Sauces, Dressings and Spreads

Jump straight to the suggested recipes

When you look through your cupboards, chances are you’ll find a pile of sauces of different kinds, such as tomato sauce (ketchup), prepared mustard, mayonnaise, salad or coleslaw dressings, chutney, piccalilli or tartare sauce. You may also have some spreads, such as vegemite or marmite, peanut butter, nutella, jam or honey. When we look at the labels, it’s disappointing to find that they often contain sugar, undesirable vegetable oils, MSG or other things we want to avoid.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Made properly, they add flavour and extra nutrients to a meal. Fat based dressings make vegetables and protein dishes more digestible. Chutneys and relishes can be fermented in the traditional ways to add more of the beneficial elements we talked about in the last lesson.

So the object of this lesson is to switch to healthier options. You don’t even have to make them all yourself. If you check labels carefully, you can find some sauces that are made with OK ingredients. (See the shopping guide for some help tracking them down.) But it’s also fairly easy to make some yourself, for superior quality.

We’re also going to look at some sauces that can be made fresh to enhance a meal, including stock-based sauces and gravies. One way of making a sauce from stock is to boil vigorously till concentrated and thickened. It can then be made into a variety of different sauces. We’re also going to look at gravies, which are instead thickened with different types of flours.

Spreads are a little more tricky.

  • I haven’t found a suitable replacement for Vegemite or Marmite, which have MSG as a by-product of extracting the yeast. Nutritional yeast, which you can sprinkle on vegetables, is another source of B vitamins but it doesn’t make a good spread.
  • Nut butters are best made yourself from “crispy” nuts and we covered those in lesson 2. But acceptable compromises can be bought. Look for butters made just from nuts, with no added sugar, salt or vegetable oils.
  • When you want a sweet spread, most people usually go for jam or honey. As alternatives to jam, we’re going to make apple or apricot butter. There’s also a whole foods recipe for lemon honey.

As with all whole foods cooking, the quality depends directly on the quality of the individual ingredients. Look for:

  • Cold pressed or extra virgin oils. NZ olive oil is of excellent quality, and often tastes better than imported oils.
  • Free range eggs
  • Fresh produce, preferably organic
  • Celtic or other unrefined sea salt

While we’re talking about sea salt, let’s talk iodine. Iodine is low in NZ soils and prior to commercial salt being iodised deficiencies were common. The use of iodised salt is decreasing, and other factors are also contributing to a lower intake of iodine. Deficiencies are starting to reappear. The use of unrefined sea salts instead of commercial salts is starting to become controversial, with the Heart Foundation and others advising that you always use iodised salt to cook with. But I don’t agree. Refined salt is just sodium, with some iodine. Sodium on it’s own upsets the sodium-potassium balance in the body, which is undesirable. Traditionally, intake of iodine came from seafood, which were regarded as a very important food for many reasons. If you’re regularly eating raw fish, adding sea vegetables to stews, sprinkling a small amount of kelp on your vegetables or taking your cod liver oil (see lesson 15 for more info on superfoods), your iodine intake should be adequate.


Beetroot Dip

This section is for those are working through the lessons of the cooking course. Otherwise jump straight to the recipes

Optional reading

  • Stock based sauces: Nourishing Traditions P126
  • Salad dressings: Nourishing Traditions P127-128
  • Sauces, marinades and condiments: Nourishing Traditions P136


Make at least one meal that includes a freshly made gravy or sauce. Go through your cupboards and replace any bottles of sauce, or jars of spread, with homemade or quality shop bought.

Stock based sauces:

Sauces, dressings and relishes:

Sweet spreads:

  • Lemon honey     
  • Apricot or apple butter (NT, P110)


Try a few different recipes over the next few weeks, as the first lot run out. Find a range of favourites and always have some on hand.


Notes on the Recipes

The recipe suggestions come from a variety of sources. Some are in the recipe blog section of this site, some are from books I may have recommended to you eg Nourishing Traditions (NT) or Gut & Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) and some are from other people’s blogs.

They are marked with the following icons to make it easy to see which ones are suitable for your diet or not suitable       . But you still need to double check each recipe to make sure. Also refer to my Pinterest page for more ideas.

= GAPS or SCD friendly, and mostly suitable for Paleo
= contains grains of some kind (but may be gluten free)
= contains dairy, and there is no dairy free option
= contains eggs, and there is no egg free option
= contains peanuts, cashews, tree nuts or seeds

Suggested Recipes

  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Or mayonnaise or GAPS P173
  • Or a salad dressing made from olive oil