Prepared Foods talks sauce and spread flavor and ingredient trends with Juliet Greene, assistant vice president of culinary strategy and a senior corporate chef with Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations (CBCI), Chicago.

Prepared Foods: What were a few of last year’s interesting new twists involving sauces?

Juliet Greene: I’d start by noting the use of different cheeses. Now, we’re seeing mascarpone mac and cheese, or gorgonzola cheese sauce. It’s no longer just beer cheese. We’re seeing new variations such as a bourbon cheese sauce or a smoked cider cheese sauce.

Another key trend involves vegan and vegetable-forward sauces such as an onion cream, spinach or roasted carrot sauce. Meanwhile, fermentation—a big trend in condiments—is coming to sauces as well. These are new sauces with strong flavors, such as XO Sauce (spicy seafood sauce from Hong Kong), gochujang sauce, miso, and others.

Chimichurri—and its variations from the traditional Argentine sauce—have found their way across many menus. This sauce, which has a base of red wine vinegar and olive oil that is traditionally made with parsley and used on grilled meats. Now we’re seeing it on Italian style sandwiches (instead of pesto) and it’s also mixed with cilantro and used on tacos for a Latin flare.

Hot sauce and the levels of heat and specialty have really taken off. Once Sriracha became the new ketchup and found on every table and a condiment, companies began producing more varieties of flavors and heat levels. Even more popular are the house-made hot sauces at trendy independent restaurants—ranging from wood fired pizza stores to Indian and Latin-inspired fast causals.

I’d add that people aren’t as afraid of heat anymore, especially when it’s mixed with fruit. We see ghost peppers, habaneros, Aji Amarillo and other peppers all used as aioli spreads, dips or glazes for fish or chicken. Mojo and other chili-based sauces using citrus are hitting menus and begin used as marinades and sauces.

PF: What do you see as new in spreads and condiments?

Greene: It’s a case of classic condiments going upscale.  Ketchup and mayonnaise are getting a face lift. 

You see Sir Kensington’s brands—once boutique—now served on United Airlines Inflight Service Cheeseburgers. There also are more local and regional brands, like those known just around Miami and one of my favorite new boutique ketchups is Le Must. New clean label, house-made and niche markets also are starting to appear. Meanwhile, you see combinations like “Mustketch.” We also have seen this with other offerings, such as Sriracha ketchups.

Pickled and fermented spreads continue to rise. One involves variations of giardiniera, which has traditionally been a Chicago condiment on Italian beef.  We are seeing house-made giardiniera appear on sandwiches across ethnic profiles. Additionally, the very traditional Mexican Escabeche is gaining mainstream appeal. There’s an Italian version with parsley, olive oil, capers and anchovies. Think of it as an Italian Salsa Verde or almost an Italian Chimichurri.

The tanginess from pickling is becoming an accepted flavor in the US. It follows the beverage trend of vinegars used in beverages like shrubs and switchels.

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Originally appeared in the January, 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as First Person.