CookingMarinades & SaucesRecipes

9 DIY Sauces, Marinades & Glazes For Tasty, Fast Cooking

sriracha sauce on a table

True story, my mom used to put HONEY on lettuce to get me to eat it.

We called it a salad, but it was literally just a few sweet, sticky lettuce leaves.

But the lesson there is that putting stuff (like sauces, marinades and glazes) on food can make it taste better or different. The problem? It’s just another step to take care of, which is why a lot of people just skip that part.

That’s why today, I’m giving you six sauces, glazes and marinades that each have three to six ingredients.

Sauces used to intimidate me because of all the ingredients.

But after cracking the code to the 10 most common aromatics and ingredients for flavor, I started getting more confident about making them without a recipe.

If you skim through most recipes, they usually require many ingredients. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile (okay, two feet) and cook some of the ingredients on the stove. Yeah, no thanks.

Frankly, when you’re going for budget-friendly, quick meal preps, sauces like this aren’t going to cut it:

list of ingredients for a sauce
wayyyy too long

Learning basic sauces and marinades for protein upgraded my cooking skills (and confidence).

To be honest, there’s a reason why some people might not like the taste of vegetables or “healthy” food.

Using salt, pepper and olive oil on everything is an awesome way to make your food taste boring.

The thought of eating that today makes me shudder, but your girl had to start somewhere.

When I say sauce, in this post, I really mean three things:

1. A marinade

A marinade basically infuses chicken, fish, meat or tofu with flavor. You can marinade ingredients for 15 minutes to 24 hours.

Marinades usually have an acidic ingredient (like lemon juice or vinegar) which penetrates the meat and makes it tender.

If I’m cooking chicken, I normally whip up my marinade before doing anything else, pour it in a Ziploc bag with raw chicken and let it sit there while I prep vegetables. That usually gives it 15-20 minutes to marinate.

2. A glaze

The difference between a glaze and a marinade is that a glaze is meant to just go on the surface of the protein to give it flavor, where a marinade is meant to soak through.

I mostly use glazes for cooking salmon or chicken. They usually involve a syrup like agave or maple syrup.

3. An actual sauce (or dressing)

Sauces can be made or eaten cold, but generally, they’re cooked to either thicken the texture or make the flavors stronger.

None of the sauces in this post require heat.

A quick note about this guide:

I RARELY measure ingredients when making sauces. So each list of ingredients is going to start from the ingredient with the largest quantity to the smallest.

Why do I never measure? Because I use my taste buds.

I’m constantly trying my food as I cook so I know what to add (or what not to add). If you start to taste your food more while you cook, I guarantee you’ll become very in tune with what your food needs (or doesn’t need).

Each of these sauces can be prepared by mixing the ingredients in a small bowl. I’ve never tried making extra to save for the next time, but you can test it out!

The best Asian stir fry sauce

This is adapted from this recipe I found for baked tofu, but it turned out to be my favorite stir fry sauce ever.

Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Rice vinegar
Agave (or maple syrup)
Garlic powder
Onion powder

To thicken if desired: cornstarch

A note about Asian sauces:

When I first saw “sesame oil” and “rice vinegar” I was like, huh? But I highly suggest you pick them up next time you go shopping. They last a long time and aren’t expensive. You can usually find them in the “international” section of your grocery store. Most asian sauces require those two ingredients.

When to use this sauce:

  • In vegetable stir frys
  • For marinating tofu, chicken or beef

The simplest “Teriyaki” glaze

I made this one up and it’s easily my favorite.

Soy Sauce
Honey (or agave or maple syrup)
Ginger powder (or fresh grated ginger)

When to use this glaze:

  • pour it over raw meat or fish before baking it in the oven

Easy “tahini” dressing (savory and sweet)

Fact: I don’t keep tahini in my kitchen, even though I should. But what I do have in my fridge at all times is store-bought hummus (I know, I know).

Many grain bowl dressings have tahini base (which is made out of sesame seeds) because of it’s lovely neutral but nutty flavor. It pairs well with other ingredients and has a satisfying consistency.

The truth? I use hummus instead of tahini to make my grain bowl dressings.


Olive oil
Lemon juice
Dijon mustard
Red pepper flakes


Olive oil
Lemon juice
Honey (or agave)

If you want to use a general tahini sauce, Minimalist Baker is the queen of that. Check out her three ingredient tahini sauce here.

When to use a tahini dressing:

  • on any dish with chickpeas
  • over grain bowls that have quinoa, rice or faro
  • on salads
  • on any dish with winter squash or sweet potatoes

Thai peanut sauce

Oh man, I love this sauce so much! I put it on black bean and chickpea noodles (pictured below) and it was just superb.

Soy sauce
Peanut butter
Sesame oil
Rice vinegar
Hot sauce (or sriracha)

It’s adapted from a recipe from Mark Bittman’s book, How To Cook Everything Fast. (Thanks grandma)

When to use this sauce:

  • on noddles!
  • tossed with protein and veggies in a stir fry

I know I haven't been posting on IG a lot, but that doesn't mean I've stopped cooking. Working on my business and producing content for my clients (AKA the hustle) simply means less time for social media. But the one habit I won't drop is meal prep. If I didn't eat balanced, nutritious meals I wouldn't have enough energy to work all day every day. Eventually, my schedule will change and become more "normal" but for now the grind is real! Hope you guys kick ass today. 👊🏻 . . . . . . #healthylifestyle #fitfam #fitchickscook #fitgirl #tiufam #bbgfam #feedfeed #foodgawker #food52 #buzzfeast #huffpotaste #beatifulcuisines #foodphotography #wellness #instagood #eeeeats #fromscratch #homemade #foods4thought #bgbcommunity #feedyoursoull #foodie #healthyfoodshare #cleanfoodshare #protein #iamwellandgood #healthnut #droolclub

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Mustard glaze (savory and sweet)

Dijon mustard is a versatile ingredient to keep in your fridge for chicken and fish glazes. I didn’t always “get” mustard, but now after using it in cooking I totally understand the hype.


Olive oil
Lemon juice

The sweet version from Clean Eating Couple’s recipe is basically the same thing with a few more spices, but you can replace the lemon juice with maple syrup.

When to use this glaze:

  • On baked chicken or fish
  • On seitan or tempeh

Honey balsamic marinade from Damn Delicious, simplified

Sweet and tangy, this one is a “go-to.” This is my version of it based on a recipe (linked below) from Damn Delicious.

Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Get the full recipe for honey balsamic chicken on Damn Delicious here. 

Basic lemon garlic herb marinade

My laziest marinade that always makes food taste fresh and light:

Lemon juice
Olive oil
Pepper (a generous amount)
Parsley flakes
Dried thyme

When to use this marinade:

  • Chicken, fish, shrimp
  • on salads
  • tossed with veggies

Honey garlic lime marinade

Another simple one to give your protein a good kick:

Lime juice
Olive oil
Honey (or agave syrup)
Minced garlic (or garlic powder)

When to use this marinade:

When in doubt? Just use pesto.

Pesto is extremely comforting. You can buy some in a jar or just whip some in your food processor. All you need is:

Fresh basil
Pine nuts (walnuts or pecans work too since pine nuts are very expensive)
Olive oil

Here’s a simple recipe for no-frills pesto.

When to use pesto:

  • Literally on everything and anything.

I encourage you to get creative!

Mixing up a bowl of sauce while you’re cooking makes you feel super fancy. Give it a whirl. Your meal prep and cooking will be THAT much tastier.

Like I said before, use your taste buds. Try your sauces as you go. Everyone is different.

I personally love spicy food so I’ll add cayenne and sriracha to basically everything. Cooking based on your preferences is where you can really get creative with cooking.

Your turn. Have you ever made up any of your own sauces, glazes or marinades? What’s your secret?

This post is just one of the many examples of how I’m out to make cooking less a pain the butt. Subscribe below and immediately get the mini Workweek Lunch Meal Plan, which will help you beat food boredom.

  1. Elaine @ FoodParsed

    I love how you break down sauces into their basic components, and short ingredient lists are the best. One of my favorite flavor combos is coconut milk + nut butter + spices. It’s super rich and flavorful, and it makes everything taste better.

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