These condiments will jazz up a homemade or takeout meal.

By Katherine Martinelli
May 06, 2019
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Bryan Gardner

Is there anything worse than a sad desk lunch? We've all been there: typing with one hand while eating a lackluster salad with the other, all while trying not to drip dressing on the keyboard. In fact, it's the norm for the modern worker; according to one study 62% of professionals report eating lunch alone at their desks. If you're not going to take a proper lunch break, the least you can do is make sure your meal tastes great.

Whether you bring a salad from home or have a grain bowl delivered from the local café, there are some simple ways to upgrade your lunch. By keeping a few shelf-stable ingredients in your desk drawer, you can jazz up any lunch any time, and be the lunch hero you were always meant to be.

Flaky Sea Salt

It's amazing what a little salt can do to improve a less than inspired meal. Keep some flaky sea salt such as Maldon or Jacobsen's in your drawer and apply liberally to salads, leftovers, sandwiches, disappointing takeout, and even sweets. If you want to get really fancy you can branch and try different types and flavors of salt (smoked! Truffle! Icelandic lava salt!); but there's a lot to be said for sticking with the basics.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Along with salt, there's little that a drizzle of good olive oil won't improve. Take your avocado toast to the next level, brighten up your Buddha bowl, or freshen up leftover pasta with a glug of the good stuff. Store it in a drawer or cabinet, out of direct sunlight to keep it fresh longer.

Vinegar

Whether you're partial to balsamic, apple cider, or sherry vinegar, it's never a bad idea to keep a small bottle on hand. Though less of an obvious fix than salt, you'd be surprised how easily many foods can be improved with a judicious hit of acid. Salads, sandwiches, grains, beans and lentils, even soups can all benefit from some zing.

Hot Sauce

It doesn't much matter whether you stock Cholula, Frank's Red Hot, Sriracha, Tabasco, gochujang, or some other fiery condiment. The point is, when all else fails you've got the nuclear option on the table. A drop of your favorite hot sauce adds a level of intrigue to any meal, while a generous squeeze can make you forget that your food has no flavor. Most hot sauces should be fine stored in your desk drawer out of sunlight, but check the label to make sure your favorite doesn't need to be refrigerated.

Tamari

Soy sauce's (usually) gluten free and slightly less salty Japanese cousin, tamari is a great secret lunch weapon to stash at your desk. A little bit goes a long way and can add a pleasant umami burst to rice and grain dishes, leftover meat mains, vegetables, and even soups and sandwiches. Alternately, save those little soy sauce packets from take-out for lunch emergencies!

Nuts & Dried Fruits

A stash of nuts and dried fruits is great to have on hand because it doubles as a great, energy-boosting snack as well as a power-up to many lunches. Oatmeal, salads, grain bowls, couscous, and even some stews can all be jazzed up with a sprinkling of nuts and/or dried fruits. They add a great crunch to soup, too. Store them in an air-tight container to keep them freshest.

Nutritional Yeast

Often used as a dairy free alternative to cheese, nutritional yeast has a shelf life of about a year so is great for vegans and omnivores alike to keep on hand. With a parmesan-like flavor, nutritional yeast also lives up to its name with a long list of vitamins in every serving. Sprinkle it on pasta, swirl it into mashed potatoes, or stir it into soups to amp up your lunch.

Everything Bagel Seasoning

There are a number of everything bagel seasonings on the market these days, and they really can be used to elevate just about any lunch. Sprinkle on mac and cheese, avocado toast, egg sandwiches, hummus, sandwiches, grains, salad, poke bowls, soups and more for a burst of flavor and a pleasant crunch. Other classic seasonings and spice blends you could add to your desk collection include togarashi, zaatar, dukkah, and herbes de provence.

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