The Best 11 Condiments You’ve Never Heard Of

July 29th, 2016

Step aside, sriracha. Move over, hot honey.

There are a lot of new obscure condiments in town (fish sauce, chimichurri, coconut aminos) and they’re taking over the foodie scene. Channel your inner chef and experiment with these 11 hype-worthy condiments—six to buy, and five to make—all deserve a spot in your pantry!

To buy

Some things (like fermenting anchovies or tapping coconut palms) are best left to the pros. Stick to storebought when it comes to these six unusual sauces.

Coconut aminos

Think of coconut aminos as soy sauce kicked up a notch. It falls somewhere between sweet and savory—a flavor known as umami, which is what keeps you coming back for more. It’s naturally gluten-free and contains about 40 percent less sodium than soy sauce.

Korean barbecue marinade

The key to good Korean barbecue isn’t so much the charcoal grills at the table, but rather the spicy-sweet marinade used to flavor and tenderize the beef.

Tamarind chutney

You might not be able to pick it out of a lineup, but if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably tried tamarind chutney before. It’s that dark orange, slightly sour sauce served alongside samosas and pakoras. It’s much more versatile than you’d think—try it as a dip for crudites, drizzled on top of sticky white rice, or mixed into a salmon marinade.

Fish sauce

Let’s be honest: fish sauce is not for the faint of heart. Made from salted and fermented anchovies, it smells and tastes as pungent as it sounds—but in the best way possible. It’s a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, and recently, chefs all around the world have tapped into the indescribable savoriness it adds to curries, stir-frys, and seafood dishes. Go easy, though; one teaspoon goes a long way.

Red curry paste

Despite the name, curry paste—a key ingredient in Thai curries and Indian stews—isn’t just puréed red chilis. It’s instead a combination of peppers, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime, and Thai ginger—and happens to be one of the most useful condiments you can keep in the fridge. Add a dash to basic marinades and salad dressings for a little spice and distinctive Southeast Asian flavor.

Ume plum vinegar

Salty, sour, and fruity flavors typically don’t all go together, but umeboshi—or “salt plums” in Japanese—are one exception. The fruits are dried, salted, and pickled in a brine dyed purple with shiso leaves, leaving behind a tart and super salty vinegar (the flavor is almost reminiscent of seafood). Get acquainted with it by trying this salad dressing, then experiment with ume plum vinegar on sautéed vegetables, roasted chicken, or any dish that needs a little more life.

To make

All right, adventurous cooks—now’s your chance to break out the food processor. These five sauces taste best fresh and come together in a flash.

Pine Nut Chimichurri Sauce

In Argentina, grilled beef is king. No matter at what restaurant you order it, the meat arrives doused in a bright green chimichurri sauce. Recipes typically call for parsley, garlic, cilantro, vinegar, and olive oil, but we like the addition of roughly chopped pine nuts for extra crunch.

Sesame-Ginger Dipping Sauce

This sauce is filled with so many flavorful ingredients, you just know it’s gonna be good. Tahini, honey, ginger, coconut aminos—check, check, check, and check. Our food editor Merce Muse developed it to accompany her crispy tofu appetizer, but it’s yummy on everything from salads to kebabs.

Walnut Romesco Sauce

The recipe for romesco sauce—a thick, slightly spicy condiment from the Catalonia region of Spain—is far from set in stone. It almost always includes roasted red peppers, tomatoes, nuts, garlic, and olive oil, but beyond that, all bets are off. Our interpretation calls for toasted walnuts, sherry vinegar, and smoked paprika, and tastes just as good on top of seared pork chops as it does on grilled corn on the cob.

Garlic Tahini Sauce

Tahini is totally serviceable straight out of the jar, but with a little TLC, it really shines. Thin it out with a little lemon juice and olive oil, then amp it up with garlic and honey. After one taste, you won’t be able to resist drizzling it over everything from falafel to chopped salads.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Okay, okay—ranch dressing isn’t exactly little-known. After all, Americans vote ranch the most popular salad dressing year after year. But you’ve never tasted ranch like this—raw cashews soaked in water sub in for buttermilk, while garlic, chives, and parsley bring the herbaceous notes you’ll recognize from the original.

Add even a few of these condiments to your fridge, and you’ll never want to go back to the old standbys. Ketchup and mustard, we still love you—but these newcomers are here to stay.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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This article is related to: Cooking, Food, Healthy Condiments

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Annalise MantzAnnalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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