Fast Gluten-Free Sauces for Meats and Veggies

Chile, lime, and fish sauce for the larb

I’m thinking a lot about great sauces for meals. Particularly about sauces that elevate meats and vegetables without adding a whole lot of effort to the overall meal. Most of these sauces take just a few ingredients and a few minutes.

Why sauces? Mostly to liven up meals. Sure, a well-cooked chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper is delicious, but how about a well-cooked chicken breast with a tangy tahini dipping sauce on the side? Or roasted vegetables with a great vinaigrette?

Mixing up your sauces can make your gluten-free repertoire more interesting. We all get into cooking ruts, and sometimes the addition of a new ingredient is all it takes to make an old standard feel fresh again. This can be as simple as making a pesto from artichoke hearts instead of parsley, or as fun as adding the flavors of Morocco via a chermoula sauce (something I find so deliciously addictive!).

Generally, if you’re eating out, these sauces are safe for gluten-free diners in restaurants as well (with the caveat of taking your normal precautions). Nothing makes me happier than enjoying a steak doused in chimichurri sauce at a great Argentinian restaurant!

  • Avocado Sauce: The best use I’ve found for overly ripe avocados. This sauce works with everything from tacos to crab cakes. It’s amazing with chicken, and can be pressed into duty for salads.
  • Balsamic Vinegar Sauces: I love a red wine and balsamic vinegar sauce with steaks. For vegetables, especially those with a bitter edge, heat the vinegar with a bit of brown sugar and olive oil.
  • Chermoula: I’d heard of chermoula but had never tried it until a butcher at my local grocery store recommended the chicken thighs with chermoula. This customizable mix of cilantro, parsley, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, and other ingredients is perfect for fish and meats, but I love it with potatoes and other veggies. Here’s a great recipe from The Splendid Table (my podcast addiction).
  • Chimichurri: This is the ultimate (and easiest) sauce you can make for steaks. It’s a spicy blend of parsley, garlic (lots of garlic!), red pepper flakes, vinegar (a bit), and olive oil that adds tons and tons of flavor. The parsley is chopped fine, either in a food processor or by hand, to give the sauce a lot of texture.
  • Pesto: You know pesto as a pasta sauce. You may have tried pesto in rice (if not, do it!). It’s also amazing with roasted veggies. For example, toss your potatoes in pesto before roasting to amp up the flavor. Or, heck, just spoon some pesto over the potatoes after they’re done. So delicious.
  • Tahini Sauce: Of course this is perfect for falafel, but it’s also amazing on roasted vegetables. Mix tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and a bit of water together and drizzle over the vegetables. Add a few dashes of paprika for color and smokiness. Or mix in a little za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.
  • Vinaigrettes: Yes, they are great for salads. I also mix up a great vinaigrette and toss vegetables in the mix before roasting. A vinaigrette that is heavy with freshly chopped herbs is a great topping for salmon.
  • Yogurt Dipping Sauces: Yogurt is my go-to ingredient for sauces and dips. I find the tanginess is perfect with all sorts of foods. Start with yogurt, fresh herbs, lime juice, and spices that make you happy. Customize from there. Then drizzle over roasted carrots or dip chicken kebabs into the sauce.

Tip of the Week

While I do love mayonnaise in certain recipes, my waistline is less appreciative. I often substitute Greek yogurt in creamy dressings and salads. This thick yogurt may need to be thinned with water to help achieve the right consistency for your sauce. Oh…and it’s tangier than mayo, so taste test.

Menu of the Week

Tonight, we’re having zucchini fritters with avocado sauce. As sometimes happens, I have a couple of avocados that went from rock hard to mushy in the blink of an eye. The sauce will also liven up the boneless, skinless chicken thighs I’m preparing…it’s one of those days when I don’t want to put too much thought into cooking.

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