Secret sauces keep the world spinning. I love the mystery of not quite comprehending what’s in a particular sauce or condiment, simply knowing it’s good and leaving it at that. But have you ever heard of Mississippi’s pride and joy, comeback sauce? If you haven’t, well, consider this your wake-up call.
Comeback sauce is basically a spicier type of thousand island salad dressing. In fact, it was originally created for salads but became so popular that it’s now used on pretty much everything. The best part is that everyone who makes it puts their own little spin on it, so it really is a “secret sauce” in the truest sense of the term.
This delicious stuff is credited to a restaurant called The Rotisserie in Jackson, Mississippi, which the Clarion Ledger explains was the first Greek restaurant in town. While The Rotisserie no longer exists, its signature comeback sauce does, as the condiment slowly proliferated to eventually become the Mississippi staple it is today.
Its main components are the two usual suspects you’ll find in many special sauces: mayo and ketchup. Other ingredients often included in a batch of comeback sauce are Worcestershire sauce, something spicy like chili or hot sauce, some form of garlic or onion, sometimes mustard, occasionally lemon—with all these interchangeable elements, you can see how everyone’s version turns out a little different.
My personal experience with comeback sauce was at a now-closed restaurant in Chicago called Pollo Chicken Shack. The sauce there was featured on one of the best fried chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten (RIP), and also served as a dipping sauce for fries. The running joke with comeback sauce is that it keeps you “coming back” for more, and holy shit, its name is well earned. I could not get enough of the stuff.
For some reason, comeback sauce hasn’t really made its way out of the American South as a popular condiment, though I do think Midwesterners would happily embrace it (it’s got mayo!). I personally haven’t found any in Chicago since Chicken Pollo Shack closed in 2020.
I can, however, attest that Raising Cane’s famous dipping sauce is a very close approximation, if not technically qualifying as comeback sauce. Copycat recipes for Raising Cane’s chicken finger sauce include ketchup, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and onion powder. I’ve made it before, and the knockoff is extraordinarily close to the Raising Cane’s version.
Its uses are seriously endless. I know from personal experience that it’s great with fries, and since it’s a mayo- and ketchup-based sauce, it takes well to cold iceberg lettuce salads and makes a great dipping sauce for chicken wings too. A little drizzle on grilled fish, a binding sauce for egg salad—really, anything goes.
Southern Living features a pretty solid recipe that’s packed with seasoning, if you need a place to start. But in the spirit of comeback sauce, consider it more of a suggestion and then mess around with it however you see fit. I’m dreaming up a Koreanized gochujang version myself, with a touch of soy sauce, fish sauce, maybe a little MSG if I’m feeling really frisky. No matter what, though, it’ll still be comeback sauce, and that’s the best part about it.