A Nashville sauce has often been compared to a buffalo sauce, buffalo wing sauce, or chicken wing sauce. They are similar in contents, spiciness, and foods they are consumed with…chicken. Nashville sauce has become popular with the mainstream consumer because of the spiciness that pairs well with breaded chicken but also due to its lack of extreme heat.
The heat level of a Nashville sauce or Nashville chicken is medium heat, compared to the many levels of heat available in hot sauce products. A Nashville sauce will have a SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) between 1,000 and 1,500 because the red cayenne pepper often used in powder or puree form is diluted within the sauce. As a comparison, a jalapeno pepper is about 8,000 SHU and a bottle of Franks RedHot is about 500 SHU.
There are many brands of hot sauces available as well as many varieties of Nashville sauce. These sauces will have many of the same ingredients with the addition or subtraction of a few ingredients to make them stand out. The process by which these sauces are made, including a Nashville sauce, can also influence the flavor, appearance, and heat level of the sauce but they all have one thing in common…spiciness.
The most common thing that stands out in a Nashville sauce is the spiciness. The source of heat may not always be as common between brands because it could be in the form of hot peppers, pepper powder, or puree.
A Nashville sauce will generally be the same spiciness even between varieties where similar sauces like a Buffalo sauce range from mild to extreme levels of heat. Read more on the differences between a Nashville sauce and a Buffalo sauce. However, the peppers used to source the heat or a Nashville sauce are typically red cayenne.
Red cayenne peppers
Red cayenne peppers or red chili peppers are what give a Nashville sauce its heat. A red cayenne peppers can have a SHU between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU. This is in between an Arbol pepper of 20,000 SHU and a tabasco pepper of 50,000 SHU. Substituting different hot peppers will alter the heat and flavor of a Nashville sauce.
A Nashville sauce will not be nearly the heat level of a raw red cayenne pepper which means that it is diluted within the sauce and used in minimal amounts like many hot sauces. The vinegar, sugar, and butter flavoring occupy much of the flavoring and work well together with the heat of cayenne. Because of the volume of the ingredients the level of heat will also be reduced.
Ingredients in any homemade hot sauce will always be different from a commercially made sauce because mass-produced sauces will need the shelf life of the sauce increased. Additives to preserve a commercially produced Nashville sauce may or may not change the flavoring from a homemade sauce. Many of the preservatives used in a Nashville sauce are also common for many hot sauces.
A commercially made Nashville hot sauce will usually contain some form of oil as one of the main ingredients. Oil is not unusual in a hot sauce but it can have adverse effects such as added calories, altering the pH level.
The most common oil used in a commercially manufactured Nashville sauce is soybean oil. Like many varieties of oil soybean oil does not have a strong flavor to it. You may not find these types of oils in homemade Nashville sauce but there will most often be sugar.
Another common ingredient in a Nashville hot sauce is the use of sugar. This is an ingredient that separates Nashville sauce from Buffalo sauce. Brown sugar is the most common form of sugar in a Nashville sauce.
Mild, medium, and hot
Nashville chicken will have an even milder SHU because the bread from the sandwich and the breaded coating will buffer some of the heat levels. It is not a sauce known for it’s extreme level of heat and will usually highlight the flavor of cayenne peppers.
Hot sauce and spicy foods have gained increased popularity for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that consumers love spicy food and are anticipating the next spicy flavor. Another reason is that hot sauce combines well with chicken in many forms.
Nashville sauce has become popular because it has a strong bold flavor without extreme heat and goes great with a breaded chicken. Like the popularity of other products, manufacturers have included the Nashville sauce phenomenon to increase their product line.
Sweet Baby Ray’s Gourmet Nashville Hot sauce
Sweet Baby Ray’s make a whole line of sauces many that pair well with chicken and other meats. Their sauce tends to be thick and rich with flavor. This sauce is great with any breaded chicken, chicken wings, tenders, or nuggets.
TGI Friday’s Nashville Hot Sauce
TGI Fridays Nashville Hot Sauce is made by Vita Foods Inc. who also make Scored Woman Hot Sauce as well as other sauces for TGI Fridays. This is one of the hotter sauces on the list because it includes cayenne pepper puree at the top of the ingredient list, which means it is one of the more prominent ingredients by volume.
Joey Chestnut Nashville Hot Chicken
Joey Chestnut Nashville Hot Chicken has a medium heat with a vinegar intensity although it is labeled HOT. A brilliant orange sauce reminiscent of a true Nashville, this has a sweetness to it unlike the other sauces on this list.
Tattoo Nashville Hot Sauce
Tattoo Nashville Hot Sauce is a medium heat hot sauce with a brilliant red color not like other Nashville sauce. Tattoo does not list the hot peppers used but puts oil as the first ingredient. Oil is often replaced with butter in a homemade Nashville sauce. Tattoo is packaged and distributed by Golding Farms Foods.
Organic Nashville Wing Sauce
365 by Whole Foods Market makes an Organic Nashville Wing Sauce that is low in calories like a traditional hot sauce. 365 is made with all organic ingredients but still uses a cayenne pepper flavor. The only all organic Nashville sauce on the list.
Buffalo Wild Wings Nashville Hot
Many Buffalo Wild Wing sauces are known for having a high-calorie content. Of the sauces on this list, Buffalo Wild Wings Nashville Hot is has some of the higher calories per serving but also packs in the flavor.
Gillie Chester’s Nashville Hot
Gillie Chester’s Nashville Hot Spread also makes a version of their sauce in the form of a spicy seasoning. The only hot sauce on the list that is actually made in Nashville. All natural and gluten free does not interfere with the flavor of this sauce.
June Moon Spice Company Nashville Hot Sauce
June Moon Spice Company Nashville Hot Sauce makes a pair red sauce with honey and brown sugar to emphasis the sweet side of a Nashville Sauce as well as the heat. Another sauce that uses cayenne peppers powder but June Moon is not as spicy as some of the others.
Sauce Craft Nashville Hot
Sauce Craft Nashville Hot is another hot sauce that uses oil as one of the main ingredients. Sauce Craft has a huge line of sauces to include teriyaki, garlic parmesan, gochujang and buffalo sauce. No coloring, artificial flavors or preservatives.