November 23, 2017

View as List 8 Lesser-Known Condiments to Try

  • Hot Spicy Red Sriracha Sauce

    While marinara, alfredo, and steak sauces are classics, the culinary landscape is home to many international newcomers that can elevate a dish from ho-hum to “whoa!” Whether you prefer spicy, savory, or slightly sweet, these tasty condiments—a category which includes both sauces and spices—are either widely available at supermarkets or can be made in your kitchen. Take a look through our list and prepare to meet your new favorite flavor-booster. Keep in mind that most condiments tend to be high in sodium, so go easy on quantity.

  • 1

    Sriracha

    Chicken hot wings

    A staple in Thai cuisine, this medium-heat sauce is made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. Its popularity in the United States has skyrocketed over the last few years, with sriracha-flavored corn chips, popcorn, and almonds now available at most supermarkets. The bright red sauce makes for a great tofu marinade, hummus or guacamole flavor-booster, or stir-fry condiment. A teaspoon packs 100 milligrams of sodium (slightly under 5 percent of the recommended daily limit), so stick with a small amount (trust us, it goes a long way).

      

  • 2

    Gochujang

    Korean spicy stir fried vegetable, chicken and Korean spicy sauce

    Fermented soybeans, gluttinous rice (aka “sticky rice”) powder, powdered red chili peppers, and salt (some chefs also add a pinch of sugar) come together to make this unique and pungent spicy Korean condiment, commonly sold as a thick paste. While traditionally used in Korean dishes like bibimbap, its “sweet heat” flavor profile also goes well with roasted vegetables, grilled seafood, soups, and stews. 

  • 3

    Harissa

    Spicy harissa sauce in a jar

    This high-heat condiment hails from North Africa and is considered by many culinary experts to be the unofficial condiment of Tunisia. Its blend of roasted hot chili peppers, garlic paste, cumin, coriander, and saffron gives it a vivid red hue and a flavor that instantly awakens the taste buds. The paste works excellently as a beef or chicken rub, a marinade for roasted root vegetables, or a flavor enhancer for common sauces and dips (such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and tomato-based pasta sauces). Bonus: The capsaicin in chili peppers may have anti-inflammatory effects.

  • 4

    Coconut Aminos

    Buyer with soy sauce in store

    This lower-sodium soy sauce substitute (90 mg per teaspoon, compared to regular soy sauce’s 290 mg or about 150 mg in reduced-sodium soy sauce) is produced by fermenting and salting the sap from unopened coconut blossoms. Like soy sauce, Coconut Aminos naturally contain glutamate, an amino acid that provides that ever-elusive yet important umami flavor. Substitute it in place of salt in salad dressings and dips to boost flavor; a splash also goes great with roasted garbanzo beans. By the way, the Internet is rife with unwarranted and unsubstantiated health claims about Coconut Aminos; ignore them.

     

  • 5

    Fish Sauce

    Pouring soy sauce into a white bowl

    Commonly sold in liquid form, this salty sauce (essentially the filtered and very-lightly-sweetened juice of fermented anchovies) is a staple in almost every Thai and Indonesian kitchen. As with soy sauce and Coconut Aminos, fish sauce delivers the one-two punch of saltiness and umami, essentially making it salt with added depth. You can do plenty with fish sauce at home: Splash a few drops in vinaigrettes, Bloody Marys, or stir-fried bitter leafy greens. FYI, a mere teaspoon delivers more than 20 percent of your daily maximum allotment of sodium.

  • 6

    Tamarind Sauce

    Beef pad thai and chicken satay dinner viewed from above

    Have you ever eaten Pad Thai? If so, you’ve had tamarind sauce. Usually sold in sticky paste form, it’s a simple combination of seeded tamarind fruit and sugar. Tamarind sauce spans many cultures, showing up in Thai, Indian, and Mexican dishes (in Mexico, dried tamarind coated with chili powder is a common treat). Tamarind sauce is a great flavor enhancer for noodle dishes, stir-fries, and curries. A tablespoon of tamarind sauce contains just 4 grams of sugar and 65 milligrams of sodium.

  • 7

    Mole

    Enchiladas con mole

    Mexico has many varieties of mole (pronounced moh-lay) sauces, but the basic formula is as follows: fruit (usually raisins) + at least one variety of chili pepper (such as chipotle, pasilla, mulato, or ancho) + a nut (such as peanuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds) + other spices (e.g. cumin, garlic, cinnamon, coriander). All the ingredients—which average 20 per mole sauce—are roasted and powdered, then mixed with water or broth to form a thick paste. Mole poblano, the most common variety, is made with Mexican chocolate (a vital ingredient that helps balance the sauce’s high heat) and commonly served with poultry.

     

  • 8

    Chimichurri

    Homemade Cooked Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

    Argentina is the land of soccer, wine, steak . . . and this refreshing, parsley-based condiment that Argentines regularly add to their parrillas (barbeques) and French fries. While chimichurri is hard to find on supermarket shelves, it couldn’t be easier to make at home, as it generally just requires garlic, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, and extra virgin olive oil in addition to parsley. Since you can make this at home, you can control the sodium content. And the parsley, red pepper flakes, and garlic provide phytochemicals such as lutein and allicin, which may have health benefits.