34 Homemade Condiments That Taste Way Better Than Store Bought

34 Homemade Condiments That Taste Way Better Than Store Bought

All the ketchups, dressings, and sauces that beat the bottled stuff every time.

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Did you know that there’s such a thing as apple ketchup? Or that gremolata only takes two minutes to assemble? The best meals tend to showcase inventive condiments and sauces, almost all of which taste better when you make them yourself rather than purchase bottled at the store.

From jalapeño dressing to weeknight marinara, we’ve got 30-plus recipes to brighten up your weeknight dishes. We’ve even recreated some of our favorite restaurant staples, because who wouldn’t put Shake Shack’s ShackSauce or Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce on everything, if given the chance? Prepare for dinner to get a lot more interesting.

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Dijon Giardiniera Vinaigrette

Dijon Giardiniera Vinaigrette

Dijon Giardiniera Vinaigrette
Photo: bhofack2 (Getty Images)

Sometimes a dish is missing something, but you don’t know what. The answer might be “a smack of Chicago flavor,” and if that’s the case, try adding this Dijon Giardiniera Vinaigrette. As any Chicagoan knows, giardiniera oil is a valuable kitchen staple, and this all-purpose dressing recipe uses up all the leftover flavor at the bottom of the jar to create an ideal pairing for either salads or meaty sandwiches. Get the recipe for Dijon Giardiniera Vinaigrette here. 

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Copycat Papa Johns Special Garlic Sauce

Copycat Papa Johns Special Garlic Sauce

Copycat Papa Johns Special Garlic Sauce
Photo: Dennis Lee

There’s nothing all that special about a Papa Johns pizza, except that it comes with one of the best condiments in the game—and this Copycat Papa Johns Garlic Sauce lets you recreate it at home, to pair with a superior pizza. Shockingly, it only takes two ingredients to get the right balance of flavors, but you need to use a particular brand, and you need to measure with a kitchen scale if you want a truly accurate imitation of pizza’s best dipping sauce. Get the recipe for Papa Johns Special Garlic Sauce here.

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Easy Blue Cheese Dressing

Easy Blue Cheese Dressing

Easy homemade blue cheese dressing with celery and carrots
Photo: istetiana (Shutterstock)

There’s something about the rich, tangy, and slightly funky flavor of Blue Cheese Dressing that cuts through the sharp hot sauce on a Buffalo wing. But bottled blue cheese dressing never seems to have enough of that signature funk to it, so it’s best to make your own—and we have a recipe easy enough for anyone to try. Get the recipe for easy homemade Blue Cheese Dressing here.

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Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)

Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)

Nuoc Cham, Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce
Photo: Sergi Reboredo/VWPics/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

As a condiment, Nuoc Cham is as common to Vietnamese cuisine as mustard on a hot dog bun, and it makes for a great dipping sauce. The key element is a teaspoon or two of fish sauce (or more, if you can handle the pungency), and with just a few other ingredients, your meal is immediately enhanced with a rich umami taste often not found in other sauces. Pro tip: Use this sauce as a marinade for shredded chicken and serve it in a bowl of chao ga for the ultimate comfort food. Get the recipe for Nuoc Cham dipping sauce here.

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Homemade Hot Honey

Homemade Hot Honey

hot honey in jars
Photo: Marcobeltrametti/Wikimedia Common (Fair Use)

Hot Honey does not really need a precise recipe: you simply simmer honey with some sort of chili pepper, or a chili pepper product, like hot sauce. If you make it too spicy, just add more honey. Not spicy enough? Add some more chilis and give it a bit more time. Making your own hot honey lets you play with the heat level to suit your tastes. Feel free to experiment, because the the technique itself is practically foolproof. Get the recipe for Hot Honey here.

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Jalapeño Juice Dressing

Jalapeño Juice Dressing

jalapeno juice salad dressing
Photo: Maggie Hennessy

Have you reached the dregs of your jalapeño jar? Wondering what to do with the juicy remains of those pickled peppers? Round up a few more pantry staples (vinegar, oil, onion, oregano, salt, and pepper), and you’ve got yourself the makings of a Jalapeño Juice Dressing. It takes barely any time at all to whisk up then drizzle on a salad or smear on a sandwich. And it’s easy to replicate with the leftover brine from all your favorite pickled items. Get the recipe for Jalapeño Juice Dressing here.

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Baja Sauce

Baja Sauce

baja sauce
Photo: Marnie Shure

Finally, a use for all those leftover red and green salsas from takeout taco orders just sitting in your fridge: Baja Sauce. The creaminess of the added yogurt softens the spiciness just enough to apply the sauce liberally without feeling like our mouths are on fire. Meanwhile, a kick of vinegar keeps it properly acidic to balance out the fatty flavors in a dish. Use as a sauce on fish tacos or as the dressing for a zesty slaw. Get the recipe for Baja Sauce here.

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Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri Sauce

chimichurri sauce
Photo: losinstantes (Getty Images)

Chimichurri Sauce has the sort of magic that can turn a “lesser” steak like skirt, shoulder, or flank into something worthy of ribeye prices. Strong herbs are at the center of this sauce, particularly parsley, cilantro, and oregano, and lots and lots of garlic with enough oil and acid to balance things out.

You can use our guidelines to get you started, but chimichurri does not need to be an exact recipe—in fact, it’s actually better when it’s your recipe. Add a bit more of this or a bit less of that to make a chimichurri that pleases your palate, and use up whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen. Get the recipe for Chimichurri Sauce here. 

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Cilantro Ranch Dressing

Cilantro Ranch Dressing

cilantro ranch dressing
Photo: Allison Robicelli

With a few simple ingredients, you can make yourself something greater than plain ol’ bottled ranch dressing—you can make Cilantro Ranch Dressing. Once you’ve gathered your handful of spices plus some lemon, sour cream, and milk, all you have to do is whisk away—if you can stir, you can make this recipe.

And there’s no wrong way to serve and eat this versatile condiment. You can put it on salads and sandwiches, use it as a marinade for boneless skinless chicken breasts, or pour it into a bowl and eat heaping servings of it with chips, veggies, or spoons. Get the full recipe for Cilantro Ranch Dressing here.

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Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce

eggs benedict
Photo: Jon Mountjoy/Wikimedia Commons (Fair Use)

Full disclosure: Hollandaise Sauce is essentially 100% melted butter and egg yolks. It’s absolutely not nutritious, which is just one reason it’s so delicious. And while it’s probably best known as the topping for an eggs Benedict, it really is appropriate for everything.

Just make sure to plan out the hollandaise receptacle ahead of time—this sauce is best served and enjoyed immediately after cooking. Prepare to set sail on a sea of silky, luscious butterfat. Get the full recipe for Hollandaise Sauce here.

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Homemade Aioli

Homemade Aioli

asparagus dipping into aioli
Photo: Anne Cusack (Getty Images)

Aioli is not mayonnaise. Whereas mayo has a mild, inoffensive flavor that can be jazzed up with all sorts of spices and flavorings, a true aioli has defining flavors of raw garlic and olive oil, which will always peek through no matter what other ingredients you use to dress it up. But the secret to our foolproof Homemade Aioli? Don’t use egg yolks—use mayonnaise. That helps you skip the finicky emulsion process and get straight to the good stuff: all that flavor. Get the recipe for Homemade Aioli here. 

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ShackSauce

ShackSauce

Shake Shack burger
Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post (Getty Images)

The most practical recipe from the book Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories is its homemade version of ShackSauce, that all-purpose, dip-with-anything awesome sauce. The key to this sauce’s effectiveness is its versatility, and it’s versatile because it’s, frankly, difficult to describe. But its five ingredients are common and simple to blend together to keep around for all your dipping needs. Get the recipe for ShackSauce here. 

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Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

jar of white bar-be-que sauce
Photo: Kevin Pang

Alabama white barbecue sauce is Big Bob Gibson’s; Big Bob Gibson’s is Alabama white barbecue sauce. One of the most popular Items on the Decatur, Alabama restaurant’s menu is barbecued chicken, which is dunked in Big Bob Gibson’s Original Bar-B-Que White Sauce.

It’s a creamy, black-pepper-flecked white sauce with tang from apple juice and horseradish in the mix. The versatility of the sauce makes it worth keeping a jar of it around—use it on smoked chicken, pulled pork, brisket, as a salad dressing, or tossed with shredded cabbage and carrots. Get the recipe for Big Bob Gibson’s Original Bar-B-Que White Sauce here.

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Anchovy Vinaigrette

Anchovy Vinaigrette

roasted broccoli with anchovy vinaigrette
Photo: Matt Haas (HaasandHaas)

What makes The Purple Pig’s Anchovy Vinaigrette better than standard-fare bagna cauda (a hot dish made from garlic and anchovies) is its heavy reliance on confit garlic, which gives the sauce an undertow of roasty sweetness. Essentially, you add a cup of garlic cloves into a saucepan of oil, then let it cook at the lowest heat for an hour and a half until it’s soft and sweet. Add the softened garlic and garlicky oil into a food processor, jazz it up with anchovy fillets, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice, and you’ve got a nutty, magical sauce made to spoon over roasted broccoli/cauliflowers, a dip for garlic bread, a smear on grilled chicken thighs. This delicious sauce will convert even the most staunch anchovy-cynics. Recipe for The Purple Pig’s Anchovy Vinaigrette here.

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Peanut Butter Sauce

Peanut Butter Sauce

beer, peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic
Graphic: Natalie Peeples, Photo: Saturated, Lawrence Manning (Getty Images)

Getting kids to eat broccoli seems to always be a chore, but getting kids to eat peanut butter is an utter delight. Enter: Gwen’s Peanut Butter Sauce, the secret weapon for making sure your kids are getting their daily dose of veggies. You can doctor it up with garlic and ginger and soy sauce, but it has two main ingredients: equal parts peanut butter and orange juice. And don’t worry, it’s not just for kids. This handy condiment is approved for all ages. Get the recipe for Gwen’s Peanut Butter Sauce here.

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Crème Fraîche

Crème Fraîche

creme fraiche
Photo: 8vFanI (iStock by Getty Images)

Crème Fraîche is like sour cream turned up to 11. It tops berries like an elegant champion and makes for a delectably rich add to creamy soups and other beloved recipes. Making it couldn’t be simpler: Just add a little buttermilk to some heavy cream and let it sit there. Add it to some apples sautéed in butter with a little cinnamon and vanilla for a sweet treat or top scrambled eggs with the creme and herbs from the garden for something a little savory. Get the recipe for Crème Fraîche here.

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The Best Homemade Pizza Sauce

The Best Homemade Pizza Sauce

pizza sauce on top of an uncooked pizza
Photo: Gwen Inhat

Sure, you can buy bottled or canned pizza sauce, or even substitute Prego in a pinch. But why would you, when making something brighter and fresher can be so easy? Dennis Lee’s Pizza Sauce Delizioso is a crowd pleaser that uses ingredients that most likely already live in your pantry. While the sauce is basic, focused on highlighting the taste of a great batch of tomatoes, you can always experiment with other spices and flavors from there. Get the recipe for Dennis Lee’s Pizza Sauce Delizioso here.

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Garbage Pesto

Garbage Pesto

pesto sauce
Photo: VeselovaElena (iStock by Getty Images)

Pesto can really be made from whatever you want it to be, and Kate’s Garbage Pesto is made with whatever chlorophyll-filled, leafy veggies you have on hand: chard, kale, arugula, carrot tops, beet greens, spinach, basil, etc. You don’t even need pine nuts, which are usually a pesto staple. Whatever nuts or even seeds you have on hand in your pantry works—walnuts, sunflower seeds, heck, throw some almonds in there.

All you need to make Garbage Pesto is the magic ratio of two cups green stuff to one cup of olive oil to a half cup of nutty stuff and a half cup of cheese. Then spread it on pizza and sandwiches; use it as a sauce for pasta; just dunk some nice bread in it. Voila. Get the recipe for Kate’s Garbage Pesto here.

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Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce

Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce

Guy Fieri, an eagle, a donkey, and donkey sauce
Photo: Desiree Navarro/WireImage, biffspandex, Peter Bischoff (Getty Images), Kevin Pang

Donkey Sauce has everything: A hard ‘K’ consonant sound that many funny-sounding words share, a vaguely disgusting tone, cartoon whimsy, intrigue. Sure it’s essentially just aioli, but because Guy Fieri birthed it into existence and paired it with chicken tenders it’s so much more than that. It’s America in a dip, it’s our freedom on a fry, it’s... very similar to our aioli recipe, just add yellow mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Get the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce (adapted by The Takeout) here.

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Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise Sauce

steak covered with bearnaise sauce
Photo: svariophoto (Getty Images)

Béarnaise Sauce falls into the category alongside caviar, truffle oil, and crème fraîche: a rich accompaniment that takes your already rich food and makes it all the richer. What does it taste like? Well, it’s a butter sauce. Then it gets thickened with egg yolks. And there’s a sharpness from the shallots and white wine vinegar, and a sweet anise warmth from the chopped tarragon. It’s herbaceous, vinegary butter, and it’s a knockout. Serve immediately for the best consistency, over a fatty steak, fish, or some lobster for ultimate indulgence. Get the recipe for Béarnaise Sauce here.

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All-Purpose Picnic Sauce

All-Purpose Picnic Sauce

ingredients for picnic sauce
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

All-Purpose Picnic Sauce began as a creamy condiment for grilled fish tacos, picking up its cilantro and lime juice additions and soon proved itself a versatile companion to all manner of backyard meals: a slaw, pasta or potato salad, a tangy sandwich topping. It’s comprised of simple ingredients in easy ratios; don’t even bother measuring stuff, just taste as you go. Get the recipe for our All-Purpose Picnic Sauce here.

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Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

serving of mayonnaise
Photo: piyaset (iStock by Getty Images)

A classic mayo recipe seems pretty simple: a few egg yolks, a little mustard, salt, and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar, then add in oil drop by drop. But the devil is in the details of this deceptively simple sauce. A lot of trial and error went into our recipe for Homemade Mayonnaise to save you some of the heartache. Just follow the ingredients and instructions exactly, and you’ll have your own sandwich spread in no time. Get the recipe for Homemade Mayonnaise here.

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Honey-Chipotle Drizzling Sauce

Honey-Chipotle Drizzling Sauce

honey chipotle sauce
Graphic: Allison Corr

There’s nothing quite like the mix of spicy and sweet, and Honey-Chipotle Drizzling Sauce lets you capture that flavor’s magic at home. Inspired by the maple-chiptole sauce at Biga Pizza in Missoula, Montana, this recipe swaps out maple for honey (the higher quality the honey, the better) for a lighter taste allowing the chipotle to shine through. Simply mix some ketchup and salt with your honey and chipotles in adobo, and you’ve got the perfect sauce to drizzle on anything fried. Get the recipe for Kate’s Signature Honey-Chipotle Drizzling Sauce here.

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Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce

Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce

Ingredients for crushed tomato pizza sauce
Photo: Johnny Autry (Ten Speed Press)

You don’t need heat to create a great pizza sauce, as this no-cook recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Perfect Pan Pizza proves. Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce—just a simple combination of high-quality canned tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs—was bright, juicy, flavorful, and just the zippy counterpart that a deep, ultracheesy pan pizza requires. Once you create the perfect batch, you can freeze it for up to three months for pizzas galore. Get the recipe for Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce here.

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Gremolata

Gremolata

gremolata
Photo: Danny Palumbo

Gremolata’s brilliant and uplifting nature proves it to be a useful tool in your arsenal, and Four-Ingredient Gremolata is quick and easy to make. All you need is parsley, lemon, garlic, anchovy, and two minutes to put it all together. Then go forth! Liven up smashed potatoes and crostini, lend a hand to some simply grilled white fish or poached eggs, add a spoonful over a grilled skirt steak, brighten up just about any dish. Get the recipe for Four-Ingredient Gremolata here.

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Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

cooked salsa verde
Photo: Araceli Paz

We use salsa verde to top nachos, swipe it inside steak and fish tacos, serve it alongside scrambled eggs, and splash it into pozole. But to mix up your tomatillo game, try a Cooked Salsa Verde, charring the tomatillos in cast iron to get an earthy, smoky component. From there you can tweak a basic tomatillo/onion/garlic/cilantro/jalapeño recipe to your liking, freezing containers for use all year long. Get the recipe for Cooked Salsa Verde here.

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Weeknight Tomato Sauce and Weekend Tomato Sauce

Weeknight Tomato Sauce and Weekend Tomato Sauce

bowl of tomato sauce
Photo: bhofack2 (iStock by Getty Images)

It’s time to make room for two go-to tomato sauces in your repertoire. For the Weeknight Tomato Sauce, it’s okay to go a simpler route. You don’t even need decent knife skills to make it: Pour crushed tomatoes into a pot, add quite a bit of butter, then cut a whole peeled onion down the middle and toss it in.

When you have the time to really show off your skills, make some Weekend Tomato Sauce, which requires finely minces onions and garlic, breaking down tomatoes by hand, and a lot of time and patience. Both recipes allow room to get creative with flavoring. One of the most lovely things about tomato sauce is there’s no “right” way to make it. As long as you like it, it’s all good. Get the recipe for Weeknight and Weekend Tomato Sauce here.

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Compound Butter

Compound Butter

various compound butters
Photo: Stacey Ballis

If you think that just plain old butter is a hero, wait till you start making Compound Butters. They can be sweet or savory or spicy. You can use them on baked goods, or on meat, birds, fish, and plants. They could not be easier to make or store. Just mix something with a lot of flavor into softened unsalted butter. Jams, spices, meats, cheese, mustards—when it comes to the flavor, the world is your oyster! (Hey, maybe give oyster butter a try!) Get the recipe for Compound Butter here.

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Mostarda

Mostarda

jar of apple mostarda
Graphic: Karl Gustafson

Mostardas, an Italian condiment mostly used to enhance grilled meats, can be made with any number of fruits and vegetables, and once you start experimenting with the basic formula, you can easily get addicted. A combination of dried and fresh fruit with onion, vinegar, sugar, and mustard seed makes for a condiment that’s really special. Apple Sweety Drop Mostarda takes advantage the sweety drop pepper, an olive bar staple that adds pops of fresh vegetal depth. Those experienced in canning can process the mostarda like you would a jam to preserve and share. Get the recipe for Apple Sweety Drop Mostarda here.

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Cranberry Ketchup

Cranberry Ketchup

cranberry ketchup
Photo: Mizina (Getty Images)

Forget tomato ketchup—there are some much more delicious flavors in town. In fact, Cranberry Ketchup was invented long before tomato ketchup arrived on the scene in the 19th century. The perfect combination of sweet, sour, and spicy, this condiment goes best on grilled chicken, turkey sandwiches, gamey meats like duck or venison, fancy grilled cheeses, or simply roasted vegetables. Get the recipe for Cranberry Ketchup here.

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Cucumber Ketchup

Cucumber Ketchup

cucumber ketchup
Graphic: Allison Corr

Cucumber Ketchup is the most fun way to eat your vegetables (and the closest you’ll get to recreating that green Heinz EZ-Squirt). Blend up some cucumbers with some vinegar, garlic, horseradish, onion, and more spices for a bright green, acidic dipping sauce that’s just as fun to look at as it is to eat. Serve with fish, lamb, salty cheeses, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Get the recipe for Cucumber Ketchup here.

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Mushroom Ketchup

Mushroom Ketchup

mushroom ketchup
Photo: Serhii Hudak/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media (Getty Images), Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post (Getty Images)

Mushrooms are downright umami bombs that can’t be quieted, no matter what other ingredients enter the equation, and that includes Mushroom Ketchup. Mushroom ketchup can be served with steak, poured on top of burgers, drizzled onto lamb shanks and other meaty chops, stirred into soups, added to dips and salad dressings, and participate in any other exciting kitchen experiments floating around in your own brilliant brain. Get the recipe for mushroom ketchup here.

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Apple Ketchup

Apple Ketchup

apple ketchup
Photo: bhofack2 (Getty Images)

Apple Ketchup should not be confused with apple butter—it has its own tangy personality and is much more likely to be paired with something savory than something sweet. Try putting a dollop of apple ketchup on a cracker with a nice fat slice of cheddar cheese, or brush some on a pork loin while it’s roasting in the oven, or serve it in a bowl alongside a holiday ham. Get the recipe for Apple Ketchup here.

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Monster Sauce

Monster Sauce

an assortment of sauce packets
Photo: Dennis Lee

How long have you been avoiding that drawer full of takeout sauce packets? What if we told you there’s one simple recipe to use them all at once? Take a page out of Takeout staff writer Dennis Lee’s book and make some Monster Sauce. He combined 105 packets ranging form ketchup to soy sauce to Taco Bell hot sauce to create a sauce that... was pretty delicious actually. Lee used his creation to make a pulled pork sandwich, but you can be inspired by your own collection of sauce packet to create your own Monster Meal. Get the recipe for Monster Sauce here... if you dare.

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