In classic French cooking, there are five “mother” sauces that serve as the bases for hundreds more, but in everyday cooking, variety is the spice of life. From tangy to cheesy, learn about seven easy, flavorful sauces that will perk up your daily meals. So long, plain Jane dinners!
1. Alfredo: This cream-based sauce has an interesting history. In 1914, Alfredo di Lelio’s pregnant wife would not eat anything, but tripling the amount of butter in his fettuccine al burro (butter), did the trick. He began serving the dish in his restaurant in Rome; once American tourists discovered the rich sauce, the rest was history.
In Your Kitchen: Cruelty-free Alfredo is a breeze to make and perfect with freshly cooked pasta.
2. Chile: Chile sauce, or hot sauce, has thousands (perhaps millions) of iterations worldwide, with levels of heat ranging from mild to mouth-burning. A staple in Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and numerous other cuisines, chile sauce adds a definite wow factor to any savory dish.
In Your Kitchen: Top enchiladas with Green Chile Sauce—add more jalapeños for an extra kick.
3. Marinara: Marinara, a tomato-based sauce incorporating garlic, onion, and herbs, is a misnomer—the Italian marinara actually means “seafaring.” Tomato sauce was first recorded being eaten by the ancient Aztecs, and wasn’t actually introduced to Italian cuisine until the late 16th century, when tomatoes were brought over from the Americas. It is also one of five French “mother” sauces.
In Your Kitchen: Four ingredients is all you need to make a tasty batch of Marinara Sauce—the rest is up to you.
4. Teriyaki: Soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sake (rice wine), and sugar are the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce, the base of one of the most popular Japanese culinary traditions. The word “teriyaki” is a combination of the Japanese teri, which refers to the shine on the sauce, and yaki, which refers to grilling. While traditionally used with roasted or grilled meat, teriyaki sauce’s combination of sweet and savory tastily works with vegetables.
In Your Kitchen: Use this Teriyaki Marinade on tofu, seitan, vegetables, grains…it’s great on anything.
5. Peanut: Peanut sauce is popular in the cuisines of China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and parts of Africa. Made with roasted peanuts, coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic, and spices such as cumin and coriander, it has also become a popular side dish in the Netherlands: the Dutch often eat their French fries with mayonnaise and peanut sauce.
In Your Kitchen: Add Peanut Sauce to rice noodles, stir fries, or on top of tofu and baked.
6. Barbeque: Ranging from water-thin to thick-as-molasses, barbeque sauce adds rich, smoky flavor to dishes. Commonly made of tomato paste, vinegar, spices, and sugar, barbeque sauce is highly regionalized and highly delicious. This traditionally southern sauce was arguably discovered in Hispaniola during Christopher Columbus’ expeditions in the 15th century, with the first commercially produced sauce made in the early 1900s in Atlanta, Ga.
In Your Kitchen: Bake some tofu with Frankie’s Barbeque Sauce for a southern-inspired meal—don’t forget the grits!
7. Hollandaise: Meaning “Holland-style,” this French “mother” sauce is traditionally a thick, smooth concoction made from butter and eggs, and was originally called “sauce Isigny” after a town in the Normandy region of France, known for its butter. The name changed during World War I; with French butter production shut down, butter was imported from the Netherlands instead.
In Your Kitchen: Did someone say tofu Benedict? Whip up this five-ingredient vegan Hollandaise for a delicious brunch in minutes.