18 2-Ingredient Sauces That Make Dinner Extra Easy

Different sauces in bowls
Different sauces in bowls - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Sauces are that magic touch that turns ordinary dishes into extraordinary experiences by enriching both flavors and textures. Whether drizzled over al dente pasta, glazed onto succulent meats, or used as a topping for decadent desserts, sauces bring out the best in our food. But these concoctions can also be complicated to make, as anyone who has ever gotten an ache in their wrist from constantly whisking a béchamel would know. Plus, these complex sauces sometimes require a long list of ingredients that require multi-step processes to make.

That's why we're endeavoring to put together a list of easy, two-ingredient sauces you can make to elevate your favorite meals. Not only are these sauces convenient to make, but they also enhance different tastes and textures. By needing only two ingredients, your opportunities for personalization may be somewhat limited, but limitations foster creativity. After all, this list is geared toward quality, not quantity.

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

Cream Cheese And Cheddar

Cheese dripping off fork
Cheese dripping off fork - juana22/Shutterstock

Cheese sauce is one of those mixtures that is harder to prepare than it sounds. If you've ever made mac and cheese from scratch, standing over a pot and stirring tirelessly until your cheese sauce has achieved the right consistency, then you'll probably agree.

Enter this quick, two-ingredient cheese sauce made with just cream cheese and grated cheddar. Combine two parts cream cheese for each part cheddar and heat them together until they've melted. Be sure to constantly stir this mixture while you're heating it to ensure everything is well combined.

For a pop of color, select a bright orange cheddar, or for something more subdued, go for a paler variety. Once you've got that down, you can doctor up this sauce with any spices you like, including garlic or crushed chili flakes.

Creamy Tomato Sauce

Tomato paste from a tube
Tomato paste from a tube - Maliflower73 & gowithstock/Shutterstock

You might be in the mood for pasta, but what do you do when you realize you've run out of tomato sauce?  Not even a single can of tomatoes can be found in your sad little pantry. But don't rush to the store on that account. Instead, consider this two-ingredient sauce made with nothing but tomato paste and cream.

It's as simple and easy as it sounds. Brown a bit of tomato paste in your pan to bring out the flavor, then add the heavy cream. This will complement the concentrated tomato taste and create the rich, creamy texture you look for in your pasta sauces. Be sure to keep the heat low throughout, or your mixture may curdle because of the combination of the tomato's acidity and the cream's proteins.

Brown Butter And Sage

Bunsh of sage leaves
Bunsh of sage leaves - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Some sauces are so simple and require so few ingredients that you hardly think of them as sauces at all. Yet their flavor combinations can be so wonderful that they make all the difference -- as a good sauce should. One that comes to mind is a brown butter sage sauce, which is perfect for drizzling on top of fresh ravioli.

This recipe works especially well if you use whole sage leaves, which get crispy in the butter as you brown the mixture on the stove. As a finishing touch, you can certainly add some freshly grated Parmesan, but the sauce will have plenty of flavor all on its own. You can serve it with pretty much any kind of ravioli, but we think a pumpkin filling would work exceptionally well, as the earthiness of the sage makes for an ideal accompaniment to the sweet pumpkin flesh.

Cacio E Pepe

Pile of black peppercorns
Pile of black peppercorns - Olga Larionova/Shutterstock

Italian food is known in part for its simplicity. After all, it is no small feat to achieve so much flavor in one dish with just a few ingredients. Yet those are the hallmarks of many pasta dishes, including the famous bucatini cacio e pepe, which is practically just pasta served with grated cheese and pepper.

To make the dish, you'll need to make sure the pasta is cooked al dente, as this will help the sauce stick better. You should also be sure to reserve some of that pasta water, as you'll need it later. Then toast the ground pepper in a pan before adding your grated cheese and some of the reserved pasta water. The starchy pasta water, which you'll have on hand anyway, is important for helping the toppings stick to the noodles.

Pizza Sauce

Pizza sauce on dough
Pizza sauce on dough - Pinstock/Getty Images

Making pizza at home is fun for the whole family. Between preparing the dough, making the sauce, and coming up with the toppings, it's more than just a meal — it's a great way to pass the time. But many people often pour the tomato sauce straight out of a jar onto their pizza dough. It satisfies the tomato itch, but it's not ideal.

In a perfect world, you can make your own pizza sauce at home with a short list of ingredients. Luckily, we have the recipe for you. This easy pizza sauce recipe calls for just tomato sauce and tomato paste, which are to be heated in a pot until thickened. Be sure to add salt and pepper, along with your favorite Italian seasoning blend, to make it unique.

Rich Hot Sauce

Jars of hot sauce
Jars of hot sauce - Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

You probably have a favorite jarred hot sauce that you like to put in your soups, salads, or other dishes. But some hot sauces are best when dressed up at home, using techniques like this simple hot sauce upgrade.

The key ingredient to combine with your hot sauce is butter. While this may somewhat dilute the spiciness of your condiment, the difference is rather negligible, while the benefits are undeniable. The butter adds a particular richness to the hot sauce and helps bring out its overall flavor. Finish off this handy trick with a squeeze of lemon to brighten the taste, and serve the sauce as a coating or a dip for chicken wings or other hearty meat dishes.

Chipotle Dip

Can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce - Louella938/Shutterstock

Next time you find yourself with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, combine them with raw cashews for the ultimate spicy Tex-Mex dip. If you've never even considered this combination before, you're in for a treat because it's not every day that you find such a beautiful combination of rich, milky textures from the cashews and smoky, spicy flavors from the canned chipotle.

If you have a food processor, this recipe will be a breeze. Just zap the two star ingredients together and add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. You can always play around with a few additions, like cilantro or garlic powder, but this dip is so flavorful on its own that it probably won't need any help. You may just want to add some water to your food processor to help the cashews along if they look too dry.

Sour Cream Dip

Bowl of sour cream
Bowl of sour cream - MaraZe/Shutterstock

Sour cream is an incredibly versatile ingredient, so it should come as no surprise that it can be transformed into something incredible just by adding one other item. In this case, that ingredient is an umami-packed sauce, like soy sauce, hoisin, or ponzu. You can also incorporate Tex-Mex spices or taco seasoning. These flavor powerhouses can add a lot of depth to the mixture, while the sour cream provides the perfect texture in this punchy two-ingredient dip.

Mix 2 tablespoons of your chosen umami sauce or spice mix with a few spoonfuls of sour cream to make this at home. You can also switch the dairy product out for Greek yogurt or crème fraîche if you prefer. Then, serve the dip with some kettle chips for a satisfying appetizer.

Roasted Red Pepper And Coconut Pasta Sauce

Bunch of red peppers
Bunch of red peppers - Jose Pedroso Vallejo/Getty Images

In the world of food, "quick" can be associated with "unhealthy" or "poor quality." That's not so with a simple combination of roasted red peppers and coconut milk, which can be easily combined to create a flavorful, healthy, and creamy pasta sauce.

Prepare this dish in a jiffy by pouring a can of fire-roasted peppers, liquid and all, into a blender with a can of coconut milk. You can add minced garlic for extra flavor, but it may shift the balance of your entire sauce to something more heavy. Finally, serve this sweet and slightly tangy sauce with your favorite al dente pasta, and be sure to add salt and pepper to taste as you go along.

Honey Balsamic Glaze

Bowl of honey
Bowl of honey - Jr images/Shutterstock

Mixing honey and balsamic vinegar yields a dressing that is anything but light. As such, we do not recommend using it for leafy salads. However, the sweet and tart team-up does work well with sturdier salad ingredients, like sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, as in a caprese salad or bruschetta. It also provides a sweet and sour addition to different proteins. Sliced grilled steak comes to mind, along with a wide range of roast pork dishes. On the other end of the spectrum, you can drizzle your honey balsamic glaze on a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

To prepare this simple glaze, simmer the balsamic vinegar and honey on medium-low until the mixture becomes nice and thick -- to the point where it won't immediately fall off your spoon as you pull it out of the pot. It will thicken as it cools, so it's best to only cook it to this point.

Miso Citrus Salad Dressing

Bowl of miso paste
Bowl of miso paste - Evgeniy Lee/Shutterstock

Salad dressing does not need to be complicated to be impressive. In fact, simplicity is often the best policy if you're using a base of leafy greens, as anything more complicated risks overwhelming the delicate veggies.

But simple does not mean boring, and if you put the right ingredients together, you might even get one of the most interesting salad dressings you've ever tasted. That's the case with umami-packed miso paste and tangy citrus fruits. You can combine lemon, lime, or orange juice with red, white, or yellow miso. Mix and match the miso and the citrus to find the perfect pairing for your arugula or other leafy greens. All you need to do to prepare it is to whisk together a bit of miso and citrus juice and pour it on top of your salad.

Classic Red-Eye Gravy

Cups of coffee
Cups of coffee - Manuwe/Getty Images

Gravy is most often made with the juices of a piece of meat we've painstakingly roasted in the oven for hours on end. It's not the quickest thing to make, and certainly not a sauce you'd think to prepare for breakfast on a whim. But that's not counting this red-eye gravy recipe, which only requires your leftover cup of coffee and some brown sugar. It makes a particularly great complement to fried ham.

The process is just as simple as the list of ingredients. If you're working with rendered ham drippings, you'll just need to stir in the coffee to deglaze before waiting a few minutes to add the sugar. Once that dissolves, you'll have the world's quickest gravy at your disposal.

Maple Balsamic Glaze

Bottle of maple syrup
Bottle of maple syrup - Maridav/Shutterstock

Balsamic vinegar, especially the real stuff, has deeply sweet undertones beneath all that acidity -- which is probably why it pairs so well with other sweet ingredients like honey and maple syrup. Enter the maple balsamic glaze, which calls for just balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.

This is an especially good recipe to use if you don't have access to real balsamic vinegar, which tends to be thicker and sweeter than most store-bought varieties. Once you add the maple syrup, you can simmer the balsamic mixture down into a thick glaze. This causes the liquids to evaporate and helps achieve a syrupy texture. The resulting sauce is great for putting on steak to enhance the smokiness or adding to bland salad to give it new life.

Compound Butter

Compound butter on board
Compound butter on board - Chatham172/Shutterstock

Butter is so rich and tasty that it hardly needs to be combined with other ingredients. But, sometimes, you might want to change things up a bit or introduce a new flavor into your dish, and that's where an easy two-ingredient compound butter can come in handy.

It won't be much skin off your back. Just make sure you give the butter enough time to warm up and soften before you get started. The softer the butter, the easier it will be to mix in your chopped herbs, citrus, or garlic, especially if you're making it by hand -- though it is perfectly acceptable to use a food processor instead. Once the ingredients are combined, you'll just need to shape the concoction, wrap it, and refrigerate it until it hardens again. Plop your compound butter on a hot steak fresh off the grill or on corn on the cob.

Fruit Sauce

Desserts covered in fruit and coulis
Desserts covered in fruit and coulis - nelea33/Shutterstock

If you're looking for a tasty, fruity sauce to pour over your ice cream, cheesecake, or chocolate pudding, just gather some berries and plenty of sugar, and your fancy concoction will be practically done. Combine the raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries with the sugar in a pot and cook them until the fruit has broken down into a sweet and tangy sauce. You may also want to add a pinch of salt and some lemon juice to amp up the flavor, while some water might come in handy if the sauce seems too thick.

This process couldn't be easier, and it forms the base of both sauces and coulis. The main difference is that a coulis is then pureed and strained into a smooth glaze, while the sauce has discernable fruit chunks.

Chocolate Hard Shell

Chocolate magic shell ice cream
Chocolate magic shell ice cream - johnlck/Shutterstock

Who doesn't love sprucing up some plain ice cream with a tasty chocolate hard shell? While some people will even scoop the warm chocolate sauce straight out of the container and eat it as is, the best part is to pour it on your dessert, wait for it to cool, and then shatter it with a spoon.

You only need some semisweet chocolate chips (though you can make this sauce with dark or white chips, too) and some coconut oil. Then, heat these ingredients together until melted, and drizzle the sauce on your dessert of choice. Refrigerating it will harden it again, but you can always reheat it to make it easier to pour.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Cheesecake covered in caramel
Cheesecake covered in caramel - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Salted caramel sauce is one of those ingredients you can buy at the store, and it will be delicious. But if you are out of it, you can also make a delicious cheater caramel sauce by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk, label removed, in a large pot of water. Once the caramel has thickened, then you can add the second ingredient: a sprinkle of salt.

Although the cooking process takes a rather long time, it's relatively easy and hands-off. You'll just need to simmer the sealed can of condensed milk in a covered pot for two to three hours until the caramel has formed. For a thicker, more flavorful caramel, simmer it for longer. Feel free to use this sauce just as you'd deploy store-bought caramel, like on top of ice cream or a cheesecake.

White Chocolate Ganache

White chocolate ganache on cake
White chocolate ganache on cake - Daniella Sanches/Shutterstock

A slice of vanilla or chocolate cake is the ideal comfort food for when you're craving something sweet. But what makes those types of desserts even better is a rich and creamy icing to drizzle on top, which is where a white chocolate ganache can really come in handy.

If you've made your cake without planning ahead for the icing, don't worry. You can whip one up with ingredients you might already have in your pantry and fridge. Just grab some heavy whipping cream and a bag of white chocolate chips and heat them together in a pan until everything has melted. Be sure to let the ganache cool and thicken a bit before you pour it on your cake. Otherwise, you risk the sauce pooling at the bottom.

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