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The New Condiment Basics

SO. I started a board on condiments yesterday, but while the suggestions all sounded great, if I were to follow the advice of everyone there, my fridge would become entirely comprised of condiments (instead of just mostly).

What I'm wondering is what essential condiments you think the general populace - people that aren't foodies - is missing out on. Everyone has ketchup. Everyone has mustard. Everyone has mayonnaise, and BBQ sauce, and salsa, sriracha, and Frank's Red Hot. But what ESSENTIALS, are they missing?

I'm looking for a maximum of three condiments you'd nominate to sit alongside ketchup and mustard.

I ask because I'm working on a blog right now. Things I'm considering based off the suggestions I saw on the last board - Harissa, Maggi Sauce, Ponzu, Chilli Oil. Agree? Disagree?

UPDATE NOTE 1: The list of things everyone has is not exhaustive. Several people mentioned soy sauce, but let's just pretend I included that and every other basic, basic condiment out there.

UPDATE NOTE 2: When I say "everyone" I'm speaking in hyperbole. What I'm getting at is the average, non-foodie American.

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  1. I go by what I grab the most:

    honey-ginger vinegar (I infuse my own)
    pomegranate molasses
    hoisin sauce (which wasn't on my list in your other thread).

    8 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      We used to use an awful lot of hoisin.

        1. re: HillJ

          I don't make as much stir-fry/Asian food as I used to because once my husband started covering it all in hoisin he complained that everything I made tasted the same. SMH

      1. re: HillJ

        When you use hoisin as a condiment/dipping sauce do you fry it in oil first?

        1. re: Gloriaa

          No and I'm not familiar with doing so. Is there a reason for frying it?

          1. re: HillJ

            I have heard that it takes the 'rawness' out. I do it but keep thinking I should do a taste test. I am thinking I might have seen it done on Ming Tsai's show.

            1. re: Gloriaa

              I have never thought of Hoisin as a raw product. I believe it is a soy paste that's been cooked down with other ingredients to form a flavorful sauce base?

              I love the stuff.

          2. re: Gloriaa

            No. I don't always use it straight though. Also I am very particular about brand. I think my favorite is Lee Kum Kee.

        2. I'm curious to know how you define condiment. In your previous thread half the suggestions were the dipping sauces and spreads I typically think of as a condiment. The rest were anything from spice mixtures and herbs to syrups and indeed whole pickled fruits, all items I'd consider cooking ingredients, but not something to use in its raw state as a condiment.

          6 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Good point. I wouldn't consider spices, herbs, spice or herb mixs, or whole or chooped anything, to be condiments. Though, I would personally put syrups in the condiment category.

            1. re: gastronomics

              Definition via Merriam-Webster: con·di·ment noun \ˈkän-də-mənt\ : something (such as salt, mustard, or ketchup) that is added to food to give it more flavor
              Origin: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin condimentum, from condire- to season

              I like Lemon Pepper (first ingredient in the mix is salt then black pepper), Tajin (again, salt with red pepper) and Herbes de Provence to season items.

              Of viscous items, fish sauce, garlic-chili sauce and a good olive oil season most foods, if they need seasoning.

              1. re: Cathy

                I'm not arguing that the dictionary defines spices as condiments, it's just that they're not what I'm looking for.

                Fish Sauce and garlic-chilli sauce are good ones!

                I guess I use olive oil as a condiment, but it feels more like an individual ingredient to me.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    Let's pretend I put soy on the list above. I didn't list every condiment I'd consider a basic, but soy sauce, while delicious, is definitely among them.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      I would not put lemon pepper in the condiment category personally.

                1. Soy sauce
                  Maggi sauce
                  Oyster sauce
                  Black bean sauce
                  Scotch bonnet sauce

                  Sorry, but three ain't gonna cut it for me. YMMV.

                  1. Not everyone has ketchup. We rarely ever have it. And we rarely ever have commercial mayo, I just make it when I need it.

                    I can do three categories but not 3 individual condiments:

                    Hot things: sauces, pastes, fermented, etc.
                    Vinegars: balsamic, wine, flavored, etc.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                      Okay, yeah. Not EVERYONE has ketchup, or eats bread, or has a TV, or thinks Elvis is dead, but my point is that ketchup is considered a condiment basic. It's so basic, McDonald's charges for BBQ but gives ketchup away for free! They would never dream of asking customers to pay for it. It's so basic, we consider ketchup a right.

                      1. re: gastronomics

                        What people consider "basic" and "essential" is directly related to what foods they consider "normal" and what their personal needs are. Of course, I don't eat bread, or have a tv or eat McDonalds (I'm pretty sure Elvis is dead since that's why my inlaws used his name as my better half's middle name- kinda in memory of... really,) so what do I know?

                        1. re: weezieduzzit


                          I meant no offense. I am not normal. In fact, I'd say I'm pretty odd and I have nothing against quirkiness! But I'm talking about the normal, average, non-foodie American. Not any one specific person. Not the niche of foodies here who know about every condiment under the sun. The people who only have the common condiments I orginally listed. If you had to broaden their horizons with just three condiments you use all the time, several times a week, what would you tell them about?

                        2. re: gastronomics

                          I have ketchup in the fridge but the only thing I use it for is cocktail sauce. Period.

                        3. re: weezieduzzit

                          We don't keep it either. If I were to use it, say for a meatloaf topping, I would make it homemade.

                        4. Oh ESSENTIALS, that's easy, Vodka, nuff said.

                          1. You didn't throw in Balsamic Vinegar, but my nominations are:

                            Chutney (pref Major grey's)

                            I'd also nominate Marsala Wine.....I find I use it in all sorts of things and is much nicer than sherry when the latter is clled for.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                              I find Marsala and sherry to have such different flavors thy they don't sub well for one another unless you really want the opposite flavor.

                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                I love Major Greys. It is makes for a really tasty curry rice salad.

                              2. If I take BBQ sauce and ketchup off the list (ick), can I add two others for a total of 5?

                                Soy sauce
                                Black bean sauce
                                White balsamic vinegar
                                Fish Sauce

                                1. I would say I grab the following most frequently:

                                  Sambal Oelek
                                  Sherry Vinegar
                                  Bacon jam (I make my own)

                                  Black bean sauce is a close fourth, and would be #3 if we weren't counting homemade stuff. Either that or tapenade.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I don't think Frank's is as universally loved one might suspect.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: bbqboy

                                      Among those that can handle any amount of spice, I'd say it's probably this generation's Tabasco.

                                      1. re: gastronomics

                                        I think that depends on where you live. I see tabasco everywhere, including on tables in restaurants. I''ve never seen Franks anywhere, including some supermarkets, at least here in Honolulu (although I haven't looked recently.) I've never bought it, that much I know. I do have both red and green tabasco, Sirracha (truly this decade's hot sauce) and Tapatio. There may be one or two off brands in my fridge at any given time as well. From what I understand Frank's is a single use product, good only for chicken wings. For everything else there is always a better choice available.

                                      2. re: bbqboy

                                        I've never tasted Frank's nor, to the best of my knowledge, seen it in a store. So I'd say not universally loved at all. Maybe a regional product, as stated below.

                                        1. re: bbqboy

                                          I agree with that. I easily have six or eight "hot sauces" on hand at any time and Frank's isn't one.

                                        2. Don't have ketchup in the house, and no salsa at the moment (it's too easy to make up fresh this time of the year),Franks' seems a regional thing, and on the rare occasions I want a barbeque sauce I'll make my own.

                                          I'm limiting my list to store-bought condiments, and keeping it to 3 is hard, but if I had to chose they'd be
                                          -Tapatio chile sauce
                                          -a Dijon-style prepared mustard
                                          -fish sauce

                                          1. I think this is an almost impossible list to make. Everyone has their own must-haves, depending on where they live, what their ethnic background is, what they have been exposed to, etc. My choices are based on my family background and what kinds of foods I cook. Someone who grew up in England may insist on having HP Sauce and Branston Pickle as must-haves, while someone with an Indian background (like me) may say Maggi Chilli Sauce and Coriander Chutney. We eat a lot of Asian and Mexican foods, so I always have sambal oelek and Tapatio on hand, but someone in the South may insist on Crystal Hot sauce.

                                            I don't think this is something you can pin down for the entire country.

                                            26 Replies
                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                              This. I don't think things are as "average" as the OP is assuming they are.

                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                Yea, I don't see how this list can be made or even approached but interested to see what others think

                                              2. re: boogiebaby

                                                I understand that normal and average are just ideas, but I think there are condiments that are common nationwide and it's that list I'm trying to expand on, not really to layout definitively.

                                                What I had in mind was the rise of sriracha from this underground foodie thing, to this massively popular condiment even chain restaurants like Applebee's are putting out.

                                                I just wanted to offer people who were excited to just recently discover sriracha, a few more new exciting, trendy foodie condiments that have the kind of flexibility sriracha does (as opposed to some condiments that tend to be used just for this one specific purpose) - something they'll find themselves using all the time.

                                                1. re: gastronomics

                                                  Did you see about the sriracha shortage on the news? Run out and stock up, 'hounds!

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    I understood it to be an issue with manufacturing, has it already deteriorated into hoarding? Thank goodness I bought a back up bottle a week ago.

                                                  2. re: gastronomics

                                                    I guess I'm confused. In your OP, you asked people to list essential condiments that the general population is missing out on. But then in your post above, you say you're asking for condiments that are common nationwide. What you originally asked for, and what you are asking for now, are complete opposites.

                                                    1. re: boogiebaby

                                                      I think I get what the OP is getting at. I grew up with Sriracha next to our rice dispenser and would never have predicted so many Americans would be stocking it next to their barbecue sauce a few years later. I doubt that the average Mexican-American in 1980 anticipated Americans pouring salsa on pretty much everything 10 years later.

                                                      I keep what I regard as essential shelf-stable condiments in an easy to reach spot right above my microwave. They reflect my upbringing and personal preferences and judging by my roommates' inability to use any of them, I gather my choices aren't exactly "average American." The OP wants to know, though, what from among those condiments will soon go mainstream. I'm not sure, but I don't think it's going to be the Marmite.

                                                      1. re: JungMann

                                                        I keep what I regard as essential shelf-stable condiments in an easy to reach spot right above my microwave. They reflect my upbringing and personal preferences and judging by my roommates' inability to use any of them, I gather my choices aren't exactly "average American." The OP wants to know, though, what from among those condiments will soon go mainstream. I'm not sure, but I don't think it's going to be the Marmite.

                                                        1. re: JungMann

                                                          Oh, man. How could I forget Marmite?

                                                          1. re: tcamp

                                                            Marmite, always intriguing. How would you describe the taste?

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Salty and savory, almost meaty at first with a slightly sweet, malty finish. It is rich with umami and has the mouth-crackly intensity of aged parmesan, but in spreadable form. It's my secret umami booster for soups or stews in place of bouillon.

                                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                                Somewhat similar to anchovy paste, but with that aged cheese/malty tang that JM articulates so nicely. I use it in soups too but also on sourdough toast with butter.

                                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                                  So you use it mostly as an ingredient rather than as a condiment? Other than toast of course

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    It can be used as a seasoning, but I usually spread it on cheese sandwiches, mix it into low-sodium cottage cheese or just on buttered toast.

                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                      OK, I couldn't resist so Marmite found it's way into my cart this afternoon. I must be British because just from a quick taste, I love it. For some reason I have the great idea that I'd like to dip a steak in it :)

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        I like Marmite on toast with lots of butter, or toast spread with a thin layer of Marmite and then topped a layer of cottage cheese sprinkled with pepper.

                                                                        There's also a Malaysian hawker dish called Marmite Chicken, where you fry marinated chicken pieces, and then make a sauce with Marmite, soy sauce, chicken stock, etc. It's got a great umami flavor to it. I make it sometimes with a side of stir-fried veggies and white rice.

                                                                        Are jams and spreads considered condiments? I wouldn't consider Marmite to be a condiment, unless strawberry jam and honey are condiments too, and I just didn't know it.

                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                          Fieldhawk, I know your love for mushrooms...try sautéed mushrooms in butter and a little bit of marmite. Heaven over a nice steak!

                                                                          A little dab will do ya....strong stuff!

                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                            I am occasionally a orderer of blue cheese, mushrooms, bacon cheeseburgers, but I think those marmite mushrooms could take star player with a slice of cheddar on a good patty.

                                                                            1. re: JungMann

                                                                              I agree! I avoided it for years because of the trauma stories I'd heard. The mushrooms are on the menu this weekend for steak night. How much would you start with for a lb or so mushrooms?

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                This is sedimental's recipe so I would defer. I'd imagine half a teaspoon should be sufficient since mushrooms cook down so much.

                                                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                                                  Since its used as is in spread form should I add at the end or it's fine to saute right along with butter and any other herbs? I'm excited

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    I do my mushrooms a little differently. I sear them in a hot pan and finish them in a medium heat pan with butter, aromatics and seasonings. I'd add the Marmite along with stock in this final step.

                                                          2. re: gastronomics

                                                            I love this thread. Lots of great ideas.

                                                          3. re: boogiebaby

                                                            Coriander chutney for sure. It goes with everything and I can't seem to keep it on hand. Tobasco or chili sauce of some kind and dijon mustard.

                                                          4. No condiment shelf would be complete without a great hot sauce Dirty Dicks Hot Pepper Sauce rings my bell.

                                                            1. -mixed olive tapenade
                                                              - Soy Vay marinade (basically a soy sauce sesame oil mix)
                                                              - fig basalmic reduction (i usually make my own)
                                                              - maple syrup
                                                              -various indian chutneys

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                Soy Vay is great. I'd add it to a list to share with others.

                                                              2. I would assume that pickle relish would be on the "everyone has" list, so I'll nominate Chutney (pick your own variety).

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: DonShirer

                                                                  Honestly, I have relish but I really don't know why.
                                                                  We almost never have hotdogs. Although when I was a kid relish was the only condiment I wanted on my hot dog. I have on occasion mixed it with tuna and mayo just to try since that was all the rage when I was a kid. In a pinch I have used it if I really wanted ham salad (once every 5 years or so) and I didn't want to buy sweet gherkins.

                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                    I've never been a fan of sweet pickles, so I don't keep it either. I just used minced dill pickles. I would still consider relish a basic though.

                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                      I have relish that I never use either. Maybe a new thread should be started on the "most common unused condiments" :)

                                                                  2. The ones I use the most in the pure condiment sense, which I would define as something you add to taste *after* a dish is prepared, or dip a prepared item into, rather than as an ingredient while cooking...

                                                                    - Fresh lemon juice
                                                                    - Butter
                                                                    - Olive Oil
                                                                    - sea salt
                                                                    - freshly ground pepper
                                                                    - soy sauce
                                                                    - vinegar (white rice, black rice, balsamic, wine)
                                                                    - tonkatsu sauce
                                                                    - Ffsh flakes
                                                                    - mustard
                                                                    - wasabi paste
                                                                    - pickled ginger
                                                                    - roasted sesame dressing
                                                                    - pepper salt

                                                                    If you include condiment type things I use frequently in cooking, I'd add

                                                                    - fish sauce
                                                                    - anchovy paste
                                                                    - olives
                                                                    - capers
                                                                    - dark molasses
                                                                    - honey

                                                                    If I had to pick one to add to the canon, it would be fresh lemon juice.

                                                                    1. ketsap manis, the sweet sort
                                                                      "good" olive oil (the average person might have "OK" oil)
                                                                      balsamic reduction (because most people wouldn't make it)

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: KarenDW

                                                                        Since you mentioned an Indonesian condiment, I wish I could have access to dabu-dabu and sambal ijo all-year long!

                                                                      2. Worcestershire sauce

                                                                        Coconut milk, use in various applications

                                                                        Roasted Vegetable Puree, which I make myself & keep in the fridge to add to soups, sauces, spreads, etc.

                                                                        1. Chili garlic sauce - not sriracha, the stuff in the jar
                                                                          Maggi seasoning
                                                                          Dijon mustard

                                                                          1. BBQ sauce
                                                                            Asian Dipping Sauce (it varies but I usually have at least one of: General Tso's, Terriyaki, Asian Ginger, etc)
                                                                            Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil

                                                                            1. I like your list so far :) I use all of them, but I wonder if your audience would not value the foodie love for Maggi, due to the hysterics around MSG ? Just a thought. You could suggest Braggs Liquid Aminos instead. I love the stuff. Or discuss the differences between Maggi 's (German, Mexican, etc). I digress......

                                                                              What about:

                                                                              sesame oil
                                                                              Fig Jam
                                                                              Pickled ginger
                                                                              Fried garlic

                                                                              Another vote for black bean sauce and hoisin but maybe both as common as ketchup now?

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                Agree with you on the Maggi (and we are an Indian-American household). No MSG. Instead of pureed roasted veg as mentioned above, I make Gentlemen's Relish and use it in soups, stews, etc.

                                                                                1. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                  I love Liquid Aminos, but accordin to their website: "Also, Bragg does not add any MSG to its liquid amino products. However, MSG is found naturally occurring in many foods, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and soybeans. Since Bragg Liquid Aminos is made from soybeans, there can be some very small amounts of naturally occurring MSG."

                                                                                  1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                    Yes, that is why I think it makes a good substitute for Maggi. It has a different overall flavor, however.

                                                                                  2. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                    Black Bean sauce is one I've heard mentioned repeatedly and I've never tried it (that I know of)! I'm going to have to check that out. Hoisin, I'm semi-familiar with (thick sweet soyish sauce, right?), though I don't personally buy it. I may have to grab some of that too.

                                                                                    One thing I just picked up and tried for the first time, but haven't heard anyone mention is Hela Curry Sauce (German). Yummy!

                                                                                    1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                      Thick, sweet soyish sauce sounds like kecap manis, aka dark soy sauce. Hoisin is very thick, almost a paste and has a distinctive sweet flavor that is recognizable as the seasoning for Chinese barbecued pork.

                                                                                    2. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                      From wikipedia: "Frank's RedHot's recipe dates to 1896 to the Frank Tea and Spice Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.... It is known as the primary ingredient in the first buffalo wing sauce, concocted in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar and Grill in Buffalo, New York."

                                                                                      So if you've had buffalo wings or "buffalo" flavor anything, you've had it. :)

                                                                                  3. Surprisingly, no one seems to have mentioned horseradish yet. I always have that. Worcestershire sauce is essential, but I'm not sure if it should be called a condiment.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                                                      I almost did, but I mentioned wasabi instead. I have jarred horseradish in the fridge too, but I find that I rarely use it. I always reach for the wasabi.

                                                                                    2. Marzetti Chunky Blue Cheese dressing. I put it on everything!

                                                                                      1. If you love spicy and olives, That Pickle Guy spicy olive muffaletta is awesome to have on hand. I love it in cream cheese stuffed celery, on sandwiches, and even on chicken.

                                                                                        I also can't live without chipotle Tabasco. Pickapeppa is also tops on my list. I always have a grainy french mustard and creamy dijon on hand as well.

                                                                                        1. Balsamic glaze

                                                                                          Miso (more of an ingredient but still "undiscovered," IMO)

                                                                                          I personally love a dab of pickapeppa on a cracker topped with a sharp cheddar but I doubt it's ever going to go the way of sriracha.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                                            I go with their ultimate blue cheese and yes, it's amazing! :)

                                                                                              1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                                                We're a big hot sauce family, but I'd never really been of tabasco until I gave chipotle tabasco a try. :)

                                                                                              2. worchestershire sauce (grilled steak)
                                                                                                pesto (turkey and provolone sandwich)
                                                                                                Maille Dijon

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: laliz

                                                                                                  If you like W sauce on steak I would highly recommend CI recipe for marinating your steak after it is cooked. I got the recipe here via Bitten Word. Enjoy-you will love it!

                                                                                                  1. re: Gloriaa

                                                                                                    I have this recipe bookmarked but have yet to try it as it just seems like a good way to ruin a nice sear. However, I'm still interested to try it and love W sauce on anything really.

                                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                      It is a nice variation. We had it for dinner last night with mashed potatoes and green beans and it was delicious. I would never treat a t bone or filet like this but it is perfect for flank or Bavette!

                                                                                                      1. re: Gloriaa

                                                                                                        Good point, we eat a lot of flank and Bavette and it would probably work nicely for those cuts. I love love Bavette, I'm so glad I randomly discovered it one day.

                                                                                                  1. Hot mango pickle
                                                                                                    Brava sauce

                                                                                                    1. The blog you all helped me post! Thanks so much to everyone who offered input! :)