CC
Za'ata, a Middle Eastern spice blend, may add an unexpected flavor twist.
 

New territory

Sauce innovation is often about adding a new layer of flavor or swapping flavors.

“Zhug is likely to become the next hot sauce, as regional Middle Eastern foods are on a rapid rise,” McDonald said. “Cold and creamy dressing-style sauces complement zhug, as they offset the heat.”

“I often add some mushroom powder to sauces because it gives a savory umami flavor without being something many people can put their finger on,” said Aspen Burkhardt, a regional account manager at LifeSpice.

CC
Zhug is a Middle Eastern hot sauce originating in Yemeni cuisine.
 
Za’atar gives Pomodoro an unexpected twist, according to Christopher Warsow, manager of culinary applications for Bell Flavors and Fragrances. The sesame adds richness while the thyme gives it a pungent herbaceous note.

“We’ve created a ranch dressing spiked with Japanese togarashi,” Warsow said. “The citrus notes add depth to the ranch, while the dairy balances the heat.”


Warsow’s Eastern European heritage drives him to use bay leaves to add non-characterizing background notes to rich sauces. He also likes to use thyme to enhance the “warmness” of a flavor profile.

CC
Thyme may enhance the "warmness" of a flavor profile.
 
“Thyme can be polarizing, so you have to be judicial in its use,” he said.

Heimann’s tricks include using miso to add complexity to sweet teriyaki-like sauces and even caramel sauces.

“Fish sauce can replace Worcestershire for extra oomph,” she said. “Black garlic can replace balsamic vinegar. It’s all about finding balance.”