The 16 Spreads and Sauces Every Home Cook Needs in 2020

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Credit: Courtesy of Duke's

Spreads and sauces are perhaps the most difficult kitchen category to narrow down. Think about it! You’ve got condiments, nut butters, hot sauces, salad dressings, jams, salsas, simmer sauces, and more — all crucial additions to making your food taste delicious.

All of these glorious things bring us a lot of joy in the kitchen, so it should probably come as no surprise that there were some spirited debates amongst Kitchn staffers when choosing the 16 most essential spreads and sauces for the 2020 Kitchn Essentials, Grocery Edition. Here’s what we landed on.

Mayonnaise: Duke’s Real Mayonnaise

If you know someone utterly devoted to Duke’s, they probably have a connection to the Southeast, where the brand first got its start. As far as two of our staffers (former and current Georgia residents) are concerned, this regional favorite is the only mayo you need. Even our Northern staffers agree.

Buy: Duke’s Real Mayonnaise, $5.52 for 8 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Kraft-Heinz Inc.

Ketchup: Heinz Tomato Ketchup

If it’s not Heinz … are you really going to risk dipping your fries into it? This familiar squirt bottle has always been here for us when we need it, so why abandon it now for those new-to-market ketchups that are trying to catch up?

Buy: Heinz Tomato Ketchup, $3.19 for 20 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Unilever

Mustard: Maille Dijon Originale Mustard

Let Maille Dijon mustard be your secret ingredient. Sheela, our resident “Tastemaker,” swears by this condiment to add a tangy, smooth flavor punch to pretty much any savory recipe. This creamy blend doesn’t have any added sugar either (whereas some other Dijon mustards do).

Buy: Maille Dijon Originale Mustard, $4.98 for 7.5 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Courtesy of Zach & Zoe

Honey: Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm Raw Honey

This beautifully packaged raw honey is the product of Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm, a family business named after the Johnson family’s two children. When the family got into beekeeping and honey-making after moving to rural New Jersey, they decided to make a business out of it. You’ll find their creative flavors like ginger, lavender, matcha, and more in Chelsea Market in New York City and in their online shop.

Buy: Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm Raw Honey, from 16 for 11.8 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Soom Foods

Tahini: Soom Sesame Premium Tahini

Soom Foods got its start when its founders (three sisters!) spotted a major gap in the tahini marketplace in the U.S. The spread, made of Ethiopian sesame seeds, is the silkiest tahini you’ll find on the market. Meaning: You can open it up and you barely have to stir it.

Buy: Soom Sesame Premium Tahini. $16.50 for two 11 ounce jars

Credit: Courtesy of Ithaca Hummus

Hummus: Ithaca Classic Hummus

Once you take your first dip of Ithaca Classic Hummus, you’ll never go back to the kind you were buying before. It somehow tastes just like homemade. The brand got its start at the Ithaca Farmers Market in 2013 and it’s now available in grocery stores nationwide.

Buy: Ithaca Classic Hummus, $5.99 for 10 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Salsas de Jalisco Cacu

Hot Sauce: Cholula Hot Sauce Original

It was tough to narrow down the expansive hot sauce category, considering how many options there are out there, but after much debate, the Kitchn team agreed that this tangy-smoky-spicy sauce is a breakfast, lunch, and dinner essential. If you’ve only got space for one hot sauce, this is the most versatile one to get.

Buy: Cholula Hot Sauce Original, $2.99 for 5 ounces at Thrive Market

Credit: Courtesy of Hidden Valley

Salad Dressing: Hidden Valley Ranch

In our comprehensive salad dressing taste test from a few months ago, Hidden Valley Ranch took home top honors as the best ranch and was Food Editor Meghan Splawn’s favorite out of a dozen bottles. “The flavor is buttermilk-forward with an even tang and plenty of herby flavor in a super-creamy dressing that will never, ever let you down,” she says.

Buy: Hidden Valley Ranch, $3.99 for 24 ounces at Target

Credit: Courtesy of Laoganma USA

Chili Crisp: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp

“Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp is one of my favorite condiments,” says Studio Food Editor Jesse Szewczyk. “I put it on practically everything. It has this wonderful combination of textures and flavors that just can’t be beat. It’s spicy, tingly, and intensely savory. The crispy bits add a pop of texture, while the chilis bring a nice level of heat that is strong but not too intense for people who are sensitive to spice.”

Buy: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, $4.09 for 7.4 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Rao's Homemade

Tomato Sauce: Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce

We are not exaggerating when we say that Rao’s jarred pasta sauce tastes just like homemade. It really does! That’s exactly what makes this sauce worth the extra few dollars a jar. In fact, Rao’s is so good that some Kitchn staffers (who prefer to remain anonymous) say they could definitely eat it with a spoon and call it soup.

Buy: Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce, $9.99 for 32 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Justin's

Almond Butter: Justin’s Maple Almond Butter

This sweet and salty almond butter won unanimously. Pair with frozen bananas, swipe some on a toasted (Thomas’) English muffin, blend it into smoothies, or just eat it by the spoonful. (We clearly have a thing for eating stuff right out of the jar … )

Buy: Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, $11.99 for 16 ounces at Thrive Market

Credit: Courtesy of The J.M. Smuckers Company

Peanut Butter: Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

When it comes to peanut butter, our Editor-in-Chief, Faith, is the ultimate Goldilocks. To her, some are too smooth, too sweet, too salty, too plain. “What I am always looking for is a peanut butter that tastes roasted and robust, with enough texture to ensure me that I am eating freshly ground peanuts, not a slippery paste,” she says. “And I want some salt to balance the taste, but no sugar (that’s for the jam to provide on my sandwich!). After trying gobs of fancy peanut butters, I always come back to Smucker’s Natural: It really is just right.”

Buy: Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, $5 for 23 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Courtesy of Bonne Maman

Jam: Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves

These French preserves taste about as close to homemade as you can get, with large chunks of fruit and absolutely no fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, or preservatives. Once you scrape out every last bit, save the jar and use it to shake up homemade salad dressing or prep overnight oats. The checkered lid will make you smile every time you twist it open.

Buy: Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves, $5.29 for 13 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Haven's Kitchen

Sauce: Haven’s Kitchen Herby Chimichurri

Because we can all use a shortcut sometimes, we love the Haven’s Kitchen line of refrigerated pre-made sauces. (We also love the smart pouch design and screw-cap lids.) Try the Herby Chimichurri paired with grilled flank steak.

Buy: Haven’s Kitchen Herby Chimichurri, $7.99 for 5 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Brooklyn Delhi

Simmer Sauce: Brooklyn Delhi Golden Coconut Curry

If you have a jar of Brooklyn Delhi Golden Coconut Curry in your pantry, then you have dinner tonight. Just add some chickpeas, veggies, and rice. The best part is that it’ll be ready in minutes but will smell like you stood over the stove all day.

Buy: Brooklyn Delhi Golden Coconut Curry, $6.99 for 8 ounces

Credit: Courtesy of Conagra Brands

Salsa: Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa

Yes, it’s possible for small-batch salsa to come in a convenient jar right next to the shelf-stable brands in the chip aisle. Somehow, no matter when you open the jar, this salsa always tastes like it was freshly made, mere minutes ago.

Buy: Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa, $3.99 for 16 ounces

Credit: Photo: Andria Lo; Prop Styling: Anna Raben