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 flavour,[1] or to complement the dish.

Some condiments are used during cooking to add flavour texture: barbecue sauce, compound butter, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, Marmite and sour cream are examples.

Alternatively, condiments are sometimes added prior to serving, for example, in a sandwich made with ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise.

A table condiment or table sauce is served separately from the food and added to taste by the diner. Many, 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 in 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.


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 historical 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, a similar and at times synonymous preparation, by crushing the innards of various fish and then fermenting them in salt, resulting in a liquid containing glutamic acid, suitable for enhancing the flavour 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

Main article: List of condiments

See also: List of brand name condiments


The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this section, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new section, as appropriate. (March 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

In the United States, the market for condiments was US$5.6 billion in 2010 and was 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



  1. ^ Merriam-Webster: Definition of condiment
  2. ^ Collins: Definition Condiment
  3. ^ a b Farrell 1990, p. 291
  4. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b Sax, David (7 October 2010). "Spreading the Love". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 9 October 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010.