Most patrons couldn’t leave Joanne Panagopoulos’ parents’ former Colombian restaurant in Jackson Heights without a taste of the special jalapeño-based sauce. The original recipe was created by her father and his former business partner and was put on almost every dish served, including the restaurant’s signature entrée of skirt steak and rice. More than two decades later, the Long Island native, mother and optometrist has refined the recipe and is expanding to new markets.
Called “Joanne’s Green Sauce,” the new recipe is now all-natural and low-calorie, made fully from vegetables with no added oils or garlic. “Kids can dip their pretzels into it and get their vegetables for the day,” Panagopoulos said.
Although the sauce is made from jalapeños, it is not spicy or overpowering. It is more refreshing with a zesty kick. “You don’t put mustard on rice or ketchup on a steak,” Panagopoulos said. “I wouldn’t dip a pretzel into ketchup. But, you can put [Joanne’s Green Sauce] on anything. You can even marinate with it.”
Panagopoulos recommended mixing the sauce in potato salad to give it an extra kick. But the possibilities are endless. “Someone once told me they put it in their Bloody Mary. I’ve never done it, but I’d try it!”
After receiving praise from her family and the community, she reached out to local markets and is now selling her sauce on a larger scale. It is currently available at Grace’s Market, Holiday Farms, North Shore Farms, Bryant and Cooper Butcher Shop and other local markets in addition to her online store.
But she doesn’t plan on stopping there. Her ultimate goal is to serve the sauce at Citi Field and other stadiums. She also wants to create new jalapeño blends and expand her reach to pushcarts in New York City.
“I have such a passion with this sauce. I’m the one doing the taste testing and going to the supermarkets. When I go into the stores and they’re down to one or two jars, it’s telling.”