Want to spice up your food? Make your own hot sauce at home

Last Updated August 2019

The world of spice isn’t something you turn back from. Whether you were born into it or you came into it later, spicy cuisine culture makes regular food taste bland, boring, and uninspired by comparison, and finding the perfect balance of heat and flavor creates a unique cooking challenge There’s nothing quite like the feeling of excitement from wrestling with the scoville scale, especially if you’ve made your own custom, one-of-a-kind hot sauce blend.

Hot food is fun and healthy if used moderately. Capsaicin, the spicy component in chili peppers, can reduce inflammation and harmful cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Capsaicin jumpstarts your metabolism as well, and studies have shown its has anti-carcinogenic properties and can lower blood pressure.

While the benefits of spicy food are plentiful, hot sauce can add noticeable expenses to your grocery bills, particularly if you prefer boutique and high-end brands. Thankfully, you can make your own delicious fire sauce at home. Not only does this save you money, it broadens your culinary palette. Before we show you how, though, a few considerations.

Choose your style

There are more hot sauces under the sun than we can count. We can’t list them all here, but we’ll list some of the more popular varieties below to help you get started on your hot sauce journey.

Generally speaking, hot sauces contain chili peppers, an acid like vinegar or lemon/lime juice, salt, and aromatics like carrots or onions. Certain varieties add grilled fruit like pineapple or mango for sweetness, while others add tomatoes and curry spices for depth. The possibilities are nearly endless, and let’s face it, that’s part of the fun. Here are some of our favorite styles.

  • Sriracha: This sauce is generally flavored for pairing with Asian foods, but it’s versatile enough to enhance anything from eggs to pizza to soup. It’s made from red jalapenos, red serranos, garlic, salt, sugar, and vinegar.

  • Louisiana: Popularized by sauces like Tabasco and Crystal, Louisiana is a vinegar-based sauce crafted with Cayenne or tabasco peppers and salt.

  • Caribbean: Typically made with hot habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, Caribbean chili sauce often includes fruits like mango alongside spices like cumin and ginger.

  • Mexican: These sauces utilize less vinegar than their spicy siblings. Instead, they use earthy ingredients like smoked or dried chilis to provide flavor. However some use fresh red and green peppers for intense heat.

  • Indian: Indian cuisine contains some of the most robust flavors you’ll find anywhere in the world, and its hot sauce style reflects that. Common ingredients include kashmiri powder, paprika, tomatoes, and fennel.

Hot sauce is supposed to be spicy, not scary. Follow this guide to learn how it’s made, and how you can do it at home.

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Choose your heat level

The hotness of your sauce can be tweaked and tailored by a myriad of factors, including the pepper types, how diluted they are, and the fruit/sugar content of the sauce. We’ll list the major pepper categories below, but remember that even an extremely hot chili can be used in a low-heat sauce if done correctly.

  • Low heat peppers: Bell, pimento, pepperoncini, banana, anaheim, poblano.

  • Medium heat peppers: Jalapeno, chipotle, serrano, Hungarian wax.

  • High heat peppers: Habanero, scotch bonnet, datil, rocoto.

  • Extreme heat peppers: Ghost, scorpion, 7 pots, carolina reaper, pepper x.

How to make your own hot sauce

Hot sauce recipes vary, but these are the fundamental steps you’ll take in almost all of them. If you’re grilling fruit, tomatoes, or vegetables for your sauce, do it beforehand.

  • Wash the peppers and remove the stems. Remove the seeds if you want to cut down on heat.

  • Mix the peppers with your other ingredients -- vinegar, salt, garlic, fruit, onions, carrots, etc.

  • Boil the mixture, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the peppers are soft.

  • Blend everything in a food processor. If you’re using extremely hot peppers, gloves are recommended.

  • Remove from heat and cool, straining out the pulp before bottling.

The hot sauce shopping list

Outside of the produce, spices, and additives themselves, here are the tools you’ll need to make DIY hot sauce.

  • A food processor to mix and liquify your hot sauce.

  • A kitchen scale to accurately measure your produce, including the chilis. If you’re using extremely hot peppers in your recipe, precision is necessary.

  • A nonreactive boiling pot to soften your peppers and blend the flavors. remember to boil your mixture to 185 degrees before bottling.

  • A PH meter to measure the acidity of your mixture for fine-tuned recipes.

  • Bottles or jars to store and preserve your hot sauce over time.

  • Gloves for hot peppers. Chilis at the upper end of the scoville scale contain oils that can burn bare skin, even in small amounts. A little protection goes a long way.

Written by:
  • Andrew