The Ultimate Equation for Easy Fruit Sauce
When we had the debate of what makes a sauce “saucy,” I used to be solidly in the liquid camp—but as Savory’s Saucy Summer has unfolded, my definition of sauce has become a bit more fluid.
Applesauce really baffled us—and opened a can of worms…is relish a sauce? What about compotes and chutneys? Long after everyone else had tired of the great applesauce debate, my mind was still wandering. I thought back to the Black Berry Sauce that I’d made when we launched our Black Onyx Chocolate Sugar, then I thought about Mango Salsa, then I thought about applesauce again. What I realized was that there is a great untapped potential when you think about all those things not as separate recipes but as part of a larger category. Hence, fruit sauce.
What is a ‘fruit sauce’?
You won’t find ‘fruit sauce’ in a list of the five French mother sauces and they don’t even have a Wikipedia page, so it’s possible I’m pioneering this categorical concept. It’s pretty simple though.
(Fruit + sweetener + acid + spice)heat
Combine fruit, sweetener, acid, spices, then put it to the power of heat.
If you’ve ever made jelly or jam, you know this equation. We’re going to veer slightly though: we’re not going to go all the way to the “set point,” the temperature at which the natural fruit pectin fully activates and thickens the jam. We’re going to stop at saucy. Oooooh!
Firstly, let’s mention that for these purposes, tomatoes don’t count as fruits because they already have their own delicious branch of the saucy family tree. Save the lime curd or orange marmalade for another day too, citrus falls into the acid part of this equation. Berries are probably the easiest fruit to start with because they do a pretty good job of breaking down easily. Stone fruits are a bit trickier as you’ll need to help them along, and apples and pears require the most attention to become saucy.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to fruit – by all means, in the peak of summer, use fresh fruit. But for a sauce, frozen works perfectly fine too.
Don’t hate me for saying this, but granulated white sugar is #1 when it comes to making sauces. For beginners, it’s the easiest to work with and generally doesn’t have any unexpected impacts on flavor or texture. However, you don’t have to use a lot of sugar – especially if you’re planning to serve your sauce over a savory dish (chops, burgers, etc.). Of course, you can use other sweeteners too—like honey or agave—but it may cause changes to both the flavor and viscosity of your sauce. The lesson here? Practice the basics first, then branch out and experiment with your fave sweeteners.
This is where things start getting (even more) fun. When it comes to adding acidity, between the various citrus fruits and vinegars, there are a multitude of options. Don’t limit yourself to one acid either, combining flavors at this stage adds complexity. You probably know oranges from limes, so I’ll skip the citrus fruits and dive right into vinegars. Balsamic vinegar is a great standby. It reduces into a syrupy consistency to help your sauce along and has a sweet flavor with a pleasant tanginess. If you like balsamic but want something a little bolder, snag yourself a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses. It might be made of a fruit, but instead of being sweet with a little tang, it’s tangy with a touch of sweetness. For Asian-inspired dishes, try Rice Wine Vinegar. Or go wild with whatever infused vinegar is in your pantry—there’s not a wrong answer here.
Now we’re talking! One thing I love about fruit is the number of different spice flavoring options: black pepper, chiles, rosemary, thyme, ginger, lavender, even curry or barbecue flavors…there are so many different directions you can go with a fruit sauce.
I did some experimenting with flavor combos to give you a little inspiration:
Berry Pan Sauce
When it comes to a fruit sauce, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are a very good place to start. Simply add a little heat and they deepen in color then burst – which is exactly what you want in a sauce. The other great thing about these berries is that they pair equally well with sweet and savory spices.
A savory berry pan sauce can top just about any meat you’re already searing on the stove. Once you’ve cooked your chicken thighs, pork chops, or steak and have set it aside to rest, bust out those berries. Go by personal preference or whatever is in the freezer/refrigerator at the moment. I had both blackberries and blueberries at home, so I tossed them together.
To start, I used a ratio of 2 cups of fruit, 1 Tbsp. sweetener, 2 Tbsp. acid, 1 tsp. spice. All of this can be modified to your taste, so if you want a little more spice or a little less acidic tang, modify as you like!
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- For steak: Blackberries + honey + lemon juice + thyme
- For pork chops: Raspberries + white sugar + Pomegranate Molasses + curry powder
- For grilled/roasted chicken: Blueberries + agave + red wine vinegar + tarragon
If you have meat already made, no problem. You can follow the same basic premise to sauce your pulled pork or rotisserie chicken!
- For pulled pork: Raspberries + apple cider vinegar + TSM Kansas City BBQ Rub (or your favorite sugar based bbq rub)
For a great chocolate + fruit dessert sauce, try our Black Berry Sauce recipe. Black Onyx Chocolate Sugar combines sugar with cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon. Yes, it’s missing the acidic component but since you’re probably going to spoon it over cheesecake or pancakes, we won’t worry too much about that.
Mango Chile Sauce
Inspired by two of our recipes that pair mangos with smoky Urfa Chiles, I decided to test out my basic fruit sauce formula and gathered my four ingredients: frozen mango chunks, agave, lime juice, and Urfa Chiles. Again, feel free to play with the acid and spices—try rice wine vinegar or swap Smoked Spanish Hot Paprika in for the chiles.
It’s easiest to thaw the mango chunks before using, so microwave them or submerge your bag of frozen mango in water to soften. Once your mango chunks are thawed, toss them in the blender or food processor, along with the sweetener and acid. Put your fruit puree in a pan on the stove and simmer it to thicken. Toss in your spices toward the end and drizzle your fruit sauce over fish (or chicken or pork). If you have a little extra sauce and are serving your protein with salad, add a bit of the sauce to oil and vinegar. Shake and drizzle over your mixed greens.
Jam Sauce (is my jam)
Now, let’s say you’re in a huge hurry, or your stove is on the fritz, or you have a small child who is insistent on helping. I saved the best for last. Grab a jar of premade jam, like apricot or cherry. You can skip the sweetener, since that’s already in the jam. Mix it with your acid and spice of choice. BOOM! No-cook fruit sauce. The only caveat here is that if you’re using herbs, you might want to mix it up ahead of time so that the herbs can soften a bit since they won’t be getting any heat to help them infuse.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love BBQ sauce and will always reduce my Jamaican Jerk Marinade into an addictive sauce. But when I start grilling pork chops or get a little wild and add brie to my burgers, I’m all about the fruit sauce. Since most people don’t have preconceived notions of what a fruit sauce is supposed to taste like (unlike traditional BBQ sauce,) creative freedom is entirely yours. Fruit sauces are easy (really easy if you have a half-full jar of jam stashed in your fridge, and I know you do.) They allow you to use whatever is already in your freezer, pantry, or spice rack, so stop reading and go play with flavor!
What are your favorite fruit flavor + spice pairings? Share in the comments below or tag us on Instagram @savoryspiceshop.