Using Garlic In A Hot Sauce: Why Is It So Prevalent?

There are over 1000 hot sauces on the market that use garlic in some form or another as one of the ingredients. This powerful herb has many uses in foods and is widely used in many regions. Garlic has been used in hot sauces since the condiment was first introduced.

Garlic is used in a hot sauce because it pairs well with common ingredients like hot peppers and vinegar. Garlic is a flavorful stand-alone spice with a flavor that can complement other flavors within a hot sauce and stand out as a bold taste.  If used incorrectly it can dominate and destroy the intended flavor of a hot sauce.

Read the recipe label from some of your most favorite hot sauces and you will likely see garlic in many as one of the ingredients. Why is garlic used so much in a hot sauce? The truth is that garlic is used in a lot of cooking as either one of the ingredients or as a finish within a sauce.

Garlic was one of the main ingredients in hot sauce recipes for many years mainly because it provides great flavor and works well with the other ingredients. It is available in many forms such as fresh, dried, powdered, minced, dehydrated and flakes to meet the needs of any hot sauce recipe.

Vegetable, herb, or mineral?

The botanical classification of garlic is a vegetable. It belongs to the same family as onions, shallots, and leaks. However, in its powdered form, it is considered a spice or herb and is used as such in cooking as well as many hot sauces.

Varieties of garlic

According to the University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science, there are over 10 varieties of garlic, all having a slightly similar appearance but a distinct pungency. Silverskin Softneck garlic or other Softneck varieties such as Artichoke Softneck is what is most commonly purchased in stores. Unless you go out of your way to purchase another variety, a Softneck variety is probably what is used in most hot sauce recipes.

Softneck garlic varieties will bring a sweeter and milder garlic flavor to a hot sauce than Hardneck. Most hot sauce ingredient labels won’t distinguish between the two but some recipes for homemade hot sauce may. It would take an educated palate to know the difference.

Flavor of garlic

The flavor of garlic is unique to itself like many ingredients of hot sauce are. If you are old enough to eat solid foods then you probably don’t need the flavor profile described to you. It pairs well with other vegetables such as onions and peppers which is why it is a common hot sauce ingredient.

McCormick states that other spices and herbs that combine well with garlic are parsley, oregano, and thyme. You will see these spices often used in hot sauces as well. Any vegetables used in a hot sauce recipe will work well with the flavor of garlic.

What does garlic provide in hot sauce?

A little garlic goes a long way due to its pungent flavor but aside from its bold seasoning garlic will add additional calories as well as protein and carbs. Unless you have an allergy to garlic there shouldn’t be any harm in consuming the small amount in every serving of hot sauce.

Fresh, minced, or powder?

All hot sauces are blended, mixed, mashed, cooked, or reduced into a sauce form. Therefore the added garlic will also be reduced into a cream, sauce, or paste form. Processes whole fresh garlic will take more time and energy than powdered or minced but fresh garlic will have a much more bold flavor over dried garlic.

Per FDA product labels need to contain the ingredients listed in order of the quantity but they won’t include any type of processing. Therefore they don’t provide the specifics of how the garlic is used in the hot sauce. Depending on its form within the hot sauce could influence the flavor.

Minced, crushed, smashed

Minced garlic is chopped and soaked in water and stored in jars. It is typically used as a finish to add a strong garlic flavor and textured appearance. If used in a hot sauce it will bring the same flavoring as fresh garlic or could be used to give a textured appearance. It is often used in other foods as a convenience so there is less preparation.

Powdered, dried, dehydrated, flakes

Powdered garlic has been dried and crushed into powder form. It can be stored in dry conditions for many months. It will blend easier into a sauce. Within a hot sauce, it may not have much difference in flavor if the sauce goes through complex processing.

Does garlic increase SHU?

Fresh garlic has some level of spiciness to it although it is not near the level that hot peppers do. It, as well as onions, use a different scale to measure their pungency know as the Pyruvate Scale.  However, like hot peppers, garlic does contain capsaicin but it is minuscule amounts.

Too much garlic can ruin a hot sauce, especially when combined with salt. Aside from ruining the flavor of hot sauce garlic can cause adverse health effects if too much is consumed. Fortunately, there probably isn’t enough within a hot sauce wouldn’t be alarming.


Many hot sauces are cooked, reduced, roasted, or smoked and the added garlic may undergo similar processes within the hot sauce or separately. Cooking such as boiling in water will reduce the pungency of the garlic but other cooking processes such as roasting will enhance the flavor of garlic.


Roasting garlic separately from the other ingredients gives it a rich flavor. This flavor will present itself as a distinguished flavor in the hot sauce different from dried, powdered, or fresh garlic. For best results, the garlic is roasted in the skin and is removed during the cooling process. This can slow down production when using it in a hot sauce.


Pickled, spicy garlic is popular but is not as common within a hot sauce. There are not many (if any) hot sauces that use pickled garlic so there isn’t much information on how it would taste within a hot sauce. Here’s your opportunity to make a pickled garlic flavored hot sauce!


Raw garlic is seldom used as a hot sauce ingredient and probably goes through some type of processing with the sauce before it is bottled. In raw form, garlic is its strongest flavor and pungency. Raw is not the same as fresh garlic. Fresh is a statement that identifies if the garlic was processed in any way before it was used in a hot sauce.

Don’t eliminate garlic from a hot sauce recipe because you think it is over used. WE LOVE GARLIC and have been eating it for thousands of years. Understand that there are many ways to use garlic in a hot sauce recipes that allow the flavor to stand out and compliment the other ingredients.


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