Finding balance within a dish—whether it’s salty, sweet, fatty, acid, and heat, can sometimes feel like a game of Tetris or an abstract pointillist painting. This balance is something that takes time for every home chef to develop the knack and taste buds for. But, as we are all continually seeking flavor equilibrium, there’s a tried and true trick for filling missing flavor elements: dipping sauces.
Need an herby component for a dish that feels overrun with fat and starch? Make a quick batch of chimmichurri: an herby sauce that can be drizzled atop your protein of choice or spread across toast as a garlic and herb spread. Wanting to upgrade your lunchtime panini? Try making your own mayonnaise or ketchup – trust us, you’ll taste the difference with homemade sauces. Balancing various spice tolerances in your family? Whip up a quick habanero sauce to serve on the side for members who crave the heat.
Whether you’re spreading, dipping, customizing, or complimenting, sauces can quickly become your unexpected hero.
10 Sauces to Spread, Dip, and Share
Six ingredients and fifteen minutes, that’s all it takes to make your own mayonnaise from the comfort of your own kitchen. No questions about processing or additives, and the result is a versatile condiment fully customizable to your preferred taste. If you’re feeling creative, add in your favorite spices like smoked paprika, lemon pepper, or bourbon-smoked chili powder.
Bourbon and bacon have been long-term companions in the South, displaying that coveted balance of sweet and smoky. Most often, you’ll find bourbon bacon jam on top of a burger; and, don’t get us wrong, a smash patty with cheese and a quick smear of this bourbon bacon jam by executive sous chef Vincent Logan of St. Neo’s Brasserie’s in Savannah is enough to make tastebuds sing. However, we can’t resist topping our pimento cheese sandwiches, Cobb salads, and morning biscuits with a tablespoon or two of this bourbon bacon jam.
Habanero peppers are typically peaking right toward the end of summer in the South, and, odds are, if you grew them yourself, you have more on hand than you can manage. This quick and easy habanero sauce utilizes five simple ingredients and makes six cups. Share with fellow heat-loving friends or taper the recipe down for a quick addition to your personal morning eggs, drizzled across chicken tinga tacos, or over a crispy root vegetable hash.
This tallow aioli from chef de cuisine, Davis Taylor, of Rhubarb in Asheville, North Carolina boasts rich umami flavor. With a little time investment, create a creamy, fatty aioli to compliment lean cuts of beef like New York strip or sirloin. If you need to balance out rich flavors, consider pairing with a brighter sauce like chimichurri, drizzling over steak tacos with salsa verde, or serving on top of herby potato leek fritters.
Emily Meggett shares her go-to pink dipping sauce that has garnered a cult following since the release of her book, Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island. With it’s smooth, creamy texture and rich pink color, Meggett’s pink sauce is perfect for everything from fried green tomatoes to curly fries.
Dung “Junior” Vo of Noko in Nashville puts a spin on traditional South American chimichurri, by adding wood-fired serano peppers, charred shallots, and green onion. This smoky heat balances against fresh herbs, sugar, and fish sauce creating a bright sauce with tons of versatility. Chimichurri pairs perfectly alongside any fatty meat like lamb or a ribeye, but is also an excellent option to spread over sourdough for a savory breakfast, or toss with a chilled pasta salad.
When you need to add an essence of umami, this black garlic barbecue sauce is a godsend. Don’t be intimidated by the concept of black garlic, you can easily find black garlic at Whole Foods or Trader Joes or, with a little planning, age it in your own cupboard. We also recommend not skimping on the Worcestershire, and Bourbon Barrel Foods Worcestershire will add just the right touch of sorghum and oak from the barrel aging process.
This summery condiment creation comes from Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery in Durham, North Carolina. Keeping that classic ketchup texture, but adding a sweet peach undertone and subtle hint of cinnamon, this peach ketchup has us double-dipping every time. Spread over a hot chicken biscuit or serve alongside potato and sausage croquettes or classic hushpuppies.
Ok, we know horseradish isn’t for everyone, but this sauce is a major hit at Tre Luna Bar & Kitchen in Hoover, Alabama. The addition of sherry vinegar will mute the harsh tang of horseradish but keep that zesty flavor alongside lemon and a little Tabasco. This sauce will pair best with fatty beef, so we suggest serving with short ribs or a roast beef sandwich on rye bread or potato roll.
Watermelon almost always lends itself to leftovers, and one way to savor the fruit longer is to incorporate it into a sauce. Husk Savannah’s executive chef, Brian Fiasconaro, shares one of their favorite barbecue sauces with fresh watermelon juice, sweet onion, and grated ginger. The result is a subtly sweet sauce with spicy, citrusy undertones. Pair with pork tenderloin, on a pulled chicken sandwich, or, for a salute to Southern snacking, dip some homemade pork rinds in this barbecue sauce. (If you don’t have time to make your own pork rinds, we suggest grabbing some Hogs Heaven).
- by Erin Byers Murray