5 Sauces You Can Use on Everything

Sauces maximize flavor and jazz up any meal. By learning our 5 essential sauce recipes, you can become a flavoring pro and enhance every dish you cook.

  • By Jackie Sun
  • October 13, 2014

This is part 4 of our ‘How to Maximize Flavor’ series. Read more about it here and see how you can become a flavoring pro and never cook a bland meal again!

This week in our How to Maximize Flavor series, we are all about sauces. We have already uncovered 3 Secrets to Adding Flavor to Meals, discovered the ways to use the spices in your pantry, and explored the world of balancing and enhancing flavors. Now get ready to take your dishes to yet another level with some delicious sauces.

Sauces add flavor to a lot of our favorite meals. Take for example, spaghetti, burgers, and salads. Spaghetti would just be a boring, bland mess of noodles without a zesty marinara sauce coating every strand. Burgers, no matter how juicy and meaty they are, need that extra pow! to make it really stand out, whether it is with mayo, ketchup, or pesto. And a salad without a vinaigrette is just a bowl of raw vegetables.

In short, never overlook the importance of sauce. It is, after all, one of the biggest players in maximizing flavor in your food.

Not only do they take your meals up another notch, sauces can be used before cooking as marinades for meats and veggies, and they are the perfect way to finish a dish. Nothing says “Voila!” like a final swirl of colorful sauce to top your dish. Just like that, your meal is now complete!

Sauces have many purposes to enhance meals and can be used to:

  • Add texture – Sauces can be chunky or smooth, oil-based, or a thin liquid. One of the most pleasing aspects of eating a delicious meal are the varying textures of the dish. If your dinner consists of creamy mashed potatoes with pan-seared chicken breast, a thin gravy is perfect for tying both components together and making the chicken juicier.
  • Add complementary flavors to a dish and balance flavors from all the components – A crisp salad with sweet cherry tomatoes and creamy mozzarella would stand out with a tangy and sweet balsamic vinaigrette. The tanginess balances the sweetness of the tomatoes, but also cuts the fat in the cheese. Meanwhile, the sweetness of the vinaigrette brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.
  • Add juiciness – This works especially well with a dry-cooking method, such as grilling and sauteing. Those BBQ ribs would not be the same if they weren’t slathered in barbecue sauce!
  • Add visual appeal – It’s known that we all “eat with our eyes first,” and it’s true. Pork chops paired with roasted potatoes don’t look that appetizing, but add a vibrant chimichurri sauce made of fresh herbs, and now that’s something you want to dig right into. Some sauces also add that very pretty shine, making the dish look lustrous and appetizing.

We’ve come up with 5 of our favorite sauces that will cover any range of meals that you will be making in your kitchen. These sauces don’t take all day to make, and most just use ingredients you already have in your pantry.

Whether grilled or baked, Mexican or Vietnamese, meat or veggies, these recipes act as guidelines and can be switched up for varying tastes. With the help of this Spice Chart, you can also change sauces to match different cuisines from around the world.

Download the print out of the recipe cards below and keep them handy for adding flavor, texture, and beauty to all your meals!


5 Sauces to Jazz Up Your Meals

Transform any bland and boring dish into a flavorful meal with these 5 delicious sauces.

Adobo-Honey Sauce

This recipe was a total winner with our Kitchen Heroes. With it’s spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors, we have served this over chicken kebabs, drizzled in turkey meatball lettuce cups, as a salad dressing, and alongside burgers.

Nuoc Nam

Nuoc Nam is a Vietnamese staple, and although it has a strong, fishy smell, you will love dipping veggies and summer rolls in this, and using it as a marinade for flavoring up meats and tofu,

Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Pesto

Pestos are great on almost anything, and this one gets a nice, smoky flavor from broiled sweet red peppers and eggplant. We like to make a huge batch and freeze for future meals.


Chimichurri is a quick and refreshing way to add flavor to meats and veggies. It’s also a good way to use up the extra cilantro and parsley you have in your fridge!

Marinara Sauce

We think a classic marinara sauce is something you must have on hand. We’ve used it as a pasta sauce, to eat with calzones, as a base for a creamy tomato soup, and added spices to make enchilada sauce.

For More Smarts:

We mentioned that sauces are very easy to make, but to ensure that the sauce-making process goes quickly and efficiently, here are some more tips to keep in mind:

  • Read through the recipe first – Some sauces may require refrigeration for an hour or overnight, so that the flavors can meld together for a better taste.
  • Have the right tools for the right job – A smooth sauce would require a blender or food processor, whereas a chunky sauce only needs a knife and cutting board. Make things easier by using the equipment that is needed.
  • Taste as you go! – Everyone’s taste preferences are very different, so just because a recipe calls for a certain amount of salt, it doesn’t meant that it is the right amount for you. Adjust accordingly. You can always add more, but you can’t take away, so season little by little as you go. Also keep in mind that the flavors of fresh ingredients change with the season. Tomatoes can be sweet one time, and sour the next. Finally, taste one more time before you finish the dish to make sure it is exactly to your liking!
  • Choose good quality ingredients – This will really ensure that your sauce tastes the best!

So there you have it – 5 sauces to maximize flavor and jazz up any meal. Now you are ready to say goodbye to bland and boring dishes, because these sauces are here to stay.

We hope these 5 sauce recipes are a great start to adding delicious flavor to your meals. Get creative with these sauces, and you’ll be a sauce master in no time!

If you’d like to get this infographic professionally printed to hang on your wall or fridge, check out our Shop, where a portion of our merchandise profits are set aside to support food education.


Week 1: Our 3 Simplest Flavoring Secrets
Week 2: Spice Up Your Cooking with Our Spice Charts
Week 3: A Study of Flavor Profiles
Week 4: 5 Sauces You Can Use on Everything (that’s this week!)
Week 5: Keep it Fresh with Herbs
Week 6: Using Aromatics to Add Depth
Week 7: Surprise Giveaway!


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