In cooking, a sauce is a liquid, cream, or semi-solid food, served on or used in preparing other foods. Most sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to a dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latinsalsa, meaning salted. Possibly the oldest recorded European sauce is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Greeks; while doubanjiang, the Chinese soy bean paste is mentioned in Rites of Zhou in the 3rd century BC.
Sauces need a liquid component. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
Sauces may be used for sweet or savory dishes. They may be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, cooked and served warm like bechamel or cooked and served cold like apple sauce. They may be freshly prepared by the cook, especially in restaurants, but today many sauces are sold premade and packaged like Worcestershire sauce, HP Sauce, soy sauce or ketchup. Sauces for salad are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.
A chef who specializes in making sauces is called a saucier.
Sauces used in traditional Japanese cuisine are usually based on shōyu (soy sauce), miso or dashi. Ponzu, citrus-flavored soy sauce, and yakitori no tare, sweetened rich soy sauce, are examples of shōyu-based sauces. Miso-based sauces include gomamiso, miso with ground sesame, and amamiso, sweetened miso. In modern Japanese cuisine, the word "sauce" often refers to Worcestershire sauce, introduced in the 19th century and modified to suit Japanese tastes. Tonkatsu, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba sauces are based on this sauce. Japanese sauce or wasabi sauce is used on sushi and sashimi or mixed with soy sauce to make wasabi-joyu.
Indian cuisines use sauces such as tomato-based sauces with varying spice combinations (mistakenly referred to as generically "curry" by some Western cultures, initially due to British generalization of Indian sauces and spice blends), tamarind sauce, coconut milk-/paste-based sauces, and chutneys. There are substantial regional variations in Indian cuisine, but many sauces use a seasoned mix of onion, ginger and garlic paste as the base of various gravies and sauces. Various cooking oils, ghee and/or cream are also regular ingredients in Indian sauces.
Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages. There were many hundreds of sauces in the culinary repertoire. In cuisine classique (roughly from the end of the 19th century until the advent of nouvelle cuisine in the 1980s), sauces were a major defining characteristic of French cuisine.
In the early 19th century, the chef Marie-Antoine Carême created an extensive list of sauces, many of which were original recipes. It is unknown how many sauces Carême is responsible for, but it is estimated to be in the hundreds. The cream sauce, in its most popular form around the world, was concurrently created by another chef, Dennis Leblanc, working in the same kitchen as Carême. Carême considered the four grandes sauces to be espagnole, velouté, allemande, and béchamel, from which a large variety of petites sauces could be composed.
In the early 20th century, the chef Auguste Escoffier refined Carême's list of basic sauces in the four editions of his classic Le Guide Culinaire and its abridged English translation A Guide to Modern Cookery. He dropped allemande as he considered it a variation of velouté, and added hollandaise and sauce tomate, defining the five fundamental "mother sauces" still used today:
A sauce which is derived from one of the mother sauces by augmenting with additional ingredients is sometimes called a "daughter sauce" or "secondary sauce". Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are daughter sauces. For example, béchamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of grated cheese, and espagnole becomes bordelaise with the addition of reduction of red wine, shallots, and poached beef marrow.
A specialized implement, the French sauce spoon, was introduced in the mid-20th century to aid in eating sauce in French cuisine, enjoying increasing popularity at high-end restaurants.
In the European traditions, sauces are often served in a sauce boat
Italian sauces reflect the rich variety of the Italian cuisine and can be divided in several categories including:
Savory sauces used for dressing meats, fish and vegetables
Salsas ("sauces" in Spanish) such as pico de gallo (tomato, onion and chili chopped with lemon juice), salsa cocida, salsa verde, chile, and salsa roja are a crucial part of many Latino and Spanish-American cuisines in the Americas. Typical ingredients include chili, tomato, onion, and spices; thicker sauces often contain avocado. Mexican cuisine features sauces which may contain chocolate, seeds, and chiles collectively known by the Nahua name mole (compare guacamole). Argentine cooking uses more Italian-derived sauces, such as tomato sauce, cream sauce, or pink sauce (the two mixed).
Peruvian cuisine uses sauces based mostly in different varieties of ají combined with several ingredients, most notably salsa huancaína based on fresh cheese and salsa de ocopa based on peanuts or nuts.
Middle Eastern cuisines
Fesenjān is a traditional Iranian sauce of pomegranates and walnuts served over meat and/or vegetables which was traditionally served for Yalda or end of winter and the Nowruz ceremony.