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October 25, 2020
Fermentation basics: How to make fermented hot sauce
By Sian Babish

When it comes to condiments, hot sauce makes the perfect final touch to burgers, burritos, eggs, and even ice cream if you’re a big fan of spice.

Fermented foods have gained popularity, and though most people think of kimchi or sauerkraut when they think of fermentation, you can also ferment hot sauce to achieve new depths of flavor. While it takes a couple of weeks for ingredients to ferment, it’s well worth the wait — especially if flavors like habanero cilantro, ghost pepper chipotle, or Thai chili lemongrass appeal to your palate.

If you don’t want to spend big bucks on fermented hot sauce from a specialty market, you’re in luck. Once you learn the basics, it’s easy to make fermented hot sauces at home, provided you have a bit of guidance. Here are a few beginner recipes to get you started.

Basic fermented hot sauce recipe

Here’s the basic recipe for traditional fermented hot sauce. Once you master the process, which is actually quite simple, it’s easy to adapt the recipe with a variety of ingredients. Many people experiment with different types of peppers, vinegars, vegetables, fruits, herbs, or spices.

As far as tools will go, it’s recommended to use 16-ounce jars to store the fermenting ingredients, such as wide-mouth mason jars. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use a clean, sanitized glass pasta jar instead. 

Basic fermented hot sauce ingredients 

To ferment:

20 peppers (less hot varieties for milder hot sauce, hotter varieties for spicier)

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

Optional: additional fruits or vegetables (for flavor)

 

After fermenting:

1/2 cup 3% brine (instructions below)

1/2 cup vinegar

Optional: spices, seasonings, or herbs to taste

Fermented hot sauce directions:

1. Remove the stems from the peppers, then deseed and devein them. Chop or dice garlic and any additional fermenting ingredients. Loosely pack all ingredients into a mason jar or pasta jar.

2. To make your 3% salt brine, begin by boiling tap water for 20 minutes, uncovered, to dechlorinate it. Add 30 grams of sea salt or Himalayan salt (not iodized table salt) to 1,000 milliliters of water and mix. It’s important to weigh the salt, as a tablespoon of sea salt is more concentrated than a tablespoon of Himalayan salt.

3. Pour the salt brine over the packed jar, making sure the ingredients stay below the brine. This can be done by using a glass fermentation weight, or by adding a bit of water to a resealable food bag and placing it on top of the brine.

4. Screw the fermentation lid onto the jar. This allows gases produced by the ferment to escape while preventing air or particles from seeping into the jar.

5. Leave the jar at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for two weeks. It’s fine to open the jar to check on the ferment, provided the ingredients stay below the brine. After a few days, the ferment should take on a pleasantly sour aroma. If the smell seems off or unappealing, the batch may have been compromised by mold or bacteria, and you’ll need to toss it.

6. A whitish film called Kahm yeast may develop at the top of the brine. While it’s not harmful to ingest, it may create an unpleasant aroma or adversely affect the ferment’s taste. To remove it, scoop it out gently with a spoon.

7. After two weeks, strain the ferment and reserve the brine. Add the solid ferment ingredients to a blender and mix with any additional ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, spices, seasonings, or herbs. Add the brine and vinegar to the blender to taste and combine until your preferred consistency is achieved.

8. Optional: Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes to stop the fermentation process. This prevents the hot sauce from continuing to develop flavor. If you don’t simmer the mixture, the flavor will gradually enhance and grow more complex.

9. Transfer the fermented hot sauce into bottles or jars. If you chose not to simmer it, place the lid on loosely to allow gases to escape. This will also prevent the jar from bursting under pressure.

Fermented habanero cilantro sauce recipe

If you’re looking to turn up the heat, this habanero cilantro hot sauce will knock your socks off (in a good way). The cilantro and lemon juice tie the sauce together with a citrusy tang.

Habanero cilantro sauce ingredients:

To ferment:

20 habaneros

6 cloves of garlic

3/4 medium onion
 

After fermenting:

1/2 cup packed cilantro

1/4 cup 3% brine

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup vinegar

 

Habanero cilantro sauce directions:

1. With a paring knife, remove the stems of the habaneros, then deseed and devein them. Set aside. Dice the onion and garlic with a chef’s knife and set aside.

2. To make your 3% salt brine, begin by boiling tap water for 20 minutes, uncovered, to dechlorinate it. Add 30 grams of sea salt or Himalayan salt (not iodized table salt) to 1,000 milliliters of water and mix. It’s important to weigh the salt, as a tablespoon of sea salt is more concentrated than a tablespoon of Himalayan salt.

3. Loosely pack all ferment ingredients into a jar and pour the brine over the top, ensuring it completely covers all ingredients. Let sit for two weeks away from direct sunlight.

4. After fermenting, strain and save the brine. Add the solid ferment ingredients to a blender, along with cilantro, brine, lemon juice, and white vinegar. Adjust vinegar and salt to taste and add water if the mixture needs thinning. Combine until it reaches desired consistency.

5. Optional: Simmer ingredients for 15 minutes.

6. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Fermented ghost pepper chipotle sauce recipe

If you’re interested in making a universally appealing hot sauce for a party, this ghost pepper chipotle is your best option. Everyone will appreciate this new spin on familiar flavors, which are elevated with the complexity and sharpness of cumin and mustard.

Fermented ghost pepper chipotle sauce ingredients:

To ferment:

2 tomatillos

5 ghost peppers

6 cloves of garlic

1 medium shallot

3 cherry bomb peppers


After fermenting:

2 cans chipotle chilis in Adobo sauce

2/3 cup 3% brine

2/3 cup vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon mustard

Fermented ghost pepper chipotle sauce directions:

1. With a paring knife, remove the stems of the ghost peppers and cherry bomb peppers. Deseed and devein them, then set them aside. Dice the tomatillos, garlic, and shallot with a chef’s knife and set aside.

2. To make your 3% salt brine, begin by boiling tap water for 20 minutes, uncovered, to dechlorinate it. Add 30 grams of sea salt or Himalayan salt (not iodized table salt) to 1,000 milliliters of water and mix. It’s important to weigh the salt, as a tablespoon of sea salt is more concentrated than a tablespoon of Himalayan salt.

3. Loosely pack all ferment ingredients into a jar and pour the brine over the top, ensuring it completely covers all ingredients. Let sit for two weeks away from direct sunlight.

4. After fermenting, strain and save the brine. Add the solid ferment ingredients to a blender, along with chipotle chilis, brine, vinegar, oregano, cumin, and mustard. Adjust vinegar and salt to taste and add water if the mixture needs thinning. Combine until it reaches desired consistency.

5. Optional: Simmer ingredients for 15 minutes.

6. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Fermented Thai chili lemongrass sauce recipe

If you’re a big fan of citrus, this Thai chili pepper lemongrass hot sauce is a must-make. In addition a unique combination of heat and tartness, the sauce has a somewhat refreshing, invigorating finish with hints of lemongrass and ginger.

Fermented Thai chili lemon sauce ingredients:

To ferment:

50 Thai chili peppers

4 stalks of spring onion

1/2 small carrot

1 small shallot

1 1/2-inch knob of ginger

1 stalk of lemongrass
 

After fermenting:

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup 3% brine

Juice from 1 1/2 lemons or limes

Fermented Thai chili lemon sauce directions:

1. With a paring knife, remove the stems of the Thai chili peppers. Deseed and devein them, then set them aside. Dice the spring onion stalks, carrot, shallot, ginger, and lemongrass stalk with a chef’s knife and set aside.

2. To make your 3% salt brine, begin by boiling tap water for 20 minutes, uncovered, to dechlorinate it. Add 30 grams of sea salt or Himalayan salt (not iodized table salt) to 1,000 milliliters of water and mix. It’s important to weigh the salt, as a tablespoon of sea salt is more concentrated than a tablespoon of Himalayan salt.

3. Loosely pack all ferment ingredients into a jar and pour the brine over the top, ensuring it completely covers all ingredients. Let sit for two weeks away from direct sunlight.

4. After fermenting, strain and save the brine. Add the solid ferment ingredients to a blender, along with brine, vinegar, and the juice from lemons or limes. Adjust vinegar and salt to taste.

5. To achieve this sauce’s signature ultra-thin consistency, strain the blended mixture through several layers of cheesecloth over a mixing bowl.

6. Optional: Simmer ingredients for 15 minutes.

7. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. 

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