In Filipino cuisine, condiment is king.


Sawsawan is derived from the word sawsaw, which means to dip, and the complex flavors and immense pleasure obtained from eating our regional food comes mostly from the condiments they are paired with. It is actually difficult to imagine most Filipino dishes without their usual pairings. What would Ilocos empanada be without a drizzle of sukang Iloko spiced with sili labuyo and raw onions? Is there anything better than eating deep-fried tilapia with buro and mustasa? Kare-kare, the glorious stew traditionally made of gelatinous oxtail, assorted vegetables, and peanut sauce, is merely a shadow of itself without bagoong alamang. When preparing your favorite Filipino dishes, you should always have these condiments on hand.

Suka (Vinegar)

  • The puckering tang of vinegar makes it the perfect dipping sauce to most grilled or deep-fried meat and seafood. It is also a vital ingredient in preparing kinilaw.
  • There are several kinds but most are made with either sugar cane or palm. It’s difficult to pick favorites, however, the crowd favourites are sukang Iloko, Bacolod’s sinamak, and Iligan’s spicy pikurat.

Patis (Fish sauce)

  • This pungent sauce is made by coating fish in salt and then fermenting it for up to 2 years. It is typically used to compliment stews and soups like sinigang and arroz caldo.
  • Compared to fish sauces from other southeast Asian countries, our patis is known to be heavier and more assertive in flavor. A squeeze of calamansi gives it more balance.

Toyo (Soy sauce)

  • A liquid condiment of Chinese origin, it is made from a fermented paste of soybeans and grains, among others.
  • Mixed with chili garlic oil and calamansi, it is the favorite condiment for siomai. Combine it with vinegar, garlic, and chopped onions to go with crispy pata.

Agre dulce

  • It is the sweet, sticky orange sauce made from mixing and reducing water, cornstarch, sugar, and tomato or banana ketchup.
  • This is the go-to dip for fried items like lumpiang Shanghai, okoy, and camaron rebosado. Make it a sweet chili sauce by adding sili labuyo.

Liver sauce

  • Originally made to accompany lechon, this thick sauce composed of liver, breadcrumbs, vinegar, sugar, and spices has evolved into a condiment for pretty much anything.
  • Aside from being a versatile Filipino food condiment, liver sauce fans have even used it as sandwich spread.

Banana Ketchup

  • Maria Orosa is credited for inventing banana ketchup, created as a more sustainable alternative to traditional ketchup when tomatoes were harder to come by in the early 1900s.
  • Sweet and tangy, it’s iconically-paired with Filipino-style fried chicken but also perfect with almost anything fried and crispy.


  • Made of fermented fish, krill, or shrimp, this pungent and salty condiment is famously paired with green mangoes and kare-kare.
  • Fish bagoong has a more intense and concentrated flavor that is truly an acquired taste but can be tempered by the sharp tang of calamansi; bagoong alamang comes in sweet and spicy variants and can be sautéed in onions, garlic, or tomatoes.


  • “Buro” is the Filipino word for “preserve” or “pickle” and is a fermented rice delicacy of Pampanga. It is typically served with fresh mustasa leaves or boiled eggplants and a fatty fish like tilapia or hito.
  • The different kinds of buro are balobalo (shrimp), tagilo (river fish), or babi (pork); fruits like mango and kamias can also be “binuro” meaning they are preserved, brined, and bottled.

Taba ng talangka or aligue (crab fat)

  • This is made by painstakingly collecting crab fat from tiny river crabs, salting, and then fermenting.
  • Aligue is traditionally served alongside grilled or fried fish. Its inherent richness and umami has made it a popular ingredient for flavoring fried rice and luxurious pasta dishes, among others.


  • Typically made by pickling grated unripe papaya, this condiment is served with fried and grilled dishes, as well as silogs.
  • Other variants include atcharang ubod (pickled palm hearts), atcharang sayote (pickled chayote), atcharang labong (pickled bamboo shoots).