Any Well and Easy Kitchen should be stocked with at least a few healthy condiments and sauces. Herbs, spices, and cooking oils set the scene for delicious, healthy meals. Adding condiments and sauces to those dishes only further brings them to life.
These kinds of products are great, healthy options when it comes to adding flavor to meals. Keeping these staples ready to go in the kitchen opens up your cooking options, and keeps your dishes interesting.
I recommend buying organic and non-GMO whenever possible. Also keep an eye out for what you don’t want in your sauces. You’ll want to avoid copious amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and those sneakily high sodium levels. Additionally, if you’re shopping at an Asian market or using Asian condiments, make sure they don’t contain MSG. MSG is listed as monosodium glutamate (a flavor enhancer that is added to many Asian condiments). Additionally, many health food companies offer products that are gluten-free or vegan, without sacrificing any flavor or texture.
Go-to healthy condiments and sauces
These healthy condiments are what live in my kitchen and I use for boosting flavors or making easy, tasty snacks. Included are some of my favorite flavor combinations with each item, as well as dishes in which they shine
Made from ground-up sesame seeds, tahini is a paste native to the Middle East. Tahini is best-known for being one of the key ingredients in hummus. As a stand-alone condiment it has a unique, nutty flavor, and wonderfully creamy texture. It’s versatile as well, pairing with any range of flavors from savory to sweet. I recommend Kevala Organic Sesame Tahini.
- Try: Tahini makes a great base for salad dressings, and I love pairing it with olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs like cilantro or dill. Or, for a quick, healthy snack, simply dip carrots or other vegetables into fresh tahini paste.
- Flavor Tip: Try adding maple sugar to tahini sauce for a sweet, nutty spread on toast (try grain bread for even more texture!)
Tamari and soy sauce are often passed off as the same thing. When it comes to healthy condiments you can think of tamari as soy sauce’s healthier sibling. Generally made without wheat, tamari tends to have a slightly bolder flavor than soy sauce, as well as less additives. Made from soybeans, water, and salt, tamari is a great alternative to high-sodium, high-gluten versions of soy sauce. One of my favorites is San J International’s Reduced Sodium, Gluten Free Tamari.
- Try: Stir-fries are a no-brainer with tamari, but it also works great to add a splash of tamari to vegetables before you put them in the oven to roast.
- Flavor Tip: Tamari and ginger = one of my favorite flavor combinations! Use fresh ginger chopped up with tamari to create a delicious marinade for your protein of choice.
A spicier, bolder version of just plain old yellow mustard, Dijon stands up well with other flavors, and works in anything from a salad dressing to of course, a sandwich. Originating from Dijon, France, this mustard utilizes mustard seeds and white wine vinegar to achieve its distinctive flavor. Give Sir Kensington’s Dijon Mustard a try, you won’t regret it.
- Try: Dijon mustard alone pairs excellently as a condiment to fresh meats, especially beef, but it also works wonders when added to broth, especially stock simmering for seafood such as mussels.
- Flavor Tip: Stir in Dijon mustard with honey for a spicy-sweet combination that works great with meats or sandwiches.
Braggs Amino Acids/ Coconut Aminos
The hard-to-miss yellow label of Bragg’s Amino Acids may catch your eye at every health food store or vegan cafe you enter. So, what is it? This product is basically a simplified, healthier version of soy sauce: it’s made from soybeans and water, and no other additives (the amino acids come from the plant proteins). It’s similar in flavor to soy sauce, although just a hint sweeter.
Coconut aminos are similar, although they sometimes have some salt added, and are often slightly sweeter in flavor. Both options are a healthier way to achieve a salty, umami flavor in food without adding too much sodium. Trader Joes sells a coconut aminos if you’re curious to try it out, or give Thrive Market’s home brand a whirl.
- Try: I love using aminos as a way to flavor my soups and curries without adding copious amounts of salt. It’s one of the healthy condiments I’ll add to stir-fries or rice dishes for more flavor.
- Flavor Tip: Bragg’s Amino Acids paired with chopped garlic equals a heavenly marinade or salad dressing base full of depth and umami.
I’m personally not even vegan, and I still prefer vegan mayo. Usually made from the simple combination of plant-based milk, oil, vinegar, and salt, vegan mayonnaise is a healthier option compared to its egg-based, high-cholesterol alternative. Many brands offer a variety of flavored vegan mayos as well, but for starters, I recommend NuCo Coconut Vegan Mayo or Primal Kitchen Vegan Mayo, made with avocado oil.
- Try: Make elote, or Mexican Street Corn with vegan mayo for a delicious grilled dish, or mix with wasabi and cayenne pepper to make a spicy sauce that goes wonderfully with fresh fish.
- Flavor Tip: Mayo goes great with smoky flavors– try stirring in a chipotle sauce or spices for a smoky dip that works well for artichokes.
Refined Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce
Originally from Japan, Teriyaki sauce is usually made from some variation on mixing, heating, and reducing soy sauce, sake (mirin), and sugar or honey. A wonderfully sweet, tangy sauce, teriyaki is very familiar to most of us when it comes to flavor. Refined sugar-free teriyaki sauce is simply a healthier version of the sauce you likely know and love. Give The Coconut Secret’s Coconut Amino Teriyaki Sauce a try.
- Try: Teriyaki sauce works as a foolproof glaze for basically any protein, but also shines in stir-fries and marinades, or even salad dressings and dips.
- Flavor Tip: I love to brush or marinate thick slices of fresh pineapple (when available) with teriyaki, and throw them on the grill for a juicy, sweet side that pairs wonderfully with steak or chicken.
Green, red, spicy, mild…Salsa is one of the most versatile, varied, delicious condiments you can keep in your kitchen, and there are countless options depending on your personal preference and tolerance for spice. I tend to buy my salsas fresh, but when this isn’t an option, canned salsas will do just fine. It all comes down to preference, but I love the tangy, tomatillo-based salsa verde from Simple Truth Organics or Thrive Market’s Organic Red Salsa.
- Try: More than just the tortilla chips’ best friend, I love to use salsa in as many dishes as possible. In a crockpot, toss in a jar of salsa verde, chopped tomatoes, and organic chicken breasts to get a perfectly moist pollo verde, ready to eat with rice and tortillas.
- Flavor Tip: Try cutting up fresh mango or pineapple to mix into a red salsa for a great dip, or pair the mixture with shrimp or fish in tacos.
For the days and nights where I’m too tired to put together a perfectly-orchestrated meal, tomato sauce is often a lifesaver for something quick, hearty, and flavorful. Another one of those items that comes down to preference, the options here are limitless depending on the flavor you are seeking. Dave’s Gourmet offers a variety of delicious, organic flavors, such as this organic, red heirloom sauce.
- Try: Simmering zucchini in spicy tomato sauce is a great appetizer, and you truly can’t go wrong with any sort of baked parmesan dish, whether its eggplant or chicken or lasagna.
- Flavor Tip: To quickly elevate a basic, more affordable sauce. I often add in fresh ingredients, such as basil, garlic, mushrooms, and red chili flakes. A plain sauce is more customizable in this sense as well.
One of my favorite healthy condiments is hot sauce. It works as the final kick of flavor to a large number of my meals. The choices are endless, be it smoky, sweet, or vinegar-y and sour, etc. Make sure you purchase your hot sauce in accordance with your heat tolerance; some are fiery! Some of my favorites include Nando’s Hot Peri Peri Sauce (inspired by the Portuguese-style Piri Piri) and Mama’s Own Original Hot Sauce.
- Try: Stir in some hot sauce to collard greens for an earthy, hearty meal with some heat. Or for a delicious spread, blend hot sauce, avocado and some of that vegan mayo from earlier.
- Flavor Tip: Something about the kick of hot sauce pairs surprisingly well with honey or a sweetener; try drizzling the mixture over popcorn for spicy-sweet snack.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar is a tasty addition to meals. It’s proven to be healthier than many of its saucy counterparts. This vinegar is high in antioxidants, and helps promote weight loss, plus benefits digestion. There are many options when it comes to purchasing, but I recommend Napa Valley Naturals Red Wine Vinegar.
Try: Red wine vinegar is a popular in salad dressings, and you can use it to make a reduction for a delicious sauce for protein dishes.
Flavor Tip: I’ve found red wine vinegar’s bold flavor to pair well with cheeses. I like to use it in salad dressings for salads with sharp cheeses.
The rich, sweet-savory, and sometimes spicy sauces have seemingly endless ways to utilize them. Although it’s not too difficult to make your own, there are plenty of pre-made options to help ease the process. I recommend the organic Sky Valley Thai Peanut Sauce to start with.
Try: Peanut sauce makes a delicious dip for satays, a common dish across many parts of Southeast Asia. Try making Gado Gado, a simple Indonesian dish in which peanut sauce is served with a variety of steamed vegetables, tempeh, tofu, and rice.
Flavor Tip: I prefer my peanut sauce to have a little kick. Try stirring in some hot sauce to make a spicier peanut sauce that can be used on noodles and proteins.
With these healthy condiments and sauces, your kitchen is prepped to flavor a variety of low glycemic meals. They not only offer healthier options for flavoring, but endless inspiration as to how you choose to flavor various dishes.