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Kum Bak Sauce

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Kum Bak Sauce


Few things resonate with my childhood as much as Kum Bak Sauce. I can remember my mother making it, running the onions through her grater (she called it her ‘moulee’ grater), a device much like that used by waitstaff to grate hard cheese on Italian dishes. Then, on one short family vacation that took us through Jackson, MS, we stopped at a restaurant that had Kum Bak Sauce on the table. We tried it on hushpuppies, and it was good, but like so many foods in memory, it wasn’t the same, even though a specialty made in-house.

Fast forward, and while Kum Bak Sauce (regardless of spelling) is an entrenched Southern dish, I’ve always been somewhat surprised at those who have not heard of it, nor had it, when I do get around to making it and serving it. And so you’ll know, Kum Bak, or Kumback, or Comeback, or however, is available commercially, and I even asked for it once at a local fish and seafood restaurant. The superiority of the homemade over the pasteurized and homogenized concoction available in bottles cannot be overstated.

So, what do you do with it? My mother always kept some in a small pitcher in the fridge, perfect for pouring onto saltine crackers (and if you try it this way, be sure to exercise some portion control and buy saltines in the half-sleeve size, or you’ll end up eating a full sleeve – voice of experience). It makes for a fantastic wedge salad, with just a bit of diced tomato on it, like its bleu cheese cousin. Did I say with hushpuppies? And perhaps it’s shining moment is as a sauce with boiled shrimp. Move over red sauce!

You’ve probably got most of the ingredients on hand; and rather than grating the onion with a cheese grater, this recipe is perfect when prepared in a food processor or blender (even better in a Vitamix). Let’s do it!


1 medium onion, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup salad oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire (“Wooster”) sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp water
4-5 dashes Tobasco sauce


Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
Pulse until the desired consistency is reached, for sure until the onion and garlic are processed and no longer distinguishable.
Refrigerate in a closed container until ready to use.


The sauce is great right after it’s made. It’s spectacular if you give it a day for the flavors to meld. Bring on the saltines!!!

You might try garlic powder if you don’t have fresh. I’d not do the same with onion, as the onion, when processed, does add a quantity of liquid. If you use dried onion, and it looks dry, I’d compensate with a little more salad oil.

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