Sauce Recipes That Will Transform Any Meal

There is a fantasy: cooking a party for friends, or even just having dinner any night. Then there’s the reality: Coming home late due to traffic or time-consuming meetings, or simply losing the motivation to prepare a full meal from scratch due to cravings to lie on the grass (or couch) a little longer. When that happens, a fridge full of homemade sauces makes the promise of an almost easy meal.

The quickest way to prepare big-flavor dishes is to eat, grease, or sprinkle any of the following options for key ingredients that require minimal preparation: Pull out leftovers; Buy rotisserie chicken a slice of tofu. cook eggs, pasta, or both; Season vegetables, seafood, or meat with only oil and salt, then grill, roast, or sear. And yes, you can also grab a bag of potato chips and start dipping. This collection of sauces, contributed by Melissa Clark, Eric Kim, Genevieve Coe, and Yondi Komolavi, has a recipe for nearly every occasion.

Although many of these formulas start with basics like ketchup, soy sauce, and mayonnaise, they taste fresh and can – and should – be customized to your taste. Or stick to the recipe. Part of the appeal here is not having to know exactly what to cook: make anything and brush it with sauce. This will save you time (and energy) to hang out with guests and relax with the family.

green | sweet salty | Chile | refreshing | creamy | sweet

Growing up with a steady amount of green salsa in her fridge all summer, Melissa Clark is ready to whip up anything for instant dinner. Her mother said she was consuming wilted herbs: “Everything green and drooping could find a place in her sauce jar—and it still is.” Here, Mrs. Clark continues the family tradition, blending herbs into blends that bring out their summer freshness.

This Yemeni spice is very popular throughout the Middle East. You can adjust the heat to suit your chile tolerance and replace half of the cilantro with parsley if you want to diversify. Melissa Clark

recipe: Husband

This sauce is the perfect spot for all those extra herbs you might have on hand from other recipes — that leftover sprig of mint, that core of a handful of cilantro, that hanging basil. You can use any combination of soft herbs or other delicious leafy options such as watercress, celery leaves, or pea sprouts. MC

Seasoned with fresh mint, chilies, and toasted spices, this pungent North African sauce includes preserved lemon, adding subtle flavor to the mix. (It is also usual to leave it out and make the sauce a little less spicy)

recipe: Charmoula

Swinging sweet and savory foods makes sauces — and just about anything — irresistible. In these mixes, the balance comes from more than just salt and granulated sugar. Delicious bases like soy sauce and fish sauce complement the sugars in various forms, which also caramelize if cooked.

This classic condiment based on Vietnamese fish sauce is very versatile. It offers a bouquet of garlic and chili leaves along with sweetness and flavor to a wide variety of dishes. Yuande Komulaf

recipe: Cambodia

This Japanese seasoning usually calls for sake, soy sauce, and mirin, but the addition of brown sugar in this version gives it the sheen and texture of a syrup perfect for dripping on top of already-cooked ingredients. You can skip the sugar if you want the sauce to simmer in a dish while it simmers and liquids build up in the glaze. A goal keeper

recipe: Teriyaki sauce

Yangnyeom (pronounced YANG-nyum) means “seasoned” in Korean, and this sauce gets its name. The citrusy rice vinegar complements the fruity ketchup, strawberry jam, and saltiness of soy sauce. Eric Kim

recipe: yanginium sauce

Chili peppers in all their forms—fresh, dried, and preserved—add more than just a spicy heat to the seasoning. They also offer fruity or herbal flavors, crisp textures and bright colours. In these homemade mixtures, the heat is tilted toward the center so that the other traits of the chili peppers shine through.

Found all over West Africa, especially in Benin, Senegal, and Togo, this chunky blend of fresh tomatoes, red onions, and spicy lemon juice is great in hot and humid weather. Here, mango is added for a fruity flavor. NS

recipe: mango heart sauce

Brilliantly browned butter adds a wonderful base flavor to a straightforward, toasty buffalo sauce with vinegar and brown sugar. Estonian Krona

recipe: Buffalo sauce

There’s just enough oil to coat all the crunchy bits of chili, onion, and sesame in this spicy Chinese condiment, so it delivers just as crunchy as the salty, sweet, and nutty heat. A goal keeper

recipe: Chili Crisp

These highly acidic blends, like vinegar and citrus juice, satisfy the need for a refreshing bite.

Fresh tomatoes lighten this silky avocado dressing, and its acidity helps the mix stay green even after days in the fridge. A goal keeper

recipe: Avocado sauce

Roasting fresh tomatoes deepens their citrusy sweetness. When mixed with sherry vinegar and olive oil, it becomes the perfect summertime dressing. NS

recipe: Canned Tomato Dressing

This supple and slightly pickled onion is a traditional accompaniment to grilled and tandoori foods throughout India and the rest of South Asia. Seasoned with salt and lime juice, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, this recipe uses a blend of paprika and cayenne pepper for a subtle, earthy flavor. MC

recipe: beyaz ka lacha

Reminiscent of the wasabi-based soy sauce you might have with a California roll, this all-purpose sauce includes tart rice vinegar and sesame oil. Wasabi paste adds moments of excitement to clean the nose and can be reduced or increased. Estonian Krona

recipe: Wasabi-vinegar sauce

Mayonnaise may be the greatest seasoning of all. Here, this is the delicious shortcut to rich dumpling and stir-fry sauces.

Stirring a little bit of chili paste into a classic formula reduces sweetness a bit and adds a very nice taste. MC

recipe: Thousand island dressing

Packed with a sharp, crunchy dressing of onions, pickles, and flavorful capers, this sauce gives you the boldness. Dill, parsley or a combination that brings freshness. A goal keeper

recipe: Tartar sauce

Various types of frying sauce are found all over the world. This version is similar to the version found in Puerto Rico, where it is called mayokétchup. The all-purpose garlic flavor enhancer, as its name suggests, is perfect for dipping on crunchy fried things. Estonian Krona

recipe: Fry sauce

Breakfast, lunch, and dessert feel extra special with sauces from scratch, even when served alongside purchased baked goods and freezer ice cream. Nothing beats freshly whipped cream.

Run with plump berries, this compote and syrup mix gets a pair of natural sweeteners: fresh berries, which are simmered with just lemon juice to concentrate their summer sweetness, and earthy maple syrup, which lends depth. A goal keeper

recipe: blueberry syrup

The base of the caramel sauce is energized by over-ripe – or even slightly over-ripe – fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and pit fruit. This is an excellent way to add deeper sweetness and a hint of the season to your favorite desserts. NS

recipe: Caramel Fruits

Whipping cream in summer or in a hot kitchen does not require a background in thermodynamics. However, there are tricks in this recipe that are essential to the summer setting that can be skipped in the cooler seasons. Follow them for an airy, silky result. NS

recipe: whipped cream

This brilliant jewel glaze has as many uses as a Swiss Army Knife. With this recipe, you get two goodies in one: Besides the sauce, you end up with delicious yellowed fruit. You can sprinkle the sauce or scoop the fruit into dessert dishes and savory dishes. Estonian Krona

recipe: rhubarb sauce

Bookmark these recipes and more from New York Times Cooking.

Produced by Kristen Chamberton, Kim Guggenheim, Rebecca Halleck, and Tanya Szczynski. Special thanks to Madeleine Montoya and Paul Jean.

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