8 lesser-known condiments to try
Whether you prefer spicy, savory, or slightly sweet, these tasty condiments are either widely available at supermarkets or can be made in your kitchen. Keep in mind that most condiments tend to be high in sodium, so go easy on quantity.
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.
Fermented soybeans, gluttinous rice powder, powdered red chili peppers, and salt 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.
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. Bonus: The capsaicin in chili peppers may have anti-inflammatory effects.
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.
Commonly sold in liquid form, this salty sauce 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.
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. 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.
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 + a nut (such as peanuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds) + other spices. All the ingredients 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.
Argentina is the land of football, 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.