Are you team sriracha or team salsa? Team ranch or team Buffalo?

By Adriana Velez
January 13, 2021
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Credit: Johnny Fogg

There are two types of Super Bowl enthusiasts: those of you who show up for the game, and the rest of us who show up for the food. All right, plenty of folks care about both, and if you're hosting (whether that means a socially-distanced backyard gathering or a fancier-than-usual night in front of the television for you and your immediately family) you definitely want to win the condiments game. To that end, we've set you up with four key categories: All you have to do is pick two or three items from each and you've got a winning play.

Hot Sauces

First of all, you need some fire. We could dedicate this entire article to all the picante possibilities, but pick even just a couple from this list and you'll have plenty of heat. A few words about hot sauces: there are so many! Pick a favorite, from a classic Tabasco ($3.56, walmart.com) to El Yucateco's volcanic chile habanero ($2.59, target.com), to the taqueria mainstay Tapatio ($1.49, target.com). Salsa is a must, but it's up to you whether you prepare our simple Salsa Fresca, a tangy Salsa Verde, or purchase your favorite small-batch variety.

Chili crisp is a Chinese infused oil that gets its crunch from fried garlic, chili flakes, and other seasonings. Go old-school with Lao Gan Ma ($8.98, amazon.com) or try one of the newcomers, like Fly By Jing ($17.98, amazon.com). Sriracha is the vinegary hot sauce associated with Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. For something new, try Three Mountain's sweeter, milder Sriracha Yellow Chili Sauce ($12.99, amazon.com).

Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili sauce made with a little vinegar; somehow it tastes like fresh, crushed chilies. Harissa starts with roasted or smoked red peppers and is ground with garlic and spices caraway, coriander, and cumin. While you can buy it in most grocery stores, we suggest you try making it yourself. Then there's gochujang, the glorious Korean fermented soybean and chili paste. Try old-school brand CJ Haechandle ($8.69, amazon.com). It's usually quite thick but can be thinned out with water or rice vinegar for drizzling over snacks.

Last but not least, there's hot honey. You'll find that chili-infused honey is great for drizzling, especially for those of you who love your spicy on the sweet side. The best-known variety is Mike's Hot Honey ($9.99, amazon.com).

Pickles

Something tart and crisp will cut the richness of your charcuterie, meatballs, and fried mozzarella sticks. Simply put, your Super Bowl spread needs pickles! While the classic dill works fine, go with wee cornichons if you're fancy. You could also try making our homemade quick pickles.

Looking for bolder flavor? Pepperoncini, Italian-style pickled peppers, add heat to pizza and subs. Meanwhile, escabeche, a Mexican-style pickled vegetable, can include cauliflower and carrots or simply jalapeño slices and is a guaranteed way to make any dish pop.

If you're serving hot dogs and sausage, you'll need sauerkraut, but don't add it to your grocery list: That's something you could make yourself. Korean kimchi is often made with cabbage, but at Asian markets you can find varieties made with other vegetables, like carrots and turnips. Make your own or pick some up for the party. Achaar are Indian pickles, anything from garlic to limes to mango, they're just what you need if you're craving something sweet, sour, and spicy.

Dips

Dips are an excuse to play with our food. Pile those chips, crackers, and pita pieces high with the luscious stuff. No Super Bowl spread would be complete without ranch dressing, but we think you knew that already. If you're feeling fresh, try this recipe. Another equally delicious option? Blue cheese dressing with a side of celery sticks; it's just what your Buffalo wings require. Try making a a classic version instead of picking up the bottled stuff.

Barbecue sauce is just as essential, but which one should you use? We suggest that you pick your favorite region and go from there. Another delicious, albeit maybe unexpected, option? Ponzu sauce, which goes with all kinds of dumplings and with grilled chicken, tofu, or vegetables. Try the famous Nobu Ponzu Sauce.

Guacamole is definitely worth making fresh. Look for soft, ripe avocados and don't be shy with the lime juice. This recipe adds pepitas and cotija cheese. The same goes for hummus, the creamy chickpea and tahini dip. You'll find there are so many variations to consider, but we're sharing a few of our favorites to try. And if you're making hummus, you might as well make tzatziki, too. It's made from a combination plain yogurt with chopped cucumbers and garlic, and you'll find that it plays well with that hummus. Here's how to make it. Last but not least, we have something for the olive lovers. A simple tapenade is an upgrade to the usual dish with toothpicks.

Sprinkles

Save the candy sprinkles for sundaes and cookies after the game. Here, we're talking about spice blends and  other toppings you can shake over popcorn, fries, dips, grilled meat, even plain rice, or just about anything else that sounds good. Flavored salts are a great start. Maldon flakes ($8.44, walmart.com) are great for everyday use, but for parties you might want something extra. In that case, try this herby blend.

Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese spice mix typically made of seven ingredients; sesame seeds, szechuan peppercorns, and dried chili, orange, or tangerine peels, seaweed, ginger, and garlic. Also from Japan is furikake, a tasty melange of dried seaweed, sesame seeds, and bonito (a type of fish) flakes, often with other ingredients. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern mixture of dried herbs like oregano, thyme, and za'atar (otherwise known as hyssop), lemon zest, toasted sesame seeds, and a lemony-flavored spice called sumac. Here's a simple za'atar recipe you can make at home. Dukkah is an Egyption nut and spice blend. It can be made with pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, and/or cashews. Add sesame, coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds, grind everything together, and then toast. Try this dukkah recipe.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't call out the need for freshly-grated parmesan or romano cheese. If you're in a pinch the pre-grated stuff will do but most food processors are outfitted to churn out a fluffy pile of parmesan in no time, and you can definitely taste the difference.

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