Condiments are more than just ketchup and mustard.
Condiments are the accessories of the food world. In the same way a strand of pearls can bring a little black dress from day to evening wear, so can a good mayonnaise elevate two slices of bread and some meat to the Best. Sandwich. Ever. Adding condiments to recipes the right way is a cooking hack that will make you look like a professional chef.
Think of an herb aioli like the scarf you tie around your neck that brings out the color in your eyes. The creaminess of the aioli complements the bacon and tomato of the sandwich.
The beret which lends a slight Parisian feel to your outfit—it’s the same as the gochujang which brings a whole Korean vibe to your stir-fry veg.
Stocking your onboard fridge with a varied bunch of condiments is a great way to ensure simple and flavorful meals after —or during—a day on the water and take those meals from hum-drum to hubba-hubba. Making your condiments is easier than you think, with ingredients you probably have on hand.
To be precise, a condiment is a preparation added to food, generally after it has been cooked, to enhance the eating experience by providing flavor or texture or both.
There is more to the world of adding condiments to recipes than mustard, mayo, and ketchup. Many people will attempt to put condiments into separate categories of salty, spicy, sour, sweet, or savory. A good condiment respects no boundaries and will give you at least two of those coveted flavor components. You’ll find quite a spectrum of condiments available for your tasting pleasure, so that’s how we’ll explore them.
Condiments For Recipes By Color
There’s more to green condiments than the ubiquitous jar of pickled relish that’s been sitting in your fridge from a Fourth of July picnic three summers ago. This is not a dis on relish. The sweet, salty, slightly crunch concoction is a perfect companion to fish and charcuterie.
And there’s more to relish than chopped up pickled cukes. Any finely chopped pickled fruit or veg can be relish. Keep a lookout for local relishes made with corn, okra, or peaches.
There’s no denying that pesto could possibly be the best green condiment for recipes, but it overshadows the subtle and more nuanced chimichurri. This herby oil emulsion from Argentina and Uruguay is served with grilled meat. A small jar lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge and is even better on grilled fish, tossed into pasta, or mixed into mayo for an aioli. Chimichurri purists argue whether oregano belongs among the herbs. Your taste buds, your call.
You’re probably familiar with the most famous yellow condiment, one specifically named after another color: Grey Poupon. Consider this your invitation to explore the world of mustards beyond the one bottle in your fridge door. Look for flavor combos like IPA mustards, honey mustard, stone ground, gingerbread, and so many more.
Have you tried the other yellow condiment: mango chutney? This sweet/salty/slightly spicy/slightly sour concoction turns a bowl of rice into a meal. Find it in the international aisle of your local grocer and then try it on fish, chicken, cheese sandwiches, seafood, or a spoon.
Quick Mango Salsa
Unpopular opinion: Ketchup isn’t worth the space it takes up in the fridge. But hot sauce doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge (most of them are vinegar-based).
Do we need to talk about all the hot sauces? It seems in every port you explore you’ll find specialty bottles of locally brewed hot sauce with crazy names. Test at your own risk. Be careful, or else you may find your valuable galley real estate occupied by half-empty bottles of Dat’s Nice from St. Augustine and Red Clay Hot Sauce from Charleston. Sriracha is the darling of the hot sauce world, and a hot commodity right now due to a drought-induced pepper shortage.
If you like a little bit of heat with a little bit of crunch, give chili crisp a try. Of Asian origin, chili crisp is a pepper-infused oil with bits of fried chili, garlic, and onion or shallots.
Romesco is a thick Spanish sauce of roasted tomatoes and garlic mashed with nuts and dried peppers. A perfect accompaniment to all manner of grilled or roasted fish and meats, adds depth when stirred into pasta, soups, or stews, gives life to steamed veggies, and resuscitates a sad sandwich.
Perhaps the prettiest and pinkest of the condiments you can add to recipes is also the most versatile: pickled onions. Drop a forkful on everything from eggs to sandwiches to charcuterie trays. Once you realize how easy they are to make, you’ll always have a jar in your fridge and will always find a new way to enjoy them.
This next pink condiment is actually a combination of lots of other condiments: Fry sauce, aka Utah Fry Sauce, aka Pink sauce, aka Mayoketchup (in Puerto Rico). Fry sauce is a blend of mayo and ketchup, with the addition of any of the following: Worcestershire sauce, pickle juice, hot sauce, onion powder, garlic powder.
Mayonnaise is the most divisive condiment for recipes. Not only do some hate it, but people have very strong allegiances to their brand: Dukes, Hellmann’s, or (gasp) Miracle Whip. Are you familiar with Kewpie? This rich, silky mayo imported from Japan has no sugar and is made with egg yolks instead of whole eggs, for a savory, creamier mayo. Kewpie will elevate your deviled eggs and level up your aiolis.
Aioli technically is garlic mayo, an emulsion of raw egg, oil, garlic, and a touch of vinegar. But now, aioli refers to any flavored mayo. Do yourself a favor, skip the laborious process of making scratch mayo, as well as a nagging concern about raw eggs, for your aioli. Use the store-bought stuff. Any situation that calls for mayo can easily accept aioli. Think pesto aioli on a tomato sandwich, truffle aioli for fries, horseradish (the other white condiment) aioli—perfect on a steak sandwich.
Let’s start our brown condiments with a quick combination of maple syrup and Sriracha. You can decide how spicy you’d like it (it won’t get that spicy). Don’t doubt this magical elixir until you’ve tried it with fries or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Many brown condiments for recipes begin with soy sauce, a condiment on its own. Soy sauce is the umami-packed liquid of soybeans fermented with rice and other grains. Your basic grocery store soy sauce might only ferment for a couple days, while more nuanced soy sauces ferment for months or years.
Add fermented bean paste, ginger, and sugar, and you’ll have hoisin sauce. Oyster sauce is a blend of oysters simmered in their liquid until everything breaks down and caramelizes, then some soy sauce is added. Teriyaki sauce is soy sauce sweetened with sugar and honey, then rounded out with ginger and garlic. Each of these sauces provides full flavor of savory, sweet, salty, and if you prefer, spicy.
There is another magic brown umami sauce: fish sauce, the liquid that results from fish or krill coated in salt and fermented for up to two years. The Italian version, colatura di alici, has been used for centuries to add depth of flavor. Thai and Vietnamese fish sauces are easier to source. Mixed with lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili peppers, you’ll have a delicious nuac chom, a Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Adding Condiments To Recipes: The Limit Does Not Exist
Fun fact: There is no such thing as too many condiments. (To the condiment averse, you may find this content offensive and/or triggering. Don’t hate the flavor.) Go forth and explore the whole world of condiments. You will know you’ve reached condiment success when you have no room in your fridge for food because of the dozens of bottles of chutneys, relishes, pickles, and more.
-by Rubi McGrory
Condiment Recipes For You To Try
Quick ’n Easy Chimichurri
⊲ 1 shallot, finely chopped
⊲ 1 green jalapeño, finely chopped
⊲ 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
⊲ 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
⊲ ½ cup red wine vinegar
⊲ ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
⊲ ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
⊲ Zest of one lemon (optional)
⊲ ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine shallot, jalapeño, garlic, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour vinegar and allow to sit for 10 minutes to mellow the alliums. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and lemon zest (if using). Using a fork, whisk in oil. Add salt to taste. This is best when the flavors have had a chance to mingle, at least three hours or overnight. Keeps in the fridge for one or two weeks.
⊲ 2 Tbsp. sugar
⊲ ¼ cup hot water
⊲ ¼ cup fresh lime juice
⊲ 2-3 Tbsp. fish sauce
⊲ 1 clove garlic, grated
⊲ ½ red jalapeño or bird’s-eye chiles, minced with seeds (based on heat preference)
In a small jar, whisk the sugar and water until dissolved. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and chiles. Place lid on tightly and shake until combined.
You can use right away, or let the flavors come together for a few hours. Keeps for a long weekend in the fridge. Serve as a dipping sauce or make a quick meal by pouring over cold noodles/rice and tossing with veggies.
⊲ ½ cup red wine vinegar
⊲ ½ cup water
⊲ 2 Tbsp. fine sea salt
⊲ 1 Tbsp. sugar
⊲ 1 large red onion
Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a glass measuring bowl. Microwave until salt and sugar have dissolved.
In the meantime, peel the outer layers of the onion. Cut in half so you are making half-circle slices. Slice the onion as thinly as possible. Put the onions into a jar or container and pour the still-hot pickle juice over the onions. Push down with a fork to ensure all the onions are submerged. Let sit at least 10 minutes before using. Refrigerate. Keeps up to several months.
Scoop a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite mayonnaise into a bowl. Add, to taste, one of the following:
Classic aioli: Freshly grated garlic and a squeeze of lemon
Old Bay: spoonful of Old Bay and squeeze of lemon. Perfect for crab cakes and shrimp salad.
Truffle: a dash or two of truffle oil and a generous pinch or truffle salt. Great on potatoes and beef.
Curry: grated fresh ginger and garlic, chopped fresh cilantro, Madras curry powder. Try it on all sandwiches and salmon.
Smoky aioli: lemon juice, lemon zest, grated fresh garlic, smoked paprika. Adds a smoky Spanish flair to potatoes or seafood.