20 Sauces To Boost The Flavors Of Almost Every Meal

On the culinary timeline, there is before sauce and after sauce. Just imagine what barbecue was like before its sauce was invented. The first experience of a condiment made to perfectly complement charred barbacoa must've been truly awe-inspiring for the taste buds. Fast forward to today, and the idea of eating barbecue without sauce is culinary blasphemy. Beyond BBQ, sauce is the flavorful savior for nearly every dish imaginable.

Classic combos like lemon-butter sauce on fish or Worcestershire sauce on steak will always satisfy, but the best sauces are not only tasty, they're versatile. There's nothing better than drizzling your favorite sauce over an unlikely recipe and discovering a new delicious pairing. Whether topping, spreading, or smothering, with the right sauce, there's no limit to the flavorful possibilities.

If you love sauce as much as we do, you've probably got a starting lineup of go-to flavors. But, if you're a conservative saucer, you're missing out on a whole world of savory and sweet satisfaction. Here is a list of versatile sauces that can be used for almost every meal.

Try the refreshing zest of chimichurri

Hailing from Argentina, chimichurri is a vibrant green sauce that packs a fresh herbaceous punch. It can be considered as Argentina's version of Italy's gremolata, as they both contain parsley and garlic. But while gremolata is made with lemon zest, chimichurri typically gets its zesty flavor from red wine vinegar, and usually includes olive oil, cilantro, shallot, salt, and chilies. Chimichurri is one of Argentina's most popular sauces to use on meats, salads, empanadas, and anywhere else the culinary imagination wanders. It's a versatile flavor booster that is prepared differently depending on the region. Here's an easy chimichurri recipe that only takes 10 minutes. If you're into refreshingly herby sauces, we definitely recommend adding chimichurri to your must-try list.

Béarnaise sauce is a savory and creamy excursion

If France is known for anything, it's food. The country's contributions to the culinary arts are pretty much unmatched. One classic creamy sauce from French cuisine is béarnaise, which is an offspring of hollandaise, one of the mother sauces essential to French cuisine. Béarnaise is made with butter and egg yolk, giving it a delectable consistency that's perfect for grilled meats, vegetables, and more. Taste-wise, it's herbaceous, tangy, and buttery — in other words, it's so good that you'll undoubtedly want to use it on everything. For a truly mind-altering taste-perience, you can also add tomato paste to béarnaise. Called Choron sauce or Béarnaise tomatée, it's sweeter than the OG but still as delicious and versatile.

Spruce up faves with herbaceous dill sauce

Whatever you have planned for meals this week, we highly suggest adding flavorful dill sauce to the mix. Whether cooking up an aromatic Middle Eastern recipe or simply enjoying your favorite deli sandwich, dill sauce is the flavor enhancer you've been missing. Packing a load of herbaceous creaminess, dill sauce can be whipped together in only a few minutes. It's made with sour cream or Greek yogurt, lemon, and of course, fresh dill (although dried dill works, too). You can substitute dairy cream for dairy-free options too. Either way, you'll be enjoying a taste that's fresh, tangy, and creamy. Try drizzling it atop fish, using it as a dip for veggies, or using it as a mayo substitute for creamy dill potato salad

Boost dishes with tangy Worcestershire sauce

You'd be hard-pressed to find a savory recipe that Worcestershire sauce can't elevate. Steak lovers are intimately aware of how game-changing a splash of Worcestershire can be, and steak is just one of countless foods that it pairs well with. Widely available at grocery stores, Worcestershire sauce is made using a unique blend of anchovies, molasses, tamarind, and spices. Along with topping meats, seafood, and veggies, it can be used as a marinade and even in cocktails. And those uses only scratch the surface of its delicious dynamic range. You can use Worcestershire sauce to elevate soups, burgers, morning scrambles, salad dressings, and more. Vegans needn't feel left out either, because an anchovy-less Worcestershire sauce can be made quickly and easily. 

Add a touch of sweetness with berry coulis

While savory sauces are finger-licking good, berry coulis is a versatile sweet sauce you should know how to make. This topper will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth. Shouts out to the French for inventing yet another amazing condiment! A coulis consists of fruit or vegetables pureed into a thick and creamy sauce — berry coulis is one of many varieties. Super easy to make, fresh or frozen berries will get the job done. Although it's usually used to decorate cheesecakes, for dessert fillings, or as a syrup substitute, its delicious potential is really unlocked when it's paired with savory foods. Rather than using a traditional glaze for your sirloin, berry coulis is an awesome alternative. From steak to pork tenderloin and more, it's absolutely worth trying.

Umami-rich mentsuyu is very versatile

From soy sauce to teriyaki, Japan's cuisine features a wide array of delectable recipe toppers. While it's lesser-known, mentsuyu is the versatile sauce used across many Japanese dishes. Also known as tsuyu, this umami-rich blend combines soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and kombu and katsuobushi (dried kelp and bonito flakes). If you're unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine, kombu and katsuobushi are the main ingredients in dashi, which is a family of stock bases commonly used to flavor recipes. Tsuyu is remarkably easy to make considering how delicious it is. Super customizable, ingredients are commonly swapped or added. You can use it in soups, in hot and cold noodle dishes, and more. Whatever you plan on cooking up, add a few drops of mentsuyu to the mix. 

Sauce up meats and more with Mornay

Derived from creamy béchamel, Mornay sauce is a simple, classic French sauce every cook should know. Enriched with cheeses like Gruyère, Emmentaler, and sometimes Parmesan, it also includes butter, flour, milk, onion, and bay leaves, and has a thick and velvety consistency. When it comes to taste, it's full-bodied and nutty. In France, it's a prominent ingredient in popular dishes like eggs Mornay (aka eggs Benedict with Mornay sauce instead of hollandaise). Mornay isn't only for mornings, though — it's a cheesy go-to for mac and cheese, seafood, vegetables, and some of your favorite meats. Trust us, after you try it, it'll forever change how you make casserole. Whip it out for your next dinner party, and wow friends with your amazing cheffing abilities.

Oyster sauce is a surefire recipe enhancer

Rich and complex, oyster sauce is a Chinese condiment that's similar to hoisin sauce, but isn't as sweet and has a thinner consistency. Like some of the most irresistible culinary creations, oyster sauce was an accidental invention. According to oyster-sauce producer Lee Kum Kee, the condiment was first discovered when a forgotten pot of boiling oyster soup was reduced to a thick gravy. When it comes to flavor, it's a sweet and salty mix of soy and fish sauce. Commonly used in many Asian cuisines, its umami punch actually works great for all sorts of dishes, like stir-fry meals, hot and cold noodle dishes, meat proteins, and also as a savory dip. And, as the name implies, it's an especially tasty seafood condiment.

Elevate dishes with smoky and nutty romesco

Another time-tested flavor enhancer is romesco. It's a Spanish sauce that is recorded as taking dishes to new heights since the 1800s or earlier. In its homeland, locals primarily enjoy pairing romesco with fish, but it's actually a super versatile sauce. Smoky and rich, it's typically composed of red bell peppers, large vine tomatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, whole almonds, smoked paprika, and sherry vinegar. The ingredients join together to create a perfect pairing for pasta, chicken, and grilled veggies, and romesco will transform an everyday omelet into a culinary treasure. However, preparing smoky romesco sauce takes a bit more work than most condiments. You'll need to set aside at least 35 minutes while your appetite remains whetted and ready.

Lebanese toum has a versatile garlicky kick

Pungent, piquant, and potent, Lebanese toum is the garlic sauce you should know. It only includes five ingredients — lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, and garlic — but when they're combined correctly, toum becomes a truly crave-worthy condiment. If you've never experienced this tangy and savory sauce, it carries a strong garlicky kick that will ward away a vampire. Toum is definitely for garlic lovers, make no mistake about it. In Lebanese cuisine, it's commonly served with pita bread, grilled chicken, shawarma, lamb skewers, kebabs, and more. Around the world, its role has been expanded to pair with all sorts of delicious recipes, ranging from burgers and pasta to roasted vegetables and soup bases. Lebanese toum is an all-around flavor provider.

Brighten up meals with classic pesto

Italy is credited with introducing many amazing sauces to the world. As one of the country's most popular condiments, herb-filled pesto is a foray into sauce heaven. While it's traditionally made for pasta, pesto has a fragrant burst of herby deliciousness that works great with many types of meats, seafood, vegetables, sandwiches, you name it. You'll find different variations of pesto throughout Italy, some of which are widely available in other countries. Pesto Genovese is one of the most popular varieties. You can make a bright and fresh pesto with fresh basil, capers, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and lemon juice and zest. As long as you have a blender and five minutes, it's a really easy sauce that even cooking newbs can pull off.

Drizzle meats with ginger scallion sauce

Ginger is one of the most common herbs used in Chinese cooking. It's a versatile ingredient that is used in its fresh form or dried. Ginger can be infused into marinades and salad dressings, and of course, into sauces. If you enjoy flavors with a peppery flair, we recommend trying ginger scallion sauce. Light and zesty, it has the perfect balance of oil, richness, and tanginess that makes it go great with pretty much anything. The ingredients are simple: ginger root, scallions, and a neutral oil with a high smoke point for a base. With its simple ingredients, it can be stored in the fridge for weeks. Along with adding it to China's wide selection of dishes, try ginger scallion sauce on grilled pork and chicken, drizzle it atop salads, and use it as flavoring for broths.

Bring Cajun flair with tarragon remoulade

This sauce is sure to take your taste buds for a spin. Creamy, tangy, and bearing a hint of licorice, tarragon remoulade is yet another product of French culinary ingenuity. In New Orleans, it's particularly prominent in Creole and Cajun cuisine. Bayou locals eat it on comfort classics like po-boy sandwiches and crab cakes. However, this aromatic and zestful sauce is capable of so much more. From juicy burgers to fries, tarragon remoulade just might be your new barbecue go-to. Ingredients include a large egg yolk, whole-grain mustard, white wine vinegar, a neutral-flavored oil, sweet pickles, capers, tarragon, chives, and a shallot. The only drawback is that it only keeps for a few days in the fridge ... which may not be a bad thing at all, considering how fast it will be consumed.

Yum yum sauce makes foods mmm mmm good

The upside of having so many mouthwatering sauces to choose between is also a downside, because there are so many mouthwatering sauces to choose between. One lesser-known flavor bender is named after the phrase you're likely to use after trying it — yum yum sauce. A Japanese steakhouse staple, yum yum sauce is made for meats. It's a mayo-based condiment that's blended with tomato paste, rice vinegar, paprika, garlic powder, sugar, and butter. Flavor-wise, it's light, sweet, tangy, and tastes similar to creamy sweet relish. As you can imagine, yum yum sauce is an extremely versatile condiment that can elevate seafood, a burger and fries, and a whole assortment of vegetable dishes. In fact, we've got the perfect recipe to get you started: yum yum chicken sliders

Slather dishes with mushroom gravy sauce

Don't you just love switching up everyday recipes with different sauces? Mushroom gravy is an unlikely flavor enhancer that can be used on much more than mashed potatoes. Simple, salty, and creamy, it has just the right amount of umami for savory satisfaction. It's made with fresh mushrooms, butter, onion, flour, and seasonings that make it a sauce worth salivating over. You can find it in powder form at grocery stores, but making mushroom gravy from scratch is always recommended. Along with classics like sirloin steak, sing your stomach a savory melody by pairing it with pasta, meatballs, roasted vegetables, burgers, and, if you're really daring, cheesy nachos. For fans of earthy and creamy tastes, it's definitely one of the best sauce options around.

Nothing is off limits with comeback sauce

The American South is home to many culinary wonders. From unique barbecue styles to crave-worthy Creole classics, you could spend a lifetime in the South and still not experience everything the region offers. The South is no slouch when it comes to regional sauces either, as one of its tastiest condiments hails from Mississippi. Comeback sauce was clearly made for one reason: to make you come back for more. It's an orange-colored sauce made with a mayo and ketchup base, which can be customized with Worcestershire, garlic, onion, and mustard, while chili sauce or hot sauce can also be added for heat. Tangy with a spicy kick, comeback sauce was originally made for salads, but now it's easily one of the nation's best sauces for sandwiches, dips, and chicken.

Sweet and sour sauce is a versatile meat topper

The crispy, crunchy bite of an egg roll dripping with sweet and sour sauce will always satisfy, but if you've never tried sweet and sour sauce with other foods, this is your wake-up call. Sweet and sour sauce has a light, jelly-like consistency that tingles the tongue while dancing on it. Making sweet and sour sauce requires white sugar (you can also use brown or coconut), white vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, cornstarch, and water. Oh, and 10 minutes of your time. Savory fried foods like pork, fish, chicken, tofu, and vegetables pair well with sweet and sour sauce. For deliciousness and ease, this is definitely a sauce worth adding to your culinary toolkit. It also can last in the fridge for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

Alabama white sauce is a lesser-known flavor bomb

Another lip-smackingly delicious sauce from the American South is Alabama white sauce. It's a creamy and tangy culinary excursion you're going to want to take the whole family on. Alabama white sauce has a laundry list of ingredients, including mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, stone ground mustard, horseradish, and red pepper flakes for spice, along with salt and pepper. This delectable white sauce is made for delicious deployment atop your favorite sandwiches and barbecued meats, as a dip for fries, and even for blending into coleslaw. It's simply too good to remain Alabama's secret, and fortunately, this sauce can be found at grocery stores throughout the nation. If you can't locate any nearby, fret not, because making Alabama white sauce is only a five-minute affair.

Spread aioli on all your homemade go-tos

Aioli is one sauce that's solidified its place as one of the best sandwich spreads ever. If you like rich and creamy condiments, aioli is all that and then some. Garlic lovers will especially fall head over stomach for its potent punch. It's made with fresh garlic and lemon, eggs, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Prepare yourself for a zestful flavor that's full-bodied, aromatic, and fresh-tasting. As one of the easiest sauces to make, this classic homemade aioli recipe only takes five minutes and will yield 10 servings. Beyond sandwiches, spread aioli on burgers, dip your onion rings into it, mix it into salads, and slather it atop vegetables. You can also give aioli a salad-dressing consistency by adding a little water or extra lemon juice.

Your meals are missing tomato brown butter

One could argue that the toasted nutty taste of brown butter is one of the best flavors ever discovered. Called beurre noir (black butter) or beurre noisette (hazelnut butter) in France, it's created by cooking butter on low heat until it melts and develops a brown color with a toasted nut flavor. Like regular butter, it can be incorporated into recipes in a multitude of ways. From baking and sautéeing to topping pasta and meats, brown butter will take even the best recipe from a 10 to a 10½. But, there's another version of brown butter that's even more appetite-whetting: tomato brown butter.

Tomatoes are the missing ingredient to life-changing brown butter, adding a tangy sweetness and lightness to its full-bodied flavor. Substitute your go-to pasta sauce with tomato-infused brown butter, or drizzle it over fresh fish, or add it to grilled meats and vegetables.