The secret is in the sauce…on the side (3 recipes)

We’re a family that dines together for seven dinners a week. This time around the table is important to us and is a crucial step in our journey to build a healthy family food culture.

But? This commitment to the family dinner has its rocky moments. On a nightly basis we’re dealing with spilled milk, tossed food, stormy attitudes and questionable manners. Oh, how our children’s manners are a work in progress (look for a post soon on how we’re working to improve them).

Some nights it would be a whole lot easier to serve up sandwiches on paper plates and then sit down to a hot! spicy! delicious! meal ourselves after we have tucked the munchkins into bed (and on the rare occasion, this is what happens), but we’re committed to that dinner hour.

Today I’m sharing one tip that has brought peace to the table – at least as far as the food is concerned; attitudes and pesky squabbles still need an intervention! This tip has helped to keep everyone happy with their food, especially Danny and I, who love full flavour dishes and are crazy about sauces.


The secret is in the sauce…on the side

My trick has been to prepare proteins with basic condiments like butter and salt, and then liven them up with a sauce served alongside, to be spooned up or politely declined. My children are decidedly anti-sauce (unless it comes from a bottle and rhymes with ‘fetch-up’) at this point and time, and this has allowed as all to enjoy a dinner of grilled chicken or roasted fish with no complaints.

Today I’m sharing three simple sauces that pair equally well with chicken, fish or pork. They can be made completely separately from your main dish, so you can happily grill salmon or your preferred protein all summer long and keep changing things up with a different sauce.

The best part? These sauces are super quick to mix together and can be prepared well in advance of the meal. Try them all, then experiment with your own recipes for sauce on the side.

Tahini Yogurt Sauce

Tahini-Yogurt Sauce | Simple Bites #recipe

Eastern Mediterranean flavours marry in this creamy, cooling sauce that is sublime with pan-seared or grilled fish. Plenty of fresh lemon juice balances out the richness of the sesame butter, but serve the fish with an additional wedge of lemon anyway.

Finish the dish with toasted pine nuts or chopped scallions. I used ramps as they are in season right now.

Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

Pairs well with chicken, fish or lamb.
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiments
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 38kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • tops of 2 green onions or 2 ramps


  • In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt until very smooth.
  • Mince the green onion tops and add to the sauce.
  • Taste and add additional salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve on the side.


2 Tablespoons chopped chives may be substituted for the green onion tops.


Calories: 38kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 104mg | Potassium: 44mg | Vitamin A: 15IU | Vitamin C: 1.2mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 0.2mg

Tangy Mojo Sauce

Tango Mojo Sauce

Citrus and spice and everything nice is what makes up this bold mojo. It will enliven the most drab of chicken breasts and is also quite lovely paired with something a little more exotic such as grilled octopus.

Feel free to ramp up the garlic for extra ‘zing’.

Tangy Mojo Sauce

A traditional Cuban sauce with bold, bright flavours that pairs best with grilled items.
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Cuisine: Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 81kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 limes scrubbed
  • 2 oranges scrubbed
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Crush the garlic clove with the side of a knife on a cutting board. Sprinkle the salt over top and pulverize the two ingredients together until you have a paste. Transfer to a small bowl.
  • Zest 1 lime and 1 orange into the bowl. Cut citrus in half and juice all 4 into the bowl. Add the garam masala and whisk to combine.
  • Drizzle in the olive oil while continually whisking. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.
  • Serve at once or refrigerate for up to two days. Any longer and the sauce becomes bitter.


You may use ground cumin in place of the garam masala. Cumin is more traditionally Cuban, but I like the flavour of the garam masala.


Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Fat: 6g | Sodium: 145mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 80IU | Vitamin C: 22.4mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 0.2mg

Maple Mustard Glaze

maple mustard glaze | simple bites #recipe #dinner

It’s hard to get any simpler than this warm sauce of tangy Dijon and pure maple syrup, yet it is a delicious finish to pork, chicken, and even salmon. This sauce can keep, refrigerated for several days; just warm it like you would re-heat gravy just before serving.

Maple-Mustard Glaze

5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Cuisine: Sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 84kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander


  • In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together maple syrup and Dijon. Bring to a boil, then add the butter. Whisk to combine.
  • Remove from heat and pour in the vinegar. Add the coriander and give the sauce a good stir. Serve hot.


Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 112mg | Potassium: 55mg | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 90IU | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 0.1mg

The secret is in the sauce on the side | Simple Bites #dinner #kids #realfood

Do you have a favourite dipping sauce or ‘side’ sauce?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. La Torontoise says

    Aimee, love the salmon sauce, will make it tonight.
    We also dine together 7 evenings weekly:-)
    With a 10 years old, this is much easier in terms of table manners, but we are working hard on extending our little son’s spectrum of acceptable food choices and food combinations. He is very selective, and is a case in point when it comes to how food looks and smells: -) nothing goes unnoticed if appearance and smell do not match:-)

    I’d say, I’m working hard on ‘the family food culture project’.

    • You have a few years on us, as my oldest is 8. I guess they will always be selective eaters, and that is fine, but manners we can always work on!

  2. We dine together 7 nights a week as well. Living in Pakistan where spicy food is hard to avoid this sometimes is a challenge, which has meant that quite often we’re having ‘wimpy’ food for dinner instead. I’d never considered sauces on the side, definitely will in the future.

  3. We do sauces on the side, too! With four under 10, its the only way to any kind of meal time peace. Even when we’re making stir fry, I always take some our before I add the sauce. Lately, one of my sons has even decided to reject spagetti sauce (gasp!) so its even noodle and sauce seperate these days. We like Korean BBQ sauce (and most of the kids do) and regular tomato sauce on the side, too.

  4. since I don’t eat meat I would probably try the sauces on lentil loaf. How did you cook the tomatoes?

    • Good idea, Linda. So I drizzled the branch of tomatoes with a little olive oil and roasted them for about 10 minutes at 400F.

  5. Wow, what a creative way to appeal to multiple palates, but not bow to the dreaded “Mom as Short Order Cook” role! I’ve pinned these and will definitely try them – the Maple Mustard Glaze sounds especially good. My homemade honey mustard dressing/dip is one of our favorites for chicken:

  6. This is such a smart idea. I have two tiny people who are often skeptical of strong flavours and mysterious sauces. I already keep all of the spicy condiments on the side (SRI RACHA ALL THE TIME ON ALL THE THIIIINGS), but it’s smart to keep the ‘tamer’ sauces on the side. I find my kids actually love the act of dipping, rather than having a sauce poured over top. And then they repurpose the sauce to dip their vegetables too.

  7. We recently went through a month of seemingly endless cups of spilled drinks. Thankfully we are getting a respite now.

    All of these sauces look great! I love that I already have everything on hand too. And since we are vacationing at the beach right now, the yogurt tahini sauce might be first up. I actually made a similar sauce for our fish tacos earlier this week with yogurt, garlic and lime 🙂

  8. I love these kind of posts – we eat dinner together seven nights a week (unless Jared is out of town) and creating a family food culture is very important to us but sometimes the opinions of the littles can get a little overwhelming.
    The multiple sauce idea is brilliant and I know we’ll be trying these over the summer – especially the yoghurt/tahini over salmon. YUM.

  9. Oh my. I want them all. Right now. 🙂

  10. hi Aimee, I
    am a subscriber, love your style. Would you please include a ‘pin it’ button on your photos , or/ and after revipes. im on an iPad, no computer, and I would love to pin your recipes.
    Thank you, Judith

    • Hi Judith,

      hmmm I used to have a pin it button. I’l look into it. Sorry about that!
      You know, you can add a Pin it button to your toolbar, then you can pin from anywhere you are browsing!

  11. 5 stars
    Funny… buffalo wing sauce is usually how I convince Dan to eat something! 🙂 But I think even he’d go for that maple-mustard glaze.

  12. I totally agree with the sauce on the side idea. I run a home daycare and spend my day with a wonderful group of kids who don’t always have the same opinion about sauces. On the side gives everyone a choice:) Works wonders. Can’t wait to try your recipes. They look delicious.

  13. Would your kids eat homemade ketchup? And have they tried that mojo sauce because if it’s the one you served with asparagus, it was amazing! I’m so glad you shared that recipe because now I can make it 🙂

    • Yes, that was the mojo on the asparagus! It’s really versatile and so great for summer.

      I’m all out of last year’s homemade ketchup, but yeah, they are down with it. 🙂

  14. 5 stars
    I’m having a hard time imagining YOUR kids with a lack of manners, because I thought kids were as sweet as their parents 🙂 (I don’t have kids-hah). But it’s refreshing to hear that everyone has to work on it. So, what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t be upset with my friends’ kids that came over for Sunday Supper and refused to eat anything I cooked (including creamy macaroni and cheese?!). Thanks for the reminder that I need patience.

    ALL of these sauces sound delectable. I was just thinking about mojo the other day! Thanks for the the inspiration 🙂

  15. Loooooove all of these sauces! Bookmarking for sure!

  16. Love them all!

  17. I think that this such a brilliant way to approach dining with children. Then you don’t wind up like a short order cook, which is NO fun. I am especially excited over that yogurt tahini sauce!

  18. I adore sauces and I love having sauces on the side. I love your three different sauce recipes!

  19. I’m with you guys….LOVE sauces. Thanks for 3 amazing saucy recipes 🙂

  20. These sauces are a must try for sure! The recipe for Tahini-Yogurt Sauce sounds amazing!

  21. 5 stars
    So, it’s not just my kids???? THANK YOU, JESUS! ahahah 😀

    Awesomesauce!! 🙂

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