DIY or Buy: Making Your Own Common Sauces for the Family

Should we DIY or buy common sauces off the shelf?

The sauce can either make or break a dish — which is why some of our kids may not like certain foods. Filipino recipes aren’t too fond of herb-rich sauces whereas Italian recipes are. And for many moms who are desperately balancing health and flavor, some of us are frustrated with how much we’re spending to maintain that balance. To better figure out which sauces to make at home or buy off the shelf, here’s a quick guide on whether or not to make these common sauces ourselves.

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is essential in Filipino and Italian recipes. They go on Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza, Kaldereta, Menudo, Afritada, Escabeche, and a variety of other classic kid favorites. But sometimes, the greatest frustration for any mom who tries to find good tomato sauce is how much sugar there is in commercial ones. Many of us are trying to avoid processed sugar since we have a family history of diabetes. So, it’s better for some of us to just make it ourselves. Besides, the farms in the province are having an oversupply. Better to buy from them and help them support their families.

However, if we’re short on time, then it’s okay to grab it off the shelf. Especially if the family prefers cream sauce over tomato, store-bought is okay, too.

Verdict: DIY. But if short on time and not many of the family members are fond of tomato sauce, just buy.


Pesto is made of four components: nuts, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. For the many plantitas and plantitos who grew a variety of herbs during the pandemic, Pesto Sauce is the perfect fruit after all that hard work of keeping it alive. Olive oil and nuts may be the only thing that needs to be store-bought but herbs can easily be grown on the window sill of our kitchens. For those who believe their malunggay tree needs trimming, the leaves also go well with the pesto sauce.

But for those who don’t have the time and hate cleaning up, buying it is okay as well.

Verdict: DIY. But for those with no time and who hate cleaning up, buy it instead.

Cream Sauce

Alfredo and Pinoy-style Carbonara uses a lot of cream and milk but is it really worth the trouble of making? Some like making their own cream sauce by upgrading it into the bechamel sauce. That’s butter, flour, and some milk. However, making bechamel means adding some extra steps and pans to wash unless the butter replacement is in the form of animal fat. The common commercial cream sauce isn’t usually available on the supermarket shelf either so DIY might be the only way to go.

Verdict: DIY

Thousand Island Dressing

The most common salad dressing or sauce can easily be made with some ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and some mayonnaise. It’s a pretty simple mix that won’t force you to run to the supermarket especially when there’s enough ketchup and mayonnaise from all the take-out.

Verdict: DIY


Remember the yellowish-white sauce that goes well with Paella? It’s easy to make when the ingredients are just at home. Plus, only specialty stores sell Aioli off the shelf. Mix some mayonnaise, salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and fresh lemon or calamansi together, and voila, homemade Aioli sauce! Some of us might even prefer it over the usual tartar sauce that often goes with Fish and Chips.

Verdict: DIY

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce undergoes a long fermentation process which we certainly don’t have the time to do. Some moms also just collect soy sauce from all the take-out, filling the empty plastic bottles and mason jars we managed to collect.

Verdict: Buy


Our kids’ favorite and the most common Japanese sauce, Teriyaki sauce isn’t difficult in terms of finding the ingredients. But striking that right balance can be quite time-consuming. Some people use ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mirin, and sake to make the Teriyaki sauce. But, buying the ingredients makes it more expensive to make a small amount. You’re better off just buying a bottle of teriyaki sauce and adjusting from there.

Verdict: Buy


While it’s possible to make mayonnaise at home, it’s not the favorite of a lot of people. Mayonnaise contains eggs, salt, pepper, lemon juice, oil, and mustard. However, the freshness of the eggs can make or break our homemade mayonnaise. While we’re sure it’ll taste better, it’ll take some time to separate the egg whites and yolks, which is tedious. For us, just buy it instead.

Verdict: Buy


A famous Chinese sauce that goes well with Hainanese Chicken (or boiled chicken), it’s a pretty easy sauce to make. Grate some ginger and mince some leek, spring onion, and garlic until tiny before pouring in some sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Some restaurants add a lot of salt. At least for this one, you can control the amount of sodium. It goes well with rice, too!

Photo Source: via Okonomi Kitchen

Verdict: DIY

Chili Garlic

Chili garlic is everyone’s favorite sauce that goes with either Beef Pares or Siomai. There are only three ingredients here: chili, garlic, and oil. With the overabundance of garlic from the farmers and chili grown in the backyard, it’s perfect to make our Chili Garlic sauce. Add sesame oil for the Chinese version but stick plain soya oil for the Filipino version.

Others even fry star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns to create a local version of Szechuan chili oil.

Verdict: DIY

Some sauces are better off being homemade!

For many moms who are health-conscious, some of us feel less anxious when we make the sauces ourselves. Although it means extra washing, pots, and pans, it’s a sense of relief knowing that we know exactly what went into those sauces. Especially when our kids have a tendency to drink the sauce or make all their food swim in the sauce! Plus, some of us might discover that we can save a few more pesos by doing so.

More about food? Here are some stories!

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