“Real Food” Condiments: Do They Exist?

I get a lot of questions about condiments. And surprisingly enough, condiments were one of the things I missed the most during our “100 Days of Real Food” pledge. They are like the little things you don’t pay much attention to until they’re suddenly gone. So in an effort to answer everyone’s questions in one spot, including what’s real and what’s not and what we use now that our pledge is over, here’s the deal….


  • First of all, just about all store-bought mayo’s are made with refined oils (like canola oil) even if it says something catchy on the front like “made with olive oil.” Just read the ingredients and you’ll see what I am talking about. And regardless of the oils that are used there are no easy-to-find brands (to my knowledge) that contain 5 or less ingredients, which was one of our real food pledge rules.
  • Secondly, you can certainly make homemade mayonnaise yourself, but I am going to tell you right now that it won’t be the same fluffy white stuff you buy from the store. I’ve decided that homemade mayo and store-bought mayo are just two completely different products and – right or wrong – I like and prefer the white fluffy stuff.

What’s the solution?

  • You can try to make homemade mayo using unrefined oils and pastured eggs, but most recipes call for raw eggs. I am still on the fence about giving uncooked eggs to my kids so after a few different “cooked egg” mayonnaise failures I honestly just gave up on it. So during our 100-day pledge we basically abstained from mayonnaise all together…gasp!
  • Some people successfully substitute plain Greek yogurt for mayo in recipes like egg salad and chicken salad, but I am just being honest here…I’ve tried it and I am not sold on the idea.
  • Now that our strict 100-day pledge is over we just buy a minimally processed (meaning: small number of ingredients) organic mayonnaise from the store. Yes, it’s the organic Spectrum brand that says “made with olive oil” even though I know it also contains highly refined canola oil, but occasionally convenience wins around here. With that being said we use the store-bought stuff in great moderation (probably only once a month in dishes like egg salad).


  • There is no such thing as “ketchup” without added sweeteners…that’s unfortunately (fortunately?) just what ketchup is.
  • There seem to be all sorts of ketchup options these days – both organic and conventional – that are sweetened with everything from high-fructose corn syrup to sugar to agave nectar. First of all, we don’t use agave (more on that another day), but secondly just because the added sweetener appears to be less refined than white sugar please remember that “added sugar is added sugar” and all should be consumed in moderation. And just because we like to use honey and maple syrup (since they are minimally processed and contain trace nutrients) that unfortunately doesn’t give us the green light to turn up the bottle. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar and too much of it is a bad thing.

What’s the solution?

  • Clearly you can simply reduce your consumption of ketchup. I know some parents say their kids love to dip anything and everything in ketchup so if that’s the case I would recommend introducing some new and different “real food” dips like hummus, homemade ranch, or even organic low-sodium soy sauce. Just remember even though this condiment may seem innocent ketchup is basically 2 parts tomato/spices and 1 part sugar. That means for every tablespoon of ketchup you eat you are consuming one teaspoon of sugar (yikes!).
  • During our 100-day pledge we tried making homemade ketchup with honey (because honey was one of our “allowed” sweeteners), but frankly the end result wasn’t all that great. So now we just buy store-bought organic ketchup made with sugar, and just like I mentioned above with the mayo, we use it in great moderation (probably about once or twice a month).

Barbeque Sauce

  • I hate to break it to you, but just like ketchup pretty much all tomato based BBQ sauces contain added sweeteners. And even if you make your own homemade BBQ sauce, which I highly recommend over the store-bought stuff, most call for ketchup as an ingredient.

What’s the solution?

  • I may sound like a broken record, but due to the added sweetener issue (see ketchup explanation above) it’s best to simply reduce your overall consumption of BBQ sauce.
  • We didn’t have BBQ sauce at all during our 100-day pledge, but I think if I tried hard enough I could probably come up with a pretty decent honey version that doesn’t contain refined sugar. I was never so creative during our pledge though so once we had BBQ sauce again after not having it for so long – I am not gonna lie – it was awesome.


  • After all that bad news here is the good news…there are actually quite a few “real food” store-bought mustards out there! Several organic yellow and Dijon mustard brands simply contain vinegar, mustard seed, and spices, which is all pretty innocent stuff.


Please feel free to share your “real food” condiment tips and recipes in the comments below!

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259 thoughts on ““Real Food” Condiments: Do They Exist?”

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  1. Like another poster said he does, I make my barbecue sauce from tomato sauce with only a dash of sweetener, if any. It is delicious and unlike any storebought sauce!

  2. I’ve been experimenting with condiments a lot lately. (My favorite so far is homemade “Cholula,” which is incredibly easy and cheap.) This is my sugar-free ketchup. The combination of fire-roasted tomatoes and orange helps to mimic the particular sweet & sour taste of store-bought ketchup.

    1 inch chunk of ginger, sliced thinly
    2 star anise
    1 14 oz can fire-roasted, diced, organic tomatoes (Muir Glen)
    1 heaping tablespoon organic tomato paste
    zest and juice of a medium orange
    1/3 c cider vinegar
    3 large or 5 small dates, pitted and roughly chopped
    3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    1 t salt
    ¼ t cinnamon
    scant 1/8 t ground cloves

    Put the ginger and star anise in a cheesecloth bag (or tea ball or disposable loose tea bag) and tie closed with twine.

    Add the spice bag and all of the remaining ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to the lowest setting possible, and simmer for 45 minutes. (Add water ¼ c at a time if the mixture begins to dry out.)

    Remove from the heat. Discard the spice bag. Puree in a blender until totally smooth. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time to get to the consistency you prefer.

  3. I’ve made a dressing out of avocado, olive oil, a little vinegar, etc whirred up in the mini-food processor.
    Pesto is my favorite real food condiment. I make it with basil from my garden every summer and freeze in ice cube trays.
    I love salsa, and it’s easy to make your own. You can also find it made without sugar or other gunk.

  4. I’ve found success in using avocados as a substitute for mayo in recipes such as egg salad, pasta salad and tuna salad. It is always a hit and it adds a pretty light green colour. I highly suggest! I usually add a bit of plain Greek yogurt as well.

  5. In France they used butter on most of their sandwiches and I thought it was DELICIOUS. Also, smashed avocado is a great condiment for lots of stuff. I even used it to make egg salad once and it was pretty tasty :)

    1. I love to make a simple homemade guacamole to mix with tuna or salmon: avocado, lemon or lime juice (according to preference or what you have on hand), a bit of pressed garlic, salt, oregano, and cayenne. It gets addictive.

  6. For ketchup I make my own and I’m not much of a fan of ketchup at all, but I did find this recipe and I love it and my little siblings can’t even tell the difference between store bought or this homemade version, http://bit.ly/J4Xi5R
    Oh and I take the honey down to at least 1/2 what it calls for.

  7. As someone else mentioned above, Westbrae makes an unsweetened ketchup. Looking it up, I see it has “natural flavors,” but if you use it in small enough amounts it might be worth the tradeoff. Or you could just make your own using tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and spices. There was a recipe in “The New Laurel’s Kitchen” which I used to use, back when I ate much ketchup at all. It tends to get thick over time, but for short-term use it whips up easily and tastes pretty good, once you get the balance of spices right for you.

    As for mayonnaise, I’m partial to The Ojai Cook’s Lemonaise, when only mayonnaise will do. Plain yogurt also works well IF you turn it into a dressing: Adding a bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill or other herbs is all it takes, and is quite tasty. I think the lemon juice makes the difference.

    1. To clarify, I mean that the yogurt dressing works very well for things like chicken salad and tuna salad. I haven’t tried it with eggs.

  8. While I was at my mom’s house the other day I wanted ketchup for some fries, I usually eat them without ketchup, so all I did was reach for her bottle and didn’t read it at first but after tasting it I knew something was different…. she had bought ketchup with no sugar added, I didn’t have time to sit there and read the label and to be honest I didn’t pay attention to the brand. It tasted different then what I was use to but really good! This year I am going to try to make ketchup from the tomatoes in my garden without any added sugar of any kind. I don’t use ketchup often so there really is no point for me to buy it.

  9. This is a little off topic from this post but I would like to know what “real food” options are there for children’s multi-vitamins? I have purchased my son the Hero Nutritionals Organic gummies which is the brand that I’ve found with the least sugary content. Does anyone have any recommendations/suggestions?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      None of us take vitamins so unfortunately I don’t have any advice….I am adding this to my list to write about!

  10. I haven’t done this pledge yet, but I’m getting more inclined to try.

    I have a question about the 5 ingredient rule (I couldn’t find the info on the link provided)

    Is it just a rule of thumb, like – look at the ingredients and if there are more than 5 there maybe bad things in them.

    Or are we supposed to avoid everything with more than 5 ingredients even if every improvident is a whole food.

  11. Hunts ketchup does not use HFCS and only has like 3 or 4 ingredients but I’ve never paid attention before to what alternative sweetner they use instead? Does anyone know…right now I have Heinz in the fridge…and not organic! YIKES!!

  12. Hi I have been following your blog for a few weeks now, and was wondering what type of oil should I make our homemade chicken nuggets in? I have been using Extra Virgin Olive oil in the pan, cause I thought that is what was the best. Just want to make sure. Also sometimes we fry up some of our fresh/caught fish/walleye, so I want to make sure we are using the best oil out there. I know oil is not good for you, but for whats out there I want to make sure I am using the right one. And I was curious where you get your little freeze pop containers from as well. The ones that you show in the meals you make for your kids lunches.
    Thank you so much for all the wonderful info.

    1. Coconut oil is a GREAT option for frying foods in. I use Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil which I purchase on Amazon.com because their prices are great.

    2. NEVER cook Extra Virgin Olive oil over 200 degrees! Heating Extra Virgin Olive oil destroys its nutrients, turns the oil rancid and releases dangerous free radicals in its smoke. Use EVOO, Sesame oil and even Canola oil at end of cooking or as dressing, DONT cook with these. Only cook with Extra Virgin Coconut oil (preferred), Grapeseed Oil, avocado oil, or high-oleic Safflower oil.

    3. 100 Days of Real Food

      I think I may have answered this on facebook. I think ghee (a.k.a. clarified butter) would be the best choice. It can withstand higher temps without burning (unlike regular butter). Also lard, coconut oil and peanut oil are good at higher temperatures as well. And here is the link to my kitchen essentials page, which has the freezie pop holders as well as our other lunch supplies: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/my-kitchen-essentials/#kids

  13. Luckily for me, I hate ketchup and mayo. My hubby loves mayo though. We have both been using avocados on our sandwiches lately and we both love it. Now I know this is not a actual substitute for mayo, but my hubby said it gives his sandwiches/burgers a good flavor and takes away the dryness that you get without condiments. I love this blog and as a mom of a toddler I have really been trying to turn our food habits around. Thanks for all the great info.

  14. I can’t get behind the Greek-yogurt-as-a-condiment thing either. I know some people swear it makes a delicious ranch dressing and dip but just doesn’t do it for me. I do, however, like a combo of whole milk yogurt and sour cream as a dressing base and for things like potato salad, egg salad, etc. Really a pretty close 1:1 ration of yogurt and sour cream is necessary. When running low on sour cream, I’ve tried just yogurt before and it’s missing something that way. Here’s a recipe for potato salad with no mayo:


    1. I recently discovered labneh at a farmers market. A middle eastern concoction that was made up of milk, yogurt and sea salt. It is SO good and makes an awesome substitution for mayo and I love it in egg salad. I experimented with making my own by straining a container of organic whole milk yogurt overnight and addng sea salt. Turned out ok but the stuff I bought was amazing.

  15. I’ve made homemade ketchup – LOTS of effort and tomatoes for very little yield. But it tastes fantastic, and you can control the amount of sugar in it. Some of these sugar-free recipes look great – I’ve never tried starting with tomato sauce/paste before. We use very little ketchup/mustard/bbq sauce. Although I admit to being a Hellman’s girl. Have never made it myself, but would like to try.

  16. Whole Foods sells a ketchup that is unsweetened. And also comes in a glass bottle, so no BPA worries. I don’t eat a ton of ketchup anyway, but it is an option.

  17. Avocado gives a great creamy consistency in place of mayo. I like to use that for tuna salad or smoothed on bread for a sandwich.

  18. Since both are “approved”, honey-mustard is a good substitute for ketchup on chicken and burgers. Plus, my kids love to mix the two and getting them involved in making the meal always helps them eat it!

  19. Tomato paste instead of ketchup for home made BBQ sauce….works well. Still use some brown sugar & honey if it’s on hand.

  20. I just wanted to say how inspired I’ve been by reading these bogs and posts. I have have always been proud of ky kids diet, we live on a farm grow our beef, hogs and chickens and eat lots of fresh veg and fruits. But honestly I’ve never worried about ranch dip or ketchup thinking they might be eating it but they are chowing down on the broccoli too. I’ll be more careful in the future.

  21. I try not to use condiments at all except mustard once in awhile. I’ve made my own BBQ sauce and it has a little sugar in it but no ketchup. I avoid soy sauce (I’m not sure I’ve seen an organic one) but have used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (which are non-GMO)once in awhile if I need soy sauce for a recipe. While I can go without condiments, it’s a harder sell for my college aged and teen kids so I buy organic versions for them. They have cut down, though, so we are at least making baby steps. Also, if I make meals that don’t lend themselves to needing condiments, that helps, too.

  22. Thanks Lisa for being SO real! I love that you are aware of everything you give your family but also understand that life happens and you do the best you can with what ya got. I just love that. That is what we try to do and get looks a lot of the times so thanks for showing it’s not just me :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Maria – People definitely think we are a little crazy as well, but it’s always nice to “meet” readers who get it :) Thanks for your comment!

  23. My sriracha has sugar as the second ingredient, but says 1g sugar in 1 tsp sauce. Since you use so little it’s probably okay… if you are ok w/ a little added sugar. Other than chilis, sugar and spices, it has 2 kinds of preservatives in it. So it might be looking for a more natural Sriracha. My husband was laughing that everything is made overseas, yet our Sriracha is made in USA. LOL.

    We use VERY little ketchup, BBQ sauce and Mayo. I have them, but they are almost never used. If i run out i usually don’t notice. Once we had friends over for a cookout and i had no ketchup. Everyone was shocked but i just thought, we never use it! We always put grilled onions & mushrooms and mustard or avocados on our burgers. I guess you just get used to it.

    Same thing w/ Ranch dressing. If you have young kids over ppl are shocked when they are expected to eat veggies w/out dipping them in Ranch. Sometimes i keep a natural yogurt version that i mix w/ half greek yogurt. But my kids are happy to dip in things like olive oil w/ herbs, balsamic vinegar, greek yogurt & salsa. I guess it’s just what you get used to!

  24. Ooh, and relish! You can make your own relish easily. Again, just google for a recipe. I substituted honey for sugar in several batches, back when we had the farm, and they sold before everything else, even the “regular” relishes. Just a warning, it isn’t green like we’re used to from the store LOL… I admit, when I sell the regular relish I drop in a bit of green food dye (it’s listed in the ingredients) because some people just need that color. We have gotten used to the pale stuff, though, and I tend to throw in a wee bit of pimento and minced red pepper for color, too.

    1. Since we don’t like sweet relish around here, all we have to do is chop up/food processor dill pickles to get dill relish! Love it!

  25. Mustard is also really easy to make yourself. Just google “home made mustard” or “mustard recipe” and you’ll see. You can make it yourself, refine the taste to how YOU like it, and bottle it. It keeps forever in the fridge, just like the store bought (well… I’d use it within a year). I sometimes buy the Annie’s Organic brown mustard, but we make our own hot and spicy ones, and sweet ones. :)

  26. When I made homemade BBQ sauce, I used tomato paste and added maple syrup and a little molasses in place of the brown sugar (I don’t know if molasses is allowed. I use it maybe twice a year, so I didn’t freak about it) The sauce was great! I used this recipe as a starting point and adjusted (and didn’t really do much actual measuring): http://www.food.com/recipe/oven-barbecued-st-louis-style-ribs-104881
    So good to dump this sauce over ribs in the crockpot!

  27. We use condiments pretty infrequently. I probably buy about one container of ketchup, mayo, and BBQ sauce each a year and they mostly get used in the summer grilling months. But we use a lot of Sririacha! I was wondering what your thoughts are on this Asian condiment that is gaining popularity.

    1. I’ve been wondering about Sriracha too – I LOVE it, but when I was looking at the label it had sugar listed :(

      “It is a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt” (from Wikipedia)

      I’m thinking about still using it though, because it’s such a good hot sauce, and is spicy enough that I only use maybe 1/4 tsp at a time…

  28. You can easily make your own mustard even! Soak mustard seeds in vinegar overnight – any one will do, just depends on your preference – then blend in food processor until smooth. Yummy!

  29. What is your take on the Wilderness Family Naturals Mayo? I’ve come across it on other food blogs who highly recommend it. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but have been thinking about it. Here is the link:


    So what are the ingredients in this Organic Mayo?
    • Certified Organic, (Raw) Centrifuged Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Certified Organic, (Raw) Unrefined Sesame Seed Oil
    • Certified Organic, (Raw) Centrifuged Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
    • Certified Organic, Eggs
    • Certified Organic, Vinegar
    • Certified Organic, Spices (Ground Mustard, Garlic, Onion & Paprika)
    • Certified Organic, Evaporated Cane Juice
    • Sea Salt

    1. Chana- I have this mayo in my frig right now! We like it. It is a little sweet -similiar to Miracle Whip- which I usually hate, but in my desperation to have mayo, I’ve learned to adapt to the flavor. My husband has loved it from day one and he puts mayo on everything! My teenage son didn’t even notice that I had changed brands. It is expensive, but because I like the products that come from Wilderness Family, and because I know exactly what all the ingredients are, it is worth it to me.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Chana – Sounds like a pretty good choice! And at least the sweetener is at the bottom of the list.

  30. Here’s a sugar free ketchup recipe I saw posted the other day.. It sounds really delicious. I personally hate ketchup and never eat it.

    1. I am excited to try this one! I am sure the cinnamon gives it that extra sweetness that it needs. We use cinnamon in our spaghetti sauce as well. Thanks for sharing!

  31. I love bbq, but to avoid the sweeteners used in most sauces I’ve started using spice blends (dry rubs), on food that I want that bbq flavor. Also, if anyone is looking for a store bought bbq sauce that’s fairly “clean”, I recommend Bone Suckin Sauce. It uses honey as a sweetener (8grams sugar in 2 TBSP). Not ideal, but like you said, sometimes convenience wins.

  32. Tomato paste is REALLY sweet naturally. I’ve thinned it out a little to give my kids for a ketchup substitute, especially when they aren’t dipping and don’t know the difference. As for mayo though, I’m no purist. Even though I avoid excess mayo, I’ll be a Duke’s girl till the day I die. :) I tried making homemade mayo when we lived overseas and it was a pain in the rumpus. With that said, if you are using pastured eggs, there is almost no chance of health risk from raw eggs which will turn out a much better product, especially if you use a food processor. Check this article near the end. http://www.realfooduniversity.com/truth-isfree-range-eggs-healthier-store-bought-eggs/

    1. Do you know a good place to get pasteurized eggs or pasteurized egg whites? I do not feel comfortable eating raw eggs either, even though there is only a very small chance of getting sick because so few eggs are contaminated. I would just hate for it to happen from something I prepared so I think it’s more responsible to use pasteurized!

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        I think the best source for eggs is the farmers’ market because they come from pastured chickens. I don’t know if you are in Charlotte or not, but we buy our eggs from the Matthews Farmers’ market. The yolks are a very dark orange.

    1. From lablewatch.com (very cool site)


      INGREDIENTS: Tomato Concentrate Made From Vine Ripened Tomatoes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Less than 2% of Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavors.

      1. I think that ingredient list is out dated because I have the bottle I bought last week in front of me and here’s the list of ingredients. INGREDIENTS: Tomato Concentrate Made From Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Sugar , Distilled Vinegar, Salt , Less than 2% of Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavors.

  33. I make my bbq sauce with muir glen canned tomato sauce instead of ketchup. Its actually a lot cheaper that way! It gets honey as a sweetener.