Healthy Sauces, Dressings and Toppings

A personal arsenal of go-to Primal meals that can be cooked with little thought, time, or effort is an easy way to keep healthy eating on track. Dinner can be as basic as seasoning a steak with salt and pepper and sautéing veggies in butter. The next day that same leftover steak can show up in a bowl of greens with a little olive oil and lemon and voila! It’s a salad.

But here’s the catch – basic is a slippery slope that leads straight to boredom. Luckily, the solution is simple: Give your basic go-to meals a Primal makeover.

As you’ve been hearing lately, my newest cookbook, Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings, is a guide to transforming even the simplest meal into something sensational. Your go-to meals will never be boring again with the help of over 120 recipes that make it easy to add extra flavor and nutrients with a sauce, dressing, seasoning, or topping.

But don’t wait for the book to arrive at your door – start transforming those meals now. The following recipes – Spicy Red Pepper Coconut Sauce, Pesto Vinaigrette and Oregano Mint Marinade – are bonus recipes not included in the cookbook. They prove that with a little guidance and inspiration you can make whatever you’re cooking tonight both taste better and be better for you.

Spicy Red Pepper Coconut Sauce

Spicy Red Pepper Coconut Sauce adds nutrients by blending healthy fat (coconut milk and butter) with a brightly colored, antioxidant-rich vegetable (red bell pepper). The bold flavor is an added bonus and will spice up any type of meat or seafood.

This sauce is so good you shouldn’t hesitate to pour it over an expensive grass-fed, organic steak. If that’s not in your budget, then go ahead and buy a less than ideal cut, trim the fat to get rid of unwanted omega-6s, and then add healthy fat back in with this sauce.

Servings: One cup

Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (or half a jalapeno, for a less spicy sauce)
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted (15 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 ml)
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (60 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (10 ml)


Blend the garlic, jalapeno, scallions, butter, salt, and red pepper in a blender until well combined. Pour in the coconut milk and lemon juice and blend until smooth.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pesto Vinaigrette

There’s nothing wrong with basic vinaigrettes made from balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or olive oil and lemon. But let’s be honest. When was the last time a simple dressing like that really rocked your world?

And let’s back up a minute…there could actually be something wrong with that vinaigrette if the olive oil has been diluted or replaced entirely with soybean or canola oil. It’s almost impossible to find bottled salad dressings that aren’t made with unhealthy oils and other unwanted ingredients.

A Big Ass Salad is one of the healthiest meals around but if you pour a store-bought dressing on top of your greens, the health benefits might go right out the window. Keep your salads flavorful, interesting, and healthy by using a homemade dressing.

Fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and a drizzle of nut oil mimic the flavors of pesto in this innovative vinaigrette that will add healthy fat and memorable flavor to any salad.

Servings: One cup

Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes


  • 2 cups loosely packed, roughly chopped fresh basil leaves (500 ml)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (45 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons macadamia or walnut oil (30 ml)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (175 ml)
  • Optional add-in: 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (75 ml)


Combine basil, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and nut oil in a food processor until finely chopped.

Scrape down the sides, then with the blade running slowly drizzle in the olive oil. After all the oil is added, process for another twenty seconds to finish.

Oregano Mint Marinade

What you’ll notice first when you whip up this marinade is how great it smells. Fresh oregano and mint, raw garlic, and drizzle of coconut oil will fill your kitchen with eye-opening aromatics.

There’s also lot going on behind the scenes in this marinade that your body will thank you for later. Marinades made with fresh herbs like oregano and mint (also rosemary, thyme, and parsley) can lower heterocyclic amines (HCAs) – known carcinogens – by up to 87%. Using coconut oil, which doesn’t easily oxidize, adds an extra layer of defense against high-heat cooking.

Steak, chicken, pork, lamb…it doesn’t matter what you’re cooking. Rub it down with this marinade first and let it rest at room temperature for just 30 minutes. The vibrant flavor of the oregano and mint will come through loud and clear.

Servings: Enough marinade for one pound of meat

Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes to marinate


  • Juice of two limes
  • 3 tablespoons liquid (melted) coconut oil (45 ml)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped (120 ml)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped (60 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 ml)


Mix all ingredients together (or instead of chopping by hand, blend the ingredients into a paste in the blender). Pour or rub the marinade into the meat. Let the meat marinate at room temperature for thirty minutes before cooking.

Grilled your meat to perfection and enjoy.

Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings is Now Available!

Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings is now available!

This new cookbook is all about turning ho-hum meals into Primal masterpieces with delicious and nutritious sauces, dressings, marinades, condiments, and other toppings. It includes over 120 easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by traditional and contemporary cuisine from around the world. From the staples (ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, mayonnaise) to the innovative (Blueberry Chutney, Coconut Cilantro Pesto, Avocado Lime Dressing), every recipe will enhance the nutritional value of your meal, using only Primal-approved ingredients. That means no gluten, grains, legumes, added sugar, or unhealthy oils. The recipes we developed for this cookbook have already changed the way I prepare my Primal meals. I can’t wait for it to do the same for you.

If you’re a long-time Mark’s Daily Apple reader, you know that I always do something special for devoted readers when I release a new book. To mark this occasion I’ve put together a very special bonus offer with a total value of over 1 million dollars to people that buy one or more copies (it will make the perfect holiday gift!) of the book by December 12. You can read all the details here.

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24 thoughts on “Healthy Sauces, Dressings and Toppings”

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    1. I tried to do the coconut pepper sauce without a blender. It didn’t work, I guess it was stupid of me to try. I need to get a blender.

      1. I actually bought one of the cheap ninja blenders last night ($20) and it works great! I made me a cole slaw salad of sorts and it chopped up broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, and kale with ease. Would highly recommend starting there.

  1. These recipes sound wonderful. What can I use if I don’t have the fresh herbs?

    1. Dara-you won’t get the same effects with dried herbs, but if you want to try, the usual ratio is 4 or 5 to 1 fresh to dried. I would start with 2 tbsp oregano and 1tbsp mint. Check your dried herbs-they only last a couple or three months well. If they don’t smell amazing, they won’t taste much like anything. I would also heat up the coconut oil and add the dried spices and stir them around for 15-30 seconds to let them bloom. Do this over fairly low heat so you don’t burn them, take them off heat as soon as you smell them strongly and proceed with the recipe. I strongly encourage you to try scoring some fresh herbs later on and remaking the recipe so you know how it should really taste. Dried is better than none, but it doesn’t compare to fresh! Good luck.

    2. Dried herbs in marinades is fine as indicated by BJML.
      Like thawed homemade soups or chilli, flavours intensify if you marinade, freeze, then thaw the meat before cooking.

  2. The coconut sauce looks amazing! A tip for anyone looking for a paleo gravy recipe with no thickeners: chop up some carrots, onions, garlic, and celery, carmelize them in your oven at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit with bacon grease (or fat of your choice), then purée them. Add in your pan drippings from your roast or whatever, maybe some salt, spices and dry red wine, and reduce it in a pan until it’s thick enough.

  3. This is so timely! I’ve been struggling to come up with a better variety of salad dressings. Thank you!!!

  4. I’ve always wanted to try making pesto without cheese, so it’s good to see how. Can’t wait to try!

    Looks like a great bunch of recipes!!!

  5. I just ordered the book (plus Quick & Easy Meals) from Amazon and noticed that they have started adding tax for Texas residents. That’s new! The total was still less than Barns & Noble.

    So, did Amazon open a facility in Texas? Is that why they recently started adding sales tax? Anyone know?

  6. I’ve tried all three of these recipes and let me tell you, they are GOOD! I mean seriously good. Spend the money, buy some fresh herbs and go for it. You won’t be sorry.

    A mini-chopper/food processor is worth its weight in gold, doesn’t cost much, and takes up very little room in your kitchen. Get one.

  7. I made the coconut cilantro pesto this week to go with fish and the marinara sauce last night to go with grass-fed meatballs for new year’s eve…both were fantastic!! Making lemon-ginger vinaigrette today for a chopped kale salad. Thank you for a fabulous book!

  8. I wonder how rice cooked in tea would taste. I think it would be good cooked in chai, also sweet potato and carrot broth.

  9. Hi Mark,

    In the new sauces book, you advocate cold pressed sunflower oil, yet in the definitive guide to oils, you say to avoid it completely:

    “Sunflower Seed Insanely high in PUFAs with little to no Omega-3s to balance them out, sunflower seed oil is a pretty bad choice for sauteeing, baking, roasting, and even salad making. Trouble is it’s everywhere, and it has a reputation for being healthy. Just don’t keep the stuff in your house (not a problem; it’s flavorless, odorless, and completely boring), and keep dining out in cheap chain restaurants to a minimum (or you could do what I do and request everything be cooked in butter), and you should be able to avoid sunflower seed oil.

    19% MUFA 63% PUFA 10% SFA”

    So…what’s up? Safe to use, not safe to use?

  10. Hi Mark, these sound great; tasty, healthy and simple! I’m curious if they could be refrigerated or frozen and saved? I am looking for a way to make cooking healthy as efficient as possible!

  11. Hi,

    I’m just wondering how long these sauces would keep in the fridge?

  12. Hi pwople,. Just started the primal diet yesterday. The problem is I’m African so i’m not really sure which of our indigenous mealsmake the cut for primal food.