15 DIY Sauces and Condiments to Liven up Multiple Meals

Salsa Verde


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Salsa Verde

Tasty, Cheap Sauces

Americans love condiments, from ketchup and hot sauce to mustard and mayonnaise. Stocking up on store-bought sauces is convenient, but there are benefits to making your own. Premade sauces often contain chemicals that help preserve, color, and emulsify, while natural and pure alternatives are often double or triple the cost of bargain brands. Making sauces at home ensures the lowest possible price but unadulterated, personalized flavor.

Related: 24 Condiments From Around the World to Add Zing to Any Meal

Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

The essential ingredients for hot sauce are threefold: salt, chilis, and vinegar. The cost of chilies varies greatly depending on season and region; however, $2 a pound is typical. A recipe from Wake Up and Eat yields roughly 3 cups, or 24 ounces, and costs very little to make. The price of similar hot sauces even at bargain prices is double the cost per ounce, making this one of the biggest money-saving condiments when made at home.



This classic sauce is used by so many cultures for so many culinary applications, including salads, sandwiches, and dips. A recipe from Epicurious uses eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, canola oil, and salt to make a bright and creamy sauce. Cheaper, creamier, and free of preservatives, homemade mayo is an easy way to impress at the next potluck or dinner party.

Salad Dressing

Basic Salad Dressing

Aside from being cheap to make, salad dressing is also incredibly easy to prepare. A basic recipe: two parts white wine vinegar to one part extra virgin olive oil plus a touch of Dijon mustard to help emulsify the mixture into one homogenous sauce. Customize the recipe by substituting balsamic or apple cider vinegar or swapping out some of the vinegar for fresh citrus juice. Also try adding herbs and garlic, or using another type of oil.

Hot Wing Sauce

Hot Wing Sauce

This spicy, tangy, buttery sauce is nothing short of addictive. Its culinary applications reach far beyond the traditional chicken wing — think potatoes, eggs, and sandwiches, to name a few. While store-bought brands may contain chemical emulsifiers and preservatives, this homemade version is full of unadulterated flavor and piquancy. To make a batch of wing sauce, combine 6 ounces butter with 4 ounces homemade hot sauce.

Ranch Dressing

Ranch Dressing

Ranch is essentially a seasoned blend of mayonnaise and sour cream and doesn't need any of the extra ingredients or chemicals that come in the shelf-stable, premade varieties. If your household goes through a lot of ranch, this recipe from Barefeet In The Kitchen will up the flavor while cutting out the bad stuff and saving money.

Gravy and Meat Broth


Gravy is a staple to have on hand for everything from potatoes to grilled meats, and let's be honest — the jarred and canned stuff just isn't the same. You can make a simple gravy out of fat and flour to thicken broth, plus herbs for seasoning. Ideally, the fat includes drippings from roasted meats, stock, or broth, which can even be frozen and saved for later gravy-making. This recipe from Delish lays out the basic technique.

030116 homemade sauces slide 5 fs

Peanut Sauce

Peanut sauce is great for dumplings, noodles, grilled meats, and more. Making this umami-rich sauce at home lets you customize the balance of flavors while saving big. Whisk together 1 cup of peanut butter, 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. This recipe leaves plenty of room for extras such as garlic, ginger, and scallions to further enhance the flavor.

Dumpling sauce

Dumpling Sauce

The right dumpling sauce can be used on noodles and as a marinade as well. This recipe from The Spruce Eats combines 5 simple ingredients with no unnecessary additives or stabilizers. The flavors actually improve as they sit together so you can make one batch and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.



With a base of eggs, lemon, and butter, there's no reason not to make this sauce fresh at home when you have a craving. Once you master the technique from this Allrecipes basic version you can put your own spin on this beloved sauce.

030116 homemade sauces slide 4 fs

Salsa for Chips

The convenience of pre-made salsa is hard to beat, but consumers who realize how easy it is to make their own can enjoy extra-fresh flavor and additional savings. To make salsa at home, combine three medium tomatoes, half an onion, a small handful of cilantro, and two jalapeños in a food processor and pulse to combine until chunky. Season with salt and the juice of a lime and serve immediately, or store in the fridge for up to one week. Add garlic, scallions, or fruit to customize.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

Homemade salsa verde is easy to make and can be frozen for later use. This recipe from Mexican Food Journal uses fresh tomatillos, though canned versions can do the trick if you can't find fresh. The best part of making your own is customizing the level of spiciness you like. Use salsa verde on anything and everything, including enchiladas, quesadillas, and tacos.

030116 homemade sauces slide 2 fs

Marinara Sauce

This all-purpose red sauce is essential for any kitchen. Make homemade marinara using canned tomatoes. For the basic recipe, start with a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat, add half a chopped onion and a few cloves of crushed garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 20 ounces of canned tomatoes, plus a sprinkling of dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley, and basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for at least 20 minutes and store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to one week.

Related: Use Your Noodle: 20 Creative Recipes That Highlight Pasta’s Many Shapes

Spicy Foods Cause Ulcers

Chili Oil

This condiment is so simple to make that it's surprising anyone would ever buy it. Increasingly popular on soups, salads, rice, and many other foods, chili oil is a fun way to spice up a meal. While a bottle of store-bought chili oil can cost up to $2 an ounce, the expense of making your own is little more than the cost of a good quality extra virgin olive oil, which is available for about 25 cents an ounce. To the oil, add some dried chilies, then let the mixture sit for a week or two to allow the chilies to infuse the oil, and you've got homemade chili oil for nearly a tenth of the price.

030116 homemade sauces slide 8 fs

Chocolate Syrup

The basis of chocolate syrup is simple syrup, which is as easy to make as the name implies: Simply combine equal parts water and sugar and boil until the sugar dissolves. To make chocolate syrup, after the sugar/water mixture comes to a boil, whisk in one-quarter part cocoa powder and simmer for five minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to two months.

caramel sauce

Caramel Sauce

The expense of store-bought caramel sauce can quickly add up considering how delicious caramel is on cakes, ice cream, apple pie, and other desserts. The sauce is simple to make with a Food Network recipe. Just combine sugar, butter, cream, and a little vanilla.