We fired up the stove and tested 142 sauces that cut meal-prep time in half.

By Ananda Eidelstein and Betty Gold
Updated October 15, 2019
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We’ve all been there: The feeling of pure exhaustion after a long day, when getting a family-friendly dinner on the table feels impossible. Before you call the pizza guy, pause. Allow us to introduce you to the shortcut sauce, a pantry product that can transform even the most basic dishes with little to no effort. Here, we fired up the stove and tested 142 braising, simmering, and starter sauces that will cut your meal-prep time in half. These six reigned supreme.

Williams Sonoma Braising Sauce, Black Truffle Short Rib
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1
Best for Beef: Williams Sonoma Braising Sauce, Black Truffle Short Rib

Subtle truffle adds earthiness to this luscious sauce infused with red wine and caramelized onions. Simply brown seasoned short ribs before pouring the sauce on top. Then braise away for an impressive dish.

To buy: $19 for 1 lb., 9.5 oz.; williams-sonoma.com.

Saffron Road Lemongrass Basil Simmer Sauce
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2
Best Thai Sauce: Saffron Road Lemongrass Basil Simmer Sauce

Smooth and fragrant, this sauce pairs as deliciously with chicken as it does with tofu. Add mixed vegetables and this mild curry will become a dinnertime favorite.

To buy: $3 for 8 7-oz. packets; amazon.com.

Williams Sonoma Taco Starter Sauce
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3
Best Taco Sauce: Williams Sonoma Taco Starter Sauce

Your new secret sauce for taco night. Slightly smoky thanks to fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotle, it’s the perfect mix-in for cooked ground beef. It also works nicely as a taco topping.

To buy: $15 for 16 oz.; williams-sonoma.com.

Masala Mama Tikka Masala
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4
Best Tikka Masala Sauce: Masala Mama Tikka Masala

Skip the takeout and toss seared diced chicken or paneer into this creamy, flavorful garam masala–spiced sauce instead. Serve with warm naan or basmati rice.

To buy: $8 for 10 oz.; amazon.com.

Ortega Red Chile Enchilada Sauce
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5
Best Enchilada Sauce: Ortega Red Chile Enchilada Sauce

Don’t let the name fool you— this red enchilada sauce is sweet and not too spicy. Season your filling and coat your tortillas in this silky, aromatic mixture.

To buy: $2 for 10 oz.; instacart.com.

Stonewall Kitchen Chicken Marsala Simmering Sauce
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6
Best Marsala Sauce: Stonewall Kitchen Chicken Marsala Simmering Sauce

Sweet marsala wine, garlic, and umami-rich mushrooms transform chicken cutlets into a restaurant-caliber meal.

To buy: $20 for 17.75 oz.; amazon.com.