A condiment is a preparation that is added to food, typically after cooking, to impart a specific flavor, to enhance the flavor,[1] or to complement the dish. A table condiment or table sauce is more specifically a condiment that is served separately from the food and is added to taste by the diner.

Tray of condiments and spices

Condiments are sometimes added prior to serving, for example, in a sandwich made with ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise. Some condiments are used during cooking to add flavor or texture: barbecue sauce, compound butter, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, Marmite and sour cream are examples.

Many condiments, such as mustard or ketchup, are available in single-serving packets, commonly when supplied with take-out or fast food meals.


Various condiments at Sangha market, Mali in 1992

The exact definition of a condiment varies. Some definitions encompass spices and herbs, including salt and pepper,[2] using the term interchangeably with seasoning.[3] Others restrict the definition to include only "prepared food compound[s], containing one or more spices", which are added to food after the cooking process, such as mustard, ketchup or mint sauce.[3]

Salt, pepper, and sugar are commonly placed on Western restaurant tables.


The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning "spice, seasoning, sauce" and from the Latin condire, meaning "preserve, pickle, season".[4] The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but its meaning has changed over time.[5]


Condiments were known in Ancient Rome, India, Greece and China. There is a myth that before food preservation techniques were widespread, pungent spices and condiments were used to make the food more palatable,[6] but this claim is not supported by any evidence or historical record.[7] The Romans made the condiments garum and liquamen by crushing the innards of various fish and then fermenting them in salt, resulting in a liquid containing glutamic acid, suitable for enhancing the flavor of food. The popularity of these sauces led to a flourishing condiment industry.[4] Apicius, a cookbook based on fourth and fifth century cuisine, contains a section based solely on condiments.[4]

List of condiments


In the United States, the market for condiments was US$5.6 billion in 2010 and is estimated to grow to US$7 billion by 2015.[8] The condiment market is the second largest in specialty foods behind that of cheese.[8]

See also

  • Condiments by country (category)
  • Dip
  • Garnish  Decoration or embellishment to a prepared food dish or drink
  • List of fish sauces
  • List of foods
  • List of mustard brands
  • Non-brewed condiment  Malt vinegar substitute
  • Seasoning  Process of supplementing food via herbs, salts, or spices
  • Herb  Plant used for food, medicine or perfume
  • Spice  Food flavoring
  • Relish  Cooked, pickled, or chopped vegetable or fruit used as a condiment
  • Pickling  Procedure of preserving food in brine or vinegar
  • Ingredient  Part of a mixture



  1. Merriam-Webster: Definition of condiment
  2. Collins: Definition Condiment
  3. Farrell 1990, p. 291
  4. Nealon 2010
  5. Smith 2007, pp. 144–146
  6. Farrell 1990, p. 297
  7. Freedman, Paul (2008). Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination. Yale University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-300-21131-3.
  8. Sax, David (7 October 2010). "Spreading the Love". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 October 2010.


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