Sauces: Types, Uses, and How to Make Them

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 1, 2022

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In cooking, a sauce is liquid, cream or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish.

Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsa, meaning salted. Possibly the oldest sauce recorded is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Greeks. Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, pico de gallo salsa or chutney) may contain more solid components than liquid.

Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world. Sauces may be used for savory dishes or for desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, or can be cooked like bechamel and served warm or again cooked and served cold like apple sauce.

In this article, we’ll explore what defines a sauce and how it’s utilized in cooking and the culinary industry.

What are sauces

The Art of Sauce Making

Sauces are a staple in modern cooking, and their importance cannot be overstated. They add flavor, richness, and visual appeal to a dish, and can complement and enhance the nutritional value of the food. Sauces are not only designed to add to the taste of the food, but they also serve a function in the preparation of certain foods. They can be used to moisten dry foods, or to add moisture (here’s how to keep your meat moist in a smoker) to starchy foods like rice or pasta.

The Different Types of Sauces

There is a wide range of sauces, each with its own set of ingredients and preparation methods. Some of the most common types of sauces include:

  • Meat-based sauces: These are typically made by cooking meat and vegetables together, then chopping them up and adding them to a fluid base. They are generally served with meat dishes.
  • Egg-based sauces: These are made by cooking egg yolks and adding butter or oil to create a slightly sticky, runny form. They are typically served with vegetables or as a topping for pastry or custard.
  • Cereal-based sauces: These are made by cooking cereal separately and then adding it to a fluid base. They are generally served with starchy foods like rice or pasta.

The Role of Sauces in Social Development

Sauces have played an important role in the social development of many cultures. They have been used to add special flavors to foods, and to meet the nutritional needs of people in certain regions. Sauces have also been used to clearly line the distinction between high and low classes of people.

The Nutritional Value of Sauces

Sauces can be a great source of nutritional value, depending on the ingredients used. They can add vitamins and minerals to a dish, and can complement the nutritional needs of certain foods. However, it is important to note that some sauces can be high in fat and calories, so it is best to use them in moderation.

The Many Reasons Why Sauces are Essential in Cooking

Sauces are an essential part of cooking as they provide flavor, moisture, and texture to dishes. They can be sweet, spicy, or savory, depending on the ingredients used. Sauces can be made from a variety of ingredients, including vegetables, starch, sugar, egg, and meat. They are designed to add an extra layer of flavor to a dish, making it more enjoyable to eat.

Thickening and Binding Ingredients

Sauces also play a crucial role in thickening and binding ingredients. For example, a starchy sauce can be used to thicken a soup or stew, while a velouté sauce can be used to bind together vegetables and meat in a pot pie. Sauces can also be used as a medium in which food is contained, such as the soy sauce used in Chinese dishes.

Providing a Contrast in Texture and Color

Sauces can also provide a contrast in texture and color, making a dish more visually appealing. For example, a bright red tomato sauce can be served with steamed vegetables and white rice, creating a beautiful and appetizing dish. Sauces can also be used to add a little extra moisture to a dish, making it easier to eat.

Creating a Certain Mood or Atmosphere

Sauces can also be used to create a certain mood or atmosphere. For example, a spicy sauce can be used to add a little extra heat to a dish, making it more exciting and adventurous. A sweet sauce, on the other hand, can be used to create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Preserving Food and Religious Significance

Sauces have been an important part of cooking since ancient times. In fact, the word “sauce” appears in many ancient texts, including those from China. Sauces were used to preserve food and were often considered a religious product. For example, soy sauce was produced by fermenting soybeans and was considered a sacred food in ancient China.

Secrets to Making the Best Sauces

Making a great sauce requires careful attention to detail. Chefs must be careful when adding ingredients to prevent the sauce from becoming too dry or too wet. They must also be careful when stirring the sauce to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The desired result is a thick, smooth sauce that complements the dish it is served with. Some secrets to making the best sauces include:

  • Using a large pot to allow the sauce to simmer gently
  • Adding stock or water to thin out the sauce if it becomes too thick
  • Chopping ingredients finely to ensure they cook evenly
  • Adding a little sugar to balance out the flavors
  • Stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming
  • Using a variety of ingredients to create a complex flavor profile

Exploring the World of Sauces

Different dishes require different types of sauces to complement their flavors. Here are some examples:

  • Pasta dishes: Creamy sauces like Alfredo or Béchamel work well with pasta dishes.
  • Seafood dishes: Lemon butter or Hollandaise sauces are perfect for seafood dishes.
  • Grilled meats: Barbecue or chimichurri sauces are great for grilled meats.
  • Vegetables: Tomato or pesto sauces are perfect for cooked vegetables.
  • Sandwiches: Aioli or mustard sauces are great for sandwiches.

Impressing Guests with Sauces

Sauces can take a dish from ordinary to extraordinary and impress your guests. Here are some tips to make your sauces stand out:

  • Use fresh ingredients: Fresh herbs and spices can make a huge difference in the taste of your sauce.
  • Experiment with flavors: Don’t be afraid to try new combinations of flavors to create a unique sauce.
  • Don’t overdo it: Sometimes, less is more when it comes to sauces. Don’t overpower the dish with too much sauce.
  • Serve on the side: If you’re not sure how much sauce your guests will want, serve it on the side so they can add it to their liking.

Upgrade Your BBQ Game with These Killer Sauces

When it comes to barbecued meats, the sauce is just as important as the cooking itself. But with so many different styles and flavors out there, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve categorized and ranged the best regional sauces for you to try:

  • Alabama White Sauce: A mayonnaise-based sauce with a tangy kick, perfect for chicken.
  • Kansas City BBQ Sauce: A tomato-based sauce with a sweet and spicy flavor, great for ribs and brisket.
  • Mustard BBQ Sauce: A mustard-based sauce with a little bit of heat, perfect for pork.
  • Pinot Noir BBQ Sauce: A wine-based sauce with a rich, complex flavor, great for steak.

The Goal: Moistening and Flavoring

The goal of a BBQ sauce is to moisten and flavor the meat. As the meat cooks, the liquid in the sauce evaporates, leaving behind the flavors and moisture that help to keep the meat moist and tender. The sauce also helps to deliver additional flavors to the meat, making it more complete and satisfying.

The Fact: Different Sauces for Different Meats

Different meats require different sauces to bring out their best flavors. For example, a sweet and tangy sauce works well with chicken, while a spicy sauce is better suited for beef. Here are some pairings to consider:

  • Sweet and tangy sauce: Chicken
  • Spicy sauce: Beef
  • Mustard-based sauce: Pork

The Sensation: Bathing the Meat in Flavor

When you apply the sauce to the meat, it’s like bathing it in flavor. The sauce helps to connect the flavors of the seasoning and the meat, creating a complete and delicious sensation. The moisture in the sauce also helps to break down the connective tissues and fibers in the meat, making it more tender and juicy.

The Upgrade: Adding a Little Sugar

If you want to upgrade your BBQ sauce, try adding a little bit of sugar. This will help to balance out the flavors and create a richer, more complex sauce. Just be careful not to add too much, as it can make the sauce too sweet.

The Best: Prepared or Homemade?

When it comes to BBQ sauce, there’s no right or wrong answer. Some people prefer to buy their sauce pre-made, while others like to make their own from scratch. If you’re short on time or don’t have a lot of experience cooking, a pre-made sauce can be a quick and easy way to add flavor to your BBQ. But if you’re looking for a high level of customization and control over the flavors, making your own sauce is the way to go.

As a senior editor who has worked in the food and travel industry for years, specializing in editorial guidelines, I can tell you that the best BBQ sauce is the one that you enjoy the most. So go out and find your favorite sauce, whether it’s a regional specialty or a homemade recipe, and enjoy the delicious flavors of BBQ.


So, sauces are a great way to add some extra flavor to your food. 

Some people like them on everything, while others don’t use them at all. But they’re pretty much essential for cooking, so you might as well learn a thing or two about them. 

So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different sauces and find out which ones you like best. You might just find your new favorite thing!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.