Exploring Sauces: The 5 Mediterranean Sauces and Why You Need Them

Updated on August 19, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

On a recent trip to southern California, I stopped for lunch at a Lebanese sandwich shop in Santa Monica. If you have ever eaten at a Subway, you will understand the concept. Select your base (a bowl of couscous, flatbread, or a pita), select your vegetables, choose which protein you want, and then you have a choice of five sauces. It was one of the best meals I had on that vacation.

Let’s explore the origins of those five sauces, how to make them, and how to use them in dishes for your friends and family.

Chermoula
Chermoula | Source

Chermoula

At first glance, chermoula looks like a simple dish of basil pesto. It's made of fresh herbs and olive oil, but that's where the similarity ends. Chermoula is redolent with fresh lemon, a lot of fresh garlic, and the spicy kick of cayenne pepper.

With the help of a food processor, you can whip up a batch of Tania's chermoula in a matter of minutes.

How to Use Chermoula:

  • Marinade for white fish
  • Stir into couscous
  • Spread on boneless skinless chicken breasts, then coat with slivered almonds or panko breadcrumbs and bake
  • Drizzle onto oven-roasted vegetables

Harissa
Harissa | Source

Harissa

Harissa—the word comes from the Arabic harasa, meaning “to pound” and that is exactly how the sauce/condiment is formed. Most food historians believe that chiles arrived in Africa when the Spanish occupied Tunisia in the early 16th century. Although recipes vary from region to region (resourceful cooks rely on local ingredients) everyone can agree that the basic components are smoked peppers, garlic, and olive oil.

This recipe for harissa paste from SimplyDeliciousFood toasts the whole spices in a pan to release their essential oils, then grinds and mixes them with peppers, tomatoes, and garlic to create a boldly-seasoned paste.

How to Use Harissa:

  • Mix a few tablespoons into your favorite burger recipe
  • Drizzle onto roasted sweet vegetables (sweet potatoes, yams, or carrots are a perfect contrast to the smoky heat of harissa)
  • Add to yogurt for a spicy sandwich spread or fresh veggie dip
  • Use in place of hot sauce on Buffalo wings

Tahini
Tahini | Source

Tahini

The sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops, cultivated in India since 5000 B.C. Despite its diminutive size, this tiny seed is a nutritional powerhouse—packed full of Vitamins B and E, magnesium, iron, and calcium. There are many species of the plant, but it is the Humera seed of Ethiopia that is prized for making the best-tasting tahini, the rich sesame paste that provides the toasty flavor in hummus.

How to Use Tahini:

  • Use as a marinade for chicken, especially if you plan on using the chicken in a Mediterranean main-dish salad
  • Stir into Greek yogurt for a salad dressing or veggie dip
  • Spread on toast then drizzle on honey
  • Toss with cold soba noodles

Toum
Toum | Source

Toum

This dip is bold in flavor, addictive, lethal to vampires, and not for the faint of heart. Toum (the Arabic word for garlic), is a Lebanese dip for chicken as ubiquitous as ketchup for fries in the United States and it's packed with raw garlic.

Similar to aioli in preparation, toum is an emulsion of garlic cloves, kosher salt, oil, and lemon juice. That's it.

I mentioned chicken, but you can do so much more with this stuff.

How to Use Toum:

  • Stir into soup
  • Toss with pasta
  • Make easy garlic mashed potatoes (just stir a dollop into those fluffy spuds)
  • Make even easier garlic bread

Tzatziki Sauce
Tzatziki Sauce | Source

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki is the Greek food with an Indian heritage. The word tzatziki derives from the Persian zhazh, meaning herb mixture. Like pita bread, it seems that in Greece the yogurt/cucumber sauce appears on every table every day. To learn the history of this condiment, I went to The Greek on Wheels who tells us:

A long time ago, when the Ottoman Empire was still in full trading swing, India was enjoying the simple pleasures of raita sauce, a seasoned yogurt-based dip. During this time, the Indian people were ruled by an elite Persian class that enjoyed the North Indian rice dish known as biryani.

However, the Indians would make the rice dish too spicy for the palette of the Persian elite. To balance out the fire of the spices, the Persians began to enjoy the soothing taste of the raita sauce. Cool as cucumber and soothing as yogurt, this classic Indian sauce was the perfect solution to the spicy rice.

When the Persians went back to the Middle East, they took the raita dish with them, and the beguiling sauce entranced culinary aficionados. More than any other nation in the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks enjoyed this dish immensely. However, they also experimented with this classic cucumber and yogurt dip until its Indian roots were almost invisible. Tzatziki was born.

So, tzatziki and raita are culinary cousins, but where they differ is in the fresh herbs and spices used. Raita is flavored with cilantro and, typically, garam masala. Tzatziki relies on dill weed, fresh lemon, and a touch of garlic stirred into the creamy yogurt/cucumber mix.

How to Use Tzatziki:

  • Serve with grilled meat or fish
  • Use as a dip for falafel
  • Smear on burgers (especially veggie burgers, yum!)
  • Dollop on baked potatoes
  • Serve as a chip dip (pita chips are a must)

Is One of These Five Sauces in Your Culinary Future?

Which one will you try?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Lum

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Denise, I'm happy. Hey, I've got another one for you to check out. How do you feel about vegan jerky?

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Okay, so I am snacking on vegan crackers and Toum right now. It was really much easier to make than the linked video and recipe lead me to think. I love it. I realize that's a lot of oil and I better not go too crazy with it as a snack but I really can't wait to put it on my salad this evening. Thanks!

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Bueno

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Eric, yes of course, you can make your own, and I wrote an entire article on "Exploring Hummus" just one month ago. Give it a Google and see what happens. (By the way, don't forget to put quotation marks around the title so that you get that specific word chain).

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Linda I was cruising around the hospital today. This medical group has the finest cafeterias in the whole wide world. I just settled in on five different hummus concoctions. I assume they must be good for you. Wow what a taste treat delight. I want to make my own -- what say thee?

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Thanks so much for the link. I'm so happy to have this recipe!

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Denise, YIKES, that should not have happened. Thanks for alerting me and I'll fix that ASAP.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile image

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Forgive me for bringing it up but I don't see a recipe link for the Toum. I love going to this Greek restaurant and my husband and I love this garlicky sauce they use on the salad. For years I've been trying to figure it out and I think this must be it. And wouldn't you know it's the only one without a link.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Lawrence, it is one of the few things in my landscape that the deer won't touch (and the snails and slugs don't care for it either). I'd much rather have mint than ivy.

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        5 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Linda

        Absolutely it has to be fresh, thats why we've got bushels of it growing around our place (that and its a plant set on world domination

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Lawrence, I'm 100 percent on board with adding mint, but it has to be fresh. Tabbouleh with mint is so good! I have everything needed to make some (and dinner is just 2 hours away), so I'd best sign off and make some. Thanks for the reminder!

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        5 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Linda

        For me it has to be Tzadziki, but with a slight difference, the dish I used to have always had fresh mint in it to give a wonderdful tang!

        All five are delicious.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Hi Mary. I did the hollandaise bearnaise thing about a year ago (look for exploring sauces...French). I hope one of these will perk up Ian's spirits and taste buds.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        2 months ago from Brazil

        This was not what I was expecting! I thought it was sauces like Bearnaise or Hollandaise. All of these could really add the WOW factor to a meal.

        My husband loves garlic so I'll let him know about toum (never heard of it before).

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Hi Shauna, I had not heard of toum either; I think you would have to go to a Lebanese restaurant to find it. Other sauces like tzatziki are more mainstream (they sell gyros at the State Fair and I can think of 3 gyro shops in the Tacoma area without using Google).

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 months ago from Central Florida

        Linda, I've not heard of many of these sauces. However, I love Tzatziki sauce. It's so refreshing! Actually, anything with fresh dill is a pleasure to my palate. It's also a wonderful cleansing bite between items on the plate.

        Toum sounds like something I'd enjoy. Why have I never heard of it?

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, I don't know how you've lasted this long without these sauces in your diet. But, it's not too late. Start now and you'll live to be 100. I apologize for being so tardy in getting the word to you.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Good morning Eric. I love cilantro and I don't think you can have too much. Oregano, on the other hand, can quickly overwhelm a dish (and your taste buds). Enjoy.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Pamela, thank you for taking the time to comment. Like you, I'm not a hot and spicy gal, but the tzatziki I had in Santa Monica was perfect. I hope you have a wonderful rest-of-the-week.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Why I need them? I've never even heard of them!!! You mean I've made it seventy years without something I needed? Why didn't you tell me sooner, Linda? lol

        Have a superb Tuesday!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        tzatziki it is for me today. I noticed I am out of dill. (I pick wild dill so it is just not the season)

        My mom made a great Tzatziki so another excuse to call my sister for the recipe. Lately I have just associated this with Thai food.

        So I will also shop ahead for Chermoula. I just love homemade sauces.I think I may experiment with cilantro and oregano with these -- not much, just a hint

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        This is a nice variety of unique sauces. I don't tolerate anything too spicy as I get heartburn easily. I would like the first two sauces the best I think. I would have to cut back on some of the spices in other sauces, which I routinely do anyway. Have a good week Linda.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Be careful Eric. You could damage your keyboard.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I will be back, at the moment I am drooling too much.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, delishably.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://delishably.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)