Ideal for dialling up the deliciousness on your dinner.

Getting levels and layers into your home cooked food needn’t require a mountain of fresh ingredients, a razor sharp knife, hours of slicing and dicing and a fortune spaffed on the most expensive steak cut. 

Indeed, sometimes all it takes is a carefully curated seasoning cupboard to lift your dinner from good to great. With a few choice flavourings added with dexterity and respect, you might even catch the attention of the deity of deliciousness. 

With that in mind, here are 7 incredible vegetarian condiments, sauces and seasonings, IDEAL for dialling up the deliciousness on your dinner.


The thinking man’s Sriracha, Vietnamese chilli sauce Chin Su does a job. Bright, sharp, garlicky and with a credible kick, some may be put off by the smooth uniformity of the Quang Ngai province’s famous sauce. Not us; there’s something comforting in its aesthetics and mouth feel, we think.

In fact, a proper, traditional banh mi bought from a side cart on the tight streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City will always have a few squirts. This is one occasion when a homemade chilli sauce simply doesn’t work. Fortunately, it’s used liberally in the world famous baguette all across the country. Accordingly, Chin Su is an essential tool in your arsenal for all your sandwich needs.


Sure, we could extol the virtues of fish sauce all day long. We could go on about how it brings depth, umami and refined funk to all manner of meals, but you know that already right? Instead, let’s talk about a Thai tabletop mainstay; prik nam pla. 

Simply put, it’s many, many sliced bird’s eye chillis (red and green) left to soak in fish sauce – not vegetarian, we know – in a jar. Sometimes a little sliced garlic is added. Sometimes a segment of lime or a squeeze of its juice. But what is consistent is the lift of spice and salt it gives a dish of stir fried minced pork with holy basil, or a deep fried omelette, Thai style. 

It actually mellows over time, from a rip roaring first day to something more peaceful after a few in the fridge. Once you’ve got the measure of your prik nam pla, add it to ragus, salad dressings, stir fries…anything. 

For a vegetarian version, simply substitute the fish sauce for vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce. Should you be using the latter, a sprinkling of sea salt balances things out.


MSG is one hell of a flavour builder, bringing that much sought after mouth filling, umami quality in its purest form. Those claiming it causes headaches are probably also calling COVID-19 the ‘China Virus’ and are best ignored. Instead, used liberally, MSG can round off the flavours in a dish oh so succinctly. Ajinomoto is one of the most popular and available brands of it around.


Smoky, spicy, fruity…we could enjoy Cholula chipotle hot sauce on pretty much anything, desserts included. This one is 100% vegetarian and vegan, but loses none of its swagger for being plant based. Particularly good over easy eggs and coriander, or with your avocado on toast. Just don’t tell the boomers.


Another bringer of serious savoury notes, white miso paste (fermented soy beans) brings a useful balance of salty and sweet, and a whole lot of oomph to soups and dressings. Indeed, it’s one of the most efficient ways of adding depth to a dish lacking that je ne sais quoi. White miso also comes into its own in marinades.

And the best news? It’s incredibly good for you, providing the gut with beneficial bacteria by the bucketload.


Doing its best to end the negative connotations of the name Maggie, this glorious seasoning sauce beloved of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean is a wonder worker when deployed with restraint. Just a few drops have been known to lift all manner of dishes, from braises and casseroles to soups and stews. Go get it!


Anyone who’s splashed some aged balsamic in a pasta sauce or squeezed lemon juice over fish will know the lift that a little sour can bring. Think outside the box here, and inside the block, by making your own tamarind water. 

So much more than a squeeze of lemon or lime, tamarind water also adds richness and astringency. This magic souring agent is beloved of the cuisines of Latin America, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and works adeptly in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Simply buy a block of tamarind ‘pulp’ from your local Asia supermarket, mix with warm water and let sit, before passing through a sieve. Now you have a thick liquid which brings life and energy to so many dishes, particularly in salad dressings, curries and tart confectionary.

Joseph Gann
Chef and food writer, with an interest in mental health and mindfulness

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