“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. Why do you say the Spectrum has highly refined canola oil? The information on their website says it is expeller-pressed, no hexane extraction, and it’s not from a genetically engineered source.

      1. Canola was developed through old-fasheioned selective breeding, not by physically altering the DNA. Most convential canola is GMO and there is always a chance of contamination in organic, but organic canola oil has not been gentically modified.

    1. Mary, Do you make your own ketchup? That is such a staple with my family and I am looking for a no refined sugar alternative.

      1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi Rysa. No we do not make our own ketchup. We look for the best organic variety we can find and use it sparingly. ~Amy

  2. I eat an additive-free anti-inflammatory diet. The ingredients for Trader Joe’s Organic Mayonnaise are: Organic expeller pressed soybean oil, organic pasturized whole eggs, water, organic pasturized egg yolks, organic white vinegar, sea salt, organic dry mustard, and organic lemon juice concentrate.
    What you are doing is spot-on. Congratulations. I have been cooking ‘real food’ now for five months. Lost 30 lbs, down 65 points on cholesterol and 200 in tryglycerides. All my auto-immune issues have disappeared and I have no more allergies. Turns out, food really is medicine. I’ll never go back to a western diet.

    1. Terry do you have RA? I also have two auto immune diseases. My real food diet is helping, but not completely. Still going to stick to it and keep eating real foods as much as possible!

  3. All mayo-health food store or conventional-contains soybean oil. Had to give it up due to soy allergy. Safflower oil mayo is OK but I have found that making my own is amazingly tasty, quick to make & is absolutely magic when whisked by hand & it is *suddenly* mayo! Laura Calder’s recipe is the best-you can find it on the Cooking Channel’s website. AND it makes a great base for Caesar Salad dressing!

    1. Thank-you Michelle for posting the Wilderness Family Naturals link. Wow a wealth of learning there. I have been looking for an online source to buy truly old world grains, true wild rice (and not from Calif) plus so much more. This site has so much! Thanks again. :)

  4. I miss condiments too. One thing about going sugar-free and whole food that shocked me is how condiment and sauce dependent we were. We really weren’t tasting the food under all that junk anyway.

    We do use the spectrum low ingredient mayo.

    For ketchup? One thing my sugar-free daughter and I enjoy is mixing a bit of tomato paste with our favourite salsa.

    Otherwise it’s falling in love with new toppings…sauteed onions in a bit of butter, a slice of avocado, etc …Mmm! These things are so good on an amazing organic ground beef burger.

  5. Wonderful suggestions. I personally don’t eat mayo but often make dishes for parties that contains the ingredient. I never thought about what it was made of before. But I will now.

  6. What do you think of Westbrae Natural Unsweetened Ketchup?
    I get it at Natural Grocers here in Colorado, but I imagine it’s for sale in other whole foods type stores.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I looked up the ingredients and it looks like a pretty decent choice. My only question would be about the “natural flavors” ingredient.

  7. Sarah-Ashley Ortiz

    My son was egg free for a while, and during that time we found that a really good (if different tasting) substitute for Mayo in things like tuna salad is a ripe mashed avocado. He loved eating tuna w/ grated carrot or other root veg, some mustard or other spice, & avocado. :)

  8. Great suggestions. I made a delicious homemade Caesar salad dressing this week and had a hard time finding an acceptable organic mayo to use. I’m with you on the raw eggs — not giving those to my kiddos! I used the Spectrum mayo too, but was concerned about the Canola Oil. There’s definitely an opportunity for someone to make a good, wholesome alternative. Thanks for a great post!

  9. You can replace ketchup with ajvar (Serbian relish). It’s made from red bell peppers, with eggplant, garlic and chili pepper and tastes really good with things that most people eat with ketchup.

  10. The thing about Ketchup is that most is eaten with french fries, tater tots, etc. Since we dont eat those we dont go thru much ketchup at all. We do go thru about a gallon of BBQ sauce every 6 months, but I speciafically looked for a brand with no HFCS and I found that Cookies is made with regular sugar. Also I have noticed that it is thick and when I have put it thru a fine mesh strainer that there is a good amount of fiber in it too.

  11. Regarding ketchup, I think the two parts tomato/spices to one part sugar is totally unnecessary. I started making ketchup a while ago, and my husband declared that as far as he was concerned I never needed to buy ketchup again. We had a neighbourhood BBQ yesterday, and I was wondering how the kids would handle the homemade ketchup, but no one seemed to notice, except for the fact that it had to be spooned out of a container because I didn’t have a squirt bottle. The ketchup can be made with homegrown tomatoes if available, but if I’m out, I just use bought tomato paste. My recipe (which I modified from a few that I found online, mostly by cutting the sugar majorly) is:

    1 small can of tomato paste (5.5 oz/154ml)
    2 T white vinegar
    1 T fancy molasses
    1 t garlic powder
    1 t onion powder
    1 t salt
    1 dash allspice
    1/2 cup water

    The original recipe called for 1 1/4 c water, which I found too runny, and it was sweetened with 5 T brown sugar, 1 T corn syrup, and 1 t molasses. We don’t miss the sweetness in the least, and we like the onion/garlic flavour. I’m sure honey or maple syrup would work just as well if you don’t want to use molasses. It’s not free of sugar, but it’s definitely NOT one third sugar.

    Anyway, this recipe suits us, so maybe it will suit other people as well.

    1. Thanks, Irene – I’ve been looking for a good ketchup recipe. I’m going to sub the molasses with raw honey – can’t wait to try it!

    2. Irene, Thanks for this recipe… my 6 yo daughter wants to make homemade ketchup this summer with our tomatoes. This seems to be the easiest recipe I’ve found…. but do you just mix it in the blender/processor or do you need to cook it some how. Extra info would be great! Thanks!

  12. I was surprised by your ketchup comment, so I checked out the bottle in our fridge. We don’t use ketchup often (once a month, if that), but when we do it makes a huge difference in what my daughter will eat, so I am attached to it. :) We buy Trader Joe’s organic ketchup, and a 1 Tbsp serving contains 2 grams of sugar, which means that it has about 0.5 tsp of sugar per Tbsp of ketchup, including both the cane sugar and the (probably minimal, but not nonexistent) sugar in the tomato puree. Still a lot of sugar, but apparently better than standard brands.

  13. We’ve been making homemade mayo for a couple of years now and have had no problem with the uncooked eggs. As long as it’s kept in the fridge it’s fine. Our recipe is 1/2 t dry mustard powder, 1/4 t salt, 2 eggs, 2 T white vinegar, 2 cups safflower oil. Combine everything except the oil in a blender. Set the speed to medium then gradually drizzle in the oil. (We use a paper cup with a small hole poked in the bottom.) You’ll actually hear the difference in the blender sound when it’s set. It’s absolutely delicious!

  14. My husband has his culinary degree and has told me that homemade mayo is safe because of the added vinegar. This will kill the bacteria. His recipe calls for vinegar, but I’ve seem some that call of lemon juice. Lemon juice will do the same thing, but the recipes I saw didn’t use much so I don’t know how safe it is. If you prefer to be safe and use store bought I completely understand.

    I acutally made some sloppy joes the other night with homemade BBQ and it turned out great. I just used some good salsa, some tomato paste and some honey. The kids liked it too so it must have been ok.

  15. For those wondering about Agave – I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that Lisa doesn’t use it because it is basically HFCS in disguise. Agave has the highest percentage of fructose (fructose=bad) out of all the sweetners. I’ve read that at best it can have 57% fructose to glucose (glucose=good, your body uses glucose as its main source of energy), at worst it can be as high as 90% fructose (!!!). As a reference, table sugar is 50/50 fructose and glucose. HFCS is 55/45. Honey is about 48% fructose, 47% glucose and 5% sucrose (sucrose aka table sugar so the body will break it down to fructose and glucose raising the fructose content a bit higher) – though those numbers can vary depending on the variety of honey. But honey (unlike plain table sugar) does have other compounds thought to be beneficial. Whole fruits are about 7/93 but unlike refined sugars they come packed in fiber with many other healthy nutrients. So upshot? Don’t use Agave, it is hyped as a “healthy” sweetner that really isn’t healthy at all.

    1. Also the end product that is made now days is very highly processed as opposed to the way it used to be made.

    2. We eat local honey as our main sweetener in our house. There is a HUGE benefit for local honey that goes unlooked by many. If you have seasonal allergies it can lessen your symptoms significantly! If you have bad seasonal allergies (and our whole family does) you have probably heard about allergy shots. It works along the same idea as the weekly shots without all the other junk. The local (has to be local) honey has the pollens and allergens in it from being made out of nearby plantlife. This slowly builds your tollerence and immunity to the allergen. When you get the shots it is the same thing. They slowly introduce the allergen via shot and it builds up your tollerance and immunity as well. Since using honey my husband has cut out the shots entirely and all of our family has far less symptoms! It’s wonderful AND saves money big time!!! Honey is far cheaper than all that medicine we used to take!!!

      1. I would love to try this! I don’t believe in taking pharmaceuticals, and I severely suffer from allergies. Do you know how much honey you have to consume for it to work?

  16. I made avocado egg salad yesterday. Replacing the vast majority of the mayo in a traditional egg salad with avocado as binder. It worked out really well and tasted AMAZING.

  17. I don’t like mayo, ketchup or ketchup based sauces like BBQ sauce, so this hasn’t been a hard thing for me to avoid. I LOVE honey mustard dressing/dip and have been making my own for years. Sour cream (or plain yogurt but I like it with sour cream better), honey, spicy mustard, salt and pepper. Y-U-M! I just eyeball the amounts and usually only make enough for what I need at that time. Be sure to let it sit for a few minutes before dipping.

    I use sour cream or plain yogurt in recipes that call for mayo…I prefer these substitutes b/c I don’t like mayo but it won’t be the same for mayo-lovers :) I remember my mom saying that she made her own tomato paste one time – only once! – but it was tough to keep it from burning and it used a lot of tomatoes for very little final product.

    I also make a tex-mex dip…sour cream, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and salt. Again, I don’t measure (would you believe that my mom was a home-ec teacher for years?!). This dip definitely needs to sit for awhile in the fridge, otherwise the chili powder is still gritty.

  18. I want to know about agave syrup! I have been thinking about incorporating that into my repertoire. :-) I am getting better at this every week. I made it down 100lbs from my highest weight last week and I attribute the last 30 of it to this blog. I cut my blood pressure meds in half in three months and my insulin is down about 15 units too. Hopefully I can lose more weight and get off meds completely sticking with real/whole foods. Thanks for this site!

  19. So happy to have found your site. It’s SO helpful and full of resources as we make the change to Clean Eating. I bought that mayo, so I’m glad to see you reference it. My son is a ketchup lover, so I’ll be adding that to our list too. :-)

  20. I’ve never liked mayo much to begin with, so cutting it out wasn’t too hard, but it meant I hardly ever ate sandwiches because they were so bland and a bit dry without any sauce at all.

    Then I discovered hummus–specifically garlic hummus. It’s easy enough to make and delicious! It’s become my go to spread of choice for sandwiches, wraps, and dips. I eat more veggies and feel better about it. :)

    1. If you slice cucumbers, grate carrots, and dice peppers and season with garlic sea salt and pepper {I use the epicure kind} you won’t need mayo in your wrap….it is soooo delicious!

  21. Great thing to tell people about — avoiding these condiments will also cut sodium intake by quite a bit! Way to end with some good news, the mustard! I have a post about great benefits of mustard here! http://fresh-you.blogspot.com/2012/01/easy-sandwich-snack.html Also, avocado may be used as a pretty good replacement, “alternative” really, since of course it’s not fluffy or white!, but it’s a great spread for almost any sandwich!! Keep up the good work, Lisa!! I hope you get a chance to sleep :)

  22. We do Simply Heinz for ketchup, since it at least uses real sugar and not HFCS. I make homemade mayo since we keep our own chickens here in town and I know where my eggs come from…that mayo is also the base for our homemade ranch dressing (along with sour cream and some spices).

  23. Wow! This pledge takes a lot of commitment and dedicated time. Congrats! It’s an accomplishment. We did real food for 40 days. I’m thankful for it. But I have strayed off the path more than I’d like to admit. We encountered the same frustrations with condiments. I would love to have a homemade recipe for BBQ sauce though. Any suggestions?

  24. You can replace half of the mayo in a recipe with white bean puree. Just drain and rinse a can of white beans like cannellini and puree in blender with a tbsp or 2 of water (recipe from The Sneaky Chef). Works great in chicken salad.

  25. I make fermented ketchup (recipe from Sally Falon’s wonderful cookbook – Nourishing Traditions) which uses maple syrup for the sweetener. It’s still so much better than store bought ketchup. I also make the fermented mayo, which calls for raw eggs. Not the same as the fluffy stuff, but we like it. My kids eat it too, and they’re just fine. For store bought mayo, try using half spectrum mayo and half flax seed oil mixed together. We love this mix in chicken salad or egg salad.

  26. Have you tried Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise- alternative to regular mayo- the ingredients are Expeller-Pressed Grapeseed Oil, Brown Rice Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Non-GMO Soy Protein, Sea Salt, Mustard Flour, Lemon Juice Concentrate. I know that’s 7 but it seems pretty tame.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I typically don’t use the vegan products, but that sounds similar to the mayo we use just without the egg (and also with some sweetener that’s been added – Brown Rice Syrup).

  27. I am not a ketchup fan but I love roasting sliced tomatoes and putting them on burgers. Gives it a ton of sweetness

  28. I always make tuna and egg salad with dijon mustard, lemon juice and ripe avocado…my kids have always eaten it that way and don’t know the difference!
    For dips, I’ll use avocado again, mixed with soft goat cheese and garlic powder – this is a great veggie or yam “fry” dip!

  29. I’m with you on the convenience. I am the only mayo eater of 5 in our house. I started buying spectrum when I was pregnant (couldn’t eat raw egg) and kept buying it to have on hand for the the occasional tuna melt during lent and BLT in the summer. Thankfully I don’t care for ketchup and my husband can live with out it, so my kids don’t eat it. My kiddos also do just fine with plain veggies. Though greek yogurt, fresh dill and a pinch of sea salt makes a ok sans-mayo dill dip substitute. We also like tzatziki (when cukes are in season) and humus. Also, I’d highly recommend making your own refrigerator pickles. Now when my 5 year old wants pickles at the grocery store, I can tell her no, but we can make some this summer. Does anyone know of a good naturally fermented soy sauce?

    1. San-J tamari is very good and seems to be pretty widely available. I like the black label variety best for flavor. That one isn’t organic, I don’t think, but all of their products are made with GMO-free soy, and most of their products are now wheat-free and gluten-free as well! And if you want organic soy sauce, they have that option too.

  30. Here’s the ketchup we use: Westbrae Natural Unsweetened Ketchup. UNFORTUNATELY it is not organic, but here are the ingredients: water, tomato paste (from red ripe tomatoes), apple cider vinegar, salt, onion, maltodextrin (from corn), spice, natural flavor. It does have 8 ingredients, which is more than 5, but one of them is water. :) The maltrodextrin and “natural” flavors do put me off a little bit because I am not sure what they are… but we started using this when I decided to get rid of added sugars and the sugar in this is less than 1 gram per Tbsp. And like other commenters said, we hardly use ketchup. The first time we tried this ketchup my husband wondered if my kids would notice a difference between this and the old ketchup, but not one word was said about it and they ate it up just like the old ketchup.

    Thanks for this great post, I have been in a quandary too about the mayo! I have been using the Spectrum organic mayos but really do not like the abundance of canola oil and soybean oil. Right now we use it very little, but I have been wanting to make a cruciferous coleslaw which calls for a decent amount of mayo and have been trying to figure out what to do…I will look into the Wilderness Family mayos. Thanks for your wonderful website!!

    1. Maltrodextrin is usually made from rice, corn, or potato starch and produced by cooking down the starch. During the cooking process, which is often referred to as a hydrolysis of starch, natural enzymes and acids help to break down the starch even further. The end result is a simple white powder that contains roughly four calories per gram, and extremely small amounts of fiber, fat, and protein.

      Hope this helps. :)

  31. Well, we’ve been moving towards real food for a while now but I can’t get past Miracle Whip. We live in Arkansas and haven’t found anything that’s close!

    But for BBQ sauce we love tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and backstrap molasses makes all the difference! The molasses gives such great depth of flavor, we prefer it over any store bought brand we’ve tried!!

  32. Hummus also makes a great condiment for sandwiches if you’re looking for another alternative to mayo. I like BLTs (where the lettuce is actually sprouts) with hummus!

  33. I make bbq sauce without ketchup. I fiddle around and make to taste, but the basic recipe is tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar or maple syrup (to taste), yellow mustard or mustard powder, liquid smoke, salt, onion powder, garlic powder. Cook it up in a saucepan on the stove, and you’re going for “slow simmered” not “high heat/burned”.