know your sauces: 5 delicious and versatile sauces

Surprisingly versatile, these sauces are so flavorful alone that they have the potential to transform even the blandest meals.

By: Anna Decker / 10/16/2015

Try substituting green chutney for salsa verde, or slathering seared tofu with mustard barbecue sauce. For fans of a little spice with their eggs, try scrambling yours with sofrito, or drizzling fried eggs with fried chili infused oil. Ponzu works just as well as a dressing for an Asian style salad as it does as a dipping sauce, and can even be a delicious marinade. There’s no reason to stay in a tabasco rut when these sauces are tried and true favorites.

South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce True lovers of barbecue know that the typical sweet and smoky sauce most people are familiar with is just one of many delicious ways to enjoy barbecue. A South Carolina mustard sauce is more tart, less sweet, and usually spicier, making it a perfect marinade for meat substitutes like tempeh or tofu, where a regular barbecue sauce might be overwhelming.

main ingredients: yellow mustard, honey, vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, hot sauce

Hot Chili Oil Instead of ketchup, this is what most restaurants in China have on their tables. Perfect on all sorts of dumplings and noodles, this oil (usually vegetable or peanut) is full of crushed, fried Asian chilis and works well nearly anywhere you’d normally use a hot sauce. Anyone who grew up eating Chinese food knows all about the addictive power of this sauce.

main ingredients: oil, crushed Asian chilis, Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

Sofrito Similar to a French mirepoix or Cajun “holy trinity,” sofrito is a simple, yet important, sauce that is essential to Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American cooking. This is an aromatic sauce that seems instantly familiar, probably due to its presence in countless dishes you’ve probably eaten before. While you can get the canned version in most stores, it’s easy to make at home.

main ingredients: bell peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, oil

Ponzu Probably the easiest sauce to make on the list, this sauce has a sublime, subtle flavor and is proof that citrus improves nearly everything. While most commercially available versions have added soy sauce, ponzu is traditionally made without soy sauce, and ponzu shoyu refers to the version with soy sauce. Today, however, ponzu more commonly refers to the soy-based version. While the store-bought, bottled version is still a useful pantry staple, it’s mindblowing how different a homemade ponzu with a Japanese citrus like yuzu can be. For vegans and vegetarians, the sauce is just as delicious without bonito flakes.

main ingredients: rice vinegar, mirin, sugar, kombu, bonito flakes, citrus

Green Chutney You’ve probably received a little plastic container of green chutney with your Indian takeout. This green sauce is similar to chimichurri, with the combination of pureed herbs and acidity giving it its unique vibrant taste.

main ingredients: cilantro, mint, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, coconut, green chili

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