Adding condiments to your meals is a great way to enhance flavor and — potentially — add health benefits.
However, some condiments contain unhealthy ingredients like artificial additives and high amounts of added salt and sugar.
Healthy condiments are low in added sugar and pack nutritious ingredients like protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
Here are 20 healthy condiments that are both tasty and nutritious.
Traditional pesto is a sauce made with fresh basil leaves, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.
Pesto is a good source of zinc — a mineral essential for immune health, wound healing, and developmental growth. A 1/4-cup (64-grams) serving of traditional pesto provides 8% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this mineral ().
The high zinc content of pesto makes it an excellent condiment for vegetarians. Vegetarians may need about 50% more zinc per day than non-vegetarians due to the reduced availability of plant-based zinc ().
You can add pesto to baked chicken, use it as a pasta sauce, or spread it on a sandwich or flatbread.
Salsa can be a great low-calorie condiment to add to your diet. Two tablespoons (30 ml) of salsa have only 10 calories.
You can use salsa to spice up recipes like tacos, fajitas, or scrambled eggs. It’s also a healthy alternative to higher calorie salad dressings.
In fact, replacing 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of regular ranch dressing with the same serving size of salsa saves you 119 calories. Just make sure to choose a salsa that is low in sodium and contains no added sugar for the most health benefits.
Tahini is a Middle Eastern sauce made from ground sesame seeds.
It’s particularly rich in plant-based protein, with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of tahini providing over 5 grams of this nutrient — or 8% of the RDI for a 175-pound (80-kg) adult.
Tahini is a great condiment to use for dipping veggies, in homemade salad dressings, or spreading on toast with a pinch of cinnamon for a balanced breakfast.
Mustard is a popular condiment, typically made from mustard seeds, distilled vinegar, garlic powder, turmeric, lemon juice, and salt.
Mustard is low in calories, with 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of yellow mustard providing only 6 calories. Additionally, most mustard contains the spice turmeric. Curcumin — a compound in turmeric — has shown strong anti-inflammatory benefits in many studies (, ).
Besides using it as a condiment on your burgers, mustard is also a healthy addition to homemade salad dressings, marinades, and deviled eggs. Plus, you can brush mustard on salmon or chicken before broiling to make a flavorful crust.
Kimchi is a popular Korean condiment made from fermented vegetables. There are many varieties of kimchi, but the main ingredients typically include cabbage, garlic, onion, chili pepper, and salt.
Because the cabbage is fermented, kimchi is a great source of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria live in your gut and provide many health benefits.
Eating probiotic-rich foods like kimchi may improve cholesterol levels, your immune system, and skin health (, , , ).
Kimchi can be used as a healthy condiment in stir-fry recipes, noodles, rice, or sandwich wraps.
Similar to kimchi, sauerkraut is a condiment made from fermented cabbage. However, sauerkraut is fermented in a different way and made with purple or white cabbage.
Sauerkraut is a low-calorie condiment, with a 1/4-cup (35-grams) serving containing only 7 calories. It’s also rich in beneficial probiotics, with one study finding over 28 different probiotic strains in a sauerkraut sample (, ).
Add sauerkraut to a salad, coleslaw, or your sandwich.
Hummus is a tasty condiment made by blending chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
In addition to plant-based protein, hummus is also a great source of fiber, a nutrient that promotes feelings of fullness and healthy digestion. A 1/4 cup (62 grams) of hummus provides over 3 grams of fiber.
What’s more, chickpeas are also a good source of magnesium and folate.
You can enjoy hummus as a veggie dip, spread it onto pitas, mixed it into salads, or use it as a healthier alternative to mayonnaise.
Classic guacamole is made by combining mashed avocado, onion, garlic, lime juice, and salt.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and many nutrients. In fact, just half an avocado provides nearly 5 grams of fiber and over 15% of the RDI for folate. Additionally, adding avocados to your diet may help lower cholesterol levels (, ).
Guacamole is a great substitute for salad dressing. You can also spread guacamole on toast or use it as a satisfying veggie dip.
Greek yogurt is a healthy alternative to most cream-based condiments. Plain Greek yogurt is the best choice, as it doesn’t contain added sugar.
In addition to being an excellent source of calcium, Greek yogurt is also high in protein, which can help reduce hunger and promote muscle growth. One 7-ounce (200-gram) serving of low-fat Greek yogurt provides nearly 20 grams of protein.
Use Greek yogurt as a healthy substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. Add it to baked potatoes, use it to make a homemade veggie dip, or add a dollop of Greek yogurt to your tacos.
Nut butter — like peanut butter and almond butter — can be a nutritious addition to many meals and snacks.
Nut butter is rich in protein, with 2 tablespoons (32 grams) providing an average of 7 grams. Additionally, the same serving size of various types of nut butter contains around 25% of the RDI for magnesium — a mineral required for hundreds of reactions in your body ().
Nut butter — including peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter — is a healthy condiment to spread on toast, rice cakes, or crackers. Make sure to find a nut butter that has no added sugar for the most health benefits and enjoy it in moderation.
Apple cider vinegar is a tangy condiment that can be a healthy addition to your meals. As the name suggests, it’s a vinegar made from fermented apple juice.
There are many potential benefits of using vinegar as a condiment. For example, vinegar may improve blood sugar control after a meal, which could be particularly helpful for those with diabetes (, , ).
Add a drizzle of apple cider vinegar to a leafy green salad, mix it into a homemade salad dressing, or use it in a tangy marinade.
Unlike commercial honey, raw honey is unpasteurized and minimally processed. It has many health benefits and can be used — in moderation — as a healthy condiment.
Raw honey is rich in antioxidants that help prevent cellular damage in your body caused by molecules called free radicals. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compounds.
Raw and locally produced honey may have more antibacterial and antioxidant properties than commercial honey, making it a healthier choice (, , 19).
Honey can be used to sweeten tea, yogurt, or fruit dishes. Enjoy honey in moderation, as eating too much of any type of added sugar may lead to health problems ().
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast often used as a condiment in vegan cooking.
It’s known for its high content of vitamin B12 — a vitamin essential for energy production and nerve function. In fact, two tablespoons (10 grams) of nutritional yeast provide an impressive 200% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
What’s more, some varieties of nutritional yeast are fortified with additional B vitamins during processing, which can bump up vitamin B12 content even higher.
Nutritional yeast can be used as a nondairy alternative to cheese in vegan soups and sauces. You can also enjoy it sprinkled over popcorn, scrambled eggs, or baked potatoes.
Though butter has a bad reputation, grass-fed butter offers impressive nutritional benefits when used as a healthy condiment.
For example, compared to regular butter, grass-fed butter may contain over 500% more of the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies show that CLA may support weight loss — though more research is needed (, , , ).
It may also be higher in omega-3 fats, which are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits (, ).
Grass-fed butter can be used to enhance the flavor and texture of foods like vegetables, fish, or whole-grain toast. Just be sure to use it in moderation.
Lemon juice is a versatile and healthy condiment you can use every day.
Like most citrus fruits, lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, with the juice of 1 lemon providing 25% of the RDI for this vitamin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that benefits your skin, immune system, and heart health.
The vitamin C in lemon juice also enhances the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, which may be helpful for people who need more iron in their diet (27, , ).
Lemon juice makes a great addition to seafood, salad dressings, and vegetable dishes.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark vinegar made from grapes.
It’s rich in antioxidants, particularly polyphenol antioxidants like flavonoids, gallic acid, and caffeic acid. These antioxidants may protect against cell damage and prevent oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. This can lower your heart disease risk (, ).
Drizzle balsamic vinegar onto vegetables before roasting, mix it with olive oil to make a balsamic vinaigrette for salad, or enjoy it with homemade bruschetta.
Although there are many varieties of red hot sauce, most contain chili or cayenne peppers, vinegar, and salt.
Hot sauce is a great way to add a kick of flavor without many calories. One teaspoon (5 ml) of red hot sauce has only 6 calories. Plus, capsaicin — a compound in chili peppers — has anti-inflammatory properties and may support weight loss (, , ).
Hot sauce is easy to add to many dishes including scrambled eggs, stir-fries, or barbecue recipes.
Just as the name indicates, toasted sesame oil is produced by toasting the sesame seeds before extracting the oil. It has a richer, more pronounced flavor than regular sesame oil.
Sesame oil has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, animal studies note that sesame oil may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels — though more research is needed (, ).
You should use toasted sesame oil to give a recipe a finishing touch rather than using it for cooking. Drizzle toasted sesame oil over steamed veggies and noodle dishes for a pronounced, nutty flavor.
Extra virgin olive oil is well known for its powerful nutritional properties. It’s derived from the first pressing of olives and is minimally processed.
Numerous studies point to the benefits of using olive oil to support heart health and reduce inflammation. Much of this may be due to its rich antioxidant content, which helps reduce cell damage in your body (, , ).
Tamari is a Japanese sauce made from fermented soybeans. Compared to traditional soy sauce, tamari has a thicker texture, darker appearance, and richer flavor.
Tamari contains about 45% more protein than traditional soy sauce. Two tablespoons (30 ml) of tamari provides almost 4 grams of protein. Most types are also gluten-free — unlike soy sauce. This is helpful if you follow a gluten-free diet.
You can add tamari to any recipe in place of soy sauce. It makes a great dipping sauce or dressing for salads and noodles.
Many condiments have unhealthy qualities that may require you to limit or avoid them in your diet.
- Ranch dressing. Ranch dressing is high in calories with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) providing 129 calories. Be mindful of the serving size when using this dressing or substitute for a lower calorie alternative like salsa.
- Fat-free salad dressing. Though lower in calories, fat-free dressings often contain more added sugar and salt than their full-fat counterparts. Instead, use a salad dressing made from wholesome, low-sugar ingredients ().
- Barbecue sauce. This sauce often has a lot of added sugar, with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) packing over 11 grams (3 teaspoons).
- Pancake syrup. Syrup often contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Excessive intake of HFCS has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. As a healthier alternative, use maple syrup (42, , , ).
- Queso. Most queso contains additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has been associated with weight gain, but more research is needed. As a healthier alternative, use cheese or nutritional yeast (, ).
- Margarine. Many margarine products contain traces of trans fat. Many studies have linked this type of fat to heart disease. Use healthy fats like olive oil or grass-fed butter instead ().
- Teriyaki sauce. Teriyaki sauce is high in sodium, with just 2 tablespoons (30 ml) providing over 60% of the RDI for this mineral. High-sodium diets have been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and stroke ().
- Artificial sweeteners. Some observational studies link zero-calorie sweeteners to obesity. Still, the research is mixed. It’s best to limit artificial sweeteners in your diet (, ).
Condiments are a great and easy way to add extra flavor, texture, and nutrients to your meals.
Yet, many store-bought condiments can be high in calories, sugar, salt, and other additives.
There are many healthier alternatives, like salsa, tahini, guacamole, or balsamic vinegar. These condiments are minimally processed and made from wholesome, nutrient-dense ingredients.
All nutrition information for the foods listed in this article is from the .