People are always looking for new ways to make food more flavorful with herbs, additional ingredients, and of course — condiments. Condiments are one of the simplest ways to improve the taste of food, without the need for special culinary skills. From breakfast toast to sirloin steak, there are countless foods that can be altered or improved with condiments.
The list of existing condiments is extremely diverse, and many countries have their own distinct condiment types. For example, while traveling through Southeast Asia, I found that sesame oil is one of the most common condiments for rice-based dishes. However, outside of a restaurant serving authentic food from the region, you would never see sesame oil used as a condiment in the United States.
Nonetheless, there are dozens of condiments that are widely used around the world. But before we take a closer look at all the different types of condiments, there are a few questions we should answer first.
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What are Condiments?
Condiments refer to various types of spices or sauces that are typically added to food after its preparation. While every condiment adds something a little different to a meal, all condiments are used with the intent of enhancing the flavor of a cooked meal. If you’re eating in a restaurant, condiments are generally served in glass or plastic bottles. In some cases, there may be dishes placed on the table with different kinds of condiments. For those who prefer to prepare their own meals at home, you can easily find dozens of condiments at the grocery store or local supermarket.
Now that you understand a little bit more about condiments and their function, let’s look at a complete list of available condiments.
Complete List of Condiments
Generally, condiments are broken down into the following categories: herbs and spices, sauces, dressings and syrups, and dairy. While herbs are sometimes put into a separate category, they are often used along with spices as post-preparation condiments. In any case, let’s start off by looking at all of the herb and spice condiments in alphabetical order:
Salt (a mineral)
At one time, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in the world. Nowadays, you can find salt everywhere, as it is one of the most common and popular flavor enhancers.
Sugar (a sweetener)
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, sugar is the best way to go. Sugar crystals can be sprinkled on desserts or mixed with drinks to cut the bitterness and improve the overall taste.
Sauces, Dressings & Syrups
Almond butter takes the mildly sweet flavor of almonds and turns it into a rich and creamy spread.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark, concentrated form of vinegar that is most commonly used as a salad dressing throughout the Western world.
Barbecue sauce is a distinctly American condiment that combines many different ingredients and spices, including tomato paste, vinegar, and mayonnaise.
Caesar dressing is one of the most popular salad dressings in the world and can be recognized by its rich, lemony flavor.
Whether you want to add additional sweetness to a cake or add a topping to your banana split, caramel is a great condiment to have on hand.
Originally from Argentina, chimichurri is an olive oil-based condiment for grilled meat.
Most frequently used with ice cream, chocolate sauce is a great way to bring the taste of chocolate to just about any dessert.
Though every recipe differs, the cocktail sauce is generally comprised of ketchup and horseradish and is a perfect condiment for boiled shrimp.
Hailing from France, dijon mustard is a spicy and delicious condiment that is great for hot dogs, sandwiches, and similar meals.
Fish sauce is a common ingredient in Thai cuisine, however, this salty condiment can be added to just about any rice or noodle-based dish.
French dressing is generally a ketchup-based salad dressing, though it can also be added to other dishes.
A staple of Mexican cuisine, guacamole uses the rich, natural flavors of avocado to complement a variety of dishes.
The sweet flavors of natural honey are perfect for hot drinks (like tea), cakes, and any food or beverage in need of an extra dose of sweetness.
Commonly used as a dipping sauce in the United States, honey mustard adds a tangy twist to traditional yellow mustard.
Horseradish is a root vegetable that is prepared into a spicy condiment using salt and vinegar. It is a popular addition to various cuts of meat.
As the name implies, hot sauce is used to add spiciness to your meal. The exact ingredients vary between brands, though many use hot peppers as a base.
Despite the name, Italian dressing is most common in North America. It is an herbal, vinaigrette-style salad dressing.
There are dozens of kinds of jelly, from grape to strawberry, and they are commonly added to toast, sandwiches, or baked desserts.
Ketchup is a tomato-based condiment that is a staple of American cuisine. It is extremely popular to use with french fries.
Maple syrup is sweet, with a consistency similar to molasses. It is most commonly added to pancakes and waffles.
Marinara sauce is simply a tomato sauce combined with onions and various herbs. It is commonly used as a pasta or dipping sauce.
Mayonnaise is a tangy, egg-based condiment that is popular on sandwiches, certain salads, and french fries.
Olive oil is extremely versatile, as it can be used as a salad dressing, a dipping sauce, or even a flavor enhancer for pasta.
the Oyster sauce has a very distinctive, salty flavor that is popular in Asian cuisine.
While almost everyone knows about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter actually has a lot of different uses. It can be used as a condiment or dipping sauce for foods like celery, apples, and crackers.
Peanut sauce is rarely used in Western dishes. As a result, its unique flavors are generally associated with the cuisine of Southeast Asia.
Pesto is a condiment that originated in Italy and is made using garlic, pine nuts, salt, and basil.
Ranch dressing is a rich, creamy salad dressing made from buttermilk.
Relish is a condiment made from pickled vegetables and herbs. It can be used as an ingredient in certain salads, though it is more commonly used as a condiment on hot dogs.
Salsa originally comes from Mexican cuisine and is a tomato and onion based sauce that can be added to tacos, tortilla chips, and even omelets.
Soy sauce is a Chinese sauce that is made from fermented soybean. It is generally used in small quantities, as it has a strong, salty taste.
Sriracha is a spicy condiment derived from chili peppers. Most recipes also include varying amounts of vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar.
There are tons of different brands of steak sauce, but the majority use tomatoes, vinegar, and spices to enhance the flavor of a cut of beef.
Sweet and sour sauce
Traditionally used in Asian cuisine, the sweet and sour sauce is now popular around the world. Recipes and flavors vary by region, but as the name implies, this condiment produces both sweet and sour flavors.
Tartar sauce is a condiment made using mayonnaise and capers. It is almost exclusively used with seafood dishes.
Teriyaki sauce is used to complement many Japanese meals and is a primary ingredient in Teriyaki chicken, among other things.
Thousand Island dressing
Thousand Island dressing is an American, mayonnaise-based salad dressing. The exact ingredients vary by brand and region, but a thousand island dressing usually has a very creamy texture and tangy flavor.
Similar to ketchup, tomato paste is made by cooking tomatoes down to a concentrated form. Though ketchup is much more popular as a condiment, tomato paste is an adequate substitute.
Wasabi is a spicy condiment that hails from Japan. Though it can be used with a variety of foods, wasabi is generally used alongside soy sauce as a condiment for sushi.
Worcestershire sauce originates from the UK and is a source of umami flavorings. It is primarily comprised of vinegar, salt, onions, and various spices.
Yellow mustard is popular as both a cooking ingredient and a condiment. In the United States, mustard is commonly used on hot dogs and hamburgers.
Blue cheese can be used as a condiment in the form of a spread or a creamy salad dressing. In any case, blue cheese has an extremely rich, almost spicy flavor that can complement salads, meat, and many other foods.
Butter is one of the most common flavor enhancers in the world. Whether you want to spread it on toast or melt it down into a lobster dipping sauce, butter is a great condiment for just about any meal.
Cream cheese is a popular spread for many baked goods and breakfast foods in Europe and North America. Its flavor is very similar to that of mascarpone cheese.
Feta cheese hails from Greece and is generally made using sheep or goat’s milk. Feta cheese can be turned into a salad dressing, or combined with vegetables as part of salsa.
When ground up or made into shavings, parmesan cheese is an extremely popular condiment for soups, pasta, and salads.
Ricotta cheese is a popular Italian cheese that can be turned into a creamy, delicious dipping sauce for bread, crackers, and similar finger foods.
As the name implies, sour cream is produced by fermenting traditional cream. The sour flavor goes great with a wide variety of foods, from salad to nachos.
Whipped cream can be made fresh or bought in a can. Either way, whipped cream is a perfect condiment to add extra sweetness to your ice cream, cake, or fruit salad.
There are many herbs you can use in cooking to add flavor. Because there are so many and it’s a topic unto its own, we have a mega list of herbs here.
Spices of all kinds are used to “spice” up food which is essentially adding flavor. Like herbs, because it’s a huge list, we have a dedicated list of the different types of spices here.