What you need to know about purchasing peppers for hot sauce

I have recently followed through on an interest of making my own hot sauce. I have some kitchen experience, own some decent kitchen equipment and love trying new and exotic hot sauces. I almost always read the ingredient labels of products that I am consuming and upon reading the labels of some of my most favorite sauces a question came up. Where can I buy peppers to make my own hot sauce?

Hot peppers can be purchased in the produce section of almost any grocery store. Bell peppers are the most common and if you are purchasing hot peppers for sauce Jalapeno, Serrano and Habanero are the more common ones. Fresh hot peppers can be purchased and farm markets when they are in season and you can also purchase fresh hot peppers online, all year round.

Where are hot peppers grown?

Hot peppers are grown in large quantities throughout hotter climates such Mexico, Asia and are also produced domestically as well in the southern region of the US. More than half of the peppers in the US are grown in New Mexico due to optimal growing conditions for pepper plants.

Obviously that does not mean you need to travel to New Mexico to purchase them or other states that produce them such as California, Florida and Arizona, because they are shipped to many local and national retailers. Many hot peppers varieties are available for sale at any grocery store that sells fresh produce but you will be limited with the selection and availability.

How fresh are peppers at the grocery store?

Usually these stores have a system in place to continually offer only the freshest available produce to consumers. However, they will most certainly have a form of pesticide control sprayed on them so if you are concerned with that than the same store may also offer organic produce. Hot peppers can be, and should be, washed of any pesticides before they are blended into a hot sauce. Ask the produce clerk or store manager where they are purchasing their products from.

Stores will usually have a team of buyers who have made connections with grower either locally or in areas where growth of hot peppers are abundant. The reason for this is to ensure the store is able to provide a high quality, fresh product to their consumer without seeing much of a fluctuation in pricing. It also allows farms to sell their products but not so for rare or exotic peppers.

Are exotic hot peppers available at the grocery store?

I have found it difficult to find some of the exotic hot peppers such as Ghost or Carolina Reaper available at the closest and most convenient store. Some more common peppers such as Jalapeno and Serrano can be found at smaller stores, but I have to regularly travel to a local store chain near me called Wegmans and they still do not have a large selection of hot peppers available.

While it makes sense that a larger grocery store chain will have a larger selection to offer it may not be the most cost-efficient method of buying hot peppers. If this is your preferred method of purchasing check out all the stores in your area or the local public market for the best pricing.

I HATE shopping! Hate it! I will usually have a game plan and make a quick selection based on my need to get in and out of the store. If you are like me, you may not find what you need very quickly. So, buying peppers at the local grocery store could be time consuming and inconvenient. After you have found a store that offers the largest selection at the lowest pricing, be sure to inspect the peppers for quality. This cannot always be done with online purchases.

Hot peppers can be purchased online

As you would suspect you can buy fresh hot peppers online from many different web sites. Etsy and Amazon are a good place to start here if you want to shop around. They are both reliable sources and have a large selection of products. Amazon offers fresh and dried hot peppers from producers such as Tropical Importers. Both Etsy and Amazon are well known for their trustworthy online service and the peppers will be shipped relatively quickly.  

Dried peppers are very easy to find online as they have a longer shelf life and can be offered throughout all the seasons. Fresh peppers are seasonal and may only be offered at limited times in limited areas where the climate has acceptable growing conditions.

Lets face it, farmers are good at farming but maybe setting up a website is not their forte. Several of the sites that I researched looked outdated and were difficult to navigate through. I have put together a table below listed in no particular order and have contacted each site directly, old school style. I would suggest calling each one directly and establish a relationship with the one you prefer.

Are buying peppers online going to be fresh?

Buying your hot peppers online will be as fresh as buying them from the grocery store or local market. The web sites listed in the table have already taken care of shipping and can have peppers delivered right to your door. Produces of these products only want to deliver the freshest and best tasting products.

Where do I buy other ingredients online?

Most of the sites listed in the table will offer only fresh produce online so you may have to go to other sites to find products like vinegar and spices for making hot sauce. There are plenty of sites where you can purchase spices at bulk pricing and Alibaba is only one example. You will have to take into consideration the large quantity that most sellers require through Alibaba.

I have put together a table of websites where you can purchase fresh or dried hot peppers online and get them delivered to your house. These are sites by established farmers to share a variety of hot peppers across the US.

CompanyWeb SiteContact
Bohica Pepper Hutbohicapepperhut.comjason@bohicapepperhut.com
Chili Plants.comchiliplants.cominfo@chiliplants.com
Bakers Peppers bakerpeppers.comContacts page
Esty etsy.comContacts available on vendor pages.
Marx Foodsmarxfoods.comhello@marxfoods.com
Good Eggs goodeggs.comContacts page
Produce Market Guideproducemarketguide.comagrant@farmjournal.com
The Chili Guythechiliguy.comContacts page
Seriously Hot Peppersseriuoslyhotpeppers.comserioushotpepper@aol.com
Pepper Joe’spepperjoe.comcustomerservice@pepperjoe.com
Ghost Pepper Farmsghostpepperfarms.comghostpepperfarms@yahoo.com
Ghost Pepper Storeghostpepperstore.comContacts page
Fresh Chili Cofreshchilico.comservice@freshchileco.com
AmazonFresh Red FresnoN/A

3 Ways to cut costs on your pepper purchase

1] Purchase hot peppers in bulk to save money

Buying in bulk or large quantities can reduce the cost for almost anything. Keep in mind where you plan to store them and if you are buying fresh or dried. You may have to limit your order depending on the amount of sauce you plan to make at once.

Dried hot peppers will last longer in stored conditions and there are many hot sauce recipes where they can be used. Dried will typically cost more per ounce than fresh peppers because they will need to go through some type of processing.

2] Buy hot peppers from local farms to cut shipping costs

Talk to local farmers in your area and strike a deal. Not only will this cut your costs but it will give you a unique product specific to your sauce grown only in your area. Many local farms and CSA’s probably don’t ship so you may have to pick up.

Buying from local farmers can cut costs significantly on shipping and any packaging required for it. Traveling short distances to purchase and pick up product will offer cost savings. This will also guarantee the freshest product for your hot sauce.

3] Grow your own hot peppers to eliminate any purchasing costs

Growing your own hot peppers to make hot sauce will offer the most cost savings. If you have a perfected recipe and want to really cut cost, growing your own is a great option. I wrote and entire blog on the pros and cons of growing verses buying hot peppers.

Once the initial purchase of plants or seeds has been made other crops can be grown from the seeds of the peppers. There may be additional upfront costs for watering, maintain soil conditions and controlling pests. Once these cost have been established the peppers are virtually free.

Do some of the research to set up the best option of purchasing hot peppers for your hot sauce that works for you. While quality of the product is extremely important, continually trying to cut costs on manufacturing with increase your profit margin.  

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