Make Your Own Vegan Condiments

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD


Sauces and condiments have a long culinary history. Some people postulate they may have been used to "cover up" strong or off flavors that may have developed prior to refrigeration. Others think they were used to offset a bland diet with limited numbers of ingredients. If we think about the basis of many cuisines — rice, bread, cereals, potatoes, and pasta — we can understand how "jazzing up" with condiments might have become popular.

Making your own condiments can range from "it only takes a minute," to an overnight soak or an all-day simmer, depending on your time, kitchen space, planning, and choice. The good news about most condiments is, once prepared, they have an extended shelf life, so you can have a variety of condiments over a long period of time. Many homemade condiments intensify in flavor in a good way over time.

If you would like to create your own "line" of condiments, you’ll want to save leftover fruit and veggie juices, cooked veggies for salsas, and salad dressings. When you are shopping, look for interesting (and on sale!) pickles, olives, and nuts, as they make interesting additions for condiments. The same goes for vinegars, oil, and salt, as they can take a "blah" recipe and add some interest.

Here’s a list of ingredients you may want to have on hand to whip up home-made condiments:

For your pantry: tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, white or apple cider vinegar, dried herbs (such as parsley or oregano), spices (such as black or white pepper, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and paprika), canned green and black olives, assorted pickles, maple syrup, agave nectar, and vegetable oil and spray

For your refrigerator or freezer: lemons or lemon juice, silken or soft tofu, frozen peas and carrots (to use as a puréed ingredient), and soy sauce


Take advantage of seasonal fruits and veggies for chutneys and salsas, as well as fruit-based marinades. Also keep an eye out for sales on dried fruits and veggies, or make your own dried fruits and veggies, and include apricots, peaches, apples, pears, blueberries, plums, and tomatoes.

Chutney originated in South Asia and was "adopted" into British cuisine — one of the first fusion condiments! Chutney can be sweet or savory, made with all fresh or all canned ingredients and can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, or as a condiment. Indian-style chutneys are usually thick and chunky, while British-style chutneys more closely resemble a jam. Chutneys can be made to be served "that day," or prepared in larger batches and served over time.

Chutneys can be made with fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices. Generally, a chutney recipe will have one dominant flavor and that is how that chutney is named. It may not be the ingredient used in the largest amount, but it will be the one with the "biggest" flavor. Some of the more popular chutneys are made using coconut, mint, coriander, cilantro, garlic, ginger, mango, raisin, banana, apricot, tamarind, red chili, green chili, lime, peanut, cumin, asafetida (a popular Jain or vegan spice), and tomato.

Salad Dressings

Salad dressings can be easily created with what you have at hand. Purée cooked beans, thin with a small amount of oil (if desired), flavor with a small amount of vinegar and then start to add minced or finely diced veggies (such as onions, peppers, chilies, tomatoes, zucchini or summer squash, or cucumbers), and fresh or powdered herbs. Combine salsa with vegan mayonnaise or sour cream for a creamy salad dressing and add cooked, cooled veggies, such as diced carrots, peas or corn, or even a small amount of diced pineapple, melon or dried fruit, such as cranberries, blueberries, or raisins.

Tartar Sauce

For tartar sauce (useful as a sandwich spread, salad dressing, or a cold sauce for cooked veggies or grains or steamed, grilled, or baked tofu, tempeh, or seitan), make your own vegan mayonnaise or purchase it and keep it on hand. Add minced pickles and lemon juice, shredded nori, and/or white pepper and you have your own customized tartar sauce.

Vegan Mayonnaise

Over the past few years, vegan mayonnaise has become much easier to purchase at the store, but it is easy to make and customize yourself, too. Most of us just don’t think to make it ourselves. Vegan mayonnaise needs a base, such as soy or almond milk or soft tofu, and vegetable oil, lemon juice, and mustard. You can stir up vegan mayo recipes by hand or combine in a blender or food processor; you can prepare vegan mayonnaise "as needed" or make a large batch and keep refrigerated.

Caponata and Harissa

If you have some time, caponata and harissa are flavorful condiments that can "make the meal." Caponata is a Sicilian version of ratatouille, taking advantage of seasonal eggplant to create a savory side dish or condiment. Because eggplant is so mild in flavor, it absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients in the recipe as well as provides a great texture. Caponata can be used as a stand-alone sandwich filling, as a base for soups or salad dressings, and as a condiment for cooked grains, potatoes and veggies. It’s difficult to resist caponata spread on thin, crusty bread or tossed with extra firm tofu.

Harissa is a spicy condiment-paste that’s widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa recipes vary between countries, regions, and households, but most versions include at least two types of chilies (the hotter the better), garlic, olive oil, and spices (like cumin, coriander, caraway, and mint), as well as tomatoes. If made traditionally, harissa packs quite a taste sensation and a little goes a long way! If you would first like to experience prepared harissa, there are some good versions available with online grocers.

Condiments can make a meal. The simplest ingredients, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, or bread, can be served three times a day, without boredom, when we have fascinating condiments to accompany them!

Agave Mustard

(Makes about 1 ½ cups)

Before you decide to make mustard, think about how you’ll use the dry mustard, as the tins are usually relatively large. This recipe takes some time to make, including some waiting. However, once prepared, the mustard will last at least two weeks in the refrigerator.

  • ¼ cup dry mustard
  • ½ cup white vinegar (can be simply white vinegar or white wine vinegar)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons silken tofu (or soft tofu)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

In a medium bowl, mix together dry mustard, vinegar, water, and agave nectar until smooth. Cover and chill overnight, or for at least six hours.

Place oil in a frying pan and heat. Add mustard seeds and heat over medium heat, covered. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, about three minutes, remove from heat. Set aside and allow to cool.

Add one inch of water to a small pot. The amount will vary depending on the size of the pot to create a double boiler. The bowl with the dry mustard will need to fit on top of (not in) the pot, or use a double boiler if you have one. Place the mustard-vinegar mixture over the boiling water, and add the toasted mustard seeds with remaining oil, tofu, salt, and cornstarch and whisk to blend. Cook, whisking constantly, until mustard thickens, three minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Chill for at least one hour before using.

Note: You can customize your mustard by dividing the batchs and using different types of mustard seeds. Yellow, also called "white" mustard seeds are mild. Brown mustard seeds are used in "Dijon" or "European" style mustards. Black mustard seeds are used for more assertive cuisines, such as Indian. Remember that mustard seeds need to soak and soften in liquid (or popped in oil) prior to being added to your recipe.

Total calories per 1 teaspoon serving: 7 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 32 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Last Minute Ketchup

(Makes about 1 ½ cups)

Ketchup is originally from Indonesia and was made with a variety of fruit pastes. After making this tomato-based ketchup, try experimenting with other fruit pastes, such as apricot or prune, made by processing soaked dried fruit with a small amount of water.

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) no-salt tomato paste
  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar (your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley

Combine all ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal) and stir until well combined, or mix in a blender until all ingredients are combined. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

Total calories per 1 Tablespoon serving: 17 Fat: <1 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 17 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Mint Chutney

(Makes about 2 ½ cups)

There are so many types of chutney! Try this green version and then move onto customizing your own, with seasonal herbs and fruit.

  • 4 Tablespoons soy or cashew yogurt (plain or unflavored)
  • 1 ½ cups packed, washed and shredded fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup packed, washed and stemmed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon seeded and chopped fresh chili
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon peeled and minced fresh garlic
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Place the yogurt in a large bowl (you will be adding all the ingredients to this bowl). Set aside.

Finely dice (by hand) or grind (in a food processor) the mint, cilantro, chilies, onions, ginger, and garlic until almost uniform. Add to the yogurt and mix together. Mix in the cumin and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Note: Chutney can be smooth like a paste or chunky, depending on your preference. If you like, you can add chopped walnuts, pistachio or pine nuts, as well as dried cranberries or raisins for more texture.

Total calories per 2 Tablespoon serving: 21 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram


(Makes about 2 cups)

Harissa is a fiery condiment, and a little goes a long way! Harissa will keep in the refrigerator for up to about two weeks. If you have not experienced harissa, you may want to purchase a commercial variety found in African or Middle Eastern stores or even on Amazon. com, to get the feel for it before making your own.

  • 2 large whole red bell peppers, cut in half and seeded (about 1 pound)
  • 6 whole chilies (about 8 ounces, your choice of heat)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves (about 3 ounces)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat broiler and set the oven rack at about six inches from the heat. Place red bell peppers with cut sides down onto a baking sheet. Cook under the preheated broiler until the skin of the peppers has blackened and blistered, about five minutes. If a broiler is not available, you can use a barbecue grill for the same effect. If neither a broiler nor barbecue is available, you can place the peppers right into the flame of a stove top burner, but this will take a lot of turning and watching! Place the blackened peppers into a bowl and tightly seal with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to cool for 20 minutes. After they are cooled, with your hands, remove and discard the skin. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add whole chilies and cook uncovered over medium heat until chilies start to soften, about three minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Remove seeds and membranes from chilies (wear gloves, and don’t touch your eyes); set aside.

Add roasted bell peppers, boiled chilies, caraway seeds, white pepper, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, and vegetable oil into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Total calories per 2 Tablespoon serving: 21 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 3 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Vegan Mayonnaise

(Makes approximately 1 ½ cups)

Use this as the base for salad dressings, sandwich spreads and cold sauces — it is very versatile!

  • ½ cup soft silken tofu
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard (not dried mustard powder)
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

Combine tofu, lemon juice, mustard, and pepper in a blender for about 30 seconds or until the tofu is smooth. While blending, slowly add in the oil until the mixture thickens to your preference. If you are going to use this for many different recipes, make it thick, as it can always be thinned out with some additional oil.

Thousand Island Dressing: add ketchup or tomato paste and relish; if necessary, thin with a small amount of oil or water
Salsa Salad Dressing: stir prepared salsa into vegan mayonnaise
Tartar Sauce:: add relish and lemon juice
Fast Corn Salad: to cooled cooked corn, add vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, and relish, and, if you have the time, chopped onions and peppers
Fast Protein Salad: chunk extra-firm tofu or smoked tofu and stir in vegan mayonnaise, soy sauce, and seasonal chopped veggies.

Total calories per 1 Tablespoon serving: 85 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: <1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 5 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

BBQ Sauce

(Makes about 2 ½ cups)

You can make this savory sauce ahead of time and refrigerate. Use as a dipping sauce or stir into vegan mayonnaise for a fast sandwich spread.

  • 2 cups canned no-salt-added or homemade tomato sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Cover and let stand for at least one hour, to allow the flavors to "marry" and combine.

If you have more time, gently heat combined sauce in a small pot, and stir and heat over low heat for about 20 minutes. Serve hot or allow to cool.

Total calories per 2 Tablespoon serving: 19 Fat: <1 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 33 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram


(Makes about 4 ½ cups)

Caponata takes time to prepare, but it is worth it! Serve as a side dish or use as a condiment or sandwich filling. It is flavorful, versatile, and can be fairly addictive! Take advantage of eggplant in season and make several large batches. Store in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 cups peeled and diced fresh eggplant
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup seeded and diced green pepper
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup no salt added tomato sauce
  • ⅔ cup no salt tomato paste
  • ¾ cup pitted Kalamata (or black) olives
  • ¾ cup pitted green olives
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Pour oil into large skillet on medium heat. Add eggplant, onions, pepper, celery, and garlic to the pan and sauté until vegetables are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, olives, and vinegar to pan with vegetables. Mix well, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in oregano and black pepper. Serve warm or allow to cool.

Total calories per ¼ cup serving: 76 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 175 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams