Last updated: August 16, 2021

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Hello, welcome back to this consultation space where we always have the information you need to make the right decisions about your purchases at the door. In this article we will talk about a delicious topic, sauces! Sauces are the complement that for many people, food needs. In Mexico they are an almost obligatory part of most dishes, even foods from other countries are not only tropicalised to the Mexican seasoning, but chefs include sauces as part of the recipe or they are placed separately at the disposal of their guests.

As they say, Put on salsa! and take note because here we are going to give you the lowdown on everything that has to do with these delicious additions. We'll tell you what they are, what kind they are, what advantages and disadvantages they have, among many other details. Join us!




Summary

  • Sauces are a gastronomic complement to accompany food or form part of a dish. They are a mixture of ingredients that are liquefied or crushed to form a liquid or thick consistency, which can be served cold, warm or hot and range from very spicy to not spicy at all or even sweet and sour.
  • Although they can be categorised in different ways, a classification based on their production process is the division between emulsified and non-emulsified sauces, regardless of whether they are hot or cold.
  • Among the important criteria to consider when buying a sauce is to have a definition of what we are going to cook, whether it should be spicy or not and, of course, whether it should be Mexican or of another type.

The best Sauces: Our Picks

Shopping guide: What you need to know about sauces

It is not the same to go shopping knowing what you are going to buy and why, as it is to go without having the slightest idea of what you want. Prior knowledge is an important tool to get your money's worth by spending it wisely. In this section we will take a closer look at what sauces are all about and their advantages.

Even if it doesn't sting, pizza also includes a tasty tomato sauce. (Photo: Alexandra Fedorova / 123rf.com)

What is sauce and what are its advantages?

Sauce is a mixture of ingredients that, when blended or mashed, forms a liquid, thick or creamy substance that serves to complement the taste and smell of food. The sauce can be without spice or include it to a greater or lesser extent.

Some, such as the madre, are the basis for additional recipes. Sauces are also made with the aim of being part of a dish, they can be the base of the dish or only one more ingredient in it, in this way a hot sauce is eaten that can go in dishes of a very Mexican, Italian, Chinese or other cultures style. It is also eaten cold, and can be an optional complement to the diners' dishes. In Mexico, the importance of spicy food is high, it is a relevant cultural and gastronomic element, however, even those who do not eat spicy food, can eat and have a taste for sauces (without chilli).

Advantages
  • They enhance or improve the flavour of dishes
  • They are the main ingredient in some recipes
  • Some ingredients have health benefits
  • They can be made with or without chilli
  • There is a wide variety of options
Disadvantages
  • Very spicy ones cause stomach upset
  • Excessive use of some ingredients can ruin the flavour
  • A badly prepared sauce can ruin the flavour of a dish
  • Some are highly caloric

Emulsified or non-emulsified sauces - what to look out for?

Sauces vary from one another, depending on their ingredients they can differ in colour, smell, taste and consistency. Even sauces with the same ingredients can be different depending on how they are prepared. Depending on the way they are made, sauces are classified as follows:

Emulsified sauces. These are sauces that need to be whipped in order to be prepared, as this process allows them to melt. Liquids are unstable, so when they are kept at rest they separate. As a general rule, one of these ingredients is fatty (emulsifier), which can be oil, butter, tallow, etc.

Non-emulsified. They are produced by mixing different solid and liquid ingredients that are not emulsified. On the other hand, they can be produced by cooking some ingredients, or they can also be cold.

Emulsified sauces Non-emulsified
Characteristic Contain one or more elements in suspension and another in motion No emulsion required
Mixture At least two liquids Solids and liquids
Temperature Can be cold or hot Can be cold or hot
Examples Mayonnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce Fried tomato, ketchup, mustard

Are there other classifications?

There is a great variety and they have great importance in different gastronomic cultures, for example in France their use dates back to medieval times and in the 19th century a French chef classified them into mother sauces, from which the ones known as derivatives were derived.

Mother sauces. These are a group of sauces that serve as a base for the preparation of many others, they are made with cooking stock, tomato, oil or butter. This group is made up of 6 sauces: Spanish sauce, velouté sauce, tomato or pomodoro sauce, mayonnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce and béchamel sauce.

Derivatives. These are sauces created from the mother sauces. From the Spanish sauce we obtain Italian, port, charcuterie and mushroom sauces; from velouté sauce we obtain supreme, German, white wine and Venetian sauces; from tomato sauce we obtain Neapolitan, Bolognese and ketchup; mayonnaise gives Andalusian, Chantilly, green and tartar sauces. From hollandaise sauce we obtain maltaise sauce, mousseline, noisette; and finally béchamel generates sauces such as cream sauce, mornay sauce and soubise sauce. A great variety of sauces that can be used in the different dishes of the culinary range.

Wholemeal sauces. These are sauces made with natural juices, those that are derived from a meat or vegetable product through a cooking process. It is a sauce that is released during cooking.

Independent sauces. These are sauces that are not derived from other sauces or from a cooking process. The ingredients are independent of the main product. Examples of these are vinaigrette, coulis, purees and dressings.

Purchasing criteria

In the final stretch of this article, we should consider just a couple more details that, although minimal, can make the difference between enjoying a dish or snack with the right sauce or failing in the attempt.

Sauce by type of dish

When looking for a sauce we must be clear about the combination we are going to make. Just like wines, some combine better than others with certain foods. It is not the same to eat arrachera with guacamole as with bolognese. Below is a table with suggestions, but remember that the possibilities are endless.

Type of food Sauce
Meats Spanish and its derivatives Chimichurri Barbecue Bittersweet
Chicken Aurora Mushrooms Mustard and honey Boletus
Fish Russian Hollandaise Rouille Saffron Vinaigrette
Salads Yogurt Vinaigrette Mustard Mustard, Honey
Pasta Four Cheese Garlic Avocado Pesto
Snacks Valentina Buffalo Ketchup

Mexican Sauces

We could not leave out the Mexican touch left by our traditions and customs and just as there are gourmet sauces for a number of dishes, Mexico has an enormous range of options, where the same sauce can be used to make a completely different dish or accompany others without necessarily being integrated. Such is the case of salsa verde, which can be used to make enchiladas and chilaquiles, and can also be used for tacos, either cooked or raw.

The same goes for salsa roja, but if it is molcajeteada then it will be an excellent accompaniment to meats and tacos. Guacamole is another delicious and traditional sauce that allows us to accompany totopos for snacking, tacos, meats, quesadillas, etc. The same goes for pico de gallo, a great accompaniment to molletes, quesadillas, tortilla chips, meats and even broths.

Mole is a sauce that you either love or hate, its flavour is so special that for Mexicans it is the most natural thing in the world, but for foreigners it is a very unusual gastronomic accompaniment. It is consumed with enchiladas, eggs, chicken, etc. And for our snacks you can't miss the traditional valentina and chamoy. And although ketchup is not traditionally Mexican, in Mexico it accompanies French fries, pizza, eggs, and traditional hamburgers.

With or without spice

If you eat spicy food, this point will come in handy. It is well known that the Mexican who eats chilli will not be a reference for another who does not eat it, because what for some people does not sting for others will be a bomb of spiciness in the mouth. And as strange as it may seem, there are also some who don't eat chilli, so they will be happy to consider this point.

Spicy. These are sauces that include one or more chillies in their content, and can be found at a low level or on a higher scale of spiciness. It is advisable to pay close attention to the labelling if you are sensitive or if you don't like it very much. This option can be consumed with any food, bearing in mind that it will cover a little of the original flavour.

No spiciness. Those sauces elaborated with ingredients that exclude any chilli from their posology. Their flavour can be creamy, sour or any other type that combines perfectly with certain foods. In this category fits any homemade without chilli but also options such as vinaigrette or mustard. As you can see, there are plenty of options for both tastes. No one should miss out on some tasty sauces and not all of them are made for snacking, but rather to accompany and enhance the flavour. So whether you like it or not, remember to check the labelling so you don't get any surprises.

(Featured image photo: Vitalii Netiaga / 123rf.com)

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