All About Condiments (And A Little Of Spices)

Just like beverages, condiments are complementary items to your dish. They may appear small and unrecognizable, but once they are mixed in with your dish, they can change the entire complexity of the flavor. Of course, you have to make sure that you combine the right type of condiment to a particular dish. Otherwise, things will take an unlikely turn.

My years of cooking experience have shown me there are various definitions of a condiment. Some define this item as a form of preserved or pickled food. Others describe it as an enhancement that is added to food after it’s cooked. But the formal definition of a condiment is actually any ingredient, such as a sauce, that enhances the flavor of any applicable cuisine or dish.

You could also say that a condiment is a form of food preparation. But most of the time, we think of it is a complementary item, rather than a cooking method. In layman's terms, a condiment can simply mean the ketchup or soy sauce you add as a relish to barbecues and burgers.

Regardless of how you see condiments, it is undeniable that most recipes cannot survive without them. That's the main reason why I wrote this special section about these complimentary ingredients. So let's get started!

All About Condiments (And A Little Of Spices)

Essence Of A Condiment

Any food requires an additive. It doesn't matter whether you put them – before, during, or after the cooking process – condiments certainly improve your food. Now, you have to expand your understanding of this matter. Condiments do not only enhance the taste of food. Most of the time, they are used to alter or modify the way these food’s appeal to our tongue.

For instance, condiments like ketchup provide a sweet and sour taste and soy sauce can give the food subtle hints of flavor. You could say it is the sweetness that balances out the acid and salt in your dish.

These are just some of the basic perks that condiments can offer you. For professional cooks and gourmets, condiments are used to give certain cuisines multiple flavor palettes. Of course, condiments are often mixed together to open up new worlds of taste! 

Condiments Vs. Spices

Contrary to popular belief, condiments do differ from spices. Even I was oblivious to this fact at first. It was only during a cooking seminar that I learned they are not on the same team.

On the surface, it seems that condiments, spices, and herbs have shared nuances, as they are food additives that can provide supplementary or flavor-enhancing roles. This is the reason why a lot of people assume they are just the same, but there are distinct characteristics and intended applications.

Spices are any type of ingredient that works as a seasoning for a particular dish during the cooking process. The keyword there is "during", which indicates that spices are applied throughout the food preparation. Meanwhile, condiments are utilized as flavor enhancers or modifiers to food when they are served at the table. Therefore, it is technically proper to conclude that condiments are essential items on your dining table. Herbs, on the other hand, are composed of green parts of the plants (commonly leaves).

However, there are some exceptions to that. For example, ketchup and soy sauce are common food preparation ingredients used in many types of recipes. This should not really bother you at all. For me, these tiny details make cooking a very interesting field. 

Categorization of Spices

Since I have introduced various types of spices, you should know what ingredients belong to them. Spices have botanical classifications. Take note that the ones that I have listed here are just samples. If I were to cover the entire field, this section would not be sufficient. So let's keep it nice and short here!

Categorization of Spices
  • Dried seeds or fruits - mustard, nutmeg, black pepper, and fennel.
  • Dried flower buds - cloves.
  • Arils - mace.
  • Barks - cassia and cinnamon.
  • Resins - asafoetida.
  • Stigmas - saffron.
  • Rhizomes and roots - turmeric, galingale, garlic, and ginger.

Categorization of Condiments

Unlike spices, condiments are very straightforward. They are also very easy to acquire, as they are generally found in local markets. There are some simple types of condiments, such as salt, garlic, and onion salt. Then there are also other types of condiments called "compound". These include:

Categorization of Condiments
  • Meat sauce.
  • Horseradish sauce.
  • Mint sauce.
  • Chutney.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Prepared mustard.
  • Ketchup.
  • plus
    Barbecue sauce.
  • plus
    Teriyaki sauce.

Regardless of their differences, it is undeniable that both condiments and spices are essential cooking ingredients that provide a better taste and nutritional value to your food. They make sure that your food is not bland, ordinary, and flavorless.

Must-Have Condiments In Your Home

I know that some of you might disagree with this list. Considering that we have different preferences and ways of cooking our food, there is no right or wrong here. Despite this, there are still some condiments that provide better value than others when it comes to usability. Here are some of them:

Ketchup

Your kitchen cannot survive without a bottle of ketchup. It is a versatile condiment that you can serve together with dishes like fries and burgers. Of course, it can become a preparatory ingredient too. It gives any dish a tomato-like taste and can give the food a subtle but satisfactory flavor.

Mustard

Many of us are dependent on mustards. This spicy condiment is quite delicious, especially the Dijon variety, and is undeniably necessary for hotdogs, sausages, and sandwiches. It is also a key component of various types of salad dressings. You can also maximize the flavor of mustard by mixing it with maple syrup and lemon juice. The resulting mixture is a sauce that you can add to specific types of vegetable recipes, like roasted sprouts.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is my personal favorite. I simply love indulging in the flavor that this condiment has. Instead of ketchup, I use mayonnaise as a dip for my fries. Technically, the taste of mayonnaise is bland with subtle hints of sourness and sweetness. It is, therefore, a perfect base that you can use to mix various condiments and spices.

Soy Sauce

Another vital condiment that should be present in the kitchen is soy sauce. It is a versatile ingredient that can work on any food recipe. Apart from being a "table staple", soy sauce is necessary for various food recipes and preparation. It can work as a marinade and become a base that you can use to combine with other ingredients to make new types of sauces (e.g. garlic sauce). If you are into Chinese cuisines and other Asian delicacies, you better have a bottle of soy sauce in your pantry.

This content will tell you more about soy sauce:

Hot Sauce

Some people consider their kitchen to be incomplete if there is no hot sauce in there. This condiment provides the spicy flavor that some recipes need, like barbecues and other meat dishes. Just like soy sauce, you can combine hot sauce with other sauces too.

Worcestershire Sauce

For those who are into drying food, like jerkies, Worcestershire Sauce is an integral marinade ingredient for these recipes. It is great for adding depth to the flavor of the food and an ideal component that makes any meat dish flavorful. You can also use it to make recipes that don't have meat in them appear meaty.

Oil

Oils have various classifications. You can usually categorize different oil based on what they were extracted from. For example, an oil that comes from sesame seeds is called sesame oil (which is pretty obvious). Traditionally, oils are used as a cooking ingredient, especially in many Asian countries. However, oils can also be utilized as flavor enhancers in various recipes. You see a lot of Chinese and Japanese cuisines that apply this approach. Therefore, your kitchen will benefit if you have many oils in your pantry!

Check out these relevant resources about this condiment:

Ways You Can Use A Condiment

The magic of condiments will only take effect if you use them properly. Even a high-grade condiment will become useless if you don't know how to use it properly. So, if I were you, I’d learn the different approaches there are to using a condiment.

Making Dips

Most of the condiments that you see today are usable as dips. The process is pretty simple, especially if you have a lot of leftover from your condiment bottle. Just pour this into a cup of cream cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. Do not forget to add lime or lemon extract as well. In this way, you will combine the flavors of all these ingredients harmoniously.

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A Mix for Potato and Pasta Salads

Sure. People always think that these delicacies only work with mayonnaise or mustards. However, if you are brave and curious enough, many condiments can work with them. The options are pretty limitless, and depend on how you are going to make these salads.

Marinades

Of course, condiments are excellent ingredients for marinades. If you combine them with the right kind of spices and herbs, you can create luscious marinades for various delicacies! Since most of us love grilling, marinades are always deemed to be necessities. Make sure that you only use non-dairy condiments for the best results!

Dressings

You can clear up the condiment clutter in your refrigerator by turning them into salad dressings. For example, duck sauce and plum can be joined together with vinegar and oil to make a delectable salad concoction. Just don't get scared about trying new things. If the concoction you make doesn't taste good, then just move on and laugh about it.

Pizza Sauce

You can always innovate and improve your pizza by adding selected condiments. Apart from olive oil, pesto, and marinara, there are some other complementary ingredients that can change the taste of this treat. Why not use apple butter as your pizza base? You can even give the pizza an Asian vibe by spreading duck sauce on it. It is great fun and really pleasurable to try these ingredients on something new once in a while!

Egg Matching

If you have been in the kitchen for a long time, you will already know that eggs are versatile and compatible with any condiment out there, regardless of whether you are making an omelette, scrambled egg, or a frittata. The inclusion of a little condiment is pretty acceptable when you’re making various egg dishes. It is something you should love to do!

Support for Starch

Some condiments are also great complementary ingredients for starch recipes, like rice and pasta. This is especially true if you are preparing these dishes in a frying pan or by stir-frying. Just add condiments like soy sauce a few minutes before the frying ends. After that, you can guarantee you will be eating a sumptuous and savory starch dish!

For your Sandwich

It is quite sad that many people only use mayonnaise, horseradish, and mustard on their sandwiches. This food is as flexible as eggs. Therefore, you should think outside the box and create something new for your favorite pastry treat!

Storage Options For Condiments

Some of the condiments in the market today are still usable even after their expiration date. Just make sure that you store them properly.

There are two particular places where you can put your condiments: the refrigerator and pantry. An unopened bottle of condiment can last up to a year in your pantry (at normal room temperature). However, there are few items that cannot, which I will highlight later.

Once you have opened the condiment, you should store it in your refrigerator. This prevents the interaction of the item with external elements like air and heat, which can make them go off more quickly. However, there are some exemptions to this. For example, staple condiments, like vegetable oils, hot sauce, and vinegar, may not require refrigeration. They are better stored at their designated room temperatures.

Meanwhile, oils with raw herbs and garlic in them should be stored in the refrigerator at all cost. They can be eatable for up to a week. If you store these oils in your pantry, they could form a deadly toxin called Clostridium botulinum.

Here is a comprehensive list for the proper storage of common house condiments. I have referred to the United States of Agriculture (USDA) and other food manufacturers for these guidelines just to make sure. 

  • Barbecue sauce: 1 year in pantry (unopened); 4 months in refrigerator (opened).
  • Non-dairy dips: 1 week in pantry (unopened); 5 days in refrigerator (opened).
  • Dairy dips: 1 week in pantry (unopened); 1 week in refrigerator (opened).
  • Honey: 1 year (both open and unopened).
  • Hot sauce: 3 years in pantry.
  • Horseradish: 1 year in pantry (unopened); 4 months in refrigerator (opened).
  • Ketchup: 1 year in pantry (unopened); 6 months in refrigerator (opened).
  • Mayonnaise: 3 months in pantry (unopened); 2 months in refrigerator (opened).
  • Mustard: 1 year in pantry (unopened); 1 year in refrigerator (opened).
  • Salad dressing: 1 year in the pantry (unopened); 1 month in refrigerator (opened).
  • Soy sauce: 3 years in pantry (unopened); 1 month in refrigerator (opened).
  • Vinegar: 2 years in pantry (unopened); 1 year in pantry (opened).
  • Worcestershire sauce: 1 year in pantry (unopened); 1 year (opened).

Guidelines For Homemade Condiments

Some of us are well-versed enough in the kitchen to make tour own condiments. But these homemade products will require proper handling and storage so that they don’t go off.

Guidelines For Homemade Condiments
  • Two hours after you have made the condiment, transfer it into a container (which must be airtight), like a Mason jar or plastic bin. There is a good chance that the condiment you have made is all-natural. Therefore, it won’t have preservatives in it that can inhibit the spread of bacteria. As a solution, you will have to keep it away from bacterial mediums, such as air and water.
  • It is also proper that you store your homemade condiments in a cool and dark place in your kitchen. If your pantry can provide these conditions, then that should be the spot. But if you have opened the condiment already, the best place for its storage is always your refrigerator.
  • If you are looking for simple preservative for your condiments, then whey is a good option. You can make this ingredient in the convenience of your own kitchen. 

Other Important Resources

To learn more about condiments and spices, you had better check out these special topics that I have written:

Tools Of The Trade

If you want to make your own condiments, then heating and simmering are the necessary methods. For this, you will need a pan to blend your ingredients perfectly. A Red Copper pan is a good candidate for that, as it will guarantee that your food is evenly prepared!

Garlic is an essential partner to any condiment. It can uplift and alter the taste of any condiment. But you cannot maximize the flavor of garlic if you can't prepare it properly. A garlic press can come to your rescue. With this simple device, you will no longer have to skin, mince, and crush garlic manually, as it can do all of these tasks with a single press!