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How to Take Condiments From Ordinary to Extraordinary

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We probably all have the same bottles in our pantry and fridge, those multi-colored, familiar products we have known since childhood. There’s the red squeeze bottle of ketchup, the yellow squeeze bottle of mustard, the jar of generic barbecue sauce, the tub of sour cream and the big bottle of white mayonnaise. Even if our tastes in food have changed dramatically since our youth, chances are good we are still using the same condiments or organic, vegan versions of them. It’s funny how we will spend so much time and effort making 10 kinds of veggie burgers only to put the same old ketchup, mustard or mayo on them. Why not put that same effort and creativity into our condiments as well? There is no reason we have to stick with the plain, boring versions of the past. You wouldn’t serve pasta with the same plain tomato sauce every single time, so why serve your burgers and fries with the same old ketchup? Whether you buy condiments or make your own, you can turn those familiar flavors into eye-opening, exotic ones simply by mixing in a few ingredients. Let’s let our imaginations and taste buds run wild and take our condiments from boring to BAM!

1. Ketchup

You can take any prepared ketchup, whether bottled or homemade, and easily turn it into a flavor-packed specialty condiment. The next time you are thinking about ketchup for your veggie burgers or fries, try one of these zesty versions.

To give your ketchup a Chinese flavor, add 2 teaspoons of Chinese 5-spice powder, 1 Tbs. soy sauce, the juice of a lime and a pinch of black pepper to one cup of ketchup. This would be perfect on my Hoisin Black Bean Burgers.

Add some bold Mexican flavors to one cup of ketchup by adding 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander and chile powder, the juice of a lime and a tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro. Cumin is a wonderful complement to beets so this would be great on my Roasted Beet Burgers.

Crispy fries taste great with creamy curry-flavored ketchup. Just add 1 Tbs. curry powder and ¼ cup non-dairy yogurt to one cup of ketchup. This is a delicious dip for almost anything…maybe Walnut-Crusted Artichoke Hearts? Yum!

To make spicy Jerk ketchup, add 2 Tbs. jerk seasoning, the juice of a lime and 1 Tbs. pineapple juice to one cup of ketchup. If you want chunkier ketchup, use chopped fresh pineapple instead of the juice. Try this ketchup to spice up this Quinoa and White Bean Burger.

My favorite way to jazz up ketchup is by adding 2 tsp. of smoked paprika and 1 Tbs. of vegan Worcestershire sauce. It tastes rich and smoky. Balsamic vinegar can be used in place of the Worcestershire sauce if necessary. This is going directly onto my Kidney Bean-Walnut Burgers.

2. Mustard

Dijon mustard is delicious. It’s my choice of condiment for vegan hot dogs, sausages and many sandwiches. Adding other flavors to mustard changes it into something everyone will swear you picked up in some expensive specialty store.

For an amazing mustard you can use as a salad dressing, combine ½  cup Dijon mustard, 2 or 3 Tbs. white wine vinegar (to taste), a pinch of curry powder and 1 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro. Try this on your next summer salad.

If you loved the taste of honey mustard, make a vegan version by mixing ¼ cup each Dijon mustard and agave nectar, 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. This is perfect for salads or as a dip for Crispy Tofu Nuggets.

Adding 1 tsp. of diced jalapenos and the zest and juice of a lime to ½ cup of Dijon mustard gives you a spicy sauce that’s perfect for tacos or tempeh “fish” fillets.

My favorite mustard mash-up happens by stirring 1 Tbs. prepared horseradish, 1 Tbs. of chopped fresh dill and 1 Tbs. of vegan mayo or sour cream into ½ cup Dijon mustard. I use versions of this horseradish-dill combo on my Eggplant Crunchburgers and my Tempeh “Crab” Cakes.

3. Mayo

Though I hated it as a child, vegan mayo is my favorite condiment of all. I can dip just about anything into mayo. When you make ordinary mayo, it’s a fancy aioli. Since mayo itself is bland, it’s a perfect blank canvas for so many flavors. I’ll try to select just a few to highlight here.

You can buy Sriracha-flavored mayo in the store or you can make it yourself. Just mix ½ cup mayo with ¼ cup Sriracha. If you want to sweeten it up a bit for balance, add a touch of agave or some sweet pickle relish. This would be perfect on this Vegan Humdinger Sandwich that has mostly mild flavors from the cucumber, avocado and alfalfa sprouts.

For a beautiful spring green condiment, make Chimmichurri mayo by adding fresh herbs to mayo. Puree ½ cup of your favorite herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme or basil with one garlic clove and a cup of mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread some on this Tempeh Tomato Herb Sandwich for an amazing meal.

For an Asian twist, mix 2 Tbs. white miso with 1 cup of mayo. Add 1 Tbs. grated ginger, 2 tsps. agave nectar, and a dash of toasted sesame oil. This would be an amazing dipping sauce for some Daikon Fries.

I make the creamiest red pepper aioli by mixing ½ cup vegan mayo, ½ vegan sour cream, ½ cup roasted red peppers, 2 tsp. dried basil, salt and pepper in a food processor. It’s not only delicious, it’s really pretty. It’s the perfect topping for my Fried Green Tomatoes.

4. BBQ Sauce

I love making my own BBQ sauces and I’ve shared some recipes for them in my article, “10 Ways to Make Awesome BBQ Sauces, Rubs and Marinades.”  But if you have a bottle of store-bought BBQ sauce sitting around, you can easily doctor it up and turn it into something special for any of your barbeque dishes.

For a Cajun BBQ sauce, combine 1 cup barbecue sauce, ¼ cup bourbon and 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Serve with these Cajun Burgers for a hot and spicy dinner.

Get a taste of Hawaii by mixing 1 cup barbecue sauce with ½ cup fresh diced pineapple, ¼ cup pineapple juice and 1-2 Tbs. brown sugar, depending how sweet you want it. Where would I put this? Oh, on any skewered dishes or on an incredible jackfruit sandwich.

Turn your seitan or tempeh ribs into a Japanese feast by slathering them with a teriyaki barbeque sauce. Simply mix 2 Tbs. molasses and 2 Tbs. tamari or soy sauce with 1 cup of barbeque sauce. Season with 1 tsp. each minced garlic and grated fresh ginger.

If you have a bottle of hoisin sauce or Chinese barbeque sauce sitting around, make it special. Add 3 Tbs. plum vinegar, 2 Tbs. mirin or Chinese rice wine, 2 Tbs. tamari or soy sauce and 3 Tbs. agave nectar to ¼ cup of hoisin sauce. Mix well and garnish with scallion greens. Use this as a dipping sauce for my Chinese 5-Spice Potato Latkes or Veggie Dumplings.

5. Sour Cream

Vegan sour cream is another blank canvas just begging to be painted on. I make my own Coconut Sour Cream but I love adding other flavors to it. Any of the recipes for mayo would work with sour cream but here are a few more ideas.

In a food processor, puree 1 avocado with ½ cup vegan sour cream, ¼ cup chopped green chiles, the juice of one lime and one garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is like having your sour cream and guacamole in one condiment; perfect for serving with quesadillas or nachos.

Add the juice of a lime and 2 Tbs. of chopped fresh cilantro to ½ cup of sour cream. This will taste refreshing on any Latin dish, especially tacos.

I often use vegan sour cream to make Tzatziki sauce. To one cup of sour cream, I add ½ large chopped cucumber, one clove of minced or grated garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a bit of olive oil and 1-2 tsp. of chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Tzatziki sauce is the condiment of choice for falafel and chickpea burgers.

For a spicy kick, take one cup of sour cream and add in ½ of a chipotle pepper that has been seeded and finely minced. Stir in ½ tsp. of adobo sauce, 1 tsp. of agave nectar and the zest and juice of a lime. Chipotle sour cream is perfect on baked potatoes, in black bean soup or with my Spanish Potato Latkes.

As you can see, when you know the basics of different ethnic flavor profiles and spice combinations, you can incorporate them into basic condiments to make amazing toppings, dips and sauces. With these recipes, no one will ever ask you to “hold the mayo” again. Trust me.

Lead image source: Coconut Sour Cream



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