The 21 Spreads and Sauces Every Home Cook Needs in 2021

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Credit: Omsom

Few things get us more excited than spreads and sauces, as a general category at the grocery store. Proof: When we finished our 2021 version of Kitchn Essentials, Grocery Edition, we had 21 spreads and sauces. Of the 12 categories in the list, it was, by far, the biggest. (The next-biggest category only featured 15 finds!)

We just can’t help it! There’s chili crisp, truffle mayo, tahini, and so much more. (If you’re doing the math, it’s 18 more grocery items.) Be sure to check out the full list or give our favorite category a quick browse by scrolling down.

1 / 21
Best Meal Starter
was $59.00

Omsom launched during the pandemic, when we couldn't have been more desperate for a delicious dinner shortcut. Each kit has all the (sometimes hard-to-find) sauces, aromatics, and seasonings you need for specific Asian recipes like Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki and Chinese Mala Salad. "The bulgogi starter was the one thing I constantly cooked with and ordered this year,” says Andrea Kaufman, Social Media Editor. “Super easy and super good — it got me to eat tofu for the first time in years!” Also, just look at that super-fun and colorful packaging!

2 / 21
Best Ketchup

What’s the old saying about fixing things that aren't broken? Sometimes there’s just no need to reinvent the wheel, and the familiar squeeze bottle from Heinz is a prime example. Keep on dipping your fries in this standby; there’s no need to try any of those fancy new brands!

3 / 21
Best Mustard

Another classic: Maille started on the rue Saint-André des Arts in Paris all the way back in 1747. Sheela Prakash, our resident Taste Maker, swears by this tangy, smooth mustard to bring a punch to your favorite savory recipe. Bonus: The creamy blend doesn’t sneak in any sugar like some Dijons unnecessarily do.

4 / 21
Best Mayonnaise

Once you find Duke's, you’ll never go back, as any devotee to this Southeastern brand of mayo will attest. The regional favorite has even won fans all around the country — including our Northern editors, who’ll tell you there’s just no substitute.

5 / 21
Best Truffle Mayonnaise

This next-level condiment features funky, musky, magical black winter truffles. If we had to use one word to describe it? Decadent. Slather your fries in it, take grilled cheese to a new world with it, or go ahead and lap up a spoonful — it stands on its own.

6 / 21
Best Honey
Zach & Zoe Sweet Bee Farm

How sweet is this family business's honey lineup? It’s raw, it’s packaged oh-so beautifully, and the biz is named for the Johnson family’s two children. We're so excited for you to try their creative flavors like ginger, lavender, matcha, and … beetroot! Grab yours at Chelsea Market in New York City or online.

7 / 21
Best Chili Crisp
was $10.99

You know when a dish is just missing that certain something? It probably needs Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp. Our editors put it on practically everything: eggs, vegetables, sandwiches, rice bowls, the list goes on. It's intensely savory, crunchy, and just the right amount of spicy. The chilis bring a nice level of heat that is strong, but not too intense for people who are sensitive to spice.

8 / 21
Best Hot Sauce

Okay, it wasn't easy picking just one essential hot sauce from a universe-spanning category (have you seen how many choices are out there lately?). But this tangy-smoky-spicy sauce is essential at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you've got to pick just one, make it this versatile winner.

9 / 21
Best Tahini
Soom Foods

Simply put: We love this silky-smooth tahini. We also love that three sisters spotted the major gap in the U.S. tahini market and brought us this delicious spread made of Ethiopian sesame seeds. Oh happy day — you barely even have to stir it!

10 / 21
Best Preserves
Bonne Maman

That iconic checkered lid means you've got the next best thing to homemade preserves. (Honestly, it’s French so let’s not even call it a runner-up.) Big chunks of fruit in the sweetly delicious strawberry preserves don't have to compete with fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, or preservatives so it’s just pure goodness through and through. Bonne, indeed.

11 / 21
Best Jam
Trade Street Jam Co.

We just can't say enough good things about this (vegan!) jam. Small-batch and with minimal added sugar, it is seriously our jam. (Sorry, couldn't help it.) Flavors like Blueberry Lemon Basil and Smoked Peach belong in cocktails, baked goods, salad dressings, and more.

12 / 21
Best Peanut Butter

Peanut butter can veer too smooth, too sweet, too salty, or too plain ... at least according to Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, the ultimate Goldilocks. After trying gobs of fancy brands she found her jusssssst right PB with Smucker's Natural. “It really is just right,” she says. “What I am always looking for is a peanut butter that tastes roasted and robust, with enough texture to assure me that I am eating freshly ground peanuts, not a slippery paste. And I want some salt to balance the taste, but no sugar (that's for the jam to provide on my sandwich!)."

13 / 21
Best Maple Syrup
Runamok Maple

We love all the syrups from Runamok, but this stuff is extra special. It's literally the very best organic maple syrup of the season: Each run is sampled and, when the flavor is at its peak, the sugarmakers set it aside for this bottle. "It might be spendy, but it’s way worth it,” says Contributor Meghan Splawn.

14 / 21
Best Hummus
Ithaca Hummus

Hummus is one of those store-bought things that never tastes as good as homemade … until now. Ithaca Hummus, which got its start in 2013 at the Ithaca Farmers Market, is available nationwide, happily for us all. Start with the Classic (it's pleasantly lemony!) and then try all the other flavors, too.

15 / 21
Best Salad Dressing
Hidden Valley

We sampled as many ranch dressings as we could find in a salad dressing throwdown, and out of a dozen, this classic won the day. Meghan already knew it was the best: “I love it, the kids love it, and the flavor holds up against all the other bottled ranch dressings on the market." If you think ranch is too sweet, give this a chance. “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 adds.

16 / 21
Best Tomato Sauce
Rao's Homemade

Most jarred pasta sauce tastes like, well, jarred pasta sauce. Rao’s, on the other hand? Through some kind of sorcery it’s perfection. Buttery and rich, and packing the perfect ratio of spices to tomatoes (and minus that too-acidic tang of other brands), it’s hands-down worth the extra few bucks it’ll run you.

17 / 21
Best Fish Sauce

Essential to Southeast Asian cuisine, fermented fish sauce packs a huge umami punch. And Red Boat is the best of the best, maybe because of how quickly they salt their freshly caught wild anchovies. Savory, pungent, a bit sweet, and deeply complex, just a touch of this sauce will boost steaks, cocktails, and your Thai or Vietnamese favorites.

18 / 21
Best Simmer Sauce
Thrive Market

It doesn't seem like a decadent dinner should be this easy, but the warm spices and rich coconut in this vegan sauce transform the simplest protein and veg into an aromatic dining experience. And nobody says you have to stick with Indian dishes — it’s a winner with pizza, pasta, and tacos, too!

19 / 21
Best All-Purpose Sauce
Not Just

Not Just Salad Dressing is, well, not just salad dressing. This Miso Lemon Vinaigrette goes so far beyond the salad (although if you're looking for a way to add more greens to your day, start here!). Marinate chicken, whip up a noodle bowl, or roast some veggies in this zippy, umami dressing from a women-owned company.

20 / 21
Best Pesto

Sure, you could grab a mortar and pestle, some basil and pine nuts, and make your own basil pesto. But why bother when Rana brings you pure Italian Mediterranean sunshine in a tub? Genovese basil is essential for a pesto that hits the sweet spot of bite and freshness. Spoon this green sunshine over pasta, pizza, and literally anything you’re sheetpan-ing for dinner.

21 / 21
Best Salsa

Tequila salsa! This multi-generational family-run business — launched by a mother-and-son duo — funnels the blazing sun and bright flavors of the Southwest desert straight into their jars. Please do not stop at chips (although it’s a match made in heaven). Spoon this vibrant salsa over huevos rancheros and grilled pizza ... and stir some into your next bloody Mary!