The 10 Best Hot Sauces
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in July of 2015. From the sublime to the ridiculously fiery, our selection of hot sauces offers a great way for the creative cook to add a spicy kick to any dish. You'll find a range of flavor profiles, but be careful, as a few of these options aren't your grandfather's condiments. In some cases, one small drop is enough to add significant heat to an entire meal. Don't say we didn't warn you. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
January 23, 2020:
Hot sauce is a mainstay in many kitchens, and we wanted to create a diverse list with a range of flavor profiles to appeal to myriad tastes, as well as a variety of savory dishes, sides, and snacks. We also wanted to ensure we had plenty of mild, medium, and hot options, with formulations that champion different peppers.
For instance, you'll find plenty of habanero, chili, and jalapeno-based items, as they tend to be the most popular, but we made sure to include serrano, scotch bonnet, chipotle, green, and cayenne pepper sauces, too. We also have one ghost pepper option, Dave's Gourmet Ghost Pepper Jolokia. If insanely spicy hot sauces are your thing, then you'll want to look over our list of ghost pepper sauces, which has more options like Dave's.
Today we brought on Mad Dog 357 at the expense of Ass Kickin' Pure. The Mad Dog brand sets itself apart by being just as searingly hot as others of its ilk without sacrificing flavor. This sauce is not meant as a gag gift like many others — it is made to be delicious while satisfying those who have high heat tolerances. It's rated at an impressive 357,000 Scoville units thanks to a blend of habaneros, cayennes, and 3,000,000 Scoville pepper extract. It is not for the faint of heart.
We added the Yellowbird Combo, a threesome of tasty and versatile sauces great for households with spice lovers and those who like a milder condiment. Hot sauces are notorious for their extremely high sodium content, so Yellowbird creates low-sodium sauces with virtually no sugar (the 9-ounce jalapeno has one gram, the other two have none). The habanero and serrano iterations are keto, paleo, vegan, and Whole 30 friendly.
One last note on hot sauce — while it has many health benefits, it can also cause acid reflux and gastrointestinal problems, so tread lightly if you have a sensitive stomach. It's extremely important to remember that these contain high amounts of peppers, so keep it off your skin and away from your eyes. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly if any gets on your fingers, otherwise, you may accidentally cause harm to yourself, a child, or a pet by touching them.
A Brief History Of Bottled Hot Sauce
By the time America had recovered in the 1940s, hot sauce makers were back at it.
Commercially bottled hot sauce made its first appearance in the United States in 1807, and the first recipe was made from the cayenne pepper. J. McCollick & Company created a bird chili pepper-based hot sauce sometime between 1840 and 1860. It is believed 1849 was the year of the first tabasco chili crop, but it wasn't until 1860 that a tabasco-based hot sauce was made.
In 1860, Edmund McIlhenny, a tabasco farmer, created a tabasco-based hot sauce. In his first batch he produced 350 bottles, which he sent out to wholesales as samples. In just a few weeks he received orders for thousands of bottles. McIlhenny's farm was located in Avery Island, Louisiana, and it wasn't long before the tabasco flavor became synonymous with Louisiana. It is currently the defining flavor in Louisiana hot sauces. Of the many early hot sauce companies from the mid-1800s, Tabasco is the only one still in existence.
The early 1920s was a period of rapid expansion for the hot sauce industry with many well known brands coming to market. Between 1918 and 1928, La Victoria Salsa Brava, Crystal, and Bruce Food were founded. The Great Depression put a hold on the hot sauce industry and for a time there were very few innovations. By the time America had recovered in the 1940s, hot sauce makers were back at it. In 1941, La Victoria released red taco sauce, green taco sauce, and enchilada sauce. Then in 1947, Pace Foods was founded and launched their picante sauce out of a liquor store in San Antonio, Texas.
There were other regions making hot sauce at the time, most notably the Caribbean, but these areas had very few large scale manufacturers. Instead, recipes were handed down from generation to generation and they were made in small batches for local communities. Pickapeppa of Jamaica is one of the few exceptions.
The Hottest Sauces In The World
In today's world, being the hottest hot sauce comes with a badge of honor, as is true for the person crazy enough to consume it. Technically the hottest hot sauce currently on the planet is Blair's 16 Million Reserve, which isn't actually a true hot sauce, but rather a pure capsaicin extract. It measures a stunning 16 million Scoville units, which is the scale used to measure exactly how spicy a pepper or hot sauce is.
In today's world, being the hottest hot sauce comes with a badge of honor, as is true for the person crazy enough to consume it.
The spiciest hot sauce available that isn't a pure pepper extract is CaJohns Get Bitten Black Mamba, which is rated at 6 million Scoville units. To put these numbers into perspective, the standard Tabasco sauce we are all familiar with is rated at between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units, with their hotter habanero-based hot sauce rated at a touch over 7,000 Scoville units. The very popular Sriracha hot sauce measures at just 1,000 to 2,500 Scoville units.
Many of the ridiculously spicy hot sauces that are rated in the hundreds of thousands or millions of Scoville units are designed to be a food additive and not poured directly onto food before consumption. Think of them like adding a couple of really hot Thai bird peppers or a touch of chopped habanero to a bowl of chili or a salsa. If you are looking to kick it up a notch with some really hot chicken wings, but would rather not completely burn off your taste buds, consider trying a hot sauce in the 20,000 to 50,000 Scoville unit range before moving on to anything hotter.
Tips For Making Great Hot Sauces
Making a great homemade hot sauce is all about balance. The goal is to balance the flavors, so that they can all be enjoyed without one ingredient overpowering the other. While making hot sauce at home is relatively easy, it takes some trial and error to master the proportions. Luckily hot sauce ingredients are relatively inexpensive, so don't be afraid to experiment.
If you choose to go this route, don't cook the citrus as this can make it bitter and also cause it to lose some of its bright citrus flavor.
The three basic components of any hot sauce are fresh chilies, vinegar, and salt. After that, the sky is the limit. It is often a good idea to add additional aromatics like carrots, onions, and celery to give it a more refined taste and add layers of flavor. If you are going for more of a sweet and spicy style hot sauce, consider adding some sugar or ketchup. This will also help to thicken the mixture as it cooks down.
If you prefer a fresher hot sauce with a Caribbean flare, try adding some citrus fruits like lemons or oranges. If you choose to go this route, don't cook the citrus as this can make it bitter and also cause it to lose some of its bright citrus flavor. Instead either cook the chilies and other ingredients and add the citrus at the end after cooking, or just make a fresh, completely raw hot sauce. This may turn out to be quite a treat as you won't often find raw hot sauces in the store.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, always make your hot sauce in a well ventilated kitchen. Cooking down chilies can cause your eyes to tear and your throat to burn. Don't forget, pepper spray is little more than extracted pepper oils. Cooking a big batch of hot sauce in an unventilated kitchen can cause you to feel like you've just been hit with a stream of it dead in the face.