Delicious Homemade Sauces That Will Upgrade Any Meal

Whether you want them for dipping snacks like crudité, coating bowls of al dente pasta, brightening up salads, amping up the flavor on your perfectly cooked steak, or making a burger truly memorable, sauces are just the thing that can make or break your meal plan. Sauces can be saviors, too, in how they can save a meal that's otherwise inedible because it's burnt, over-seasoned, overcooked, or any other mishap or pitfall that can strike in the kitchen. As the late Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential, "an ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins", and while we're pretty sure that he was hinting at a lot more than just a few cooks' slip-ups during a busy Saturday night service, he wasn't wrong.

The importance of a good sauce in a dish is especially apparent when considering how the traditional French kitchen brigade system calls for specialized sauce chefs named sauciers. While you may not be planning to attend classes at Le Cordon Bleu any time soon, that doesn't mean you can't start mastering the art of making sauces, from cooking techniques like emulsion and thickening to planning out flavor pairings. If starting there sounds intimidating, then trust that the recipes below are all flavor and no fumble.

Chimichurri sauce

If you're looking to upgrade your grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables, then look no further than this recipe for distinctively garlicky green chimichurri sauce. While its exact origin story is uncertain, the general consensus is that this Argentinian and Uruguayan condiment can single-handedly give food an flavorful and herbaceous kick that's both salty and sour, thanks to a splash of red wine vinegar and just a squeeze of lemon juice. It's incredibly simple to make as well: Just throw everything in a slow blender and taste as you go to make sure it's to your liking!

Genovese basil pesto sauce

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you're making pasta, but if you're planning on making some fresh pesto sauce for dinner, you'll be doing something right. Recipes for a no-cook sauce like this tend to get overlooked in lieu of simply buying it at the store, because it seems complex to make from scratch, but that's just the flavor talking. Once the ingredients are gathered, it takes little more than putting everything in a food processor and pulsing it until silky smooth. When stored properly, it'll last just over a week!

Slow cooker marinara sauce

Versatile in the numerous ways it can be used and with its unforgettable flavor, there's nothing quite like a classic marinara sauce. While you could try scrounging the internet for an authentic take on pomodoro from a Naples-based Italian nonna, we're willing to bet that you'll find the taste-to-effort ratio of this marinara sauce made in a slow cooker totally worth it. As opposed to having to hover over a bubbling pot on your stovetop, this recipe is perfect when you want to mix ingredients and fuggedaboutit until it's time to eat.

Fast marinara sauce

A true marinara sauce is, when compared to a thick tomato sauce like a ragu, a quick sauce to make that takes under 25 minutes and packs plenty of flavor for a weeknight meal. If 25 minutes sounds like too much time, then try this 15-minute recipe on for size. Cut down on time instead of cutting down on the garlic like Paulie in Goodfellas with a couple subtle tricks like roasting the garlic, as well as some optional ingredients you can play around with to really make this recipe your own.

3-ingredient alfredo sauce

Some of the greatest Italian dishes are ones of simplicity, and that means they don't need much more than good ingredients and the right recipe — this one for a three-ingredient Alfredo sauce being one of them, even if it's Italian-American. While this version takes an even more Americanized shortcut by using cream cheese instead of cream, it's no less delicious. As the recipe's author Lindsay Mattison writes, "using cream cheese in this recipe works because it's basically a thickened, coagulated version of cream." It's rich, garlicky, cheesy, and won't take more than five minutes to make.

Zucchini tzatziki sauce

"Forget the store-bought stuff," writes Mashed contributor Mackenzie Burgess. "Packaged tzatziki sauce is typically filled with unnecessary additives and preservatives." Besides, when you can make your very own tzatziki like this at home, we're pretty sure you won't think twice about whether you should shell out cash for small plastic containers of the good garlicky stuff. Better yet, this recipe's use of zucchini doesn't take anything away from the traditional use of cucumber in the sauce; if anything, it crams in a lot more vitamins and minerals in than usual. Delicious and nutritious, what's not to like? 

3-ingredient stir fry sauce

There are a lot of stir fry recipes out there that have last-minute secret ingredient additions, but you can save yourself the trouble of packing your fridge doors with bottles of sauce you'll only use occasionally by adopting this simple three-ingredient stir fry sauce. Its combo of soy sauce, honey and cornstarch might seem plain, but the right ratio covers a lot of flavor basics, and it's simple enough that you can add all kinds of aromatics to it and tweak it for acidity, heat, and more.

Yum Yum sauce

If you first got acquainted with Japanese steakhouses in the United States and their version of teppanyaki, you probably know the taste of hibachi sauce and think it tastes good with just about everything. Thing is, you're not wrong: One taste of this recipe for yum yum sauce and you'll likely be having with more than grilled meat and seafood. Thanks to the addition of some tangy apple cider vinegar and tomato paste, plus some spices for good measure, it's a delicious concoction that gives time-honored tastes like Kewpie mayonnaise a run for its money.

Copycat Chick-Fil-A sauce

Love it or hate it, a lot of folks can at least agree that Chick-Fil-A's signature sauce is delicious. There are a lot of speculations as to what makes it so good — coleslaw drippings, a weird variation of ranch, maybe — but whatever it is, we're pretty confident that this copycat recipe ought to do the trick. It's got all the trappings of the original, from the color to the taste. All you need to do is to bring the waffle fries.

Copycat Taco Bell quesadilla sauce

Taco Bell may be easy on the wallet, but if you make those quesadillas and burritos yourself at home, it'll get even cheaper. Thing is, it's not always as simple as tossing seasoned ground beef and shredded cheese in a tortilla; creating fast food experiences yourself isn't always easy, but this recipe for copycat Taco Bell quesadilla sauce is. "Want even more inspiration?" asks Kristen Carli, the sauce's author. "It can also double as a seriously succulent salad dressing and is also great on burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and beyond."

Copycat Olive Garden alfredo sauce

It's not exactly a secret that Olive Garden isn't the most authentic of Italian restaurants, and the proof's in how they serve up a lot of bowls of this creamy American invention. Thing is, that doesn't take away from how delicious it is, and we're pretty sure we've cracked the saucy code behind the chain's take on Alfredo sauce. If you follow the steps for mixing together butter, garlic, milk, cream, and two types of good Italian cheese together, we're positive you'll be planning the next time you'll make it even as you eat.