Transforming Seasonings into Sauces

Mike Johnston
Savory Spice Shop

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Transforming Seasonings into Sauces

Hey everyone! I hope your summer is off to a flavorful start. Ours is, and we’re feeling pretty saucy about it. Now you might be thinking, Savory is all about dry spices—so how do we make those… saucy? Well, that’s where I come in.

Many of you know that I co-founded Savory Spice with my amazingly talented wife, Janet. She’s always kept the Savory train on track and moving forward, while my most important role has been to create our product line. It’s a creative role that I just love.

Many of the seasonings I’ve created over the years have been based on the flavors of classic sauces. Buffalo Wing Dry Sauce, Mexican Mole, and Parmesan Pesto are just a few examples. Because we’ve successfully reverse-engineered sauces into seasonings, it has been my long-held belief that a majority (if not all) of our dry seasonings could be used as the base for quick and easy, flavorful sauces. This means your spice cabinets at home are full of even more possibilities than you may have ever realized! To demonstrate my belief, I used our California Citrus Rub, Chimichurri Dry Marinade, and Jamaican Jerk Seasoning to show you how easy it can be for you to make up quick and flavor-packed sauces this summer—all with ingredients you probably already have.

Don’t Waste It, Paste It

If you’ve ever poured a cup of hot milk over cocoa mix in a mug, you’re probably familiar with the issue that arises: the cocoa powder clumps up, rises to the top, and it takes a whole lot of vigorous whisking to get those clumps to turn into drinkable hot chocolate. More often than not, you end up with a texturally challenged cup of cocoa that has spilled over the sides and created a mess. Not exactly a comforting experience.

Here’s a pro tip: the first step for getting smooth distribution of a powder into a liquid is to convert it into a paste. If you use the following method you’ll end up with a creamy, smooth cup of hot cocoa every time. Pour the cocoa powder in the mug, top it with an equal amount of hot milk, and mix it into a paste at the bottom of the mug before you stir in your remaining milk. I’m not sure of the science behind it, I just know it works. I also know it’s too warm outside to be talking about hot chocolate, but this is the same principle that we’ll be using to create our sauces. Let’s get to it.

Paste Making 101

The basic formula that I use whenever I’m converting a dry spice or seasoning into a paste for cooking is quite simple: equal parts spice, oil, and water. This helps bring out both the water- and oil-soluble flavor compounds for you to build on. You can use broth, juice, or any other liquid instead of water if you’d like, and if you want to eliminate the oil, just use twice the amount of liquid. The paste will be thinner in viscosity, but it will still do the trick.

You’ll note in the sauce recipes below that we suggest that you make it and set it aside for five minutes or so. This is to give the dehydrated spices enough time to rehydrate—for two reasons. First, the essential oils in spices are activated when liquid is applied to them, which will help give you the best flavored sauce. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly) since we’ve added oil to our spice paste or we will be cooking in oil, components like minced garlic or onion can easily burn in a hot pan. It can happen in seconds, so giving the paste time to rehydrate can be the difference in having to start over and a flavorful finished sauce.

Building the Sauces

Now that we have our spice pastes, we’re ready to build our sauces. The three seasonings I chose are quite versatile, so they could go in many directions with the sauces they can make. I’ll walk you through why I chose the ingredients I did for the sauces I created in the hopes that it will be helpful for you as you experiment in your kitchen this summer.

California Citrus Grilling Sauce

Our California Citrus Rub is a salt-free blend that’s heavy on the citrus (hence the name) and a bit spicy from both the crushed red pepper flakes and a good dose of black pepper. It could easily be taken in a spicy, bold direction, but I think the seasoning’s flavor is an ideal match for grilled seafood or chicken. Plus, I want to make a sauce that is a little more family friendly. I aimed to make a lighter, herby sauce that highlights the citrus notes of the blend and knocks back that spiciness a touch. Orange juice and a wee bit of butter provides the body while honey beats back the heat. Lastly, parsley (the most useful fresh herb of all IMO) brings herby harmony to this grilling sauce.

California Citrus Grilling Sauce RecipeCalifornia Citrus Rub

For the paste:

1 Tbsp. California Citrus Rub

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. water


For the sauce:

1 ½ tsp. vegetable oil

¼ cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. honey

1 tsp. soy sauce

Salt, to taste (optional)


Directions: In a small bowl, stir paste ingredients together thoroughly and set aside for 5 min. to allow spices to rehydrate. Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is warmed, add paste along with remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 min., or until the sauce is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.


Chimichurri Steak Sauce

Most traditional Argentinian chimichurris are delicate herb-based sauces that are served up as a side for anything from grilled meats to flavor-packed empanadas. When I created our Chimichurri Dry Marinade seasoning, I found inspiration from an old Argentinian cookbook that a former employee shared with me (thanks Erin!). It has the flavor of sweet tomato and bell pepper that’s balanced with aromatic garlic, bittersweet Aleppo chiles, earthy cumin, and a trio of fragrant herbs. We’ve always recommended it for marinating steak... so why not make a steak sauce, one with a balsamic twist? I added ketchup and Dijon mustard for body, our carefully crafted 60-day bottle aged Worcestershire Sauce for umami notes, and finished it with the spice paste, which really rounds out the flavor of this steak sauce recipe.

Chimichurri Steak Sauce Recipe

For the paste:

1 Tbsp. Chimichurri Dry Marinade

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. water


For the sauce:  

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. ketchup

2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt & pepper, to taste


Directions: In a small bowl, stir paste ingredients together thoroughly and set aside for 5 min. to allow spices to rehydrate. Add paste along with remaining sauce ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 min., or until the sauce is thickened and aromatic.

Jerk Spiced Coconut Sauce

One of the most common questions I get as a spice guy is, “What’s your favorite seasoning?”. It’s never been an easy question for me to answer (I imagine it’s like a parent picking their favorite kid). Inevitably, I will always say that our Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is one of my all-time faves. Jerk chicken is easily the dish I make the most at my home. The jerk seasoning is an onion-based blend with a nice spicy kick from scotch bonnet chiles. It’s the sweet-spiced allspice that makes this seasoning so magical though. Whenever I’m making jerk at home, I’ll make coconut rice as a side, so that was my inspiration for this final sauce. Coconut milk cools the spiciness of the jerk and I added pineapple and lime juice to brighten it up. Finally, I added a little soy sauce to tame the sweetness. This sauce is a great to serve with grilled shrimp or pork kabobs.


Jerk Spiced Coconut Sauce RecipeJamaican Jerk Pork

For the paste:

1 Tbsp. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. water


For the sauce:

6 Tbsp. coconut milk

3 Tbsp. pineapple juice or orange juice

1 Tbsp. lime juice

2 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. brown sugar


Directions: In a small bowl, stir paste ingredients together thoroughly and set aside for 5 min. to allow spices to rehydrate. Add paste along with remaining sauce ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 7 to 8 min., or until the sauce is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Try my sauce creations, or make a few of your own! Whichever way you go, Janet and I hope you, your family, and your friends have the most favorable and sauciest summer yet

Comments on this Article

mosier (registered user) on July 05, 2019

Great blog!!

(guest), on July 18, 2019

This concept has the potential to change my life! We used leftover steak from a restaurant meal, sauteed some great summer vegetables and made the Chimichurri Sauce to serve over rice and voila!

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