I love Sriracha! If you have ever read the label for the list of ingredients in Sriracha, sugar is second only after chilies. I recently made a jalapeno sauce with granulated sugar and it blended well with the other ingredients giving it a unique flavor combination of heat and sweet.
If you have decided to use sugar in your hot sauce recipe understand what it will do to your sauce and also understand that it comes in many different forms. Most sugars are readily available in your local stores and markets so it shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain.
Adding sugar to hot sauce makes it sweeter, adds some calories and can thicken the overall texture of the sauce. There are over 50 different types of sugars that can dilute the heat and drastically change the flavor of hot sauce. Some sugars are expensive and can increase the cost of your sauce.
We love sugar! And many people are under the assumption that adding sugar to foods will instantly make them taste better. While this may be true for many desserts, other foods can have different reactions that you may not want to pursue with a hot sauce. Here they are!
1. Sugar makes a hot sauce sweeter
This may seem obvious, but the sweetness of sugar will present itself through the hot sauce and often be at the forefront of the flavor palette, with the heat hitting later. With the hot sauce that I make, I taste the sugar immediately and the heat hits second, almost two divided flavors. However, the sugar combines well with the other flavors and it has a great finish.
Sugar gives a distinct flavor to a hot sauce and compliments it well against the heat. Some sugars will add more “sweetness” than others so be careful with what you are adding and start with small amounts. The same amount of agave nectar will taste much sweeter than granulated sugar. Read more below.
2. There is a varying level of sweetness between different types of sugars
Sugars are compared to sucrose and diluted in a series of solutions to be tasted for their level of sweetness on the final results, much like hot peppers on the Scoville scale. Although this scale is not necessarily measuring the sweetness of a substances, it is comparing it to others on the list and the ranking of sweetness is all relative against each different type of sugar.
Other substances can rank on the scale of sweetness and are not considered sugar but may have sugar substances in them. Chocolate contains sugar but is not as sweet and contains other flavors like cocoa that offer a uniqueness to a hot sauce. I will be honest…I don’t really like a hot sauce and chocolate combination.
Does cooking sugar make it sweeter?
Certain processes can make cooking sugar sweeter. Caramel is cooked granulated sugar and is sweeter than uncooked granulated sugar due to the process by which it is made. Adding sugar to your sauce and cooking it until it is reduced could make it a sweeter, richer flavor.
3. Your sauce will have more calories by adding sugar
Unfortunately adding sugar to a hot sauce will also add calories to your sauce. I have written articles boasting about hot sauce being the “ultimate condiment” for health-conscious people…until you add sugar. Most sauces that combine hot peppers, vinegar and a few spices will have little or no calories.
Like the level of sweetness, the amount of calories per teaspoon will also fluctuate depending on the type of sugar that is added. One (1) teaspoon of granulated sugar has 16 calories. According to verywellfit.com agave nectar or syrup is ranked as the sweetest form of sugar and is often ranked high on many charts. Agave nectar has a whopping 21 calories per teaspoon but mixes well with the fruity flavors of habanero peppers.
Some sugar substitutes such as stevia have zero calories but it has a strong, distinct after taste. This may present itself in a hot sauce because it has such a different flavor profile. Stevia is derived from plants in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas but the Stevia Rebaudiana plant originated in Paraguay where it has sweetened foods for hundreds of years. (livescience.com)
Stevia is much sweeter than sugar therefore you may only need small amounts to add the sweetness you want to your sauce. Some believe there to be some health concerns with the stevia plant such as causing low blood pressure but it has passed through FDA regulations.
Sugar and your health
Aside from being sodium free, gluten free, cholesterol free and fat free sugar does not have much nutrients to offer. However, too much added sugar in your diet can increase your consumption of calories and that can lead yo other negative health factors. Fortunately, a hot sauce will usually have minimal amounts unless your sauce is thickened with large quantities.
Natural sugar is OK
Sugars that are naturally occurring in foods like fruits are better for you than added sugars like granulated sugar that you would add to your hot sauce. Also, sugars that are minimally processed like molasses and honey have more nutrients in them (just a few) than processed sugars. (healthline.com)
4. Sugar makes a hot sauce thicker
Although sugar is not considered a thickening agent, it will thicken up a sauce even in small amounts. Sugar dissolves in water and liquids to become a “thicker than water” consistency by itself. Granulated, brown or powdered will all consolidate your sauce simply due to sugars mixing with other liquids and creating that thicker consistency. The amount of sugar, and other ingredients, verses liquid will determine the thickness of your sauce.
Unlike many spices granulated and powdered sugar will dissolve in your sauce to a transparent consistency and will not change the color of your sauce too much. However, a molasses, brown sugar or dark corn syrup will alter the appearance to give a rich brownish color especially with red peppers.
5. Too much sugar can dilute the heat
Adding substances to your sauce that are not hot peppers, spices with a certain amount of heat level or anything to enhance the hot peppers will reduce the heat of the sauce. Adding sugar decreases the amount of hot peppers in the sauce, therefore decreasing the level of heat.
Sugar will cut the heat of hot peppers and can be applied directly to the mouth if something is too hot. Although if you are using ghost, Carolina reapers or scorpion than it would take a great deal of sugar to reduce the amount of heat these peppers give off.
6. Sugar changes the flavor of hot sauce
This may seem like another obvious answer to what sugar does to a hot sauce but sugar in any form can drastically change the flavor of a hot sauce. Different sugar types will have different flavors to them and each of them will mix differently with your ingredients.
Also keep in mind the other ingredients you intend to use in your sauce and question whether they would combine well with sugar. This could all be relative to your own taste buds but if you plan on marketing your sauce to a mass audience than it is THEIR taste buds that matter.
7. Adding sugar can increases the cost of making sauce
Granulated sugar can be 5 to 6 times more expensive than other main ingredients such as vinegar and can cost as much as the hot peppers themselves. Adding sugar will off set the amount of the other ingredients but it is another item on your inventory list.
Certain types of sugar will be more expensive than others especially if there is a refining process involved. Pound for pound brown sugar will be more expensive than granulated sugar due to additional processes involved in manufacturing.
Types of sugars or sweeteners commonly used in hot sauces
Some well known sauces contain sugars and have an otherwise simplistic ingredient combination where others use a complex process and are considered gourmet sauces. Depending on the ingredients, these sauces can deviate from the traditional hot peppers and vinegar combination.
According Vitrahealth.com there are 56 different names for sugar. While not every type of these sugars may be used in a hot sauce there many brands that contain several different varieties. Here are some of the more popular, top selling brands of hot sauce that contain sugar.
Huy Fong Sriracha
Bravado Spice Co. Serrano and Basil
From the Bravado Spice Co. Never thought I would see these flavors in a hot sauce. Serrano’s are some of my favorite hot peppers and have a heat level even I can tolerate.
Another product available from Amazon through this link!
Disco Sauce Original Hot Sauce
Another gluten free hot sauce! This one from Disco Sauce brings together the sweet flavors of orange juice, pineapple and brown sugar with the intense heat of habanero and jalapenos.
Get it here from…you know where…Amazon.
There are no nutritional benefits between the different sugar types. Cane sugar is less refined than granulated or powdered sugar but still packs the sweetness. There can be differences in flavor between different sugar types however subtle they may be.
Vegan certified in a BPA free squeeze bottle. A simple blend of ingredients with a nice kick without burning your tongue. Maybe its the added cane sugar?
Get it through this link to Amazon.
Secret Ardvark Habanero Hot Sauce
This vegan and gluten free hot sauce includes organic cane sugar as well as fire roasted tomatoes and mustard. Lots of varieties from Secrte Ardvark are available.
Get this one here!
Raw sugar is the result of molasses being removed from the process. This gives the sugar a more caramelized flavor. The subtle flavor of raw sugar may or may not push through your sauce depending on the other ingredients but it will make a difference in the overall flavor.
Smokin Racha by Puckerbutt Co.
Mmmm…Good! Full of flavor without the extreme heat. Another sauce combining simple ingredients bursting with flavor.
Amazon has it here!
Sweet Lava Organic Hot Sauce by Effin Sauces
Sweet Lava Organic Hot Sauce by Effin Sauces. Made with all organic ingredients it’s the habanero peppers that give it the kick. This sauce makes a great bloody mary.
Available here from Effin Sauces.
Carnival by Karma
Truff hot sauce
Any sauce from Truff is considered a gourmet sauce. This rich flavored sauce uses black truffles and agave nectar to give supreme gourmet flavor. Vegan and gluten free…it can’t get any better!
Get it here!
Tabanero Spicy Agave
No vinegar and low in sodium. Agave nectar combines nicely with the sweet agave nectar. Free shipping from Tabanero. Get the sauce here.
Honey is considered a natural sweetener like maple syrup and molasses mentioned below but does contain fructose. Most of us know that honey is made by the sugary secretions of plants from honey bees.
Red Clay Hot Honey
This is considered a variety of honey and not necessarily a hot sauce. Red Clay blends the honey and hot peppers brilliantly. Mmmm…barrel aged.
Amazon has it through this link!
Mikes Hot Honey
Honey with a kick! Another superb balance of sweet and heat. This time in the form of honey. Use it like honey but expect that kick!
Get it here.
Horseshoe Brand Maple Cayenne
Horseshoe Brand is closer to a maple syrup than a hot sauce. If you use a rich flavored syrup than you will want that flavor to come out and not be hidden behind super spicy peppers.
Purchase a bottle here from Amazon.
Maple sugar is made from maple syrup by cooking the syrup further or drying it out to a crystal form. To me maple sugar is one of the sweetest substances on the planet.
Vermont Maple Sriracha
This hot sauce uses pure Vermont maple syrup which has a distinct flavor only found in that region. The habanero cut through the sweetness of the maple sugar to give a kick you don’t expect. This bottle looks like a syrup you would get from Vermont.
But a bottle here from Amazon.
Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce
The first “World Hottest Hot Sauce” combines pepper extract for the heat and molasses for its richness. The Ashley Food Company has been making sauce for over 29 years. Check out Mad Dog 357.
Or get Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce here from Amazon.
Endorphin Rush Beyond Hot Sauce
This tomato paste based sauce has the richness combined with extreme heat. This is the kind of sauce that gets you addicted. The rich sweetness from the molasses contributes to that.
Get it here.
According to Healthline.com monk fruit sweeteners are 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar. This extract from the monk fruit is still undergoing studies to research its calorie content and other health benefits. Look for it to be included in hot sauces soon!
Foods that contain sugar
Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars but they may not sweeten the sauce to the level you are looking for. Fruits such as pineapple and mango are sweeter than many other types of fruit and blend well with habanero peppers.
Peaches, passion fruit and pomegranates also rank high on the for fruits that are high in sugar content. Many fruits will also provide health benefits that sugar does not but they also do not contain a high level of sweetness like many varities of sugars do.