We rounded up some of the best international sauce recipes from around the world to jazz up your dinners.
Sometimes the winter starts to feel a little monochromatic. January’s resolutions plus cold weather lethargy can lead to some ho-hum dinners, the weather gives new meaning to “50 Shades of Grey,” and your routine becomes…well, routine. You may feel like your life is lacking a little…sauciness. The solution? Just add sauce.
For inspiration in adding color and flavor back into your life, long before the leaves and flowers take over the operation, look to the globe. Without needing to go full throttle on exotic vacation plans or full scale culinary projects, just about every cuisine on earth shares a method for enlivening simple dishes through sauce. Best of all, most of these 10 international sauces stay on the sunny side of good-for-you, for perking up your winter meals without sacrificing any recently implemented health goals.
Peru claims more than its fair share of the world’s top restaurants, and it’s no wonder, with its culinary approach to brightness and freshness. Aji is a condiment based on pulverized pepper paste in a wide variety of colors, to form a sauce that comes together with little more than a blender. With herbs and vinegar kicking the brightness up to 11, and just a touch of egg yolk and oil for richness, you’ll want to put this Peruvian sauce on everything. Get Chef José Luis Chavez’s Aji Verde recipe.
Dona Isabel Aji Amarillo Paste, $8.00 on Amazon
The basis for making your own aji at home.
From the Indian subcontinent, chutney is here to check all of your flavor boxes by combining sweet, savory, and spicy elements in one easy relish. A mere spoonful of this delightfully balanced fruit-based preserve does wonders for adding intrigue to proteins like pork and chicken, or even when indulging in some cheese. Chutney invites experimentation and variety as to what fruits, aromatics, and spices are involved, for endless possibilities. Get our Spicy Plum Chutney recipe.
Related Reading: Dip Into These Essential Indian Condiments
China: Sichuan Chili Oil
And sometimes you just really, really need a little spice. Or a lot. Enter Sichuan chili oil, which you may recognize as that which sits in little jars or bowls at your favorite Szechuan restaurant, and which (rightfully) may have scared or scarred you as a child. A little goes a long way, and, if you believe as I do, that eggs and peppers were born to be together, you can employ Sichuan chili oil for any meal of the day. You can certainly make it yourself, such as in this Sichuan Chili Oil recipe from Lins Food, but if you want to buy, Chowhound’s Executive Editor Hana Asbrink swears by Fly By Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp, or you can even see if your favorite local restaurant bottles and sells theirs, like Junzi Chili Oil.
We are definitely not talking about Yemeni cuisine enough in this country, but let a sauce—zhoug—be the best ambassador to open up the conversation. A fiery spice paste with flair from herbs and depth from cumin, it is believed to prevent illness and strengthen the heart. Let’s go, 2020. Not just for proteins, zhoug is also an excellent dressing for vegetable or grain salads. Get Aliza Green’s Zhoug recipe.
The grinding of peppers is the basis for many an excellent sauce on this list, and Spain also has one to offer. A departure from the more bright and spicy entries here, romesco utilizes roasted red peppers with almonds, paprika, and a bit of torn bread for a pepper sauce that is deeper and smokier, with a richer texture. Try it as a pasta sauce or with seafood, or it can masquerade as sauce’s sassier cousin: dip. Get our Romesco recipe.
Haven’s Kitchen Red Pepper Romesco, $7.99 on Amazon
For moments when a little sauce would help but a little time isn’t available.
Full strength Greek yogurt puts tzatziki squarely in keto-friendly territory, but that’s low on the list of reasons to try it. Its tangy, garlicky, and creamy characteristics are the primary reasons, plus the needed green element coming from cucumbers and dill. Lower-fat Greek yogurt can also be employed here; either way the result is a sauce that can take on absolutely everything. Get our Tzatziki recipe.
Guadeloupe: Sauce Chien
Colloquially known as “dog sauce” for reasons that remain mysterious (perhaps related to its drool-worthiness), Sauce Chien is appropriate for any and all seafood preparations common in the south Caribbean, plus goat, or chicken. Comprised of chopped habanero peppers or scotch bonnets and copious amounts of garlic, then brightened with vinegar, cumin, and lime, frankly I’d happily put this spicy, sharp sauce on just about anything. Get the Sauce Chien recipe.
Caponata is Sicily’s answer to France’s ratatouille, where a foundation of melted eggplant plays host to a plethora of other savory ingredients, for a sauce that can almost be a meal unto itself. Olives and capers add a touch of brininess, tomatoes and herbs add acidity and freshness, and occasionally raisins and pine nuts are invited to the party for a little sweetness and texture. Basically, caponata has everything, and soon it will also have your love. Get the Eggplant Caponata recipe.
Japan: Miso Sesame Ginger Dressing
I know it’s tempting to believe that the addictive dressing that comes on the salad at your favorite sushi place is just a thing of beautiful mystery, but the thing is, you can totally make it at home for enjoyment with or without sushi, or even salad. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, which can easily be found at conventional or international grocers, or online. Everything else may very well be in your cabinet right now. Get the Miso Sesame Ginger Dressing recipe.
Hikari Organic Miso Paste, $12.95 on Amazon
It’s no mystery, it’s just miso.
Pesto usually takes center stage where sauces based on herbs are concerned, but Argentina’s chimichurri is here for the one-up. With the happiest of marriages between parsley and oregano, with garlic, chili flake, and olive oil sealing the deal, chimichurri belongs with beef in a way no other sauce does. Get our Argentine Chimichurri recipe.