For high-end chefs in the most exclusive restaurants, sauces have long been the heroes of flavor. Yet in recent years, through social media and recipes swapped online, more and more consumers are discovering how the right sauce or condiment can elevate an otherwise basic meal. Rather than just an afterthought, these additions can actually be the star of the dish when done right and when done with the best ingredients. Below are some of the latest trends in sauces and condiments for home cooks and commercial food producers.
Why Sauces and Condiments?
You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate flavor, of course. After all, even a person with the most boring of palates would probably turn their nose up at a plate of pasta without sauce or a bowl of salad without dressing. Without those seemingly minor add-ons, you’d pretty much have a meal of bland starch and leaves; it’s the sauces and condiments that often take a meal from borderline inedible to something enjoyable and delicious. Here are some of the reasons people use sauces and condiments:
- Flavor enhancement: Sauces and condiments add depth and complexity to dishes by introducing and enhancing a wide range of flavors, from sweet and savory to spicy and tangy. They can also sometimes mask aspects of flavor that might be too potent; mushrooms, for example, have a very earthy flavor that can be overwhelming apart from the right sauce.
- Moisture: Particularly in dishes that feature a lot of starch (as in pasta and rice dishes), sauces provide moisture to counter a tendency toward dryness. Sauces can also provide a textural difference.
- Balance: Both condiments and sauces can balance and harmonize the flavors of a dish. Chimichurri sauce, for instance, is typically made with ingredients like parsley and garlic and vinegar; the bright and tangy goes well on a steak because it adds acidity to a very umami-intensive meat.
- Customization: Sauces and condiments also offer a degree of personalization to a meal; you can theoretically add anything to any dish based on your own personal preferences (even if everyone else thought it was gross).
- Dipping: Some goods–especially “finger foods”–are either designed for or lend themselves to being dipped in a sauce or condiment. Whether you’ve got a crudite with veggies like carrots and broccoli, or spicy chicken wings, a cool, onion-y ranch makes it much better.
- Preservation: Sometimes condiments can be used to enhance or introduce flavor at the same time as preserving a food item. A classic example is the pickling process; vegetables like cucumbers and cabbage are preserved by being soaked in an acidic solution that also happens to be deliciously salty.
- Visual appeal: It has been said that people eat with their eyes first, and so what a food looks like makes a big difference. So apart from flavor, sauces and condiments can also improve the visual appeal of a dish. Paprika is often used in dishes, for example, both because of its heat and the unmistakable red color.
- Health: Many herb and vegetable-based sauces and condiments contain a variety of nutrients that the body needs and that are associated with health benefits. A chunky salsa made from tomatoes, onions, and peppers, for instance, adds a healthy element to something heavy and meaty like a taco or burrito.
Recent Trends in Sauces and Condiments
Like most other trends in the food and beverage industry, those related to sauces and condiments are driven by a number of factors. At a basic level, though, people continually want variety and novelty. While there are many different ways to cook a protein like chicken, for instance, it will always taste like chicken; but with an assortment of sauces and condiments, that same piece of chicken can feature in a nearly endless array of dishes. These are some of the recent trends:
- Global: Over the past couple decades, the internet and social media have created a new landscape for the sharing of culinary traditions. Condiments and sauces that were once only used for a particular cuisine are now widely available around the globe. Gochujang for instance, a red chile paste from Korea, can be used on a pulled pork taco as a way of merging Korean and Mexican food.
- Spicy: Even though some foods are known for being spicy, a recent trend is to add heat to foods that would otherwise be mild. A great example is to use an oil infused with green or red jalapeño peppers (or any other favorite pepper) mixed blend of stir-fried vegetables.
- Healthier: The desire for healthier and lower-calorie foods is always a factor, but more recently consumers are more aware how even sauces and condiments sometimes have additives that make them higher in fat and carbohydrates. For this reason, there are many more options that are healthier and contain more nutrients.
- Functional: From salad dressings to marinades, many products are retaining familiar flavors but adding ingredients that have a function or provide a specific health benefit. Turmeric, for instance, adds a bright yellow color but is also believed to be an antioxidant that can potentially improve several aspects of health.
- Nuts and seeds: Sauces and butters made from nuts and seeds can add both creaminess and depth of flavor.
- Bold: There will always be “regular” versions of condiments like ketchup and mustard, but a recent trend is to incorporate bolder flavors into staples. Examples include horseradish-infused mayo, truffle ketchup, or black garlic aioli.
- Phone-worthy: As noted above, visual appeal is another major recent trend; in fact, many influencers on social media only prepare foods that look appetizing and exciting because they want to make a splash online. They favor sauces and condiments that have bright colors that complement the food they’re served with.
Silva: Trusted Source for Premium Ingredients
On the surface, a sauce or a condiment seems like a simple addition that shouldn’t have much impact. Yet chefs and influencers alike know that the right sauce can take a dish from blah to amazing. But not any sauce will do; to make a memorable product, you need high quality ingredients. At Silva, we are dedicated to providing premium ingredients so that commercial food manufacturers can deliver the best products for their customers. To learn more about working with Silva, please contact us today.