includes knowing the alternate names of food items, too. A simple Google search can help, even if we think we already know what an ingredient is or isn’t.


Laurel leaf = Bay leaf. The same laurel you see in wreaths and made into head crowns. Also the same as in the phrase "rest your laurels" as well as the term "poet laureate."

Image credits: HanniballRun


Not so much a mix-up,

But when I first ate asparagus it was the same day I had quit smoking cigarettes. I'm the lucky individual whose pee smells after eating asparagus and can also smell it. I swear to god I thought I was either dying or that stopping smoking had some adverse effect on my pee. It's only when I googled "why does my pee smell..." and googles auto-complete added "after eating asparagus" so I put two and two together and breathed a sigh of relief

Image credits: _Permanent_Marker_


Here’s another one: Chipotle and Jalapeños are the same pepper.

Image credits: depeupleur

Jessica added that, in the kitchen, we should always work ‘mis en place,’ “that is, have all of your ingredients and supplies measured out and ready to go before you get started,” so that fewer blunders happen. And you can then focus on the pleasure that is cooking, whether the recipe has coriander/cilantro or not! 


I've accidentally marinated chicken in vanilla yogurt more than once

Image credits: DonkStompy


All Purpose Flour and Plain Flour for me. Was searching the shops for months!

Image credits: michaeldble


As a Brit, I love blackcurrant squash (for those that don’t know, it’s a type of juice that you add water too and it’s delicious). Imagine my surprise in America when I asked a Walmart worker for help finding it and she took me to the root vegetables

Image credits: BelleButch


One of the funniest memories I have is of grocery shopping with my college roommate. We were waiting in line at the deli counter and behind us was a sign for cheese from the Isle of Man. My roommate, fully serious, scoffed and said, “we can’t even have cheese anymore? That’s gotta be gendered now too?” Through my tears, I explained that the Isle of Man is an actual place off the coast of England, at which point she whispered, “never tell anyone about this.” I promptly told everyone I knew.

Image credits: femmilybronte


I kept hearing Americans talk about "arugula" and I just assumed it was something that only grew in North America.

It's just rocket.

Image credits: Tomgar


Moved to the UK from the US a little over a year ago. We looked around the store for whipped cream for like 20 minutes before asking for help. Apparently, they call it squirty cream here. Sorry. But I'm not calling it "squirty cream".

Image credits: TheSpaceship


Learned in a game of Trivial Pursuit with friends that grapefruit and grapes are not the same thing.

Image credits: JCorky101


It's a different sort of conundrum, but using Ceylon Cinnamon as opposed to the much more common (in the US anyway) Cassia or Saigon Cinnamon confused me for awhile.

I eventually learned the difference, and I do prefer Ceylon Cinnamon - which is more tightly curled and far more brittle.

So a 'stick' of Ceylon Cinnamon will have layers you can see where it's been wrapped around itself to dry, and Cassia Cinnamon is much harder and usually just has a single 'layer' in the stick.

Ceylon you can crumble in your hand, Cassia you have to grate or whatnot.


Kinda unrelated, but a friend and I once ate out and he got a salad. He liked the dressing so the waitress told him it's a simple vinaigrette. Fast forward a few days and he tells me that the salad he made is nothing like the one he ate in that restaurant. He can't figure it out, he put vinegar on it just like the waitress told him!

Image credits: bdawg923


I put cumin in pancakes when I was a kid.


Mincemeat is not minced meat. Like, what?

Image credits: Pindakazig


Way late to the party, but when I lived in Belgium, I got really into hot chocolate—like melting bars of chocolate in milk, kind of hot chocolate. However, the colors of the milk caps were different than the ones I’d normally buy at home in the States. I was blown away by how good the milk tasted by itself and it was even better with chocolate bars melted into it.....and then realized I wasn’t buying 2% milk, but rather full fat. I was essentially melting bars of chocolate in cream and couldn’t figure out why I was gaining so much weight.


At a hotpot, there was sea cucumber. Some people were wincing and I didn't understand why. I happily ate it because... I thought it was the cucumber of the sea. Imagine the laughter that ensued when I told them why I wasn't grossed out.


When I started cooking and following recipes, a lot of recipes required scallions. I kept going to the store looking for scallions but they would never have them in stock. They only had green onions. I kept thinking “oh well, I guess I will just use green onions. And once they have scallions in stock, my dinner will be way better”

Image credits: wrightsound


Didn't realize that Parmesan and "Parmigiano Reggiano" were the same.

Image credits: IAmMyOwnLaw


I used to think an artichoke was a kind of fish.


I thought a lime was just an unripe lemon


Followed a recipe that required 1 cup of 'tomato sauce'. Tomato sauce in Australia is similar to ketchup. Thought it was weird but went with it. A week later I realized they Americans call tomato puree (passata) tomato sauce. Definitely wasn't supposed to use ketchup.

Image credits: HeffaTheLump


Ordering Chinese in the USA I asked for no prawns.

The server had no tucking clue what I meant until my wife corrected prawns to shrimp.

Image credits: PixelBrother


Had a coworker bring slow cooker Mac and cheese to a department potluck. I tasted it and it tasted sweet. She has said before she's not a very good cook, but I was very confused as to how you could screw up one pot Mac and cheese?

Apparently, the recipe called for evaporated milk, but she used condensed milk instead haha

Image credits: blazinazn007


Bicarbonate soda/baking soda/baking powder always have me double-checking a recipe before I add them in


I also remember when I discovered plain yogurt and vanilla yogurt were not, in fact, the same.


I went to live in the US and went to a restaurant in night 1. I had to ask the waitress where the "main courses" were in the menu. I had no idea that Americans use the term "entree" and had to google the reasoning how you can have a plate of food before your entrance dish.

Image credits: muffinmallow


One day I bought a can of garbanzo beans...on the other side, it said, chickpeas. Mind blown!


I once grabbed cayenne instead of the little jar of "cake spice" (it's a mix of cinnamon & cloves & anise & nutmeg, etc) when making an apple cake. I realized the mistake before mixing it in and was able to scrape most of it out, but there was a distinct bite to that cake! We referred to it as the "apple oops cake" and have occasionally added a dash of cayenne to cakes since.


Not long ago, I found out that tapioca is made from the yucca root, which is also called cassava in other parts. In America, it is often called yuca when it is used to make tasty fries to go with Peruvian roast chicken.


When I was a kid, my parents and everybody else - even grocery stores - called bell peppers "mangoes". When I left home, it was a shocker to discover what mangoes really were.

I suspect it was one of those regional things that have mostly died out by now thanks to better communication. We lived in rural Kentucky, the Tri-State area, Ohio River Valley. It was a very backward place in the '60s and '70s.

Image credits: RLS30076


My mum went to the USA and tried to get "a glass of orange squash". In the UK orange juice is a drink made by squeezing oranges. Orange/lemon/tropical squash is the concentrated liquid you dilute at home with water. Orange juice and orange squash are two different drinks.

The waiter looked confused and asked if she meant orange juice. She insisted she wanted a glass of orange squash. The waiter came back with the hard-skinned, semi-savory fruit, similar to a pumpkin, also call an orange squash, and said "you want me to put this in a glass"?

Image credits: Crystal_Rules


Reminds me of my search for zucchini. Moved to a new town, wanted to buy some at the local mart. Far as I could tell, no zucchini. Took a good long while before I learned that the oddly zucchini-like thing labeled "Italian squash" was, indeed, zucchini. I facepalmed so hard at that.

Image credits: QuentynStark


My girlfriend bought a lavender plant thinking it was rosemary


Wait until you learn about white, cremini, and portobello mushrooms.

Image credits: SomeFakeInternetName


I giggle every time I think about when I learned that "Ground Nut Oil" is Peanut Oil.


Well, with regard to faucets/spigots I didn’t know lefty - loosey, righty - tighty until I was nearing middle age. I’m still embarrassed.


I just learned a few weeks ago that green, yellow, and orange bell peppers are all just red bell peppers at different stages of ripeness when harvested.


American living in London: my friends refuse to believe that arugula (rocket) is a real word. They think I’m making it up as a joke.


“Oh! I love sweetbread! It’s so savory and delicious for bread!”
[Sweetbread is usually the thymus gland of an animal. Very soft and can be funky tasting if it's not fresh]


From watching American Masterchef I’ve also found out that aubergine, courgette, and swede are called eggplant, zucchini, and rutabaga. Apparently UK English uses the French wording, but the US is more likely to use Spanish or Italian.

Image credits: Dydey


I was stationed in England for 3 years. One day I was having a conversation with some locals who worked with me and the topic of breakfast came up. I told them how much I liked biscuits and gravy and one of them said "got blimey, no wonder you Americans are so fat!". I was shocked and confused until someone else said "aah mate, biscuits are cookies!" I ended up cooking a batch for them the next week.

Image credits: TheBarracuda


The first time I cooked Thanksgiving I put red curry powder in the pumpkin pie instead of nutmeg. I had bought things in bulk and hadn't labeled the jars. I was stressed so I just dumped in the red jar.

It is so much better. We have never gone back. I use red curry instead of nutmeg in any recipe that calls for nutmeg.


Scallions and Shallots.
They're two completely different things but I always get tongue-tied on them.


I thought that 'celeriac' was an adjective for "celery-like". I only found out it was an actual vegetable when I saw it used on MasterChef


Bell peppers are called capsicum. The same thing happened to me when I moved to the US.


Wait until you find out OR26A SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) is a gene that determines whether or not you like cilantros taste.


Nutmeg is the seed of the Nutmeg tree while Mace is from the seed covering. Although they are different, Cumin and Caraway are, in some places, are considered the same.
**Disclaimer – This article contains affiliate links. All products are ones I use. If you choose to purchase one of these products through the link provided, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published