Sauces may seem like unnecessary, time-consuming recipes when a quality grilled piece of meat or roasted fish should be flavorful enough. In reality, sauces are indispensable parts of the making or breaking of a dish. They serve myriad purposes, the least of which may be flavor. Sauces can contribute much-needed texture, impart moisture into a dish that might otherwise be dry, confer visual appeal, and build complexity to tap into every one of your taste buds.
The best sauces capitalize on balancing acidity with heat, salt, bitterness, tang, sweetness, and savory umami elements, latching onto whatever they are enveloping and using them as carriers straight to your tongue and up into your nose. Whether creamy, chunky, or smooth, sauces can transform even the basic meals into something elegant and elevated in taste and aroma.
This collection of some of the best sauces from the Daily Meal archives contains multiple flavors and textures. They can be used in diverse applications and come from various ethnic culinary heritages. Not only are we sharing these recipes with you, but each will have a basic description of how best to apply it to your upcoming menus and how you can play with them to adapt them to accommodate differing dietary restrictions or tastes.
Easy Classic Garlic Aioli
Aioli is a tangy and creamy garlic sauce most frequently associated with Provence, France. Its name translates to garlic oil, which refers to how the classic sauce is made. This iteration is more a flavored mayonnaise-made aioli-style, but it is still delicious. If you prefer, you can use roasted garlic for a deeper, more complex taste.
This sauce is classically served with crudites, atop fish, with fries, or as a spread for sandwiches. Add pep and umami with gochujang or sriracha for a spicy spin that would be great atop fish tacos, deviled eggs, omelets, and grilled vegetables.
Recipe: Easy Classic Garlic Aioli
Quick And Easy Chamoy
Chamoy is a sweet, sour, spicy Mexican condiment with Chinese origins. The combination of preserved fruit with spices can traditionally be found as a paste, sauce, or seasoning powder. This iteration eliminates the need for fermenting the fruit by using jarred apricot preserves. You can easily substitute apricot with mango, plum, or any fruit you enjoy.
Though this sauce is typically served atop fruit, chips, and even popsicles, it is incredibly versatile. Consider using it as a kind of glaze for meat, fish, or seafood or using it to jazz up roasted vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.
Recipe: Quick And Easy Chamoy
Hot Honey Mustard
This zesty, spicy, sweet condiment will take your next sandwich, salad, or french fries from everyday to special occasions in a flash. You might want to make a double or triple batch to have on hand. Add a hint of umami savoriness by whisking ½ a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce into the blend.
While you can eat this sauce as a condiment, it would be ideal as a base for a pecan or almond-crusted baked salmon recipe. Spread the sauce over the top of wild Alaskan salmon filets and top with chopped nuts. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until the filets register 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Recipe: Hot Honey Mustard
This umami-rich condiment is the ideal accompaniment for sushi, sandwiches, vegetables, and french fries. To change things up, you could incorporate a different hot sauce, like gochujang for a more fermented funky flavor or harissa paste for heat with a North African twist.
The finished sauce can be used in recipes like bolstering your deviled eggs and creating a delightful crust on your grilled fish. For the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, slather the exterior of your bread with this spicy mayo before cooking it up. You'll achieve a brown, crunchy exterior with a dynamite kick contrasting the melted cheese.
Recipe: Spicy Mayo
Simple Homemade Taco Sauce
The base for this homemade taco sauce is tomato sauce. Do not substitute with ketchup. This will have a different flavor and be too salty. Adding a teaspoon of sugar helps to tame some of the acidity of the tomato and the spiciness of the seasonings.
Though this sauce is intended for tacos, don't let that stop your creative juices from flowing. To use this on pasta, try incorporating some sautéed mushrooms for a pop of savory umami flavor. It would make for a unique variation on a classic shakshuka served with plenty of crusty bread to dip in the egg yolks mixed with the sauce.
Recipe: Simple Homemade Taco Sauce
Classic Honey Mustard Sauce
This dressing uses dijon mustard for a distinctive backdrop of flavor that is slightly more spicy and bold than the traditional yellow variety. Though you can use plain dijon, many variations exist, including whole grain, which has a more chunky texture. Both would yield unique variations on this delightful sauce that could jazz up a salad or serve as the backdrop for chicken wings.
You might also consider playing with different kinds of honey. Clover honey has a relatively neutral flavor, but other honey, like orange blossom or wildflower, has an extra layer of floral complexity that would bounce off the mustard brilliantly.
Recipe: Classic Honey Mustard Sauce
Easy Homemade Tartar Sauce
While cultures across the globe consume an iteration of a chunky, creamy, tangy sauce similar to tartar, the mayonnaise-loaded variation Americans are most familiar with originated in France as an accompaniment for a classic steak tartare. This easy recipe is ideal for fried, baked, or pan-seared fish or seafood. It can also be used as a topping for baked potatoes, fried chicken, and hamburgers.
Incorporate a single chopped hard-boiled egg into this recipe for a hearty twist. For a funky fermented pop of spiciness, add a teaspoon of gochujang. Lastly, minced dill or parsley will add a bright, fresh flavor.
Recipe: Easy Homemade Tartar Sauce
Pantry Staples Teriyaki Sauce
Classic Japanese teriyaki is a thin, umami-rich sauce typically used to glaze fish when grilled. The sweet, sticky variety this recipe is based on was the brainchild of Japanese-American immigrants. This recipe can be used on virtually any protein to provide a rich, luscious glaze. It can also be added to stir-fries, fried rice, or noodle dishes for a more nuanced flavor than soy sauce alone.
If you cannot find mirin, try using sake in this recipe. It is easier to find and is an ideal counterbalance to salty components, like soy sauce, because of its lower alcohol and higher sugar content.
Recipe: Pantry Staples Teriyaki Sauce
Easy Copycat Raising Cane's Sauce
Craving some of the sweet and spicy goodness of the fast food chicken finger chain Raising Cane's? You can whip up a batch at home anytime with simple ingredients you probably already have. The distinct spice and acidity pair great with any fried food but would be great as a base for a grilled cheese sandwich or as an alternative to tartar sauce with fish or seafood.
Though creole seasoning is typical, it could easily be substituted with other spice blends, like taco seasoning. For a slightly more exotic, sweet, and savory blend, try Moroccan ras el hanout or an Indian curry blend.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
Though cranberry sauce is a tradition at Thanksgiving, it is a recipe that has many uses across menus, ranging from sweet to savory applications. If you want something more sophisticated than the beloved jelly version, try this super easy-to-make recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. The secret ingredient is the orange zest, which provides complexity and nuance in flavor.
This sauce can be ideal with proteins of all kinds, but don't stop there. Try it as a topping for cheesecake, a breakfast bowl, or even as a base for a festive crumble served with a generous helping of vanilla ice cream.
Recipe: Basic Cranberry Sauce
Peanut sauces of all kinds can be found across Southeast Asia. Precise ingredients may vary, but most combine creamy peanut butter with salty soy sauce, tangy lime juice, and a sweet component for an umami-forward sauce with a luxurious mouthfeel and complex layered flavor.
This recipe adds coconut milk for a slightly more dressing-like texture, which would be delightful on a salad. It also amps up the flavor with curry powder. Lastly, this sauce has a kick of heat from a chili garlic sauce, like sambal oelek. You could add a squirt of lime juice or a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar for a hint of acidity to balance the flavors.
Recipe: Peanut Sauce
Remoulade is the sophisticated cousin of a classic tartar sauce. Both are made from a base of mayonnaise. This recipe differs by adding anchovy paste, which may seem like it would make this fish overly fishy, but, instead, imparts a distinct umami-rich savory flavor that cannot be imitated. Incorporate freshly minced fresh parsley or chives for brightness or creole mustard instead of the dijon for heat.
Though this sauce is often served with fried fish, like a po'boy sandwich or crab cakes, you could use this as a spread on sandwiches or as a condiment with french fries or potato skins. It would also make a good base for a pasta salad.
Recipe: Remoulade Sauce
Greek Tzatziki Sauce
The creamy, tangy cucumber sauce known as tzatziki is a classic accompaniment for myriad Greek dishes. This recipe requires two steps to ensure the sauce remains thick. First, the yogurt should be strained to remove excess whey. Next, the grated cucumber needs to be liberally salted and allowed to sit to draw out any residual moisture from them.
Though you can use any cucumber, English cucumbers are ideal because of their thin skin and fewer seeds. Add some dried or fresh dill to brighten the flavors. This sauce can be used on kebabs or fish or as a refreshing topping for chili.
Recipe: Greek Tzatziki Sauce
Caramel sauce is the ultimate topping for a hot apple pie or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Though you can obtain store-bought varieties, when you discover how simple it is to make caramel sauce, you will never purchase it again. This recipe can easily be doctored by adding salt, chocolate, or booze.
The key is to take precautions while making the sauce. Caramelized sugar can be dangerous and cause a mean burn if you accidentally get it on your skin, warns Cake Play. This is not the time to multitask. Pay extra close attention, particularly in the first half of the recipe when the sugar and water are being melted together.
Recipe: Homemade Caramel
Hot Fudge Sauce
Hot fudge is yet another dessert staple that can elevate any recipe. You can buy commercial fudge, but it will never be as rich and luxurious as this homemade version. The key is dark chocolate instead of milk. The bittersweet flavor profile is more sophisticated, and the texture is thicker.
You will want to find a high-quality bar or chips of bittersweet chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. Do not attempt to substitute baking chocolate, which is unsweetened. The sauce will come out too bitter to consume. If you'd like to amp up the flavor of this sauce, consider adding an orange or raspberry liquor.
Recipe: Hot Fudge Sauce
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