03/18/2014 07:00 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2014

The World's 25 Best Condiments, Ranked

Alan Spedding via Getty Images

We all love French fries with ketchup, but French fries with malt vinegar are infinitely better -- and how about French fries with aioli? The world of condiments reaches far beyond ketchup, and even much further than your mustards and relishes. It's a vast and varied terrain of flavor-boosters, from fiery hot sauce to cooling tahini.

What defines a condiment is simply that it imparts flavor onto another food -- it could be a dip, sauce or in some cases even a spread. It's all kind of subjective, however. We count jam, but we do not count peanut butter, which is definitely more of a spread. We count salsa, but we don't count guacamole, which we think of more as a stand-alone dish. There's a fine and elusive line -- so subjective that even the dictionary won't commit to calling a condiment anything more than just "something that is added to food to give it more flavor." (Emphasis our own.)

Whatever it is, a condiment isn't eaten by itself, which makes it hard to compare as a stand-alone food. Vinegar on French fries might be better than jam on French fries, but vinegar on toast? We'll take the jam. With no universal food to fit all condiments, we're left to rank condiments on a purely un-scientific scale, based on our guts. The best we can do is consider respective condiments when they truly shine -- hot sauce on a taco, dijon mustard on a sandwich -- and compare how well they do their job. Some, we believe, do a lot better job than others.

Here are 25 of the world's favorite condiments, in order from worst to best:

  • 25 Vegemite or Marmite
    Go back from whence you came.
  • 24 Red Pepper Jelly
    Yvonne Duivenvoorden via Getty Images
    Sweet, savory, spicy -- in all the wrong ways.
  • 23 Honey Mustard
    A good honey mustard is really hard to come by, so while we may like it in theory, we almost never see its good side.
  • 22 Relish
    Tom Grill via Getty Images
    In theory we like relish -- which is essentially chopped up pickles -- but in practice it's always way too sweet.
  • 21 Tartar Sauce
    FoodPhotography Eising via Getty Images
    Why wouldn't we use mayonnaise or aioli instead? Tartar sauce is essentially the same thing, but it might also have some added ingredients that we find unnecessary, and in some cases, unappealing (we're looking at you pickles, olives and onions).
  • 20 Horseradish
    Debbi Smirnoff via Getty Images
    It may be good for clearing out your sinuses, but the way it tastes? It's so bitter! We'll take it in a Bloody Mary, but for anything else, we'll need convincing. The only acceptable way is to grate it yourself.
  • 19 Yellow Mustard
    Lee Rogers via Getty Images
    When there are so many good mustards out there, why would you choose this one?
  • 18 Ranch
    Lauri Patterson via Getty Images
    Some people swear by ranch -- for everything. Others do not. We're in the "others" camp.
  • 17 Chutney
    Ian O'Leary via Getty Images
    We wish we liked chutney better, but there's something about its sour pungency that usually throws us off. Not always, but usually.
  • 16 Soy Sauce
    Maximilian Stock Ltd. via Getty Images
    Salty, salty, salty. But it has its uses, and goes far in moderation.
  • 15 Barbecue Sauce
    Bill Boch via Getty Images
    Made well, bbq sauce can be golden. Made poorly -- as in too sweet -- we want to run and hide.
  • 14 Tahini
    FotografiaBasica via Getty Images
    A sesame paste that can be both cooling and neutral, tahini has many uses. We like it, but it's hard to love.
  • 13 Wasabi
    Tali Budlender & Nick Logan via Getty Image
    It's great in moderation and when it's real wasabi -- not green-colored horseradish -- it's herbal and fresh.
  • 12 Ketchup
    You can't go wrong with classic, but we can't limit ourselves to its overly sugary and overly salty, artificial flavor all the time.
  • 11 Harissa
    Ian O'Leary via Getty Images
    A North African blend of hot peppers, spices and oil, harissa is an up-and-coming hot sauce that we can't get enough of.
  • 10 Fish Sauce
    Robert Bremec via Getty Images
    Filled with umami, fish sauce really does make everything taste better. It can bring layers of depth to your food and once you start cooking with it, you won't look back.
  • 9 Hot Sauce
    Erickson Photography via Getty Images
    We're talking about anything from Frank's to Crystal to Tabasco. There is life after Sriracha, you know.
  • 8 Aioli
    encantadisimo via Getty Images
    Like mayonnaise, aioli is an emulsion of egg yolks, oil and lemon juice, but aioli contains garlic and starts with a mortar and pestle, not a blender. We love 'em both.
  • 7 Hoisin Sauce
    Oh, hoisin sauce. What you do to duck is sublime. How you transform everything from spring rolls to soup is something special. We don't want to live in a world without you, and we never want to eat Chinese food without you at our side.
  • 6 Sriracha
    Scott Olson via Getty Images
    Certain food trends are inexplicable. Sriracha is not one of them. In Bloody Marys or on chicken wings, Sriracha taste good on basically everything.
  • 5 Mayonnaise
    milanfoto via Getty Images
    It's America's favorite condiment -- and when made from scratch, we love it too.
  • 4 Raspberry Jam
    mladn61 via Getty Images
    We'll take it on toast, in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in cookies or in cake. We love the seeds and the tart flavor.
  • 3 Salsa
    Jamie Grill via Getty Images
    We like our salsa spicy and chunky, so that it adds heat and texture.
  • 2 Vinegar
    Nico Tondini via Getty Images
    Vinegar might seem like an unlikely candidate, but it works magic -- on fries, potato chips, fish, meats and even vegetables. Like mustard, it's the base of many other condiments and sauces, and eaten alone, it will sharpen your food to a new level. With so many kinds of vinegar, you can pretty much use it on anything, and you should.
  • 1 Dijon Mustard
    Neil Mersh via Getty Images
    Grainy or smooth, dijon mustard is sharp, pungent and uniquely versatile. It goes well with everything from meats to pretzels, and is used to make so many other kinds of condiments, sauces and dressings. It is the king of all condiments.

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