Condiments are like makeup—often unnecessary and easily overused. Done right, however, they balance and enhance; whether it’s a smidgen of salt, heat, or acidity, condiments have the ability to play up a dish’s best features. So here are some of our favorites that go beyond ketchup and plain old yellow mustard.
1. We can’t get enough Rick’s Pick’s GT1000s. These sweet and spicy curried green tomatoes are perfect on a burger, and are equally delicious on a turkey or grilled cheese sandwich, or simply on their own.
2. Hellman’s Mayonnaise was one of the most popular responses when we polled our staff for their favorite condiment, but if you find prepared mayo a little banal, try Terrapin Ridge Spicy Chipotle Squeeze, a mayonnaise-like spread that’s great on sandwiches, fries, fish, or eggs.
3. Frank’s RedHot is touted as the secret ingredient that spiced up the original recipe for Buffalo hot wings. This searing vinegar-and-chile-based sauce is well suited to any dish that needs a little heat and acidity.
4. Ajvar is a savory red pepper and eggplant spread, often spiced with paprika, popular throughout the Balkans. Several jarred varieties are available. Passport brand, imported from Bulgaria, is a tasty one.
5. Bragg Liquid Aminos is a soy sauce–like condiment with a cultish following. This salty, savory protein concentrate is nice dribbled over salads or mixed into stir-fries (we don’t really endorse spraying it directly into your mouth, though).
6. Sarson’s Original Malt Vinegar is ubiquitous in Britain, where it’s paired with fish and chips. You can dash a bit onto anything that needs a little acidity.
8. Spicy, salty, and sour, Indian Lime Pickle is perfect with rice dishes and grilled or fried breads. Kalustyan’s fiery version is particularly fantastic.
9. Huy Fong Sambal Oelek, made by a California company looking to replicate the sambals popular in Indonesian cooking, is simply a thick, chunky paste of puréed chile peppers. Mix it into sauces to add a dose of pure heat. We also love the company’s smoother Sriracha, available in a squeeze bottle.
10. Mostarda, a biting compote of whole fruit and mustard, is popular in northern Italy. Though most commonly used as an accompaniment to roasted meats, it’s versatile enough to top hard cheese, bread, or anything else you feel like spreading it on. Mostarda di Milano is a nice version.