The Best Condiments to Keep on Hand, According to Our Test Kitchen
Take your meals from blah to exciting with these flavor boosters.
I'm often asked what condiments and other flavor boosters I recommend always keeping on hand. There are so many I could name, I don’t know where to start! But if I’m forced to play favorites, here are my top picks, plus suggestions from the Test Kitchen team. These items will allow you to make faster meals by adding a ton of flavor without using lots of ingredients, and most of them can hang out in your fridge for a looong time. (A bonus since you often need just a little bit of them.)
In my home kitchen, I’m all about the pastes. Anchovy paste for salad dressings, pastas and meat sauces. Tomato paste for stews, chilis and tomato sauces. And curry paste for quick curry noodles and satays.
Sambal oelek, an Indonesian hot sauce, is lead recipe developer Adam Dolge’s pantry must. “A little of this peppery goodness goes a long way. I use it as the backbone of tofu dishes or brushed onto grilled chicken.” He’s also gotta have Frank’s RedHot: “I put that stuff on just about everything.”
Food features editor Carolyn Malcoun is all about pantry staples that lend a savory flavor to dishes. One of her favorites is umami paste—a mash-up of multiple ingredients that can contain everything from tomato puree to olives to my aforementioned anchovy paste—for rubbing into meat and fish or stirring into pasta. She also loves miso for soups, sauces and stir-fries. You can make your own umami paste or buy it.
Senior digital food editor Megan O. Steintrager likes anything that adds a kick of heat and complexity to dishes—her fridge is full of hot sauces and pastes, including Sriracha, gochujang and harissa to name a few.
And what can’t senior food editor Devon O’Brien live without? “Cultured butter. It will make even a regular old fried egg feel like a luxury!” She’s also #obsessed with everything bagel seasoning blend, which you can buy or make. If you are too, check out our 50 Ideas for Using Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning.
Got cooking questions? Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about your favorite condiments, too!