Is hot sauce bad for you?

Consumers are becoming more consciously aware of what they are eating than ever before. Condiments have always received scrutiny for their high fat and calorie content but they are so full of flavor much like a hot sauce. Hot sauces have become a gourmet condiment and because of their bold flavors, extreme heat, and reactions it causes to the body, it gets perceived as being unhealthy.

Generally speaking, hot sauce is not an unhealthy condiment and is not bad for your health. Some traditional or classic hot sauces can be high in sodium and gourmet hot sauces can have a lot of calories. However, the peppers that hot sauce is made with are filled with nutritional value like vitamins and minerals.

Hot peppers will lose some of their nutritional value when mixed into a hot sauce but that does not make the sauce unhealthy. A broad list of ingredients is combined with hot peppers to make hot sauce and sometimes the other ingredients that make a hot sauce less healthy. It’s the spice and tanginess that consumers crave and because it can have such a strong reaction to your body it can be perceived as being unhealthy.

What does hot sauce do you your body?

To begin with, hot sauce affects your tongue, lips, and mouth area with a “burning” or tingling sensation depending on the heat level. Very hot sauces can continue this sensation down the back of your throat and into your esophagus. The sensation is temporary, longer for hotter peppers, and does not cause any permanent damage to skin, tissue, or other parts of the body. Moments after a hot sauce hits the tongue eyes begin to water and sweating occurs. This is the body’s reaction to cool it down.

The truth is that not all hot sauce is created equal., and none of the reactions it has during consumption are unhealthy.  Many hot sauces that have been around from “the beginning” use a simple combination of hot peppers, vinegar, and salt. None of these ingredients are unhealthy within a single serving of hot sauce. NOW…hot sauces are created with unusual and interesting ingredients to expand on flavor profiles and create new and exciting combinations of flavors. This combination of ingredients using elaborate processes has caused hot sauces to become unhealthier and resemble dressings high in fats and calories.

Traditional hot sauce

A classic hot sauce that contains hot peppers and vinegar is the healthiest version of the condiment. Hot sauce manufacturers have ventured into a broader range of flavors and ingredients, and this has caused some condiments that fall under the category of hot sauce to be unhealthy.

Craft, gourmet and artisan hot sauces may all use ingredients rich in flavor and high in fats. While not all gourmet hot sauces are unhealthy it has been the trend to expand the flavors and include exotic ingredients. The use of sugar and oil has become common in sauces.

Chili oil

Many hot sauce enthusiasts don’t consider chili oil as a hot sauce condiment. This condiment has been gaining popularity not only for its use with authentic Asian foods but also cuisine typical with hot sauce consumption. Its the oil content in chili oil that makes it lean toward the unhealthy category of condiments.

Chicken wing sauce

A chicken wing sauce or Buffalo wing sauce will be one of the unhealthiest sauces that fall under the category of hot sauce. A homemade wing sauce usually uses butter and many off-the-shelf hot sauces use butter flavoring. Wings sauces are their own category and some of the unhealthiest sauces available.

What makes a hot sauce unhealthy?

All condiments can have brands that are unhealthy, including hot sauce. Ingredients that are high in calories and can cause the human body to gain weight are considered unhealthy. Avoiding sauces that have ingredients known to be bad for you and eating hot sauces that low in calories, sodium and fats are best for a healthy diet. The great thing about a hot sauce is that you can still get great flavors and bold spiciness without concerns you are consuming something unhealthy. Here are some common ingredients found in hot sauces that can lead to them being less healthy.


Sugar adds calories to hot sauce because it, by itself “packs a lot of calories” states It is not the natural sugars occurring in fruits but the added sugars that many hot sauces use to sweeten their flavoring. Sugar comes in many different forms and levels of sweetness but all of them will be high in calories.


It is not the consumption of salt that makes it unhealthy, but having too much salt can lead to health problems. Some of my most favorite hot sauces are very high in sodium. Salt is OK in moderation and can enhance the flavors of the ingredients used in a hot sauce like no other spice.


Oil is another ingredient that will give a hot sauce more calories. It can be high in calories thus increasing the caloric content when added to a hot sauce. Many plant oils can be high in omega 6 but others such as extra virgin olive oil can be a better choice. Unfortunately, there are not many hot sauces that use olive oil.


Generally speaking, spices are not unhealthy, and many provide added health benefits. However, there is not a large quantity that is used in a serving of hot sauce. Cinnamon, ginger, and garlic are common spices in hot sauce and can provide antioxidants, and boost immunity. Spices come from various parts of plants and generally speaking do not have any negative health concerns associated with them.

What makes hot sauce healthy?

Some speculate that hot sauce may be good for you, especially when compared to other condiments such as mayonnaise and salad dressings. Indeed, the capsaicin, vitamins, and minerals found in hot peppers can have many health benefits, but it is the additives that throw hot sauce into the unhealthy category. Choose a hot sauce that sticks to traditional ingredients of hot peppers and vinegar, and you will be consuming a healthy hot sauce. Here are some common hot sauce ingredients that are healthy.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers are vegetables and are packed with nutrients the body needs. These same peppers contain vitamins A and C as well as potassium and fiber. The compound responsible for the heat of a hot pepper, capsaicin can increase metabolism and help lead to weight loss.


Vinegar has been around for centuries, and most types will contain a source of vitamins and minerals. There has been research that suggests eating hot sauce regularly in small amounts can reduce cholesterol. However, drink large amounts of straight vinegar can have negative health benefits. Fortunately, the amount of vinegar varies greatly (if at all) between brands and is minimal per serving.


The body needs water. Hot peppers contain a vast amount of water themselves. There can often be some negative connotations to hot sauce that contains too much water but health wise it is not the worse thing that you can put into your body.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthy ingredients you can have in a hot sauce and they are being used more as new sauces get introduced to the market. However, what typically happens is that they lose their nutritional value through a process that involves cooking, smoking, or fermentation.

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