4 Chefs Reveal the #1 Condiment They Can't Live Without
If there's one surefire way to enhance the taste of lifeless meals, it's by adding a healthy dose of condiments. The word basically describes any substance that adds flavor to food. Condiments like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, miso paste, molasses, and ketchup can help to inject umami flavor, a hit of salty goodness, and even add texture and color to your dishes.
People love their condiments–just take a peek inside anyone's fridge door. In fact, one 2018 study on the psychology of condiments found that they are among the strongest and best-loved brands in the marketplace.
The market reflects that: the sauce and condiment industry is steadily growing. Statista expects the condiment industry to rake in $244 billion this year and grow annually by 6%. (Fun fact: China generates the most condiment-related revenue annually worldwide.)
And while it may be hard to choose a favorite, everyone has their go-to condiment. (Hot sauce, anyone?) Here, a list of chef-approved condiments that cooking experts absolutely must have on hand.
Chef Samantha Quintero: Mayo
If there's one condiment chef Samantha Quintero can't live without, it's mayo. "Mayonnaise is so versatile and is the base foundation for most sauces like thousand islands, onion dip, tartare sauce, and ranch dressing," says the head chef of Bombo in Los Angeles and champion of TV's "Chopped." Quintero recommends adding a bit of Sriracha or chipotle to spice up mayo. "My favorite mayo-based sauce to make would be a creamy chipotle mayo," she says. "The smokey and subtle spice from the chipotle pepper pairs so well with a charred burger straight off the grill and even better as a dip for grilled veggies."
Chef Dan Kluger: Chili Crisp
Want a bit of heat? Chef Dan Kluger, owner of Greywind and Loring Place in New York City, swears by chili crisp to add a kick to any dish. One of his favorites is the Momofuku Chili Crunch, developed by celebrity chef David Chang and his culinary team. "It's so versatile and works with just about any dish," Kluger says. "It adds just the right amount of heat and texture and a little bit goes a long way."
Chef JJ Johnson: Hot Sauce
Chef JJ Johnson, author of The Simple Art of Rice (forthcoming in September), says his go-to condiment is hot sauce. "Personally, I consider it the ultimate condiment when it comes to enhancing rice dishes!" he says. "Hot sauce adds an irresistible kick to food, providing that extra boom of flavor." His favorite brand is Hot N Saucy, vegetable-based sauces curated in small batches.
Jon Kung: Olive Vegetable
Here's one you may have missed: Olive vegetable is a popular condiment in Southern China prepared by slowly cooking mustard greens with black olives and seasoning. The result is a savory, earthy taste with a hint of olive. Chef Jon Kung, whose debut cookbook Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third Culture Kitchen is coming out in October, says the tar-black mixture is his favorite condiment. "It is unmatched on rice, congee, and also lends an intense, umami-savoriness to many of my more unexpected recipes like roast potatoes and holiday stuffing," Kung says.