by Emily Phares

Okay, so our sauces aren’t really secret, since we tell you exactly how to make them. But here’s something you may not know: a delicious sauce is a culinary magic wand. When waved (well, poured) over your food, it transforms a good meal into something amazing.

I often throw stuff in a bowl and call it dinner, but adding a sauce really elevates the meal. Plus, if you tend to cook the same meals on repeat, adding a flavorful, bright sauce instantly livens things up.

These sauces are versatile, so get creative in how you use them. And if you’re out of a particular ingredient try subbing in another. No agave? Use maple syrup or honey. No rice vinegar? Add white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for some tang. Almonds can be used instead of walnuts, avocado oil for olive oil, and so on. Who knows, you may end up creating your own secret sauce.

So without further ado, here are 10 simple sauces that will transform your meals. (Technically two of them are hummuses, but you get the gist.) Enjoy!

1. Spicy Cashew Sauce (4 servings)
(from Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Cashew Sauce & Kraut)
Peel 4 garlic cloves and add to a blender. Measure ⅔ cup cashews and add to the blender along with 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tsp agave, 2 tsp tamari, 2 tsp Aleppo pepper, 4 tbsp olive oil, and 4 tbsp warm water. Blend on high until smooth. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

2. Carrot Ginger Dressing (4 servings)
(from Midnight Macro Bowls with Broccolini & Carrot Ginger Dressing)
Peel and grate 4 carrots. Peel and roughly chop 2 shallots and 2 oz fresh ginger. Add 2 cups grated carrots, 4 tbsp chopped shallot, 2 tbsp chopped ginger, 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tsp tamari, 4 tbsp vegetable oil, and ½ cup water to a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

3. Red Pepper & Walnut Sauce (4 servings)
(from Muhammara Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Chickpeas & Cashew Cheese)
Halve and juice 1 lemon. Chop 2 scallions. Make balsamic glaze by adding balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and letting it reduce until it has a thick, syrup-like consistency. Drain 8 oz roasted red peppers. In a blender, combine the lemon juice, chopped scallion, red peppers, ½ cup walnuts, ½ tsp ground cumin, 2 tbsp balsamic glaze, and 4 tbsp olive oil. Blend on high until smooth. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

4. Miso Power Dressing (4 servings)
(from Sprouting Broccoli Salads with Sunflower Seeds & Miso Power Dressing)
Add 4 tbsp lemon juice, ⅔ cup hemp seeds, 2 tbsp white miso paste, ½ cup water, and 4 tbsp olive oil to a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

5. Tarator Sauce (2 servings)
(from Chickpea Quinoa Bowls with Tarator Sauce & Pickled Shallots)
Peel 1 garlic clove. Halve and juice 1 lemon. Add the garlic, half the lemon juice, ¼ cup + 3 tbsp sliced almonds, 2 tbsp olive oil, and ⅓ cup water to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

6. Sesame Ginger Sauce (2 servings)
(from Takeout-Style Noodles with Asparagus & Sesame Ginger Sauce)
Add 2 tsp minced ginger, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 3 tsp tamari, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp peanut butter, and up to 2 tbsp chile garlic sauce (use less if you prefer) to a medium bowl. Whisk the sesame ginger sauce until combined. Taste, and add salt as necessary.

7. Romesco Sauce (4 servings)
(from Za’atar Tofu with Mediterranean Quinoa Pilaf & Romesco Sauce)
Peel 4 garlic cloves. Drain 8 oz roasted red peppers. Add the garlic, roasted red peppers, ½ cup almonds, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp water, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a blender or food processor. Blend on high, scraping down the sides as necessary, until smooth.

8. Jalapeño Cashew Sauce (4 servings)
(from Smoky Portobello Tacos with Jalapeño Cashew Sauce & Spanish Rice)
Add ½ cup cashews and ½ cup hot tap water to a small bowl. Soak nuts for at least 10 minutes. Peel 2 garlic cloves. Halve and juice 2 limes. Deseed and roughly chop 2 jalapeños. Add the cashews and their soaking water, garlic cloves, lime juice, chopped jalapeño, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a blender. Blend until smooth.

9. Sweet Pea Hummus (2 servings)
(from Tabouli Mezze Bowls with Sweet Pea Hummus & Sumac Carrots)
Halve and juice 1 lemon. Peel and mince 1 garlic clove. Add 1 cup cannellini beans, lemon juice, minced garlic, ¼ oz fresh mint leaves, ½ cup green peas, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a food processor. Blend until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

10. Carrot Parsnip Hummus (2 servings)
(from Socca Pizza with Carrot Parsnip Hummus and Garden Vegetables)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel and chop 8 oz carrots and 2 oz parsnips, add to a baking sheet, toss with 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast 20 to 25 minutes. Halve and juice 1 lemon. Drain and rinse 1 can cannellini beans. Add ¼ can cannellini beans, roasted carrots and parsnips, 2 tbsp tahini, ½ tsp salt, and 2 tbsp lemon juice to a food processor. Blend on high to combine. With the motor running, slowly add 2 tbsp olive oil and blend until smooth.