Summer is fast-approaching (at last!) and I don’t know about you, but to me this means grilling, eating outside, and enjoying all of the classic, warm-weather treats. But wait! Did you know that there are all kinds of funky ingredients hiding in the most innocuous places, like your ketchup, mustard and relish?! We shouldn’t have to forgo these truly classic condiments just because we’re walking on the whole foods path. No way! So I decided to do a high-vibe makeover all of the condiments that you’d find at a barbecue, picnic, or baseball game: ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, Dijon, relish, mayo and secret sauce, without any refined ingredients, colours, or preservatives. They are entirely vegan (except for the honey mustard), and taste absolutely incredible.
Making your own condiments from scratch is empowering, and you too will see that by whisking up your very own mustard, or blending your very own ketchup that you are incredibly capable in the kitchen! It’s a serious delight to realize that you’re not only qualified to make things you thought you needed to buy, but that you’re also doing yourself a giant favour in cutting questionable ingredients out of your life.
When I was a kid, I loved hotdogs with mustard and relish (not ketchup, that was for burgers). The vinegary tang of the yellow mustard with the sweetness of pickle relish perfectly offset the salty squishiness of a microwaved wiener. This was a typical Saturday lunch, with doughnuts for dessert, all washed down with a giant glass of milk. I wanted to recreate that nostalgia, minus pretty much everything else. The flavours bring me back to simple times and simple food.
But simple food is not always so simple. Have you read the ingredients on a squeeze bottle of relish lately? It’s a complicated collection of chemicals that I certainly wouldn’t want in my body. High-fructose corn syrup, “natural flavour”, and food colouring are just a few of the ingredients that plague most tasty toppings. Food additives are everywhere, especially in shelf-stable products. If you’re not going to refrigerate something or preserve it properly, it has to have things in it to prevent it from spoiling. It also has to look appealing and taste good, even after months (or years!) on a grocery store shelf. That is why it is so important to read labels and be discerning about what you choose to buy. This is not to say that these additives are inherently harmful, but they are far from natural, and I’m a believer in eating as close to the earth as possible! Luckily my condiments are not only based on whole foods, but they taste amazing and are actually good for you.
Here is a small list of the food additives to watch out for and avoid, if possible. Remember to check the packages of your other summer favourites, like chips, salad dressings, sparkling beverages, soda and “juice”, ice cream, popsicles, and frozen yogurt.
High Fructose Corn Syrup Sometimes labeled HFCS, this highly-refined artificial sweetener has become the number one source of calories in North America. It is found in almost all processed foods, since it is cheap to make, shelf-stable, super sweet, and highly addictive. Excessive consumption has been linked to obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Watch out for it in condiments, salad dressing, bread, candy, soda, yogurt, breakfast cereals, even canned vegetables and fruit.
Natural Flavours This is a sneaky term meant to throw you off. When you see these words on an ingredient list, they refer to a naturally-derived flavouring agent that has to be extracted from plant or animal sources, designed to enhance the taste of food. Conversely, artificial flavours are synthetically created, with their original sources being manmade chemicals. Natural flavours however, are still made in laboratories by food chemists who can add any numbers of chemicals, including preservatives, solvents and other substances, which are defined as “incidental additives”, to what they are creating. Food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether these additives come from natural or synthetic sources, and as long as the original flavouring comes from plant or animal material, they can be classified as natural. The point is, natural flavours don’t appear to be any healthier than artificial flavours, and they can still contain ingredients that may cause reactions in sensitive individuals, especially children. To avoid them, cut back on packaged products and stick to the real-deal whole foods!
Food Dyes / Colours To make food look bright, fresh, and especially appealing to children, food manufacturers add dyes to obvious things like candy, sports drinks and baked goods, but also not-so-obvious things like condiments (!), pickles, cereals, salad dressing, yogurt, and chocolate milk. Some of these dyes are approved for use in certain countries, while others have banned them, making it challenging for consumers to navigate. The safety of food dyes is controversial, especially in regards to children. Studies have linked them to hyperactivity in sensitive kids, and they may cause allergic reactions in some people. Because most food dyes are found in unhealthy processed foods, it’s easy to avoid them if you’re sticking to a more natural diet.
Hydrogenated / Partially Hydrogenated Oils You know when the World Health Organization plans on eliminating these fats from the global food supply, they must be pretty problematic. Created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure to turn liquid into solid, hydrogenation creates trans fats, which increases the amount of LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol, therefore significantly increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. What’s more is that these fats are pro-inflammatory. Although their use has been banned in several countries, trans fats still lurk in many processed foods. As long as there is less than .5% per serving, it isn’t required in to be listed in the ingredients or nutritional information. The best way to avoid them is by cutting out processed foods, especially margarine, coffee creamer, chips and crackers, frozen pizza, fast foods, baked goods, and microwave popcorn.
Health Claims – these are put on the front of the box to lure you in, and can include buzz words like ”natural”, “whole grain”, “low-fat”, “no added sugar”, “organic”, “light”, “low calorie”, “gluten-free”, and “enriched”. Terms like these should be a red flag for you, so read the entire label, including the ingredient list, the serving size, the amount and types of sweetener and fat used. Think critically and be selective – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The bottom line?! Stick to whole, or minimally-processed foods and ingredients as often as possible. It’s better for you, and your family to make your own from scratch whenever possible. Not to mention, it’s fun to brag to everyone that you’re a condiment master, a yogurt wizard, or a salad dressing whisperer.
I had so much FUN with these recipes! It was a blast to brainstorm which condiments I would attempt to health-ify, experiment with, and eventually master to make them all easy-to-make and delicious. My condiments won’t last years in the fridge, but all of them passed the two-week mark with flying colours (all of them natural, of course). As long as you’re using clean utensils to scoop out your servings, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping these toppings around for a few weeks – ya know, if you can ration them for that long!
This was in fact my first attempt at making yellow mustard and it proved to be ridiculously easy! I think I’d built it up in my head to be some complicated project, but wow was I mistaken. Just a few simple ingredients, and a little stovetop whisking will get you the brightest, tangiest, most beautiful ballpark mustard of your dreams! I must warn you, from one condiment-master to another, that the bubbling mixture gets darn hot and tends to splatter when it’s cooking. To avoid scalding yourself, use the pot lid as s shield (insert laughing emoji here).
Makes 1¼ cups / 300ml
1 cup / 250ml cold water
3/4 cup dry mustard powder
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground paprika
1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar
1. In a small saucepan, whisk together water, dry mustard, salt, turmeric, garlic, and paprika until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low to low heat, stirring often, until it bubbles down to a thick paste, 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the mustard mixture and continue to cook until it’s thickened to the desired consistency – this can take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on how thick you like it.
3. Let the mustard cool to room temperature. Transfer the mustard to an airtight glass jar or container, and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Depending on how sweet you like your honey mustard, it’s just the above yellow mustard recipe with as much honey stirred in as you like! I added two tablespoons and it was perfect for me, but if you want even more, got for it. I recommend avoiding very runny honey, since this will loosen the mustard. Instead, opt for something on the thicker side to maintain the consistency. If you’re vegan, brown rice or date syrup would be the best choices, since they are more viscous than maple syrup, for example. I love this on sandwiches with lots of fresh veggies and sprouts!
Makes 1¼ cups / 300ml
1¼ cups / 300ml yellow mustard (recipe above)
2 Tbsp. raw honey
1. Combine the mustard and the honey. Taste and add more honey if desired. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Grainy Dijon Mustard
This style of Dijon is a whole-seed one, which is my favourite because of the great texture and colour variations. It’s spicy and complex, and will only get better with time. Keep in mind that this recipe is in two stages, the first one requiring you to soak your mustard seeds the night before you plan on blending.
Grainy Dijon Mustard
Makes 1 cup / 250ml
1/4 cup / 40g yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup / 40g black mustard seeds
1/2 Tbsp. ground mustard
1/3 cup / 75ml white wine vinegar
1/3 cup / 75ml apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight (for 12-24 hours) to allow the mustard seeds to soften and absorb the flavours.
2. Place mixture in blender and mix on high for a minute or two, until the seeds have broken and the mustard thickens.
3. Transfer contents to a clean jar and enjoy! Dijon will keep for about one month in the refrigerator.
Sweet Pickle Relish
This was the most anticipated condiment to try and make myself, since it’s one of my favourites, but also one of the worst offenders for additives. I successfully recreated that gorgeous tang, and succulent texture of commercial relish that I loved so much as a kid. The taste of this one is off the charts! My recipe uses coconut sugar instead of refined sugar and syrups, so the colour is a little darker and browner than the conventional types, but I don’t think you’ll notice – and you certainly won’t miss the food colouring!
Sweet Pickle Relish
Makes 2 cups / 500ml
2 cups / 340g finely diced cucumber
1/2 cup / 85g finely diced yellow onion
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 cup / 125ml apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup / 40g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tsp. arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tsp. water
1. Toss the cucumber and onion with 3/4 teaspoon of salt in a sieve set over a bowl, and let drain for about 3 hours. Next, press the ingredients against side of sieve to release as much liquid as possible, then discard liquid from bowl.
2. Bring the vinegar, coconut sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then simmer until reduced to about a 1/2 cup / 125ml (just eyeball it), about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mustard, dill, and turmeric, stir until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the drained cucumber and onion mixture, plus diced red bell pepper, and simmer, stirring for about 2 minutes. Make the arrowroot slurry, then whisk it into the relish. Simmer, stirring, 2-3 minutes until noticeably thickened. Turn off the heat and transfer relish to a glass jar or storage container and leave uncovered until it cools to room temperature, then put in the fridge. The relish will keep for up to a month in the fridge.
This ketchup was an old blog post that I revisited and revised. I used to make this recipe in the oven, but my new method eliminates the need to crank up the heat when it’s probably the last thing you want to do. Instead, the whole thing is made on the stove, then blitzed up in the blender. It’s deeply spiced and complex, so much more interesting than store-bought ketchup. The first time I made the new version, I used a good portion of it for a soup base, then added more to a dip – both were delicious, so if you have leftovers, put it to use in an unexpected place. It’s tasty with everything!
Makes 2 cups / 500ml
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (expeller-pressed, flavour neutral)
3 star whole anise (make sure they are whole to remove easily!)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
pinch of chili flakes
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2.2 lbs. / 1 kg tomatoes
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1. Melt the coconut oil in a medium stockpot, then add the star anise, bay leaves, coriander, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant about 2 minutes, then add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook until slightly browned, about 10 mins. Next add the add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add balsamic vinegar, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes and their juices, then bring to a simmer.
2. Cook on low heat for about 60 mins or until reduced and starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pot.
3. Turn off heat and remove bay and anise, add maple syrup. Let cool slightly and transfer to a blender, blend until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
4. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight glass container and store in the fridge. Keeps for about one month.
This was the most exciting discovery to make: vegan mayo using aquafaba! Aqua faba translates to “bean water” and it’s the cooking liquid from chickpeas. Although any can of chickpeas will have this, I make my own, since there are no additives or chemicals that have leached from the can itself. If you cook your own chickpeas from dried, you have aquafaba. Although I wouldn’t normally consume large amounts of aquafaba, in this case it’s used in such a small amount that I think it’s fine. Plus, did I mention it makes vegan mayo?! The results are so unbelievably shocking and delightful that I’m a convert, even though I eat eggs!
I highly suggest using the most neutral-tasting olive oil you can find for this recipe. Since it makes up the majority of the flavour of the mayonnaise, a strong-tasting olive oil will overpower the delicate nature of this condiment. I used the one from Pineapple Collaborative, which works perfectly. I also tried avocado oil, grapeseed, and sunflower, but didn’t like the results as much as mild olive oil. It’s up to you! You can really use whatever you have on hand, just keep in mind that it will really dictate the taste of the final result.
Makes about 1 cup / 250ml
3 Tbsp. aquafaba
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. fine salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup / 175ml mild olive oil (or other light-tasting oil)
1. Place the aquafaba in the bottom of a wide-mouth jar. Add the mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, and the olive oil. Allow a minute for the oil to separate into a distinct layer.
2. Insert an immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the jar. (Note: this will not work with an upright blender) Start the blending process on medium speed and do not lift the blender until the mixture has thickened and turned white at the bottom of the jar. Only then, slowly move the blender up, waiting for the oil to incorporate as you go, until you get the texture of mayonnaise. Use immediately; refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealed jar for up to 1 month. The mayonnaise will thicken slightly once cooled in the fridge.
Smoky Secret Sauce
This is the creamy, tangy, and perfectly seasoned sauce that most famously adorns the Big Mac burger from McDonalds. What’s best about my version is that it has zero secrets…nothing weird to hide here! I had the most fun with this recipe, since it required a number of the condiments that I’d already made as ingredients. I did deviate a tad from the original and added smoked paprika, since I love the added dimension of smoke flavour to anything that’s going on grilled food, but I’ve also found this to be a stellar salad dressing, especially for chop-style salads that have chunky, less delicate ingredients. I hope you find some fun things to slather it on this summer. It’s lip-smakingly tasty!
Smoky Secret Sauce
Makes 1 cup / 250ml
3/4 cup / 175ml aquafaba mayonnaise (recipe above)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (recipe above)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (recipe above)
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (not traditional, but delicious!)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1. Fold all ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Enjoy immediately, and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
As a bonus, I’ve included this stellar recipe for carrot hot dogs – since you’ll need a high-vibe wiener to put your condiments on! Hahaaa! I realize that carrot hot dogs are pretty 2018, but I’d never tried them before and it was a very amusing undertaking. I looked at a number of recipes online and my version is a mash-up of the ones that sounded the most delicious. My method is also much easier and faster than other versions I’ve seen, since it’s just a braise on the stove and a quick grill (no marinating, steaming, roasting, etc).
The important thing to keep in mind for this recipe, is that the amount of time you braise the carrots for,I’m will be dictated by the girth of the carrots. Mine were more sausage-sized (approx 1.5” or 3.5-3.75 cm) than a typical hot dog wiener, and a 20-minute simmer was the perfect amount. If your carrots are smaller, I’d go down to 15 minutes. Insert a sharp knife to check on the doneness after 10 minutes or so, and take them out when they are tender, but way before they get mushy. Remember that you’re also going to be grilling them for 10 minutes so they will cook even more, and you don’t want them too soft. The final result should be tender all the way through, but shouldn’t fall apart in your mouth.
Carrot Hot Dogs
8 large hot dog-sized carrots
8 hot dog buns
1/4 cup / 60ml tamari
1/4 cup / 60ml apple cider vinegar
1 cup / 250ml vegetable broth or 1 tsp. vegetable bullion powder + 1 cup water
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (preferably expeller-pressed, flavour neutral)
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepperWash and peel carrots. Round the edges of the carrot to look more like wieners, if desired.
1. Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a large stockpot with a lid. Add the peeled carrots and bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes (less if your carrots are on the thin side, see headnote). Remove from heat and turn on the grill.
2. Grill the carrots over medium-high, turning every couple of minutes, basting them with the remaining braising liquid if desired. Cook until slightly charred and fragrant, 10 minutes total. Grill or toast the buns. Place a carrot on each bun and enjoy with all of the condiments!
I wish you all an incredible summer ahead! I recognize that this season is going to look very different from years past, but as long as we’re all healthy and the sun is shining, we’ve got it pretty good. Stay safe out there, and keep fuelling your body with the whole foods it needs to thrive and feel alive!
All love and happy condiment-making,