By Stacie Billis
Need to give a simply cooked protein some oomph? A sauce will jazz it up. Need to turn leftovers into a fast dinner? A sauce will bring it all together. Want to give your veggies a flavor boost? You guessed it: a sauce will get the job done. Many home cooks assume sauces are complicated, but the truth is that many sauces are simple and unfussy. These easy 3-ingredient sauces prove that you can combine just a few fresh, everyday ingredients to produce a flavor bomb that will ignite your cooking. The best part? Every single one can be made ahead of time.
1. Magical Three-Ingredient Dressing at Food52
Grab your favorite mayo (we like Primal Kitchen’s Real Mayo with Avocado Oil), some chili garlic sauce, and a little cider vinegar to make a magical concoction that works on everything from sauteed greens and salads to simply-seared proteins. Creamy and spicy for the win!
2. Miso Dressing from Cook for Your Life
Miso is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be combined with nearly anything from tahini to orange juice, but this recipe, which calls for miso, vinegar, and oil, is as basic as it gets. It’s also delicious drizzled over rice bowls, grilled or broiled salmon, or served as a dip with veggies. To make an oil-free version, whisk in some honey instead to give the sauce a little sweetness and some body.
3. One-Minute Romesco Sauce from The Kitchn
Romesco, a Spanish tomato-based sauce, can be fussy. But this genius shortcut delivers all the rich, deep flavor of the traditional version by leaning on almond butter and smoked paprika. Use this super-quick sauce as a dip for veggies or to make your grilled chicken or fish extra delicious. It’s great for topping grain bowls and, thinned out with a little Sherry vinegar, it makes a bold salad dressing.
4. 3-Ingredient Tahini Sauce from Minimalist Baker
Just a little bit of salt and garlic is all that tahini needs to make it completely irresistible on anything from falafel to grilled eggplant. If you have a few minutes to spare, fresh garlic (instead of garlic powder) kicks this recipe up a notch. For the smoothest, creamiest tahini, try Seed + Mill Organic Tahini.
5. 3-Ingredient Peanut Sauce from Cooking For Keeps
The one sauce we think every home cook should have in their fridge at all times? Peanut sauce! Keep it thick to serve as a dipping sauce for anything from chicken cutlets (or chicken fingers for little ones) to veggie-packed summer rolls and store-bought dumplings. Thin it just a little to dress soba noodles or pasta, or to marinate meat. Or thin it out even more to make a dressing for salads and bowls.
Pro tip: Keep your peanut sauce low sugar by using a lower sugar or no-added sugar peanut butter and play around with the texture by using smooth or crunchy. Just be sure to whisk crunchy peanut butter instead of blending it!
6. Horseradish Sauce from Health Starts in the Kitchen
While horseradish sauce is best known for topping meat, beef in particular, it’s also heavenly on roasted winter vegetables. This sauce is the fastest (and easiest!) way to turn Brussels sprouts into a holiday-table win.
Pro tip: This mayo-based sauce can easily be made with Greek-style yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche instead, all of which lend a delightful tang. Since we’re not counting salt and pepper here, this is technically a two-ingredient sauce, which means we can encourage you to add a splash of fresh lemon juice, too.
7. 3 Ingredient Killer Vegan Burger Sauce from Carve Your Cravings
Don’t let the name of this recipe fool you: You can use this delicious sauce on more than just burgers (though it is amazing on burgers of all kinds, from beef to veggie). The combination of mayo (vegan is used here), mustard, and Sriracha makes a fantastic sandwich spread, dip for chicken, or fish “fingers,” and it’s also the perfect sauce for drizzling over roasted sweet potato wedges.
8. 3-Ingredient Vegan Queso from Pinch of Yum
No list of delicious sauces feels complete without cheese sauce, but the point of this list is to give you options you can use for your everyday cooking — and dairy-full cheese sauce doesn’t quite qualify. This vegan version, on the other hand, is just as versatile without the same heaviness. Sure, you’ll want to save some of this sauce for chips, but you can also use it to make broccoli exciting, to stir into elbow pasta for a quick, healthier mac-and-cheese, to top your burrito bowl, and, well, we’re sure you’ll find plenty more ways to use it.