The water that is contained in hot peppers can make even a simple hot sauce recipe seem watered down and can be watered down even more if there are other liquids added to the recipe. This water can easily separate from the other ingredients or “bulk” of the sauce made with even just a few ingredients. This may be even more evident if you are making a handmade hot sauce without many additives, thickeners, or binding agents.
A hot sauce can be kept from separating by adding xanthan gum, guar gum, soy lecithin, corn starch, or other natural emulsifiers. Wheat flour and egg whites are excellent binding ingredients but may not work in all hot sauce recipes. Ingredients like honey and mustard can thicken a hot sauce and add flavoring but may not keep water from separating.
Many homemade hot sauce recipes don’t always include additives or emulsifiers that keep some of the ingredients from separating or water from breaking out. Water-based liquids will separate from oil, fats, or other ingredients if they are included in a hot sauce recipe, but some elements can be added that can give the hot sauce a more desirable appearance.
The appearance of a hot has a lot to do with a consumer’s perception of the quality or even the flavor of a hot sauce. Any sauces that have water separating from them may be perceived as lower quality because it is assumed the water was added and they may not be purchased as often as others. This problem can be remedied by adding natural emulsifiers during the processing like xanthan gum, guar gum, soy lecithin, corn starch, potato starch, wheat flour, or pectin.
1. Xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is one of the more common additives to keep liquids from separating from the solids in a hot sauce. This will also thicken a liquid-based hot sauce or contents that have a very thin consistency. Xanthan gum is also often used as a replacement for wheat in gluten-based products.
Xanthan gum can be used hot or cold and won’t clump during the processing like other binding agents, therefore, making it very easy to use in a hot sauce recipe regardless of when it is added during processing. It is flavorless and odorless making it a favorite additive to keep many varieties of sauces from separating.
Xanthan gum is used in hundreds of hot sauce recipes because of its easy use and can hold up in very acidic environments, like the contents of many hot sauces. Many of these sauces use water as one of the ingredients making the addition of xanthan gum needed to bind them together in sauce form.
2. Guar gum
Guar gum is also used to keep water from separating from other ingredients in a hot sauce but it is not as commonly used as xanthan gum. Guar gum, like xanthan gum, doesn’t influence the flavor of a hot sauce but only alters the consistency, binding the ingredients together or making the sauce thicker.
Guar gum will also be used in a hot sauce when there is added water like other emulsifiers. Guar gum will perform best if it is mixed with an oil or liquid before it is added with the other hot sauce ingredients. The mixture should be added slowly and in minimal amounts, if it has never been used in a hot sauce.
Guar gum will not be as effective in highly acidic hot sauces, which is why it is used more in low acid products or creamy sauces, although the level of heat is not a direct correlation with the acidity. Both xanthan gum and guar gum can be used together and are not uncommon in manner successful brands of hot sauce.
|Cost||$.54 per ounce|
|Hot Sauce||Trappy’s Louisiana hot sauce, Dave’s Gourmet Creamy Roasted Jalapeno|
3. Soy lecithin
Lecithin or soy lecithin is not used as often as xanthan gum, guar gum, or wheat flour and usually isn’t used by itself. A natural source of lecithin is egg yolk but this would mean adding eggs to a hot sauce recipe. This is unusual and also requires preservatives or preservation methods.
Soy lecithin is derived from soybeans and is used in a hot sauce as an emulsifier instead of eggs. It works best if the hot sauce is fully prepared and the soy lecithin is mixed with water or another liquid before it is added to the hot sauce.
4. Corn starch
Corn starch is another common additive in many foods to act as a binding agent and is also frequently used in hot sauce recipes to keep water from separating from other ingredients. Corn starch needs to be cooked into a hot sauce and added in small increments making it more difficult to use than some other additives.
5. Potato starch
Potato starch is also commonly used as a binding agent but not as commonly used in a hot sauce as some others. Potato starch is made from potatoes but does not have any flavoring to it and doesn’t contribute anything that will directly alter the flavor.
6. Wheat flour
Wheat flour can bind the ingredients of a hot sauce together with adding much additional flavor. This is also used to thicken a sauce. Flour is a traditional additive used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews but it will take a large amount to create a sauce that doesn’t separate.
Pectin, like potato starch and wheat flour, is not as widely used as some other binding agents but has been used in some hot sauce recipes. Pectin is a starch that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and is typically used to “gel” homemade jams and jellies. Pectin works well in a highly acidic environment but is not one of the usual ingredients to keep hot sauce from separating.
Other methods of keeping hot sauce from separating
You may have a hot sauce recipe that you have developed for years or has been handed down to you through generations. Adding ingredients, whether they alter the flavor or not could be risky for a “perfect” hot sauce recipe.
Honey and Mustard
Ingredients like honey or mustard are usually thick and can help contribute to the consistency but are not considered binding agents. If you are adding them to a hot sauce recipe they may already be pre-processed to include binding agents.
Eggs are a classic way to blend and bind ingredients together in many ways of cooking but you will not find them very often in a hot sauce recipe. This would require the addition of preservatives and other methods of preservation if you plan on storing the sauce for long periods.
Shake before using
Many oil and vinegar-based dressings separate from each other as they sit on stock or store shelves. It is not uncommon for a sauce to have this label but it certainly doesn’t keep it from separating. Labeling a hot sauce with this is acceptable, especially if you don’t want to add something that may alter the recipe.
Avoid oil or butter
Oils, butter, and fat do not mix well with water-based ingredients like vinegar, or citrus juice. These ingredients will separate from each other and will need a binding agent. A recipe shouldn’t be led by whether the ingredients will separate or not but keep this in mind as new hot sauce creations are being made.