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Tray of condiments and spices

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.

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 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.

Cheese may also be considered a condiment where it is used as an ingredient in another food, such as Mozzarella on pizza or cheese in a cheeseburger.[4]


The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning "spice, seasoning, sauce" and from the Latin condire, meaning "preserve, pickle, season".[5] The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but its meaning has changed over time.[6]


Condiments were known in Ancient Rome, Ancient India, Ancient Greece and Ancient China. There is a myth that before food preservation techniques were widespread, pungent spices and condiments were used to make the food more palatable,[7] but this claim is not supported by any evidence or historical record.[8] 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.[5] Apicius, a cookbook based on fourth and fifth century cuisine, contains a section based solely on condiments.[5]

List of condiments[edit]

Market in the United States[edit]

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.[9] The condiment market is the second largest in specialty foods behind that of cheese.[9]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Merriam-Webster: Definition of condiment
  2. ^ Collins: Definition Condiment
  3. ^ a b Farrell, p. 291
  4. ^ "Condiment - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  5. ^ a b c Nealon
  6. ^ Smith, pp. 144–146
  7. ^ Farrell, p. 297
  8. ^ According to Paul Freedman, the idea is presented as a fact even by some modern scholars, despite the lack of any credible support; Freedman (2008), pp. 3–4
  9. ^ a b Sax, David (October 7, 2010). "Spreading the Love". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 October 2010.