Best Secret Sauces

Published on August 9, 2022 | Updated on July 17, 2024 | by Allen Bixby

Join us on a quick journey of the best secret sauce recipes at your favorite restaurants and fast food joints. We’ll focus on the most popular sauces used on sandwiches so you can be sure to have them lock-n-loaded in your fridge whenever you need to add some character to an otherwise dull hero.

About Restaurant Secret Sauces for Sandwiches

Back in the day Mom would make up a sauce jar for picnics or camping; some mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard with pickle relish all stirred together. That’s what you got on your burger, and it worked for all of us. Substitute barbecue sauce for the ketchup and you have a variation of a campfire sauce. Reduce the amount of mustard and you are right there with a version of Thousand Island dressing.

rebuen with sauce

Some restaurants will take that approach and sauce their burgers or Reuben with actual Thousand Island. It works but isn’t especially distinctive, especially because Russian dressing is considered the classic sauce.

Russian Dressings

Russian dressing is a chili sauce base with horseradish, Worcestershire and seasonings to make it savory.  Those are very tasty components to bring into the flavor profile. The texture stays slightly coarse and everything in it pushes to a high acid content. As a general sauce the balance could be better. That’s where a mayonnaise base comes into play. It offers good background flavor and very nice texture to the sauce while binding everything together for sturdiness and shelf life without separation. Those aren’t always concerns in the home kitchen, unless you want to make a batch to have on hand for a number of occasions over time.


In a very traditional fashion, Aioli was an infusion of egg and oil, just like mayonnaise, with a fiery heat from raw garlic. It has evolved in normal kitchen nomenclature to reference virtually any mayonnaise-based sauce. There are aioli choices that will range from barely distinguishable mayonnaise to caramelized onions to overpowering siracha infused flavors. It can make you skeptical when the term aioli is used, but on the up side most restaurants will tell you what the predominant flavor is. Garlic is the most common, but everything is on the table that you can think of, from maple syrup to chipotle.

Secret Sandwich Sauces that disperse flavors

One interesting aspect of developing sauces for sandwiches is using them as a vehicle to disperse flavor profiles throughout. Aioli and mayonnaise-based sauces that feature in common. They allow you to disperse flavor throughout a – relatively – mild base. Yes, mayonnaise has flavor and taste. But those components become a quiet background flavor to all things that you can introduce. Here are a couple of excellent instances of this.


Horseradish is a great example. Pure horseradish can be very of putting for some people as the aromatic fumes creep into your sinuses. But a small amount brings a nice zip of flavor. Using horseradish as a sauce component lets you integrate some of the aromatic nature without overpowering the food, or the person eating it. Here’s an easy recipe for a horseradish infused sauce that works well with roast beef sandwiches in particular, but compliments and egg salad or smoked turkey sandwich as well. (recipe below)


Garlic is one of our favorite flavors…for everything. Fresh garlic has a place in lots of cooking, but roasted garlic lends itself incredibly well to sandwich saucing. Especially because you can include a relatively huge amount of it without getting much of a sharp component. Do not be intimidated, roasting garlic is as simple as it gets. Cut the tops of a head of garlic to just expose the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, loosely wrap in foil and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes. Done. Just this soft  garlic smeared on baguette slices is great. Made into a sandwich spread it is heavenly. From a sandwich with thinly sliced lamb, to any sandwich on a roll with Italian meats, this roasted garlic spread will bring another layer of great taste. (recipe below)

“The Sauce”

Mcdonalds burgerSimilar to almost all sauce or dressing items, it is much more cost effective to do it yourself. You also get a chance to put an individual flair to the end result. One fun aspect of the home kitchen is that you can evolve your recipes more than in a commercial kitchen. In the business you need to duplicate an item as close as possible every single time you make it, so that your guests get the same experience. Cue the McDonald brothers and their production line approach to successfully making consistent burgers. Also see some of the sauce we made for our $20 Burger here.

This particular sauce recipe has served very well as a burger sauce, Reuben sauce, and general sandwich sauce. It has also performed admirably as a dipping sauce for French fries, tater tots, onion rings, and chicken strips or battered fish, or just about any crispy appetizer or side item. As a result of it being used in so many fashions it became labeled as ‘The Sauce’ in the recipe book and on the prep list of to do items. Like many effective recipes, this one is very simple, just four ingredients whisked together.

Secret Sandwich Sauce Recipe

Allen Bixby
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 110 kcal


  • Cups mayonnaise
  • 1 Cup catsup
  • ¼ Cup sweet hot mustard
  • Teaspoons dill weed


  • In a mixing bowl combine all these ingredients until well blended


Calories: 110kcal
Keyword sandwhich, secret sauce
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Secret Horseradish spread

Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Central Europe
Calories 20 kcal


  • ¾ Cup Mayonnaise
  • ¼ Cup Sour cream
  • ¼ Cup Prepared horseradish
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Red wine vinegar
  • ½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground pepper


  • Whisk all ingredients together, preferably let sit covered in a refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.


Calories: 20kcal
Keyword horseradish sandwich, horseradish secert sauce, horseradish spread
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


Roasted garlic spread

Total Time 35 minutes
Course Dressing, Side
Cuisine Central Asia
Calories 16 kcal


  • 2 Heads Roasted garlic 6-8 cloves each
  • ½ Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ Teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Squeeze the garlic cloves to a cutting board, mince and fold into a thick paste
  • Whisk together all other ingredients
  • Stir in garlic until well blended
  • Let sit 20-30 minutes for flavors to meld


Calories: 16kcal
Keyword garlic sandwich sauce, garlic secret sauce, roasted garlic sauce
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Healthier Alternative

Your sauce can also be made in a healthier variation. Right on the store shelves today are mayonnaise choices that use olive oil or other healthier oils. It’s no problem finding ketchup that does not have any sugar or corn syrup added to it. Our recipe calls for sweet hot mustard, although a honey mustard is also an option. All of these variations will have little impact on your end result, but will at least make this component of your dish a somewhat healthier addition.

About the Author Allen Bixby

A retired restaurateur, not quite ready to stop playing in the kitchen.

I have had the pleasure of watching amazing high end chefs, and classic American style diner cooking, creating a very diverse background with food. Add both parents teaching English, watching Julia Childs and Graham Kerr as a child, and learning to bake bread from my Finnish great grandma, and you get a decent recipe for a knowledgeable voice to write about food.

From recipe design to equipment testing, there is a broad spectrum of entertaining aspects of food and how we do what we do every day to feed our loved ones!

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