Genius Recipes

This Feisty, Genius, 3-Ingredient Steak Sauce Is Living in Your Pantry

Salty, tangy, pow.

October  3, 2018

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Pretend a friend just gave you the best bottle of steak sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’d ration it, troll the internet for fancy shops that carry it, send subliminal angst to housemates who take too much or—the nerve—leave puddles behind on their plates.

Now pretend that sauce is one you can stir together from your pantry, with three humble ingredients you can stock and restock from any old grocery store. You’d have an unending supply of the world’s best steak sauce. You’d never suffer the anxiety of a dwindling stash again. You’d be free.

What I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life.
Catherine Newman

It’s easy to assume that our most cherished staples—steak and barbecue and hot sauces—are complex and untouchable, honed by flavor scientists in labs to taste exactly like what we’re wired to crave.

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But really all they are is salt, umami, tang, and heat. And there’s a whole lot of that living in our pantries. Here, in chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Soy-Mustard Sauce, they live in soy sauce (salt, umami), rice vinegar (tang), and a hefty amount of ground mustard (heat!). Together, these three push all the buttons.

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Top Comment:
“I did have a moment's trepidation as I spooned out an entire 1/4 cup of dry mustard (almost half the little tin of Coleman's), but it was perfect. We had it with rib-eye steaks and it just added so much punch. Excellent! ”
— Susan G.

“What I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life,” writer Catherine Newman detailed on her blog Ben & Birdy in 2014. “It made me feel like I'd never actually eaten anything before that tasted good, and like I might never again afterwards.”

The dish Newman fell for was Blackened Ahi with Soy Mustard Sauce and Beurre Blanc, a signature at Roy’s restaurant in Hawaii. 25 more Roy’s have popped up across the world—and, 30 years after launching the ahi appetizer on their first menu, they’re still serving it.

But what Newman has since discovered is that this sauce does damn fine work parading through all sorts of other foods: brown rice, edamame, fish of all kinds, and, notably, steak. When I first tasted it, I felt a rush of rich, salty, brightness and ballooning heat, then an instant tug to go back in for more. It framed and amplified the steak in the loudest, juiciest way.

The experience was so intense, I worried it might be an acquired taste that others wouldn’t like, briefly forgetting about wasabi with sushi, horseradish in Bloody Marys, and hot sauce on everything. One very high-energy Food52 team taste test later, I knew I was wrong. This stuff is loved, wildly, by all. And you can make it anytime you want.

Photos by Ty Mecham

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to Catherine Newman for unearthing this gem!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Susan G. January 7, 2019
Wow! This was SO easy and amazingly flavorful. I did have a moment's trepidation as I spooned out an entire 1/4 cup of dry mustard (almost half the little tin of Coleman's), but it was perfect. We had it with rib-eye steaks and it just added so much punch. Excellent!
Karen October 6, 2018
Can I substitute coconut aminos or tamari for the soy sauce?
Kristen M. October 6, 2018
I think tamari would be the closest in flavor, though coconut aminos might also be tasty—either way, it just might require some tweaking to taste.
Connor B. October 3, 2018
I'm so happy this is finally here! It was so, so good.
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
I wish I could have figured out how to link to you all bravely tasting it for the first time!
Katie P. October 3, 2018
Where can I find those glass bowls with the spout! Love them!
Kristen M. October 6, 2018
Hi Katie—I believe they're vintage, so keep an eye out in flea markets and antique shops, or you could try searching on Etsy—there are somewhat similar Pyrex bowls here:
Carmen October 3, 2018
Seasoned or unseasoned rice wine vinegar?
Marie F. October 3, 2018
I don't think it is seasoned, he is pretty precise, so I think he would have indicated that in the recipe.
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
We used unseasoned in the video and it was deeeeelicious. But I think you could use seasoned if that's what you have, as the soy and mustard are really the dominant flavors, and the vinegar is just adding a little background tang.
Eric K. October 3, 2018
The Kenji steak method is so interesting to me. Gonna try it w/ the sauce this week—thanks, Kristen.
Eric K. October 4, 2018
You mean this?
Donna R. October 3, 2018
It's a shame it's so spicy hot! I cant deal with a lot of heat....
Hank A. October 3, 2018
Couldn't you just reduce the Mustard?
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
I think tweaking the proportions could do it, or just using the sauce in more modest dabs. (If you like just a little wasabi with your sushi, or horseradish in your Bloody Mary, this will be similar.)
Hank A. October 3, 2018
Don't think I've ever had the need for a 'sieve', would a fine mesh strainer work, or some cheesecloth? Are you trying to remove the grit of the Mustard? Thx
Ouida L. October 3, 2018
Haute I. October 3, 2018
Yes it would work fine. It just makes the sauce smoother because sometimes the mustard clumps. I usually just use chopsticks to mix as I pour in vinegar and soy sauce. Hope this helps.
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
To be honest, I haven't needed to sieve it—I think that's just in case you have sneaky mustard clumps.
mcs3000 October 3, 2018
Making this soon!
Kristen M. October 6, 2018
Hooray! I think you'll dig it.