Kitchn Love Letters

You’re Forgetting to Add This Staple Ingredient to Your Salad Dressing

published Jun 11, 2023
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platter of Japanese cucumber salad
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

It’s very easy to make a sad salad. When you know that you should be eating more vegetables, but the thought of preparing the type of salad that you’d pay $20 to eat seems like too much effort for a Thursday afternoon, then it’s not too much of a stretch to end up with a bowl that’s nutritional but bland. You started with a bed of greens — maybe arugula, some kale, perhaps lettuce — then topped it off with cheese and croutons and called it a day. Boring! 

While it is work to roast tomatoes and asparagus and anything else you’d like to enliven your salad with, I’m not necessarily recommending that you do that. Don’t get me wrong — I always want to make time for that level of commitment, in the version of myself that has a Nancy Meyers kitchen and endless time to prepare lunch, but it never works out. Instead, I’ve found one thing that

brings flavor to sad salads

It may seem like hot sauce is reserved for more substantial fare, like steaks and seafood, but it brightens even the most wilted greens into something resembling a worthwhile lunch. Let me walk you through how I incorporate it into my meals when I’m actually putting in a baseline level of care.

Credit: Tabasco

What’s So Great About Tabasco Brand Original Red Sauce?

I’ve never been one to shy away from hot sauce, and it’s rare when I don’t use any variety on hand to spice up a meal. But I find that Tabasco provides more of a vinegar note than a spicy note in small doses — at least for me — making it easier to fold into a wide range of recipes. The same can’t be said for sauces that are generally thicker or come from hotter peppers, which pack more of a punch. Because Tabasco is on the milder side of this spectrum, it can blend in better with salads.

What’s the Best Way to Use Tabasco Brand Original Red Sauce?

First, I grab a small glass measuring cup and squeeze in a dollop of Dijon mustard. Then I sprinkle in salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Tabasco. As I whisk it all together, I pour in a few glug glugs of olive oil — do you like how precise this all is? — and then top my salad with the concoction. The hot sauce complements the mustard really well, and if you were to incorporate feta or blue cheese into the mix, then it’s even better. Overall, though, hot sauce gives a salad the one component it’s usually missing: some much-needed bite.

Here’s my one word of caution, though: You don’t want to shake your hot sauce directly on to your greens. If you’re not careful, particularly with the surprisingly vengeful arugula, the hot sauce can flick off the surface of the leaves directly into your eyeball as you eat (ask me how I know). Mixing it into a dressing provides the safeguard you need to keep everything peaceful. You want a fast lunch, not 15 minutes flushing your eye out with water.

Adding hot sauce to salads only gets more delicious with more ingredients. The flavors of roasted vegetables and quinoa all benefit from this added layer, as does salmon and chicken. But if you’re like, “Okay, I just have this bag of aspirational, pre-washed kale I have to eat before it wilts,” throw some hot sauce into your dressing and it’s easier to make that happen. 

Either way, don’t ignore your bottle of Tabasco come lunchtime. It makes a sad salad much happier, with a few simple flicks of your wrist. 

Buy: Tabasco Original Red Pepper Sauce, $2.50 for 2 oz. at Amazon

Which food do you put hot sauce on that may seem unexpected, but is actually delicious? Let us know in the comments.