Finding a holiday gift for the serious foodie -- one who uses only the snazziest cookware and knows where to find the most authentic late-night ramen -- can be intimidating. But a frugal shopper can delight an epicure for $25 or less. A dash of budget-savvy imagination and a sense of what might satisfy a sophisticated palate leads holiday shoppers to gourmet ingredients and practical kitchen gear.
11 Delectable Gifts Under $25 for Foodies
This is a useful but special holiday gift that adds a brilliant pop of flavor to gourmet and everyday dishes. Small-batch artisan salts from Chef Salt start at $10 each, or $25 for a gift box of any two jars, plus recipe cards for the chosen salts. Volcanic and sea salts are blended with herbs and spices to create varieties such as Bamboo Curry and Holy Mole.
What's salt without pepper? Cook's Illustrated deems Tellicherry black peppercorns perhaps the world's finest; they deliver a deep, complex flavor with a nice bite. A full pound costs about $13 and should last about a year. Alternatively, divide the haul into four stocking stuffers for the gourmet cooks on the gift list. A little jar of peppercorns bedecked with a ribbon promises to spice up any meal.
Unleash the barbecue beast within and give the gift of Cave Tools Meat Claws ($13 on Amazon) for preparing pulled pork. Strong enough to shred other kinds of slow-cooked, grilled, or smoked meat, the claws also can be used to pick up food and carve large pieces of meat without slippage. More than 400 reviewers award the claws an exceptional 4.8 stars.
Truffle flavor is becoming more and more popular, gracing fries, pizza, pasta, and even high-end sushi. Truffle mushrooms are valuable because they must be sniffed out by trained hogs or dogs. Truffle oil ($15 for 3.4 ounces on Amazon) is a cheaper alternative -- and still delicious. Choose black truffle oil for a stronger, more pungent flavor.
Bacon now enhances nearly every type of food, from cupcakes to beer. Cooks often use pancetta, pork belly, or the standard smoked variety, but guanciale -- cured meat from the jowl of a pig -- would make a singular Christmas gift for a pork-loving foodie. Popular in central Italy but little known on this side of the pond, guanciale is leaner and boasts a more pronounced flavor than bacon. Olio and Olive offers 4 ounces for $5, or 2 pounds for $25.
Dessert is always a welcome gift, and for many, chocolate makes it doubly so. Aficionados will delight in "bean-to-bar" artisanal chocolate, which often goes for less than $10. Jacques Torres' Wicked Hot Chocolate mix ($18 for 18 ounces) contains enough cinnamon, allspice, and chili to rouse the taste buds of the most jaded palate.
Let's not forget about drinks. Basily Premium Heart-Shaped Chilling Stones ($15 for four on Amazon) are an ice-cube alternative made of stainless steel. Loved ones can use them in a good Scotch or even chill a glass of fine wine without diluting it. (For more, check out Cheapism's gift ideas for mixologists.)
A bountiful spread of cheese and crackers is a common sight at holiday gatherings and parties. Hickory Farms' Hickory Farmhouse Sampler ($9 at Walmart) contains sample-size summer sausage, sea salt and olive oil crackers, mission jack blend cheese, and sweet hot mustard. It averages more than 4 stars from several dozen reviewers on multiple retail sites.
Save the arm strength for hugs this season rather than wrestling with stubborn wine corks. The Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($20 at Best Buy) has won over thousands of consumers who have posted reviews on retail sites. The opener is cordless and comes with a charging base; one charge opens up to 30 bottles. (For more ideas, see Cheapism's gift guide for wine lovers.)