Salad Dressing

The 30-Second, 3-Ingredient 'Secret Sauce' I Drizzle Over Absolutely Everything

Literally. Every single thing.

February 28, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

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I have a secret sauce. It's not the one you're thinking of—though I do love a good Thousand Island riff.

It's a little big spicier, a little bit sharper, and a good deal more garlicky. And I physically can't stop drizzling it over everything:

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Warm grain bowls, packed with a combination of roasted and raw, sliced vegetables. Seared salmon. Crispy chicken thighs. Sautéed greens that need a little extra somethin'. Great, hulking sandwiches. Broiler nachos. Salads of all shapes and sizes. And since takes less than a minute and only three ingredients to pull together, it makes the perfect companion most weeknights.

If my secret sauce were giving an Oscar acceptance speech, it'd have to start by thanking Huy Fong, a California-based company that makes and sells chile-based products. Huy Fong is perhaps best known for its Sriracha—the one sold in a tall bottle with a bright green squeeze-tip—but I go through its jars of chili garlic sauce like they're water. The main ingredients listed on the condiment's label offer some clues to its deliciousness (chiles, salt, garlic, vinegar), though the specifics (Are the chiles roasted? Raw? Anything special happening to the garlic?) remain the stuff of my wildest wonderings. "It was quoted by someone that it was easier to get into the Pentagon than into Huy Fong," says the company's website.

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Top Comment:
“For my secret sauce, I put it on a mix of my favorite raw cut up veggies or over a bowl of roasted veggies and farro, is 1/2 large lemon-juiced, a teaspoon of Apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of EVOO, and salt & pepper to taste. Its so refreshing and zingy I just can't get enough. My favorite part about mixing it up with the raw veggies is how the Avacado mixes into the sauce too. 😆”
— Paula W.

Next up, it'd give a shout-out to mayonnaise (haters, look away!), whose composition of emulsified oil, egg yolks, and some sort of acid make it a dreamy base for most any quick dressing. Hat tip to a dash of apple cider vinegar, for the perfect amount of tang.

"It was quoted by someone that it was easier to get into the Pentagon than into Huy Fong."

And that—plus a little salt—is it. Really. My secret sauce is so simple, the Oscars wouldn't even have to play it off the stage:

Do you have your own "secret sauce"? Let me know in the comments!
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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


LeBec F. February 10, 2024
my mom called her special sauce "mock hollandaise"and i riffed on it for my 'mustard mayo' which we always have on broccolini and asparagus and many sandwiches/burgers. i've never quantified it but roughly, in order of larger quantity down to smallest:
hellmans mayo [almost 50/50 w/ the mustard]
french's 'ballpark' [yellow]mustard
San-j tamari
fresh lemon juice
hope you'll try it, mindy
robinwlarkin February 9, 2024
I made this sauce last night only used sambal oelek vs chili garlic sauce. It IS delicious! I just made enough to add to pasta and grilled chicken. Tossed in tomatoes and peas to the final dish. This sauce will be a staple. Thank you!
JenCooks February 4, 2024
When I was 7, the babysitter next door taught me to mix lemon juice with mayo to taste. I was so excited to come home and share my “recipe” with the family. Thicker for an artichoke dip, thinner to drizzle on broccoli ( raw, steamed, roasted, whenever). I showed my kids when they were little, it’s a great first dish a little one can make that tastes good and makes vegetable eating more enjoyable when you’re small. Everyone in the family are outstanding cooks, crazy foodies, but I still remember the joy of the first culinary success.
Diane M. February 4, 2024
Mayo, fresh Orange Juice, Orange Zest, Black Pepper, a bit of Salt.
That's all you need - and people will act as though you discovered penicillin.
But – of course, you can add grated ginger, mustard, the juice from those jars of preserved ginger, a dash of rice wine vinegar... It's all good, and a great base from which to create deeper flavors.
Mary-Ann February 4, 2024
Can’t do any spicy in our home. Some members are very intolerant (described as physical pain inside their mouths). Here’s my go-to for Asian salad dressing:

Soy sauce
Juice or one lemon or equivalent from calamansi (calamondin in the US)
1-2 tbsp. Japanese vinegar
Grainy mustard
White pepper
+/- anchovies or fish sauce for umami
Blend well using an hand blender. Strain after soaking in the fridge for a few hours.

I’ll try the miso dressing above though. Sounds delish. But with tahini maybe.
Lutakris January 30, 2024
I have a few but my go to is a combo of mayo, cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon juice and garlic powder. Yummy! Now I gotta go make it! 🥰🥰🥰
Cynthia C. January 30, 2024
I cut the amount of Mayo and added a little homemade Greek yogurt. Cleaning out the fridge - found some cooked noodles, warmed them on the stove, threw some fresh spinach on top of warming noodles, stirred in sauce. Excellent, fast lunch.
EdgedInBlue January 29, 2024
Mine is similar, garlic chili crisp, tamari and melted butter.
meg January 29, 2024
I make my own sweet chili garlic sauce and it's a game changer!
suziqcu April 8, 2019
OMg what a great idea. I had homemade garlic chili sauce leftover from Whole30dieting. This magic ingredient is indeed magic!
Michael L. March 11, 2019
I like to do this with Green Chile sauce. And it works also with any favorite Salsa.
Great with fish.
HalfPint March 9, 2019
My mother use to make this sauce with fermented tofu w/ chilies, lime/lemon juice and a little sugar. It’s wonderful as a dip with raw vegetables like cabbage. Now that I look at the list of ingredients, it’s also vegan.
dharma C. March 8, 2019
My favorite sauce is 1/4 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon soy sauce or miso, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and then whisking in warm water until it is either a dip or a sauce. Water will make it bind up at first but keep adding water a TB at a time and it will loosen up. Very versatile.
Nan G. March 8, 2019
Teriyaki wisked into mayo over steamed veggies.
Got the idea from a Japanese place decades ago and can't really improve on it.
asbrink March 8, 2019
Not quite as quick, but Sauce Gribiche, and eggy herby mayonnaise sauce.

My favorite shortcut versions is 1 cup of mayo, 6 medium-boiled eggs (9 minutes), a dash of vinegar, a couple of tablespoons each of minced cornichons/pickles, capers, parsley. Tablepsoon of dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Chop the eggs finely and mix everything. It's an amazing salad dressing, or cold sauce over veg like asparagus or roasted sweet potatoes. I like it on mashed potatoes instead of gravy!
Annie March 10, 2019
Delicioso! I'm making this.
[email protected] March 7, 2019
Trader Joe's Yuzu sauce! On everything !
Ameenay K. March 8, 2019
I 3000% agree with this! I go through a bottle every two weeks.
Breadgirl March 9, 2019
Love that Yuzu sauce on savory oatmeal with green onions and soy sauce!
Lin March 7, 2019
YUM to all the sauces!!! I love this community!!
Samantha March 7, 2019
Unfortunately I cannot handle hot spicy anything like any kind of chili. Can you recommend a replacement?? Thanks
Kelle Z. March 7, 2019
You might like a "ranch" mixture. It has garlic but you could omit that. Basically, through trial and error of your favorite herbs or spices with any base you can tolerate turns into a fav'...:) I recommend just experimenting...
Lutakris January 30, 2024
Agreed. Start with mayo….no wait….smoke some ganga….then start with mayo and let your imagination run away! I would never do that, of course! 😉
Kelle Z. March 7, 2019
It might not be exactly called a 'sauce', however, I am vegan and use 3 simple ingredients to put into a lot: chickpea hummus (homemade), Dijon mustard, different choices of hot sauce and balsamic vinegar. The only different in the hot sauces is just whatever I'm in the mood for. I own THAT hot sauce and use it regularly as well....don't care how it's made, I love it!
Lutakris January 30, 2024
Balsamic vinegar with is a beautiful thing. Especially the white, particularly because it isn’t scary looking.
Cincysue March 7, 2019
I usually do some combination of maple syrup/soy sauce or maple syrup and mustard. Basically a sweet and salty combo