As with sports teams, pizza toppings, and soda brands, most people have a go-to oyster variety that they will defend until the end. While some oyster enthusiasts tend towards East Coast varieties like Wellfleet and Bluepoint, others swear by the West Coast’s Humboldt Golds and Kumamotos. Along the same lines, with a preferred oyster come preferred toppings. Maybe you enjoy them as-is, or you like to add a little spice before slurping them down.
As wonderful as fresh, unadorned oysters are, you should know about the world of oyster condiments. Consider this your deep (sea) dive into seven different condiments that pair well with oysters—there’s something for every taste and mood. From fiery hot sauce to herby pesto, these toppings will keep your oyster game fresh all year long.
For oyster purists, this is as close as you can get to eating oysters au-natural, while still adding a bit of extra flavor. Lemon juice complements the oyster’s natural brininess without overpowering its flavor. To serve, simple squeeze lemon juice over your freshly shucked oysters and enjoy!
For those who prefer a bit of a bite, adding a pinch of freshly grated horseradish to your oyster before throwing it back packs the perfect, sinus-clearing punch. To keep horseradish fresh, make sure to add a tablespoon of lemon and a bit of water when serving.
4 oz fresh horseradish root
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Grate scrubbed and peeled horseradish root on a medium sized box grater. Place the grated horseradish in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and enough water just to cover.
Hearty: Cocktail Sauce
Cocktail sauce is the darling of seafood happy hour. It pairs well with shrimp, clams on the half shell, and, of course, freshly shucked oysters. (And mozzarella sticks, too, but we digress.) Store bought varieties work here, but cocktail sauce tastes so much better when you make your own.
1 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix until well combined. To serve, spoon the mixture over oysters, and eat. Store remaining sauce in fridge.
Fiery: Hot Sauce
If horseradish is child’s play to you, add a dollop of your favorite hot sauce. Beware of adding too much, though. You don’t want to overpower the delicious, natural oyster flavor.
This staple sauce may sound fancy, but it’s actually quite easy to make, coming together in a few minutes with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. A mignonette sauce is the perfect condiment to serve to first-time oyster eaters who aren’t yet used to the briny, sometimes creamy oyster.
½ cup red or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir until well combined. To serve, spoon the mixture over oysters, and slurp.
Exotic: Ponzu Sauce
Anyone who’s ever had sushi (if you haven’t, please tell us who you are) knows that fish and soy sauce go hand in hand. Ponzu sauce as an oyster condiment is a great choice—the salty acidity of the soy sauce and rice vinegar highlight the natural saltiness of the oyster. You can find ponzu sauce in the international aisles of most grocery stores.
While you likely won’t find pesto among the condiments served at your next oyster happy hour, you can definitely try this one at home. Pesto is a lovely, earthy complement to the oyster’s oceanic taste, melding flavors of land and sea in one gulp.
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