An introduction and guide to making gourmet hot sauce
Hot sauce has become a huge phenomenon in the world of condiments. Consumers are eating more hot sauce than ever and manufacturers are answering the demand by creating new flavors. Making a delicious hot sauce from scratch is almost as easy as eating it.
Why make hot sauce at home?
Hot sauce is one of the easiest condiments to make. A simple combination of hot peppers and vinegar can be done in a few minutes and can produce a delicious, professional-quality flavor. Making hot sauce only requires the use of a 600-watt blender or higher and some common kitchen utensils.
With so many varieties of hot sauce available, many people may not ever be able to try them all. Attempting to try, test, taste, and eat every type of hot sauce in the world can be a little overwhelming. Whether you are eating it or making it, understanding that there are many different types and varieties of hot sauces can be the first step.
Hot sauce can be classified by how it is used, where it originated, what it is made with, and how it is made. Who would have thought that a simple combination of only a few ingredients can produce so many different flavors of hot sauce? The consumer’s desire to consume these great favors is what drives the overwhelmingly successful hot sauce industry as a whole. In addition, the term “hot sauce” can have such a huge possibility of different condiments that could be included under the same meaning.
The title or classification of hot sauce can be a huge label or umbrella to include hundreds of different types of sauces, much like many condiments. Just because a condiment is spicy does not mean that it is a hot sauce. Generally speaking, hot sauce is “sauce that is hot” so anything spicy can be further classified by how it is used, where it came from, the ingredients used to make it, and the process by which it is made.
Types of hot sauce by how they are used
A good hot sauce can have many different uses. It can be used as a topping to spice up a bland meal, used to cook with to add some tanginess to a common recipe, or it can be mixed with other condiments for dipping purposes. A common, classic, or traditional hot sauce that focuses on heat may be used just to add heat to a meal. Other sauces that use smoky, sweet, or sour flavors can overpower a recipe or get completely lost within it. Other hot sauces may have a high vinegar content to also be used as a marinade. How To Pair Hot Sauce With Food can be just as important as knowing how to make it.
Types of hot sauces classified by where they originated
A hot sauce can be classified by where it comes from or simply named by the region where it was invented. A Louisiana, Buffalo, or Mexican hot sauce are good examples of sauces that are named after the regions where they were invented. Although a Buffalo wing sauce does not accurately represent foods eaten in the region, others can embody the type of cuisine eaten in certain regions that can go back for centuries. Chinese chili oil and Thai hot sauce are good examples of sauces that represent cuisine from specific regions and originally used ingredients from those regions.
Types of hot sauce by ingredients
Gourmet hot sauces are a good example of sauces that are classified by the type of ingredients or are focused on the high grade, quality, or careful care in which the ingredients are combined. This can be a category inside of a category and can also include craft or artisan sauces in which there is great care selecting the proper ingredients and defining a handmade approach to making sauces.
Types of hot sauce by process
The increase in the consumption of hot sauce has developed specialty condiments using homemade or handmade processes. Craft and artisan are terms that have been used to describe delicate small batch productions of hot sauce. These become hot sauces without filler, chemical preservatives, or artificial ingredients. It is difficult for manufacturers to achieve a natural or homemade hot sauce on a large scale without using some of these additives or processes. Manufacturing hot sauce on a large scale could mean the hot sauce will spend a lot of time in distribution or on store shelves and may need added preservatives that extend the freshness.
Common types of hot sauce
Hot sauce is the ultimate condiment! Almost any condiment with spice and heat can be considered a hot sauce. Here are some common types of hot sauce that have distinct properties but this is certainly not a complete list. Check out the Ultimate Guide To Hot Sauce for an in-depth review of the many different hot sauce types.
A Louisiana hot sauce is aptly named because it originated in and around the state of Louisiana and combines only aged cayenne peppers, vinegar, salt, and garlic. This is the classic, traditional or original recipe that defined what became a packaged condiment. Tabasco is one of the more popular or oldest of these type of sauces. Today there are only slight variations in the ingredients and the heat level is mild to medium.
A Caribbean-style hot sauce will consist of many tropical fruits and can have a sweetness to it along with a medium to mild level of heat. Adding Fruit To A Hot Sauce can blend well with hot peppers and create a new flavor profile. Pineapple, mango, papaya, and coconut are common ingredients in many Caribbean style hot sauces. The heat level of a Caribbean hot sauce will only be medium to mild although a habanero is a common pepper to use with this type of sauce due to its hint of fruity flavor.
A gourmet hot sauce can include ingredients that are very high quality, rare or difficult to find. Making a gourmet hot sauce uses “expensive” ingredients or high-grade products. This type of sauce will usually NOT include any fillers, unnatural additives, thickeners, or any other “cheap” ingredients to water down a sauce and increase the quantity. Adding water or other liquids to a hot sauce is easy to do because it has such a strong flavor that will still be prominent in the sauce. Thinning out a hot sauce with liquids is not always a bad thing.
Middle Eastern style hot sauces can include thick and pasty sauces like harissa, shug, and shatta. These sauces often simply blend hot peppers with a few other ingredients and includes very little processing. Although hot sauces are not as common in some other areas of the globe a Middle Eastern style hot sauce is gaining popularity.
Common hot sauce ingredients
There are many standard ingredients specifically used in hot sauce that will maintain the integrity of the title “hot sauce”. These flavors are being expanded to include many different ingredients but many have become common in hot sauce creations in recent years. Garlic, onions, bell peppers, salt, and vinegar are all commonly used ingredients that make up many hot sauce varieties but this is continuously increasing. Read more on the 50 Most Commonly Used Hot Sauce Ingredients.
The heading “other ingredients” can include just about anything with the type of sauces that get produced today. Almost any type of fruit, vegetable, or spice can be combined with the right type of hot pepper for an interesting flavor combination. Some of the more common ingredients can also be used in ways that re-invent flavor. Treads in hot sauce manufacturing now include the use of mushrooms, carrots, and mustard and expand the flavor profile of hot sauce.
The hot peppers
Understanding how a hot sauce is made should begin with the hot pepper itself. All hot sauce is made with hot peppers. There are many varieties of peppers but like ingredients, there are some that are more common than others. Many consumers reach for hot sauces that contain some of the hottest peppers grown like the Carolina reaper, scorpion, and ghost pepper but these are often only for some with extremely high tolerance. Other hot sauces that use jalapeno, serrano, or cayenne peppers will not have as much pungency.
The great thing about making hot sauce is that the common hot pepper can be interchanged with the other varieties while the other ingredients remain the same. This does not always make a “different” hot sauce but it certainly changes the heat, pungency, and spiciness.
There are about 25 common hot peppers used to make hot sauce ranging from extreme heat to mild fruity flavors. There are hundreds of peppers to choose from but the more common peppers are used for their familiarity, popularity, and availability. Here are a few of some typical peppers used in a hot sauce but read more about the 25 Most Common Hot peppers Used in Hot Sauce.
Carolina reaper – 2,000,000 SHU
Carolina reaper is the hottest pepper available in the world with a Scoville Heat Unit of over 2,000,000. Any hot sauce made with a Carolina reaper will be very hot. These peppers should be handled with caution when making hot sauce so consider wearing gloves if you are doing any type of prep work such as cutting off the stems, removing the seeds, or chopping them.
Ghost – 1,000,000 SHU
A ghost pepper can range in the heat but is typically just over 1,000,000 SHU. Peppers of this heat level are used more as a hot sauce than they are in other sauces like a barbecue, marinade, or dipping sauce. The ghost pepper was at one time the hottest pepper in the world.
Habanero – 350,000 SHU
Habanero peppers are known for their fruity flavor which makes them a great addition to a Caribbean-style sauce. Their bright orange color is not the stereotypical red that many hot sauces have but don’t rule them out as not being hot. Habanero are some of the more common peppers used for homemade hot sauce because they are available in most grocery stores.
Serrano – 20,000 SHU
Serrano peppers are a thin green pepper about 3 to 4 inches long that have a SHU of about 25,000 making them a couple of steps hotter than a jalapeno. They can tend to be bitter in flavor especially if the seeds are left in them. Serrano can be found in most grocery store produce sections.
Jalapeno – 8,000 SHU
A jalapeno pepper is one of the more common hot peppers available but their heat level is far below a Carolina reaper, ghost, or scorpion. Like the serrano, the jalapeno is dark green in color but only has a heat level of about 8,000 SHU. These peppers come in a red variety by leaving them on the plant longer and they can generally be hotter than the green variety.
Poblano – 1,500 SHU
Poblano is a common pepper used in cooking especially in Mexican cuisine. The spiciness is far below some of the hotter peppers in the world and a poblano is not considered a hot pepper by many people. These peppers are much larger than most hot peppers and are usually used in combination with others.
Combining peppers to make hot sauce is commonly done to change the flavor of a hot sauce but the heat level will not be substantially increased. For example, combining Carolina reaper (2,000,000 SHU) and ghost pepper (1,000,000) will not make a 3,000,000 SHU hot sauce, but it will make a very hot sauce.
Heat and flavor
The trend for many contemporary hot sauces is to combine the “heat” of a hot pepper with the “flavors” of other ingredients. Hot peppers themselves have a flavor that often gets masked or overlooked due to the spiciness that can overpower them. A hot sauce flavor is often recognized by the taste and process that the other ingredients create.
Making hot sauce can include many different types of ingredients. Recipes can be “tweaked” slightly to highlight other flavors that can then become the forefront of flavor for the sauce. Some ingredients will have more flavor than others and some may be used simply to control consistency.
Using ingredients for flavor
Hot sauce ingredients such as garlic will have a strong pungency and combine great with most hot peppers. Add in a little salt and both of these flavors are enhanced. Not all ingredients combine as well as garlic and salt within a hot sauce because they can either take over the flavor or get lost completely.
Using ingredients for consistency
Other ingredients may be used as thickeners, fillers, or liquids to control the consistency of the hot sauce. Carrots are often used in a hot sauce to provide a thick and natural base without overpowering the sauce with flavor. Carrots do provide a subtle flavor but will usually not dominate it like pineapple, and lemon pulp.
Other ingredients such as xanthan gum and corn starch are used specifically to thicken a hot sauce without affecting the flavor. Xanthan gum is an easy-to-use thickener that can be added at any stage of processing and works in homemade hot sauce as well as commercial-grade production.
Ratio of ingredients
The ratio of ingredients in a hot sauce recipe is very important. Any hot sauce recipe will provide a set amount of quantity for each ingredient. The amount, weight, or quantity of each ingredient will affect the outcome of the hot sauce, in small batches and large quantities. Many hot sauce recipes will provide the quantity of ingredients in standard measurements such as quart, cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon.
Ingredients in a recipe are often provided in common measurements of quantities. These measurements should be converted into weight if you plan on increasing the amount of hot sauce you would need to make. The quantity is much easier to measure and applying for a “schedule process” in some jurisdictions may require the recipe to be in measurements of weight.
Any hot sauce recipe will usually provide the steps, preparation, and time needed to make a hot sauce. Don’t dismiss the necessity or need for recipe preparation. As subtle as it may seem preparation can affect the flavor of the sauce.
Removing stems and seeds
Removing the seeds from hot peppers before making a sauce is almost a necessity but this is not completely necessary for removing the seeds. Seeds are what carry a lot of the heat in a hot peppers but can also contribute a bitter flavor.
Removing the seeds from hot peppers is very easy if you are making a small batch of homemade hot sauce but it is nearly impossible, very time consuming, and very costly to remove seeds from hot peppers if you are making hot sauce on a commercial scale. This process of leaving seeds in or taking them out can affect the outcome of the hot sauce.
Hot sauce can be made from dried hot peppers. The peppers will usually contain the seeds. For the best results reconstitute the peppers by soaking them in hot water for about 30 minutes before using. Check out How To Make Hot Sauce From Dried Peppers for more information. Often a dried hot pepper will have a stronger or more concentrated flavor than a fresh hot pepper. If you are using the same amount of weight of fresh hot peppers versus dried peppers in a recipe the results using the dried peppers will be spicier.
Making hot sauce is all about the process. Combining hot peppers with vinegar and others spices and blending to a consistency of a sauce is easy…the real work goes into the process. This is what will give a hot sauce its unique flavor profile.
There are about 7 processes that can be used to make a hot sauce and they are cooking, roasting, toasting, fermenting, and aging. Each of these processes will be very different for making a homemade hot sauce versus a commercial hot sauce. Dive deep into understanding and using these processes to make hot sauce with the Hot Sauce Recipe Workbook.
Blend and cook or cook and blend?
All hot sauce recipes require blending the contents into a smooth consistency and many will also include some type of cooking. Depending on the recipe the blending could occur before the cooking or vise versa. These processes could affect flavor, appearance, color and consistency although it may only be subtle in some instances. Either way, make sure you consistently use the same process every time you make a recipe…but only if your efforts produce a desirable hot sauce.
The number one piece of equipment that you will need to make a hot sauce will be a blender. The proper wattage of a blender can affect the consistency of a hot sauce. A blender of about 600 watts or more will be able to combine all of the ingredients for a smooth consistency. There are other methods of cooking or reducing ingredients into a sauce but using a blender is the most efficient.
Just about any type of blender will work for making hot sauce but some of the top brands are Black & Decker, Hamilton, and Ninja. If you plan on making a lot of hot sauce a commercial-grade blender with a container of at least one gallon. A blender of this size will allow for a much larger batch of hot sauce and will also provide the power needed. If you plan on starting a hot sauce business blenders with the capacity to produce 5 gallons or more will be necessary to produce a case or more of hot sauce at one time.
Some hot sauce recipes require straining the blended contents and using the thin liquid consistency that then becomes the sauce. The remaining contents, usually the skin from the peppers, the shell of the seeds, or other ingredients and large chucks gets discarded. The texture will usually be a very thin water-like consistency like Tabasco® like but will have a high concentration of flavor.
Hot sauce is usually bottled, stored, and packaged in 5, 10, or 12-ounce woozy bottles that are instantly recognized as hot sauce. A homemade hot sauce can be put into any type of container but glass is best. Learn how to Bottle Hot Sauce at Home. Some hot sauces can stain plastic containers and the high acid content of others can “eat away” at thin-walled plastic containers. If you are storing a hot sauce for the short term using a plastic container should be OK. If you plan on distributing your sauce to family, friends, or for sale Choose A Bottle Type That Represents The Sauce.
All food containers should go through a sterilization process. This can be done by washing with soap and water with a water temperature of 120 degrees or more.
Hot sauce is one of the easiest condiments or food products to make. It is a simple combination of one of the many varieties of hot peppers, a source of liquid such as vinegar, and other spices that compliment the hot peppers and vinegar. Making hot sauce gets more complicated as other ingredients are added or more involved processes are used. For example, cooking hot peppers with other ingredients in the form of roasting can bring out a sweet flavor that can permeate through the hot sauce. However, roasting can involve equipment such as a large oven and controlled cooking procedures. This may require some cooking or kitchen experience but if you have very little check out Hot Sauce Recipes for 50 super easy hot sauce recipes you can make in minutes.
A hot sauce can be made with hot peppers, vinegar, and a few spices. Many recipes are using many different peppers and spices but many of them will emphasize a simple process of blending ingredients to create a sauce. Many recipes can have minor intricacies to them that may alter the outcome. However, all hot sauces will have one thing in common…spiciness.
Spicy Red Sauce
9 oz red jalapeño peppers
6 oz distilled white vinegar
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt
1. Remove stems from jalapeños and coarsely chop. Peel skin from garlic and coarsely chop them as well. Any red hot peppers such as a cayenne or fresno will work for this recipe. Each one will have a slightly different flavor but you may not notice much of a difference.
2. Add salt and vinegar and pulsate three (3) times in a food blender. Don’t blend ingredients into a sauce but place the mixture in a covered bowl and store in the refrigerator overnight to let the ingredients macerate.
3. Blend the sauce on a high speed for 30 seconds until it becomes a smooth consistency. Pour contents into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce the heat and stir frequently at a low temperature for 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to get thick.
4. Let the hot sauce cool to room temperature before putting it into containers. Glass woozy bottles (hot sauce shaped bottles) are the most common but most other containers, including plastic, will work for this low heat sauce.
Jalapeno Cilantro Lime
Jalapeno peppers combine great with citrus flavors such as lemons or limes. This recipe uses the juice from 2 large, fresh limes but it can be substituted with RealLime juice or RealLemon juice. Always remember that altering a recipe will change the flavor…sometimes for the better.
6 jalapeno peppers
6 garlic cloves
2 cups apple cider vinegar
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp salt
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp black pepper
1.Cut the stems off the peppers, and remove the seeds and membrane. Be careful handling the peppers or wear gloves. Even though a jalapeno pepper can have a very low level of heat handling them as much as this recipe calls for may irritate the skin.
2. Combine the jalapeno, onion, garlic, and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the pan. You can choose to cut or dice the onion and garlic or not. Either way, the flavor shouldn’t be affected too much.
3. Let the cooked mixture cool to room temperature and add the cilantro, salt, and black pepper. Squeeze juice from two fresh limes but be careful about getting seeds in the sauce. Some pulp can be added for a stronger lime flavor.
4. Add the contents into a blender and blend until the desired consistency is reached. Some low-wattage blenders may need the hot sauce blended longer for a smooth consistency. Adding more vinegar will thin out the consistency but use caution and only add a teaspoon at a time. This can also change the recipe.
This recipe is excellent with most Mexican-inspired foods such as tacos, burritos, or a simple rice and beans combination. A Jalapeno-based hot sauce will have an extreme amount of heat that will overpower the food that it is paired with and will have a crisp, fresh and bright flavor to it.
Here is another hot sauce recipe that utilizes the flavors of citrus but this recipe will be much hotter due to the habanero peppers used. The habanero pepper can have a fruity flavor to it that combines well with other fruits as well as citrus. Unlike the jalapeno hot sauce, this recipe does not use vinegar. The citrus acts similarly to the way vinegar does but will have a different flavor.
7 habanero peppers
½ cup diced carrots
4 medium garlic cloves.
¾ cup fresh orange juice (4 oranges)
½ cup fresh lime juice (4 limes)
1 tsp salt
1.Peel skin from carrot and chop or dice. Remove the stems and seeds from the habanero peppers. Remove the garlic skin. Add the peppers, carrots, and garlic to a pot of water. Boil for 10 – 12 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
2. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes into a separate container and set them aside. Don’t substitute orange juice for fresh-squeezed in this recipe. Other citrus juice like grapefruit will work in combination with the orange and lime.
3. Using a strainer drain the water from the carrots, peppers, and garlic and let them cool to room temperature. They will blend the same no matter what temperature but the contents will be easier to work with if you let them cool.
4. Add the orange juice, lime juice, and salt. The orange and lime flavors will permeate through the other ingredients if it sits in the refrigerator overnight. The same flavors get infused after it is blended as well.
5. Blend all ingredients on high for 30 – 40 seconds or until the sauce becomes a smooth consistency. This sauce will be thicker because of the carrot base but it shouldn’t be super flavorful within the recipe.
Grilled Pepper Hot Sauce
This hot sauce recipe places emphasis on the process of making hot sauce and not so much on the ingredients. This recipe can substitute different hot peppers, like many other recipes, although the jalapeno and serrano hot peppers will have a distinct bite to them as well as a fresh green color.
2 jalapeno peppers
2 serrano peppers
1 medium red bell pepper
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1.Remove the stems from the peppers. Cut them in half and remove the seeds with a spoon by scraping them. Be careful not to remove too much of the pith (white area holding the seeds) and walls. This is where a lot of heat is.
2. Use a gas or charcoal grill at about 350 degrees to cook the peppers. Place the jalapeno, serrano, and bell peppers on a clean grate but over the flame. Grill for about 8 – 10 minutes or until the peppers begin to turn brown. Flip about halfway through so both sides are cooked evenly.
3. Remove the peppers from the grill and put them on a cooking sheet. Lightly salt the peppers while they are still hot. Let the peppers cool to room temperature.
4. Add all ingredients to a blender, including the remaining salt, and blend until smooth. Grilling and roasting can remove some of the water in the peppers so add additional vinegar as needed to thin them out.
This sauce will have a fantastic grilled, roasted, or toasted flavor to it because of the dominant pepper blend. The red bell pepper can bring the heat level down and will give the sauce unique brown color against the green jalapeno and serrano peppers.
Foods that go well with hot sauce
Hot sauce is not meant to be eaten by itself…hot sauce is meant to be enjoyed with foods either as a topping, mixed in while cooking, or on the side for dipping. With as many varieties of hot sauce that are available, the possible uses with food can be almost endless. The foods that hot sauce is intended to be used with are just as important as the ingredients inside. With the plentiful creations of gourmet hot sauces available, people are gravitating away from some typical foods used with hot sauce like scrambled eggs, mac & cheese, and chicken wings.
A simple classic or traditional hot sauce made with hot peppers and vinegar goes well with most Mexican-influenced foods. This could include but is not limited to tacos, burritos, or tortillas. Mexican style hot sauces will sometimes have the addition of a tomato base mixed with the other ingredients but it is not far from a classic hot sauce flavor.
Louisiana style hot sauce
A Louisiana hot sauce is also associated with a classic or traditional flavor. This type of sauce is usually used with foods from New Orleans or the Southern US. Collard greens, gumbo, and crawfish are a few examples of many foods that are eaten with a Louisiana hot sauce.
Smoky hot sauce
Smoky flavor hot sauces will compliment any pork, beef, or poultry dish. The smoke flavor comes from cooking the hot peppers and other ingredients with direct or indirect contact with smoke from wood chips. This gives the sauce a distinct flavor reminiscent of grilled meats.
Sweet and heat
Sweet hot sauces are perfect for vegetable stir fry coving a bed of white rice. Anything sweet is a great flavor profile that is complemented by the heat of a hot pepper. Sweet flavors can go well with a variety of different foods including meats, vegetables, kabobs, and Caribbean-influenced foods.