How to make fermented hot sauce from frozen peppers

Towards the end of every growing season, I have an overabundance of hot peppers from our back-yard home farm that I am usually struggling to find a use for. I usually make as much hot sauce as I can and either dry them or freeze them for later use. Winter is a great time to make a fresh batch of fermented hot sauce from frozen hot peppers.

Frozen hot peppers can be fermented and made into a hot sauce once they have thawed out. Place the peppers on a plate, strainer or someplace where they can drip dry as they thaw. The peppers only need to be kept at room temperature and do not need any forced heat to make them thaw properly. Once most of the water that the freezing process has produced evaporates, ferment them as you would fresh peppers, with or without other ingredients.

The peppers should only take a couple hours to fully thaw out especially if they are the small size of most hot peppers. However, soaking them in warm or luke warm water (room temperature) for over 30 minutes will safely thaw them as well. I do it with frozen meat all the time. Don’t attempt to thaw them out by cooking them because it will reduce the heat and change the flavor of the pepper.

Frozen peppers that have thawed will not regain their original state

Once the peppers have thawed out, they will have wrinkled skin and will be slightly mushy. They will not regain their original state of being firm and crisp. However, the level of heat and flavor will not be affected much unless they have been frozen for years. Their contribution they provide in a hot sauce, meal or other use will provide similar results.

Hot peppers can be fermented whole or cut up and will have similar results, so it doesn’t matter how you chose to freeze them. I chop them into a mash before freezing them. Chopping them into a mash allows the bacteria from the fermentation process to begin working slightly faster but either way you choose, chopped or whole, the fermenting process only takes about 7 days.

The peppers will appear to be slightly wilted and mushy if they were frozen whole or may even be a little soggy. This is OK and they will taste just fine. Most fruits and vegetables will have wrinkled skins upon thawing, but this does not mean they are inedible or unusable in a hot sauce. The process freezes the water in the pepper causing it to expand and rupture the cell walls. Like many fruits and vegetables hot peppers contain a lot of water, some varieties have more than 90% water.

Click HERE to learn how to make 100’s of gourmet hot sauce recipes!

How long do frozen hot peppers last?

If you have an over abundance of hot peppers, there are many ways to preserve them before you make hot sauce. Freezing peppers are a quick and easy method of preserving them for later use, whether you are fermenting and making them into a hot sauce or not. Hot peppers can be good for 6 to 8 months in the freezer before they are subject to freezer burn.

Once thawed out the peppers should be used immediately for sauce if they were frozen fresh. If they were cooked or blanched before freezing than they can last an additional 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. The longer they sit around the soggier and mushier they will get.

Making hot sauce from frozen hot peppers is a great use of the pepper because they will never be as crisp and firm as their original state. Blending them will obviously hide the slightly wrinkled appearance they will have after thawing. However, if they have been exposed to air and have freezer burn they may be unusable or inedible.

How to determine if the peppers have freezer burn

If hot peppers are frozen too long they will develop freezer burn and this will effect their taste. The peppers may not look very appealing but will still be safe to eat if they have been subject to freezer burn. However, there is no way of getting rid of freezer burn once it has set in.

Freezer burn can be determined by ice crystals forming on the entire outside of the peppers themselves. A little ice forming inside the bag and on the peppers is normal because it can be difficult to make the packaging completely airtight.

Over exposure to air in the freezer will also give the peppers a slight discoloration. This can vary slightly depending on the type of peppers or temperature of the freezer. They will usually have a pail skin color and will lack the brightness they had when they were fresh.

How to avoid freezer burn

Freezer burn can be avoiding by wrapping the peppers tight and not allowing air to enter. This can be difficult to do if you are just wrapping the peppers in tin foil and placing them in a bag. Vacuum sealing is a great way to reduce the air inside a bag to freeze hot peppers for a long time.

Proper vacuum sealed frozen hot peppers can last 4 to 5 times longer than peppers that are not vacuum sealed. A fully functioning vacuum sealer can be purchased for under $100.00 and can have multiple uses in the kitchen. Here’s the FoodSaver FM 2000 from Walmart or the KOIOS 80 kpa at this link to Amazon.

Does freezing reduce the heat of a hot pepper?

All processing will reduce the heat of a hot pepper slightly, including freezing. Some believe freezing reduces the heat slightly while others believe it doesn’t have any affect at all. It has been my experience that the heat is not reduced when a hot pepper has been frozen and then thawed out.

Fermented hot sauce recipe prep

Adding onions and tomatoes to this recipe makes the hot sauce lean toward having a salsa flavor. I blended the peppers to a consistency of a sauce that was left over from another recipe. I then froze what was left over for about six months to be used in this recipe.

The canned crushed tomatoes were also used for another recipe and were frozen about the same amount of time. Both the frozen and fresh ingredients, with the exception of the sugar were fermented together for 1 week. The fermentation process will begin immediately but takes at least a week.

I used the usual fermenting equipment I always use but the size of the mason jar was increased to 32 oz due to the amount of ingredients in this recipe. The fermenting process may become easier with a crock or air lock lid, but fermenting with only a jar is just as possible especially with a small batch.

Understanding fermentation and conditions that interfere

I have written numerous posts about the fermentation process and what works or what could go wrong. There are several factors, issues, aspects or conditions that are important in how the process should work. This would be true for both frozen and fresh hot peppers but avoiding these four (4) conditions before and during the fermentation process will produce positive results.

Condition 1 – The peppers have freezer burn

Although the peppers to do pose any health risks if they are consumed after freezer burn, they will have an altered appearance and taste to them. This will be altered much more the longer the hot peppers are exposed to air in the freezer. It will most likely affect or interfere with the fermentation process.

Condition 2 – Incorrect brine mixture

The brine mixture of salt and water is the most important factor in whether or not the peppers ferment. Too much salt in a brine will cause the hot peppers to become very “salty” in flavor and it can be difficult to get rid of. Not enough salt will not allow the fermentation process and molds or “bad” bacteria can grow. See Step 1 below for an exact brine solution measurement.

Condition 3 – Fluctuating storing temperature

Storing the peppers in a dry cool place, about 68o F (20o Celsius) to 72o F (22.22o Celsius), will allow the peppers to ferment properly and will prevent direct sunlight or excessive heat that inhibits the fermenting. Keep the peppers in the same condition and don’t move them around too much. Hot peppers will ferment in the refrigerator but will take much longer.

Condition 4 – Exposure to too much oxygen

Fermenting will cause the release of gasses which is what an air lock lid is used for but should not be exposed to too much direct air over a long period during fermentation. I open the lid once a day for a few days to release the gasses but leaving it off completely will create a different process, not fermentation.

Fermented hot sauce recipe


1 cup canned tomatoes – Previously frozen, thawed and fermented.

1 cup chopped jalapeno – Previously frozen, thawed and fermented.

1 medium onion – Fresh and fermented with the tomatoes and jalapeno.

3 garlic cloves – Fresh and fermented with the Jalapeno.

2 teaspoons of sugar – To be added after fermentation.

6 Easy steps to make fermented hot sauce

Step 1 – Make the brine

Brine is a simple solution of salt and water that performs a very complex breakdown of the hot peppers. The brine used for this recipe was 3 tablespoons of salt mixed with 1 quart of water. Refer to the chart below in Table 1 to increase or decrease the amount of brine. Mix it in a separate bowl until the salt is dissolved.

1 ½ tablespoons.90 oz22.5 g1 pint16 oz.47 L
3 tablespoons1.81 oz54 g1 quart32 oz.95 L
6 tablespoons3.61 oz102.42 g2 quarts654 oz1.89 L
¾ cup7.62 oz216 g1 gallon128 oz3.78 L
1 ½ cups6.75 oz432 g2 gallons256 oz7.57 L
 3.75 cups 38.1 oz 1080 g5 gallons640 oz18.92 L
Table 1

Step 2 – Ferment

Put the ingredients into the jar and gently pour the brine over everything. There is no need to shake the jar at this point but make sure everything is covered. Store the container in a dry, cool place (not the refrigerator) for one week. Open the lid for a few seconds to release some of the gases during the first few day but don’t expose it to too much direct air.

Step 3 – Skim the surface

Skim the surface of the brine and discard. Although this is harmless and shouldn’t be mold, remove it from the surface because it could affect the flavor of the sauce. I use a small baster to suck it from the surface. This step is not completely necessary if there isn’t any film on top.

Step 4 – Strain the ingredient

Strain the brine into a bowl to be used as necessary in the recipe or for more fermenting. Because the peppers and tomatoes were blended into a sauce just let them drain but don’t rinse them. Some of the smaller particles will get washed away. A fine strainer as opposed to a colander will work best to catch all the contents.

Use a strainer and not a colander. A strainer is suitable for finer ingredients whereas a collider is usually used for rinsing off vegetables and draining pastas. You can find them at any Walmart or this set of three from Amazon comes in real handy for a variety of sauce making tasks.

Step 5 – Add vinegar, sugar and blend the ingredients

I like my sauces to be blended to a very thin consistency without it being too watery and not having any chunks. With this recipe the peppers were already blended so it is easier to get to that consistency. A commercial quality emulsifier will rotate at a higher speed and create a thinner sauce. Adding more liquids like vinegar or water will also help liquefy but it will also change the flavor.

I use the Ninja because it is small, easy to store and super easy to use. Ninja has a huge line of products but here is the link to Amazon for the Express Chop Professional that I use. Read more here in the Blender Buyers Guide for some tips on purchasing basic kitchen and commercial blenders.

Step 6 – Store in a woozy bottle, jar or container

I always check the pH of my sauce before, during and after fermentation. I then check it again when I make the sauce. This is a good way to determine the shelf life of the sauce and whether or not it needs to be refrigerated. I always refrigerate my sauces no matter what. Read Understanding Hot Sauce pH, learn about The Best pH Meters and purchase what we use here.

Many different types and sizes of container will work for storing hot sauce but I prefer the standard hot sauce woozy bottle so it is recognizable as hot sauce. I used a mason jar for this one because they are easy to fill and I don’t plan on sharing it with anyone. You can get them any where but the Glass Bottle Outlet has some of the best prices for smaller orders.

Last step – Enjoy!

This sauce is great with pita bread and tortilla chips. I eat eggs every morning that are usually covered with some sort of hot sauce. This hot sauce recipe has a sweetness to it that hits before the heat but blends great with the peppers. You can leave the sugar out and it still tastes like a full flavored blend of peppers and tomatoes.

The pH level of this sauce will depend on the source of the ingredients and the length of the fermenting. Although most of the fermentation happens in the first week the ingredients will gradually continue to lower the pH level, however slightly.

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