We’re a nation of condiment lovers. From our trusty tomato ketchup to hair-raising hot sauces, we think you’ll agree that with the right dollop, blob or sprinkle, transforms even the humblest plate of food into something very special.
However, with an ever-expanding worldly influence, our palates have been left wanting more and sadly the likes of English mustard and malt vinegar are just not enough to keep our taste buds tingling these days.
Instead, we’re looking further afield, for new takes on herb and spice combinations, Asian-inspired marinades or the rich pastes and pestos which have been the backdrop of Mediterranean cooking for years.
It’s surprising what a switch of sauce can do to your dried goods – turning pasta, rice and lentils into many more meals then you’d previously have thought possible.
We were on the lookout for versatile special ingredients that would work wonders in a multitude of dishes.
For example, tomato ketchup that could also be used as a paste, or a spicy table sauce you’ll find you want to pair with everything – brightening up brunch through to dinner.
With BBQ season on the horizon, we can see us turning to these unique ingredients again and again in the coming months. But on the whole, they’re just as good all year round.
We’ve linked to the stockists that are still currently offering delivery, because we know it’s still a challenge to get a slot from the big supermarkets.
These are the hero products that we believe will give a bit of oomph to the store cupboard basics, we're all eating right now.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Belazu rose harissa, 170g
Belazu stock the creme de la creme of speciality ingredients, bringing the most boring of staples to life with pastes, pestos and oils (counting many top chefs as loyal customers). Don’t be put off by its red-hot appearance though. This rose harissa imparts a gentle, warming heat but packs in loads of flavour thanks to the combination of paprika, red chilli, garlic and fragrant rose petals.
Although traditionally served in north African cuisine, alongside bread, in stews and with couscous dishes, we’ve found there’s nothing a dollop of Belazu’s best-seller doesn’t improve – we’ve tried adding it to burgers, mixing into frittatas, marinating meat, fish and veg and shaking into salad dressings.
Dr Will's BBQ sauce, 250g
Mighty Small is a brand new food delivery service, set up to support small independent brands during this crisis and beyond. This BBQ sauce is a great example of the goodies that can be found on the site. Like the rest of the Dr Will’s range, this doesn’t contain any refined sugar, additives or preservatives.
There are smoky notes from the paprika and sweetness from using real tomatoes and dates. Rest assured, we’ve found multiple ways to eat it. Chip dipping is the obvious one, but it’s also a tasty base if you’re making pizza at home and totally transforms a can of jackfruit. Along with nationwide delivery, you can also opt to donate to FoodCycle, a charity that turns surplus food into meals and food parcels for people in social isolation.
Leon burger sauce, 245g
If you’re missing your healthy fast food fix (we know we are!) you’ll be pleased to know you can recreate your favourite lunchtime treat at home with Leon’s range of condiments. The chain uses this burger sauce in its beetroot patty “love burger”, for an indulgent (yet unbelievably vegan) creamy mayonnaise, spiked with dill and American-style mustard. Obviously, it’s ideal slathered onto a brioche bun, regardless of whether you’ve gone for a meaty or meat-free patty, but we’ve also been known to dip our pizza crusts in any leftovers.
NOJO white miso, 200ml
This is such a handy bottle to have in the cupboard. Not only are aubergines utterly delicious after a quick marinade in this, but we’ve been using it to pep up our fridge forage stir-fries too. It’s a blend of toasted sesame oil and miso and imparts a real umami flavour without being overly salty. The north London start-up follows traditional Japanese recipes using tamari instead of regular soy, which makes this gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly. Basically, anywhere a recipe calls for miso, add this instead for an extra special flavour injection. And the snazzy label makes us happy every time we open the cupboard too – win, win.
Grecious tahini with honey, 300g
To make our daily granola, banana and yoghurt a little more interesting, we’ve been adding a dollop of this divine tahini on top. It’s not your standard savoury sesame paste though because this one’s been sweetened with Greek honey. A good source of protein, this is a great alternative to peanut butter in your smoothies and tastes amazing on pancakes for a special weekend brunch.
Rubies in the Rubble tomato ketchup, 300g
Rubies in the Rubble takes fruit and veg that would otherwise go to waste and turn the surplus into mayo, relish and ketchup. We couldn’t do a condiment round-up and not include a fabulous ketchup and we think Rubies is the best in class. The clever team reduced the two main ingredients in Heinz (sugar and water) with surplus pears and it tastes just like the real deal. Not only has this won a Great Taste award, but it makes our bacon sarnie even sweeter seeing the CO2 we’re off-setting.
World of Zing pineapple and habanero table sauce, 250ml
You may recognise Pritesh, founder of World of Zing, as he often appears on Sunday Brunch to tell us all about the latest food trends. But as it happens, he also has his own range of sauces and salts. It’s pretty tough choosing a favourite, but we’re big fans of this fruity pineapple and habanero sauce, which can be used for dipping or marinating either meat or veg. We like to add a dollop to our fish tacos if we’re feeling particularly fancy, but it elevates pretty much anything with its refreshing tropical flavours.
Spicentice spice rub selection box
When recipes call for multiple herbs and spices, it can be a little off-putting. However, the clever Spicentice pots contain a combination of the most common spices often used together. For example, inside the chipotle pot is smoked paprika, smoked chipotle, garlic, ground cumin, oregano, onion, ground coriander and black pepper, among other flavours.
We tend to just sprinkle in a couple of teaspoons to whatever we’re making to give our dish a little something extra (this one’s great in bean chilli!). But it can also be mixed with oil or yoghurt and used as a marinade for veggies, fish or meat.
This pack includes nine pots, including the Italian rub (which we use in pasta sauces) and ras el hanout (great for tagines), although they can also be bought individually. We’ve found a little goes a long way and with each pot being so versatile, it takes up less space in our spice drawer too
Truff hotter black truffle hot sauce, 170g
Hot sauce specialist Truff takes the heat pretty damn seriously, as do its legion of fans (which currently stands at more than 97k on Instagram alone). While we love a hot sauce, we find that some can just blow your head off for the sake of it – but Truff’s is an altogether more elegant affair. The heat comes from jalapenos and red chilli peppers but is combined with the decadent notes of black truffle and just a touch of agave nectar to sweeten the deal. This one’s hotter than the original and a little less sweet but still well balanced. We adore a glug on creamy mac and cheese but it’s also excellent on avocado toast, in soups and with barbecued steak.
Cool Chile tomatillo salsa, 270g
Tomatillos (also know as Mexican husk tomatoes) are not the easiest ingredient to come by here in the UK, however, for a truly authentic Mexican experience, nothing else will do. Thankfully, Cool Chile has hunted down the tomatillos for us and made a spicy salsa perfect for tacos, quesadillas and nachos. If you’ve not tried this little green fruit before, it looks similar to a tomato, but with a much tangier flavour, which works a treat when paired with coriander and green chillies. More than just a dip, try it as a topping to steak, stir through stews and if you like your Bloody Mary’s extra spicy, a teaspoon will transform your favourite brunch cocktail.
The Wasabi Company wasabi mayonnaise, 175g
Although not an ingredient we think of as growing here in the UK, it’s fresh English wasabi that goes into each pot of this creamy mayonnaise that gives this staple condiment a special fiery kick. Grown in Dorset, the farmers originally planted watercress but started experimenting with this demanding crop after noticing similarities. Now, alongside the fresh stuff, there’s a range of wasabi infused products, including mustard and even vodka. This mayo is our favourite though – an absolute game-changer when it comes to fish finger sandwiches, but it’s also excellent in potato salads and with smoked salmon.
Fortnum & Mason Fortnum's 181 sauce, 250ml
Taking its name from Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store address, 181 Piccadilly, this special sauce has a highly guarded recipe, but we can reveal Worcester sauce, tamarind paste, and anchovy are among those listed under the ingredients list. In short, this is a posh brown sauce and with its gold-foiled label, it will make your breakfast table look considerably more impressive with its very presence. A must-have for bacon sandwiches, dipping fat chips and giving your gravy the edge.
The Garlic Farm garlic jam with red chilli, 240g
Colin Boswell is considered the authority on all things garlic. So much so, that if he doesn’t know the answer, it’s probably not worth knowing. Having spent years experimenting on his Isle of Wight farm, there’s now a whole lineup of garlic-infused goodies, but it was this jam that caught our eye. Not the sort you’d spread on toast (although it was actually fab in a cheese sandwich), you’re better off saving it for cold cuts, cheese boards or stirring through roasted veggies. Full-flavoured, although subtle enough to spread liberally, we found this was best added to dishes at the last minute, with our favourite use being stirred through grains and veggies for a substantial lunchtime salad.
Cornish Sea Salt really garlicky roasted garlic and Cornish sea salt, 55g
Ok, we admit that this one’s not technically a condiment, however, good quality salt is an absolute must-have if you want your meals to be as tasty as can be. After trying Cornish sea salt – whether as soft flakes or the original crystals – you’ll never go back to table salt again. We were particularly excited to discover its new flavoured range, which includes this really garlicky version.
It’s just two simple ingredients, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll use garlic more than anything else in the kitchen. Having this on hand meant we didn’t have to worry about running out of the fresh stuff and it also saved us the bother of peeling and chopping – hurrah! If you’re not a garlic fan Cornish Sea Salt also infuses its salt with everything from lime to chilli and even seaweed.
The verdict: Condiments
Whether you’re a confident home cook or a Michelin star chef, Belazu’s range of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ingredients is unparalleled, which is why we loved the rose harrisa. The brand has even created the #BelazuCookingClub to help inspire home cooks and develop a sense of community among people with a common love of food and cooking. The idea was originally designed to help their employees’ wellbeing, but it proved so popular that it’s expanded it externally to help everyone no longer able to eat out at their favourite restaurants. Time to get cooking!
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