From tangy barbecue to fiery Tabasco, Americans love their sauces. But if you’re looking for a slightly different way to dip, season, marinate, or just add some extra kick to your food, you owe it to yourself to try one or more of these international selections.
Imagine soy sauce with a citrus kick, and you’ve got the basic flavor of this Japanese staple. International markets carry it by the bottle, but try making it at home for a fresher, more flavorful take with Mark Bittman’s recipe. Use it as a salad dressing, as a meat marinade, or as a dipping sauce for seafood.
Parsley, cilantro, coriander, garlic and saffron are just a few ingredients that make up this pungent north African herb sauce. It’s traditionally served with grilled seafood, though it can also liven up lamb and other grilled meats, as well as roasted vegetables. Try this recipe from Serious Eats that adds in cayenne pepper and paprika.
Chileans always have this spicy spread on hand at barbecues, or asados. They particularly enjoy serving it over toasted bread, though it also goes well with meats, salads, empanadas—basically, anything that could use a little kick. The recipe varies by region, with cilantro, tomatoes and habanero peppers comprising the backbone of this chimichurri-like sauce.
Sriracha fans should try this Indonesian favorite that combines peppers, herbs, citrus, and fish sauce. Traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, it’s chunkier and less acidic than many southeast Asian hot sauces while still packing a mean punch.
5. MOLHO APIMENTADO
Brazilians enjoy this versatile sauce as a marinade, as a seasoning, and as a dip for vegetables and grilled meats. It’s known as a hot sauce, but you can vary the heat to your liking while still retaining the fresh, flavorful taste. Try it with a hearts of palm salad and a New Orleans twist courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse.
This plum sauce is the equivalent of ketchup for many Georgians (the country, not the state). Sour and tangy—The Kitchn calls it “a cross between ketchup and chutney”—it’s often served with potato dishes and meats, and mixed in with stews. The flavor profile varies based on the ripeness of the plums being used, from tart green plums to milder red ones.
This complex hot sauce from South Korea combines chilis, fermented soybeans and sticky rice. It’s too thick and potent to use as a finishing sauce like Sriracha, but it’s perfect for cooking. Try adding it to miso soup or using it to coat grilled or fried vegetables.
8. BAJAN PEPPER SAUCE
Visitors to Barbados often try this hot sauce and swear off the likes of Tabasco forever. Locals covet it, as well. Made from mustard, vinegar and a Caribbean pepper known as the Scotch bonnet, it’s best used on meat and seafood. Try making your own or, if you’re low on Caribbean peppers, order a jar of Lottie’s.
Often referred to as a spicy relish, this colorfully named South African staple began in the country’s townships, where residents combined basic ingredients like beans, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Thick and flavorful, it works well as a side dish (think coleslaw) or as a topping for grilled bread and meat.
10. SHREWSBURY SAUCE
The English know how to do savory, and this sauce, made with redcurrant jelly, butter, flour, and red wine, is a great accompaniment for any pot roast, rack of lamb or pork dish. British chef Delia Smith has a spot-on recipe that adds in mustard powder and Worcestershire sauce. Pour it over meat like gravy, and tuck in.
Lots of people know about Greek tzatziki, but not as many are familiar with haydari, a yogurt-based sauce that’s popular in neighboring Turkey. Made with parsley, mint, olive oil, and Greek yogurt, it's great as an appetizer served over crackers or toast, or as an accompaniment to grilled fish.
Italy is renowned for its ragus and marinara sauce. Flying under the radar, though, are old-world recipes like agrodolce that show a different side of the tomato-rich country. Its name translates to “sour sweet,” and that’s exactly what you get with a sticky sauce that combines sugar and balsamic vinegar. Try it as a glaze next time you make pork chops, and don’t be afraid to customize it with fruits, spices, and other ingredients.
13. CORIANDER CHUTNEY
This chutney is a staple in many Indian households, where it often accompanies snacks like samosas and pakoras. Try it as a dipping sauce, or as a spread for a veggie sandwich. It’s easy to make, and has a refreshing, mild spice profile.
14. NAM JIM JAEW
There are many different Thai dipping sauces, but this one stands out for its sharp, smoky flavor. Dried chili powder and toasted rice powder are the key ingredients, along with lime juice, fish sauce and a few choice herbs. Mix everything together and serve it in a small bowl alongside just about any grilled meat.
This Venezuelan avocado salsa has a rich, earthy flavor that goes well with everything from tacos to salads to grilled steak. It’s naturally mild, but can be spiced up by adding peppers or hot sauce to the mix. Best of all: It’s simple to make. Follow Chef George Duran’s recipe, which calls for rough-chopped onion, cilantro, green peppers and avocados thrown into a blender along with some olive oil and garlic. Just push the button, and voila!
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