How to make hot sauce at home

If you love spicy food then the chances are good you’ve thought about making your own signature hot sauce at some point.

Making your own may be easier than you think. Whether you want to make a Sriracha-style hot sauce or one that more closely resembles Tabasco, you’ll need to follow the same basic steps.

The most important step in making hot sauce is choosing which peppers to use and in what quantity. Different peppers have different flavor profiles and varying degrees of heat. The amount of peppers used in your sauce will also determine how spicy the final product is; the higher the proportion of peppers to vinegar, the spicier your final sauce will be.

After you’ve selected your peppers, you’ll need to determine the other ingredients that you’d like to include in your hot sauce. Adding onion is a great way to add a hint of sweetness to the hot sauce, especially if the onions are sautéed or sprinkled with a hint of sugar. Spices can help create a more complex flavor profile, adding depth or smokiness.

Once you’ve determined which ingredients you’ll use for your hot sauce, the wait begins; combine your ingredients and allow the peppers to ferment. Fermentation not only gives the sauce its characteristic flavor, but it also promotes the growth of good, digestion-friendly bacteria (like we need another reason to eat hot sauce!). Fermentation is simple; as long as the peppers are salted and sealed in a jar, nature will do the rest.

After your peppers have aged, you’ll mix them with some vinegar before bottling your hot sauce and reveling in spicy glory.

1. Choose Your Peppers


You’ll have to do a bit of research to determine which peppers are best suited to your particular hot sauce. In general, larger peppers like jalapeños tend to be less spicy than smaller ones like Scotch Bonnets.

2. Control the Heat


There are a few different ways to adjust the spiciness of your hot sauce. If you want a hot sauce that is less spicy, you can either use fewer peppers or remove the seeds before combining your ingredients.

3. Purée the Peppers

Food processor isolated on white.

Food processor isolated on white. (iStock)

Once you’ve decided which ingredients you’ll include in your hot sauce, pulse them a few times a food processor to create a thick mash. Onions and garlic are common additions.

4. Allow the Peppers to Ferment

Tabasco in a glass jar, fresh red peppers, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds on the background burlap and wooden planks

Tabasco in a glass jar, fresh red peppers, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds on the background burlap and wooden planks (iStock)

Fermentation helps the hot sauce develop a complex and tangy flavor. To ferment your pepper mash, simply add it to a jar with some salt, cover, and leave it at room temperature for two to six weeks. After a couple of days, you’ll notice small bubbles in your hot sauce. Carefully open the jar to every few days to release some of the gasses.

Check out the next steps for finishing your homemade hot sauce. 

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