10 Condiments You Should Stock in Your Pantry
With the right condiments, you can whip up gourmet, restaurant-quality dressings, marinades, and sauces in a snap. These 10 condiments are tried and true, but if you want to branch out, we've also pinpointed some of the most worthy brands you might not be familiar with. Apple cider vinegar, tahini, and Japanese mayonnaise are just a few items you should own if you don't already. To find out why, keep reading.
You can always opt to make homemade mayonnaise or go for jarred Western-style mayonnaise. Depending on the oil, vinegar, and mustard used, the texture and flavor can range from gelatinous and "eggy" to fluffy and umami. For a truly life-changing experience, try the unbelievably light and savory Japanese mayonnaise, which is made with rice vinegar.
Salad dressings, sushi fillings, chicken salad, bread or fries, or white meat or fish (applied before baking to create a delicious crust) — just about everything is better with mayonnaise.
Try: Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise ($12)
To give most dishes — including stews, sauces, and marinades — depth and acidic quality, you need a good wine. Avoid opening an entire bottle by keeping less expensive mini bottles on hand. Mirin, white wines, and red wines are absolute essentials to keep in your house. Also, if you open a full bottle of wine and don't finish it, you can create wine ice cubes in your freezer for future cooking.
Try: Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon ($6)
Jellies can add a sweet, fruity glaze to vegetables, meats, or fish. Both fruit jelly and pepper jelly make an excellent condiment to add to a cheese plate (think topped over brie). For a traditional, sweet take, cook a spoonful on thumbprint cookies or serve with waffles or fresh bread.
Try: Stonewall Kitchen Hot Pepper Jelly ($13)
Nut butters, especially tahini and peanut butter, should be pantry staples. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, and it's what gives hummus its toasted flavor. Add a teaspoon or two to thicken salad dressings, use it in homemade hummus, or spread it on toast as a peanut butter substitute. Beyond being a lunch staple, peanut butter is great in Asian stir-fry sauces and Thai red curry.
Mexican, Cajun, and Asian hot sauces have totally different flavors, due to the types of peppers used. While you don't want to kill your taste buds by dousing every dish in spicy sauce, a few drops can instantly lift a flat entrée, taco, or bowl of guacamole.
Whether you realize it or not, many of your favorite condiments — including ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce — contain vinegar. On its own, it gives dishes a lip-puckering sourness. In place of white vinegar, try rice vinegar. It's milder and works great in Asian marinades, salad dressings, and dipping sauces. It's even used in sushi rice to make the rice a little more malleable and less sticky. As for your Western fare, apple cider vinegar makes a great, zesty all-purpose vinegar and can be used in cole slaw, salad dressings, and marinades, and it even curdles milk for a quick buttermilk.
For a quick tomato pizza sauce, as a thickener for marinara, or for homemade BBQ sauce, tomato paste is an absolute necessity. Rather than buying it in a can, look for a toothpaste-shaped tube, which makes dispensing and storage easy.
Try: Amore Italian Tomato Paste ($6)
Bitter, smoky, and oaky, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce go a long way in Caesar salad dressing, Bloody Mary cocktails, filet mignon and hamburgers, BBQ sauces, and even some Mexican and Chinese dishes.
Beyond being used in stir-fry sauces and livening up fried rice, soy sauce can be incorporated in Western soups, stews, seasoned beans, and grains for a rich, earthy salted flavor. Shoyu is made from the classic fermentation process, so it also contains beneficial amino acids and a deeper flavor than most commercial soy sauces, which undergo a chemical process where soybeans are mixed with acids.
Try: Eden Shoyu Soy Sauce ($5)