I use a lot of oil in my cooking especially when I am frying something in a pan. Oil is a great way to fry up an otherwise undesirable vegetable and make the flavor stand out. I recently have used a roasted sesame seed oil along with some fried jalapenos to accent a plate of pasta. I now use the same oil and jalapeno combination in a hot sauce as a source of flavoring but oil mixed with another ingredient in a hot sauce can produce some results you need to be aware of. 

Using oil in a hot sauce can increase calories and decrease shelf life. Oils like extra virgin olive oil and roasted sesame oil can also richen the flavor and give a rich and creamy appearance to the hot sauce. Adding oil to a hot sauce, along with vinegar and other ingredients, will cause the oil to separate unless emulsions are added to the sauce.

How is oil used in cooking?

The commercial production of oil began in the US in the 1920s although records are indicating it was used hundreds of years before that. Not all hot sauce recipes use oil as one of the main ingredients but as the hot sauce industry is growing, more gourmet and artisan hot sauces are being introduced that use some of these exotic flavors.

Often used in frying, if the oil is heated too much during processing it will polymerize that liquifies the oil, and gets easily absorbed into other ingredients. This will make whatever you are cooking it with greasy. These methods may not be utilized when making hot sauce so the greasiness may not be evident.

Oils are not typically used as a base of the sauce unless it is a chili oil or another product where oil is the main ingredient and other ingredients are added. Sauces with an oil base are paired with different foods than a traditional hot sauce may be used with.

Types of cooking oils used in hot sauce

There are over 25 different types of cooking oils commonly used in food preparation, food dressings, sauces and other condiments but there are still many more available. Olive oil is one of the more common oils found in hot sauces with extra virgin olive oil being one of the healthier oils to add to any sauce or dish. There are several top-selling brands of hot sauce on the market that use olive oil such as Secret Aardvark, Truffs and Angry Goat.

Other oils such as canola, sunflower and vegetable oil are also used in some hot sauces although they are not considered as healthy as extra virgin olive oil. My new favorite is roasted sesame oil. It is a little more expensive than some other oils but has a bold flavor compared to other types of oil.

What does the addition of oil do to a hot sauce?

Adding any ingredients to a hot sauce recipe will certainly alter the flavor, texture and aroma of a hot sauce. Oil should be used in moderation if you want to keep the calorie content as low as possible and extend the shelf life to the maximum length.

Adding oil to hot sauce increases the calories

Many types of oils can have a lot of calories. Most oils used in cooking will have around 120 calories per tablespoon and vegetable oil can have as much as 124 calories per tablespoon. If you are concerned with caloric intake, then you may want to consider an oil substitute for your hot sauce. 

Although they carry the weight of the increase in calorie content some oils such as extra virgin olive oil contain added health benefits. Read more on the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil below…

Is cooking oil healthy?

Not all cooking oils are bad for you and any oils used in moderation listed in the table below are OK for the human body to consume. However, some oils are considered healthier for you because they contain less saturated fats. According to heart.org, it is a saturated fat that can increase the body’s cholesterol level and could lead to stroke and heart disease. Avoid putting oils in your hot sauce that are high in saturated fats.

Some cooking oils are high in saturated fat

The human body needs fat but too much saturated fat can lead to raised cholesterol levels. However, any oils added to a hot sauce are minimal and the consumption of these condiments may also be in smaller servings (at least that is what is suggested on the label).

Coconut, palm, palm kernel and partially hydrogenated oil are all oils that are high in saturated fats so use them in limited amounts or to your discretion, especially if you are focusing on a healthier hot sauce. Always have a sauce tested for nutritional content if you plan on marketing for sale or if you are using a lot for your own personal use. Recipal and RL Food Testing Laboratories can provide these results between $20 and $295, depending on the complexity of the recipe.

Adding oil to a hot sauce can shorten shelf life

Traditional hot sauces with a base of hot peppers and vinegar will have an extended shelf life due to the acidity of the vinegar that lowers the pH of the sauce. If the vinegar is left out, is not a large percentage of the sauce or a lot of oil is added, the shelf life will decrease.

This is OK but the hot sauce will need other means of packaging and preservation. Many popular condiments will need the same methods of storing so don’t avoid oils just for this reason. Oil-based hot sauces need to be refrigerated to increase the shelf life. Although this is not uncommon for most condiments once they have been opened, bottling or packaging may need to be approached differently.

Does oil reduce the heat of a hot sauce?

Adding oil to a hot sauce recipe could reduce the heat but it is difficult to rely on this addition as being an ingredient added for this purpose. Adding oil or another ingredient will reduce the mass of hot peppers per serving but oil is usually only adding in minimal amounts.

If you cook the hot sauce for long periods the sauce gets reduced and the level of heat intensifies per serving. It is not necessarily the oil that is making it hotter but the reduction of the sauce. Capsaicin is a fat-soluble, not water-soluble substance so hot peppers would be more likely to become hotter with the addition of oil.

Does oil raise or lower the pH?

Cooking oil will have a neutral pH or will be slightly alkaline but technically speaking the pH of oil is not measurable because there is no water content in oil. The measurement of pH is defined as the measurement of the Potential of Hydrogen used to specify the acidity of a water-based solution. The vegetable oil I used had a pH of 7.97.

Measuring the pH of oil becomes neutral or slightly alkaline depending on the type of oil but this can still change the overall pH of a hot sauce. For example, the sauce in figure 1 has a pH of 2.66 with out oil but adding oil in the sauce the pH becomes 3.61 because a neutral substance (oil) was added. Similar results will occur by adding water.

Oil pH 7.97
Sauce pH 2.66
Sauce mixed w/oil pH 3.61

Other ways oil affects hot sauce

Adding any additional ingredients to a hot sauce will alter the flavor and aroma of the sauce. Oils that are strong in flavor such as extra virgin olive oil or roasted sesame oil can change the flavor with smaller amounts but these are favorable and popular flavors.

Popular in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine, sesame oil does provide some health benefits. According to an article in webmd.com sesame oil provides Vitamin E, combats inflammation and helps in protecting the skin from the sun. Flavor and aroma are the primary reasons for using the two oils because they contain more flavoring than other types of oils.

Adding oil changes the appearance of hot sauce

The appearance of a food product is just as important as the flavor and aroma. I personally don’t like to see pepper flakes or seeds in any of my sauces but that is just preference. Culinary schools teach the importance of presentation and that is true for hot sauce as well.

Can you mix oil and vinegar in a hot sauce?

Oil doesn’t mix well with water-based like vinegar and blended hot peppers. Adding oils to a traditional hot sauce mixture of hot peppers and vinegar will make the oils separate from these two water-based substances. The oil will rise to the surface because it is less dense than water.

The same thing will happen when you pour the sauce onto a flat surface like a plate. Although a hot sauce may taste fantastic the appearance has a lot to do with the allure and attraction of the sauce. As the oil separates from the sauce each will have a slightly different flavor.

How to keep oil from separating in hot sauce?

Soy Lecithin

Available in liquid or granular form soy lecithin is an extract from soybeans used to blend oils and water-based ingredients. The process is known as emulsification and is the primary reason soy lecithin is used. This is primarily used in wing sauce, grilling sauces or BBQ sauces. Try Extra Mild Buffalo Wing Sauce by Texas Pete. Get it here from Amazon. Purchase liquid Soy Lecithin here for your hot sauce!

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is used more in a hot sauce recipe than soy lecithin and is also commonly used in many foods and condiments. Xanthan Gum is a synthetically produced fermented sugar that has been approved by the USDA. There are hundreds of hot sauces that use Xanthan Gum as an emulsifier for the ingredients. Crystal Wing Sauce uses it with canola oil. Try it here! Super inexpensive at $.01 an ounce you will only need about 0.01 oz per 10 oz bottle of sauce. Get kosher, vegetarian, gluten free Xantham Gum through this link to Amazon.

Other emulsifiers

There are other methods of keeping oil from separating in a hot sauce but they will usually be adding a significant change to the sauce. Agave nectar, honey, egg yokes, mayonnaise and mustard can all be used to help mix oil and vinegar hot sauces.

Adding oil to a hot sauce will increase costs (but not by much)

Adding any additional ingredients to a hot sauce will increase the cost of making it. As stated above sesame oil can be one of the more expensive oils costing between $.60 and $.90 an ounce. Refer to the chart below for the costs and calories of some common oils found in hot sauces.

TYPEBRANDCOSTCALORIES
 Canola OilHappy Belly.06 / oz 120 / tsp
Vegetable OilWesson.10 / oz124 / tsp
 Olive OilPompeian Classic.20 / oz 119 / tsp
 Sunflower OilHealthy Harvest.23 / oz 120 / tsp
 Extra Virgin Olive OilColavita.31 / oz 126 / tsp
Soybean OilUS Organic.35 / oz120 / tsp
 Roasted Sesame OilKadoya.82 / oz 120 / tsp
 Garlic OilSonoma Harvest$.77 / oz 124 / tsp
 Lemon OilBoyanjian$8.96 oz 120 / tsp
* includes Amazon links

There are many other types of oils to explore in hot sauce recipes such as avocado oil, coconut, corn, garlic, mustard and peanut oil but there are not as many hot sauces on the market that use them. Reasons for not using them could be they are high in saturated fats, they are expensive, are difficult to obtain or produce undesired flavor results.

General uses of oil with hot peppers

Hot sauce

There are probably hundreds of different hot sauce recipes many just using a simple combination of hot peppers and vinegar. Many non-traditional hot sauces being introduced to the market will contain other ingredients like oils and this can also expand them into different categories.

Chutney

Originating from Indian cuisine a chutney is a sugar and vinegar base mixed with spicey vegetables such as red hot chili peppers, not the alternative pop band from the early ’90s. Paired with meats and cheeses many chutney recipes will involve fruits.

Chili oil

Unlike hot sauce, chili oil infuses the dried peppers flakes into the oil as opposed to mixing oil with hot peppers and vinegar or other liquids like a hot sauce does. Coming from a Chinese culture chili oil goes best with ethnic Chinese cuisine although it works well with other dishes as well like a topping for eggs or eaten over pasta.

Oil-based hot sauce recipeChinese chili oil

Ingredients

3 cups of Vegetable or canola oil – Use an oil that is neutral or without any flavoring

Star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves and Sichuan peppercorns, toasted sesame seeds

3 garlic cloves – Pealed the skin but leave whole

2 shallots – Peal the skin but leave whole

Sichuan chili flakes – Crushed red flakes will work as well but here are the Sichuan flakes

Salt – Flavor as needed

Kitchen utensils

2 quart sauce pan – Any size sauce pan should work but a 2 quart is easier to work with

Spoon – Use a large metal sauce spoon

Heat proof bowl – Use some type of ceramic or glass bowl

Thermometer – I use my meat thermometer but be careful about keeping your hand away from the oil

Steps for making Chinese chili oil

Step 1

Add all the ingredients, also called aromatics (except the pepper flakes) into a 2 quart sauce pan and heat to a temperature of 250o Fahrenheit. Depending on altitude you may need to keep the temperatures between 200o and 225o F.  

Step 2

Cook the oil with the other ingredients at a steady temperature for about 30 minutes. Use a thermometer to make sure it is kept at a constant temperature of 250o. Turn the burner higher or lower slightly if you need to adjust the heat level.

Step 3

Let the oil cool slightly and pour just the oil over the pepper flakes. Mix the oil and flakes together to produce the chili oil. As an alternate you can strain the chili oil so you have pure chili oil.

Many good-selling brands of hot sauce use oil and they are usually minimal amounts. Some of the more commonly used oils in hot sauce are olive. Understand the fundamentals of adding oil to your hot sauce before you consume it, package it and sell it.

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