One of the things that has been a big change for my cooking in the last couple of years has been making my own sauces.
There are some reasons that initially I always bought jars of sauce and salsa, such as the sauces seeming too difficult, or the taste not being quite the same, or simply ease of having a store-bought jar of sauce.
However, here are some things you might not be aware of about sauces and salsas.
- Sauces and salsas do not always taste the same from brand to brand, even when they are called the same thing. Generally, the base sauce items, such as soy sauce or mustard will be similar in taste, but once you get to a more complex sauce such as teriyaki sauce then you will find different companies have different recipes and they can vary greatly in taste, salt level, and thickness.
- Jars of sauce are not enough. When I was using jars of sauce, I would dab a little into the dish. In reality, if you are doing a larger helping of a saucy dish, you probably need more than one jar. Once you buy two or three jars, it becomes a log more expensive than making your own.
- Sugar and salt control are another issue. Sweet and sour sauces are delicious, but you know why. Lots of sugar or honey. When you make your own you can make them just as good, or you can choose to make them a little bit more healthy by cutting back on the sugars and salts some.
- Age and preservatives – while sauces in jars usually stay good for a long time, you also do not know how long they have been waiting to be sold and it could be anything but fresh. Making your own sauce right before you add it to a dish assures your sauce is fresh.
- Adding fresh herbs like cilantro or fresh-cut ginger will also boost the taste.
- You are also a much smarter cook if you know how to make your own sauces. Sometimes I have to whip something up and being able to make a tasty sauce on the fly with whatever I have in my kitchen is a great skill to have.
The primary two types of “sauces” I make are Mexican salsas and Asian sauces for lo mein, stir fry and chicken. I also sometimes make Indian sauces occasionally.
The real key to making any of these sauces or salsas is not time, but having the right spices and base sauces in your kitchen. For Asian sauces, you might need Fish sauce, Soy Sauce, Siracha, Hosen Sauce, Rice Vinegar, Oyster Sauce, and Sesame Oil. Keep an eye out on which stores have better prices on these kinds of items will help a lot. Some stores treat them like specialty items while others treat them as normal items and offer them at half the price.
Lastly, remember your sauce might not be as good as the restaurant. That is usually because it is healthier and not full of fat, oil, and salt. You can always make it more delicious but the key is to find your happy place between flavor and health benefits.