7 fast-food condiments that chefs swear by

Some fast-food sauces are a must. Lindsay DeMunno/INSIDER
  • Fast-food condiments often have a cult following.
  • Even chefs love them.
  • Some chefs swear by Taco Bell fire sauce.
  • Others love spicy mustard.

Fast food isn’t always the most flavorful of cuisines, which may explain why some chains earn a cult following for their condiments.

The colourful packets which range from sweet to spicy to just plain delicious are grabbed up by the fistful and can dress up a pile of lacklustre fries into the after-work meal you know you deserve.

We asked chefs what their favourite fast-food condiments are so you know which ones to stock up on next time you’re in a chain restaurant.

McDonald’s Sweet ‘n Sour Sauce is the perfect balance.

Sweet ‘n Sour can pair with anything. McDonalds

“It’s such a perfectly balanced sauce that took the flavours of ‘Asian’ sweet and sour sauce out of Hunan and into the McDonald’s national vocabulary,” chef Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen told INSIDER. “Who knew that apricot puree – I bet most of us didn’t know sweet and sour was made from apricots – would go that far?”

Chef Peter Shelsky of Shelsky’s of Brooklyn is a fan of the sauce with a 20-piece order of McNuggets and chef Eric Sze of New York’s 886 lves the versatile sauce with chicken, fries, noodles, pizza … anything.

Popeyes Smok’n Pepper Jam subtly brings the spice.

This sauce was limited edition. Hollis Johnson

Chef Sin loves the “subtle but consistent build-up of heat” in this sauce that features citrus, peppers and sweetness. Unfortunately, it was this sauce was only around in spring 2017 to accompany a special chicken breaded with shortbread, but Sin has “fond memories of that flavour profile” and is hoping the condiment comes back.

Popeyes Blackened Ranch is comparable to Big Mac sauce.

What really makes the sauce is the added blackened peppers. Popeyes

“For fast-food condiments, one general rule is that buttermilk is a better source of creaminess than mayonnaise to develop sophisticated flavour combinations,” Chef Sin said. “When blackened peppers are added to the mix, you get a superior sauce, comparable in use to McDonald’s Big Mac sauce.” Stock up for your next burger stop.

Spicy yellow mustard packets are a classic in Chinese-American spots.

You can stock up on Ebay or Amazon. Ebay

If you’ve ever ordered an egg roll from a Chinese-American takeout spot, you’ve probably seen these clear condiment packets containing a large dollop of spicy mustard. Chef Shelsky notes he’s seeing fewer of this packets recently, but the “killer” condiment is super flavorful and versatile. Stock up on eBay.

Taco Bell Fire Hot Sauce goes great on everything.

This hot sauce would be great on a breakfast sandwich. Lindsay DeMunno/INSIDER

“It’s smoky, spicy and goes well on everything,” said Dianna Daoheung, executive chef of Black Seed Bagels. Imagine that smooth hot sauce on a breakfast sandwich after a long night out. Keep an extra packet in your wallet, for condiment emergencies.

McDonald’s honey mustard is spicy and sweet.

Honey mustard is the upgraded version of plain yellow mustard. McDonald’s

Why go for plain yellow mustard when you can ask for a flavorful upgrade. “It is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy,” says Leah Morrow, executive pastry chef at the Brooklyn Bread Lab.

Potbelly Sandwich Shops’ Giardiniera is the most underrated.

This condiment is necessary in a sandwich. Amazon

Named the “most underrated condiment of all time” by Bon Appetit, this crunchy, peppery topping is a favourite of Greg Baxtrom, chef-owner at Brooklyn’s Olmsted.

“It’s a Chicago thing. I usually put it on a roast beef sandwich, so that’s why I get the roast beef sandwich at Potbelly covered in it,” he says. “When I started culinary school I noticed everyone could handle spicy food. I couldn’t even handle too much black pepper. I saw it as something I had to get over, if I was going to take being a chef seriously. Now I love all spicy food. My fridge door is filled with spicy condiments and sauces, including Potbelly’s giardiniera.”

It doesn’t come in a swipeable packet, but you can stock up on the giardiniera in store or on Amazon.

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