6 Condiments You Might Not Know (but should)


In the beginning there was ketchup.

Ketchup has reigned supreme for nearly 200 years. At its peak, it was found in 97% of U.S. households.

But global influences have perked up our palates. There’s a big world of flavor out there. Clear out some space in the pantry and push aside the ketchup bottle in your refrigerator. It’s time to make room in your kitchen and your cooking repertoire for six new condiments.

Sriracha, oh how I love thee. Squeezed on vegetables, drizzled over noodles, mixed into dressings, dips, and sauces; a moderately spicy chili base with a healthy garlic kick, Sriracha is a condiment chameleon. It transcends cuisines and national boundaries meshing equally well with dishes from Asia, Latin America, and the American South. It rivals ketchup as a tabletop catch-all.

Fish sauce requires a leap of faith. Comprised largely from fermented anchovies, on its own it is potent and smelly. Use it judiciously as a dipping sauce or an ingredient in curries, casseroles, and stir fries. The flavor is pure magic.

Chimichurri sauce can be green or red( with added tomatoes or peppers). It’s primarily a blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and pepper flakes, with different spices added to suit the dish. It’s used as a marinade and as a sauce, mostly with grilled meats. It’s popular throughout South and Central America; especially in Argentina where they know a thing or two about grilling meats.

Doesn’t this look familiar? Canned tahini has been found on supermarket shelves in the kosher aisle forever. A creamy paste made from sesame seeds, tahini is most closely associated with the Middle East, where it is a familiar ingredient in hummus, falafel, and eggplant dishes. Tahini has the consistency of peanut butter but with a milder taste, and adds nutty richness as a sandwich spread, salad dressing, and dessert ingredient.

Harissa is a chili sauce that appears on every North African table; sometimes in every course at every meal in all kinds of dishes. To my taste, a little goes a long way: a dab added to stews, sandwich spreads, soups, and sauces adds a distinctively tart, fiery finish. It is available in cans and jars, but for me, the little tube, as shown, is plenty.

Cook Moroccan food without preserved lemon and it just doesn’t taste Moroccan. These are lemons that have been essentially pickled in their own juices along with salt and some spices like cloves, coriander, pepper, and cinnamon. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but whatever the preserved lemons are added to take on complexity and a kind of exoticness. Beans or vegetables, sauces and salsas, dips and desserts will all have a little Moroccan je ne sais quoi.


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10 Responses to 6 Condiments You Might Not Know (but should)

  1. Food Lover says:

    My husband LOVES Harrissa, he can’t eat anything without it, except desserts of course 😀

  2. I’m totally with you! We use all of the above with the exception of persevered lemons. I love to throw fresh lemon zest in just about everything. Maybe I need to pick up a jar of this!

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  4. Bachelor J says:

    I found this article on open Salon and loved it. I would love to reprint (or is that re-display) it on my blog, The Bachelor’s Kitchen (www.bachelorkitchenblog.com). May I?

    Also, I would love to speak with you about your experiences since you’ve been doing this longer than I have.


  5. nice post. we use everything except the preserved lemons semi-regularly, and have a similar love for sriracha. daniel love’s fish sauce too but not me as much. have to get on procuring some lemons soon!

  6. Janice says:

    It IS great in dressing. Try it in tuna or egg salad too.

  7. Janice says:

    Harissa is really spicy, but in a totally different way than something like tabasco or sriracha. Not sweet or vinegary. It’s also used to season sausages.

  8. Dana says:

    Yum yum! I’ve had all of them but for the chimichurri, which I haven’t even heard of before. Time to get to trying that one starts now!

  9. I totally agree with you…..I have tried all of them except Harissa, will have to put it on my list!
    I hope more people think our of the box and try some of these wonderful condiments!

  10. Familar with 3 out of the 6—great choices! The tahini is addicting and makes an awesome ingredient for a tahini salad dressing over a big green salad with radishes and sunflower sprouts. Making myself hungry!

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