Secret Sauces

Last year Heinz introduced Mayochup, a blend of mayonnaise and ketchup. It was received with such frenzy that they brought out Mayocue and Mayomust. Has it really come to that? Are we so pressed for time that we can’t stir together a blob of mayonnaise and a squirt of ketchup or mustard? I must admit though, even as we speak, I have a bottle of Sriracha mayo and a bottle of chipotle mayo lurking in the door of the refrigerator.

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Consumers love to find out what the “secret ingredient” is—the more closely held the secret, the better the dish must be. It has been said by some that Colonel Sanders’ “secret blend of 11 herbs and spices” is more of a marketing ploy than a recipe kept in a vault. Well, according to a 2016 Chicago Tribune article, the cat is out of the bag: here is KFC’s secret revealed.

KFC’s blend of 11 herbs and spices

Mix with 2 cups white flour:

  • 2/3 Ts Salt 
  • 1/2 Ts Thyme 
  • 1/2 Ts Basil 
  • 1/3 Ts Oregano 
  • 1 Ts Celery salt 
  • 1 Ts Black pepper 
  • 1 Ts Dried mustard 
  • 4 Ts Paprika
  • 2 Ts Garlic salt 
  • 1 Ts Ground ginger 
  • 3 Ts White pepper
Then there’s the urban legend about a woman who lunched at Neiman Marcus and so enjoyed their chocolate chip cookie that she asked for the recipe. “You can have it for two-fifty,” said the waitress. Later, when the woman got her credit card statement, at the bottom of the Neiman Marcus Cafe’s itemized bill was: “Chocolate chip cookie recipe-$250.00.” She was so angry about the charge that she sent the recipe to everyone she knew. So here’s another secret, revealed. 

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • 2 cups butter 
  • 4 cups flour 
  • 2 tsp. soda 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 5 cups blended oatmeal** 
  • 24 oz. chocolate chips 
  • 2 cups brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  • 1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated) 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 3 cups chopped nuts (your choice) 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 
Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies. ** measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.

I will admit to two, less-than-gourmet, secret ingredients: Ranch dressing and Heinz ketchup. A squirt of Ranch to cream up potato salad, a slather to elevate a sink sandwich, a spoonful to smooth out a salty stir-fry, or a zig zag to garnish a rice bowl (just stir in a skosh of Sriracha to hide the shame). Ketchup is my slip-in, on-the-sly addition to Korean vegetables and rice, Shanghai noodles, tofu mapo, meat loaf, of course, and enchilada sauce.

To bolster my case: I was recently watching a Jacques Pépin episode about making braised duck breast with beurre rouge. He deftly boned the duck, carefully browned the breast (skin side down to crisp the skin), sautéed minced shallots, deglazed the pan with red wine, reduced the sauce, swirled in cold butter cubes, then…casually looked into the camera, added a squirt of ketchup, and said, “Now, don’t tell anyone.” And Bridget (the one with the long hair) on America’s Test Kitchen, has unapologetically said, “Ketchup is my favorite, secret ingredient.” 

There are no rules when you cook—ketchup in French, Ranch in Mexican—if it tastes good, it’s all good. Here’s my own, carefully crafted, all-occasion, secret sauce spreadsheet.


Fish tacos, pupusas, Cuban potato balls, quesadillas, taco salad, chilaquiles, burritos, nachos


Okonomiyaki, Korean tacos, stir-fried rice, scallion pancakes, ramen noodles, grain bowls


Burgers, fries, onion rings, Shrimp Louie, Iceberg wedge, fish & chips, lobster stew, lobster rolls, grilled cheese sandwich


Bouillabaisse, Crostini,

Frittata or omelet

•½ cup Mexican crema, sour cream or mayonnaise

•½ cup Kewpie or regular mayonnaise

•½ cup mayonnaise

•a couple good squirts Ranch Dressing

•1/2 cup Greek yogurt

•½ cup Greek yogurt

•½ cup yogurt

•½ cup sour cream


•2 tablespoons lime juice

•1 tablespoon rice vinegar

•1 tablespoon lemon juice

•1 tablespoon lemon juice


•2 teaspoons soy sauce

•2 teaspoons fish sauce




•1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

•1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

•1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


•1 tablespoon sesame oil



•1 teaspoon minced chipotle in sauce, or Chipotle Tabasco, or Tapatio, or Cholula hot sauce

•1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

•1 tablespoon Frank’s hot sauce or Tabasco

•½  teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

•1 tablespoon bottled red salsa

•1 tablespoon  Ssamjang

•1 tablespoon ketchup

• a little XO sauce doesn’t hurt

•1 tablespoon chili sauce or 1 tablespoon ketchup or 1 tablespoon French dressing

•1 pinch saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon water

•½ teaspoon garlic powder

•½ teaspoon onion powder

•½ teaspoon garlic powder

•½ teaspoon onion  powder

•1 tablespoon sugar

•½ teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon powdered Ranch Dressing mix or 1 teaspoon Penzey’s black-pepper vinaigrette mix or all of the above

•1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic

•2 tablespoon finely minced roasted, peeled, red peppers

•½ minced serrano

•½ cup chopped cilantro

 ½ cup chopped cilantro

•1 tablespoon minced dill pickle, pickle relish, or minced pepperoncini

•1 tablespoon capers

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon salt

•½ teaspoon black pepper

•½ teaspoon black pepper

•½ teaspoon black pepper

•½ teaspoon white pepper


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