Dictionary of Dressings & Sauces - The Association for Dressings & Sauces

Dictionary of Dressings & Sauces

Whether it’s one of the many varieties of salad dressings, marinades, sauces, mustards, dips and mayonnaise, here is our A-Z of dressings and sauces.

Mayonnaise & Dressings

Salad dressings have a long and colorful history, dating back to ancient times. The Babylonians used oil and vinegar for dressing greens nearly 2,000 years ago. Egyptians favored a salad dressed with oil, vinegar and Asian spices. Mayonnaise is said to have made its debut at a French Nobleman’s table over 200 years ago. Read more.

Mayonnaise *

A smooth, creamy, semi-solid emulsified dressing consisting of vegetable oil (65%) and eggs, acidified with vinegar or lemon juice and delicately spiced. No other emulsifiers are allowed in this product. Often used as a base for other dressings. Interested in different flavors of mayonnaise?

Homemade mayonnaise in bowl with eggs and spice on wooden background
Salad with Creamy Ranch Dressing
Salad Dressing * (Mayonnaise-type)

Much like mayonnaise in appearance, but with a cooked base. Salad dressing contains a minimum of 30% vegetable oil, 4% egg yolk ingredient, vinegar or lemon juice, and spices. The taste is more piquant than mayonnaise and also is often used as a base for other salad dressings.

Blue Cheese / Roquefort

Blue and/or Roquefort cheese is added in crumbles, chunks or granulated form to a creamy base. Other optional ingredients may include Worcestershire sauce, spices, sweeteners, vinegar, salt and pepper, resulting in a sharp, pungent salad dressing with a rich thick consistency.

Bowl of freshly made blue cheese salad dressing with chunks of blue cheese in wooden spoon on a rustic background.
Wedge salad with baby lettuce, cherry tomatoes, bacon and ranch dressing pouring over

A creamy, mildly seasoned salad dressing with a buttermilk base. It has a smooth, thick consistency and is often the basis for “house salad dressings”. Many varieties are available, such as bacon, chive, onion, etc. Occasionally sour cream is added.


Oil and vinegar seasoned with Romano cheese and garlic, often with the added distinctive flavoring of anchovy.

Ceasar salad with lots of dressing and parmesan
Fresh, organic cole slaw.
Cole Slaw

Sweeteners and mild spices give this creamy, pourable salad dressing a “sweet/tart” taste. This salad dressing absorbs excess moisture from slaw without thinning.

Creamy Cucumber

A smooth, creamy combination of oil, vinegar, and sour cream flavored with cucumber juice, onion, and black pepper.

Traditional sauce tzatziki from greek yogurt with ingredients cucumber, mint, dill, lemon and garlic on rustic table top view.
French * (Separating)

Tangy, zesty and spicy, flavored by tomato and/or paprika products added to oil (35% minimum) and vinegar.

French * (Non-separating)

The creamy French differs from the separating French primarily in its thicker consistency and slightly sweeter taste.

A fresh salad on a white plate with lettuce, red and yellow peppers and cucumbers
Healthy green goddess salad dressing with herbs, garlic and olive oil
Green Goddess

A thick, creamy pourable salad dressing flavored with anchovy and herbs such as tarragon, garlic and chives.

Italian (Separating)

Red pepper, garlic and other optional ingredients usually associated with Italian dishes (such as oregano, Parmesan cheese, etc.) are added to vinegar and oil, resulting in a zesty, tangy flavor with an easily pourable consistency.

Italian vinaigrette dressing in a mason jar with fresh vegetables on the table
Horizontal photo of female hand holding dressing in small glass bowl with salad and plate in background
Italian (Non-separating)

Creamy Italian utilizes the same flavoring as the separating Italian but is of thicker consistency.

Oil and Vinegar

Contains the “natural” flavors of vegetable oil and a mellow vinegar. Subtly seasoned with herbs.

olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a wooden background
Red wine- and apple vinegar, near rock salt and herbs. On wooden background
Red Wine Vinegar and Oil

Has the full-bodied flavor of red wine vinegar combined with oil and herb seasonings.


Thick, but pourable consistency derived from a combination of vinegar, oil, and tomato with optional flavorings such as honey, steak sauce or chili sauce, for a heavy, sweet-tasting salad dressing.

Delicious glazed chicken with spicy sauce and tomatoes, broccoli close-up on a plate. horizontal
Thousand Island Dressing with ingredients close-up. horizontal top view
Thousand Island

Pickle relish and other optional flavorings such as pimiento, paprika, chopped egg, onion, garlic, tomato products or chili sauce are added to a creamy base. Thousand Island salad dressing is thick and sweet-tasting, as opposed to tart and spicy.

Reduced Calorie Salad Dressings

Come in many of the flavors and types listed above but contain at least one third less calories than their unaltered counterparts. Low calorie products contain no more than 40 calories per reference amount (2 Tablespoons). Reduced calorie foods contain 25% fewer calories than regular salad dressings per serving.

Set of dressings for salad: sauce vinaigrette, mustard, mayonnaise or ranch, balsamic or soy, basil with yogurt. Dark white concrete table, with greenery, vegetables for salad. Copy space
Making ranch dressing from a dry mix with milk and yogurt
Dry Mixes

Also come in many flavors and are prepared by mixing with vegetable oil, mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk or other base ingredients, as the package directs. Are also useful as seasonings in dips, casseroles, etc.


Like many food products, there seems to be a variety of stories relative to the origination of mustard. The name “mustard” is derived from a Latin word “must” which was an unfermented grape wine made potent and fiery with the addition of ground mustard seed. Read more.

Dijon-Style Mustard

A smooth blend including brown mustard seed, vinegar and other acidulants, water, white wine, and seasonings such as salt and tarragon. Characteristic of Dijon-style mustard is a smooth appearance resulting from the removal of the mustard bran by passing the product through a screening device, and a pungent flavor from the brown seed.

Homemade Spicy Mustard Sauce on a Background
Composition of different kinds of mustard on wooden background
Hot Mustard

Sharp-flavored mustard seeds (brown or oriental) are added to vinegar, water and other seasonings such as allspice, tarragon or shallots. Chinese, English and some German varieties fall into this category with tastes ranging from sharply pungent to very hot.

Yellow Mustard (Prepared mustard)

A smooth paste of yellow mustard seed, (mildest of all mustard varieties) vinegar, water, tumeric, and seasonings such as salt, clove and coriander.

Traditional dijon mustard in a glass jar
Coarse-Ground Mustard (Country style, brown, old fashioned)

A blend, including brown mustard seed, that is coarsely ground, vinegar, water, salt and a variety of spices and flavorings. Characteristic of coarse ground mustard is the presence of highly visible specks of mustard bran and a pungent flavor from the brown seed.

Spicy Brown-Style Mustard (Spicy brown, German-style, Dusseldorf-style)

A blend including brown mustard seed that is finely ground, vinegar, water, salt and a variety of spices and flavorings. Characteristic of spicy brown mustard is a uniform brown color, with or without visible specks of mustard bran, and a pungent flavor from the brown seed.

mustard seeds on a wooden shovel and mild mustard in a glass bowl

NOTE: The definitions above are only to be used as a general reference. Mustard does not have a standard of identity, and therefore there are many varieties and formulations of mustard available. 


Today’s grocery shelf contains many choices of sauces. The Association for Dressings and Sauces’ Condiments and Sauces Attitude & Usage Consumer Survey found preferences were revealed once looking at specific parts of the United States. Read More.

Grilled pork baby ribs with barbecue sauce
Barbecue Sauce

A thick tomato-based sauce containing a variety of spices and flavorings. Can be “hot”, smoky or sweet.

Ketchup *

Catsup, ketchup, or catchup is a thick tomato-based sauce with the addition of salt, sugar, vinegar and spices.

Fresh homemade tomato sauce in a white bowl
Fresh Organic Shrimp Cocktail with red sauce
Cocktail Sauce

A sauce similar to ketchup. Less sweetener is used and more pepper spices are added in the form of fresh red peppers, crushed and ground sweet peppers, paprika or cayenne. Horseradish and/or chili sauce may also be part of the formula.

Horseradish (Prepared)

The basic formula is ground and/or disintegrated horseradish root mixed with distilled vinegar to stabilize the “heat”. Spices and other ingredients such as salt, sugar, cream or vegetable oil may then be added to this mixture. A number of horseradish products are available including cream-style prepared horseradish, horseradish sauce and beet horseradish. Horseradish is also used as an ingredient in cocktail sauce, specialty mustards, and many other products.

Roots of horseradish with grated horseradish in bowl and green leaf
small dish of a traditional horseradish sauce with eggs on a grained wood
Horseradish Sauce

A mayonnaise- or cream-based sauce with added horseradish (or other heat sources), spices and other ingredients which may include sugar, salt, garlic and onion.

Dehydrated Horseradish

A dry powder derived from horseradish root.

chilli sauce with red hot chili on wooden background
Hot Sauce

A mixture of hot pepper, vinegar and salt – “eye watering” hot.

Picante Sauce and Salsa

A group of traditionally spicy sauces that may consist of tomatoes, peppers, onions, salt, sugar, garlic and herbs and spices such as oregano, cilantro and basil. While there is no standard of identity for these products, the generally accepted view is that picantes are thinner with fewer particulates than salsas. Salsas will normally be composed of large pieces in a thicker base.

Few portion of tacos with meat and vegetables on wooden board
Taco Sauce

An easily pourable tomato sauce flavored by hot red chili peppers, green pepper, onion, vinegar, salt, and garlic. Can range from “mild” to “hot” varieties.

Steak Sauce

A thick, slightly sweet-tasting tomato sauce, or often with the distinctive flavor of fruit such as raisin and/or orange, plus herbs and such spices as garlic and onions.

Tenderloin steak wrapped in bacon with red sauce and spinach
Soy sauce and soy bean with chopsticks on wooden table
Soy Sauce

A soybean and wheat protein extract combined with water and salt. May be processed by fermentation or chemical hydrolysis.


A thin, spicy dark brown sauce which may include cider vinegar, malt vinegar, anchovies, onions, soy sauce, molasses and other ingredients resulting in a slightly sweeter taste than soy sauce.

A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
homemade fried fish fingers with tartar sauce
Tartar Sauce

A mayonnaise or salad dressing-based sauce with added pickle relish and possibly chopped capers.


The Grand Sauces

Demi-glace, velouté, béchamel, tomato, and hollandaise – were once referred to as the mother sauces, to indicate that from these basic sauces many others were created. Although they may not be relied upon as heavily as in years past, the grand sauces are still important in a contemporary kitchen.


Based on a brown veal stock, a demi-glace should have the flavor of roasted veal. In color, it will be a deep brown color, translucent and highly glossy. The flavor will be full, and rich with a pleasant roasted or caramel aroma.

The beef meat with green asparagus on white plate
Velouté de légumes

As a velouté is based on veal, chicken or fish stock, it’s flavor will reflect the stock used in its preparation. It is pale in color, almost ivory, translucent with a definite sheen. Made with a roux, a slight hint of nuttiness may be detected, but will have the aroma of it’s base stock.


Originally béchamel called for an amount of lean veal, however, modern practice rarely includes it. A white sauce made by thickening milk with a white roux and simmering with aromatics, a béchamel will have a creamy flavor, reflecting its base liquid of milk. It is the color of heavy cream, slightly off-white, opaque with a definite sheen and has the aroma of cream with a slight nuttiness.

Bechamel - Besciamella
Fresh cherry tomato sauce on rustic wooden background

The tomato sauce is slightly coarser than any other of the grand sauces because of the degree of texture that remains even after pureeing and straining tomatoes. The sauce will have a deep, rich tomato flavor, with no trace of bitterness or acidity, yet not overly sweet. There will be hints of supporting flavors from the stock and aromatics. Tomato sauce will have a clear tomato smell with no sour, acid, bitter or overly sweet (caramel) aromas.


A hollandaise is predominantly the flavor of butter, with egg yolks contributing a great deal of flavor as well. Reduction ingredients, i.e. vinegar and peppercorns, give the sauce a balanced taste, as do the lemon juice and any additional seasonings. It will be a pale lemon color, opaque, but with a luster not appearing oily. The basic sauce and its variations should have a buttery-smooth texture, almost frothy, and an aroma of good butter.

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

* Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing, French Dressing and Ketchup are covered by Federal Standards of Identity.

Reference: The New Professional Chef (5th Edition) by The Culinary Institute of America