Hot sauce

Hot sauce
There are thousands of varieties of hot sauce

Hot sauce, chili sauce or pepper sauce refers to any spicy sauce made from chili peppers and other ingredients.



There are many recipes for hot sauces - the common ingredient being any kind of peppers. A group of chemicals called capsaicinoids are responsible for the heat in chili peppers.[1] The peppers are infused in anything from vinegar, oil, water, beer and alcohol to fruits and vegetable pulp. Additional ingredients are often used, including those used to add extra heat, such as pure capsaicin extract and mustards.

Styles of hot sauce

The Americas

  • Mexico - Mexican hot sauce typically focuses more on flavor than on intense heat. The sauces are hot, but the individual flavors of the peppers are pronounced. Vinegar is used sparingly or not at all. Chipotles are a very popular ingredient of Mexican hot sauce. Some sauces produced in Mexico are high-vinegar-content similar to the American Louisiana-style sauces. Mexican-style sauces are also produced internationally (e.g. Huffman's Hot Sauce and Kaitaia Fire from New Zealand). Some less hot sauces, like achiote or adobo, are used basically as part of some dishes, but they are used as a condiment, too. Sometimes they come in a green variety.
    • Valentina, a traditional Mexican sauce
    • Búfalo, a popular Mexican sauce
    • Chile de Arbol, very hot, similar to cayenne peppers, used in the popular Torta Ahogada dish
  • United States: Most often called hot sauce, they are typically made from chili pepper, vinegar and salt. Peppers used are often of the varieties cayenne, jalapeño and habanero; chipotles are also common. Some hot sauces, notably Tabasco sauce, are aged in wooden casks similar to the preparation of wine and fermented vinegar. Other ingredients, including fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, mangoes, carrots, and chayote squash are sometimes used to add flavor, mellow the heat of the chilis, and thicken the sauce's consistency.
    • Louisiana-style: Louisiana-style hot sauce contains red chili peppers (tabasco and/or cayenne are the most popular), vinegar and salt. Occasionally xanthan gum or other thickeners are used.
    • Chili pepper water: Used primarily in Hawaii, this concoction is ideal for cooking. It is made from whole chilies, garlic, salt, and water. Often homemade, the pungent end product must be sealed carefully to prevent leakage.
    • Sriracha sauce An American variant of a traditional Thai hot sauce, made primarily of ground chilies, garlic, vinegar, and salt. Often called "rooster sauce" after the predominant brand's label.
    • A very mild chili sauce is produced by Heinz and other manufacturers, and is frequently found in cookbooks in the U.S. This style chili sauce is based on tomatoes, green and/or red bell peppers, and spices; and contains little chili pepper. This sauce is more akin to tomato ketchup and cocktail sauce than predominantly chili pepper-based sauces.[2]
    • New Mexico: New Mexican style chile sauces differ from others in that they contain no vinegar. Almost every traditional New Mexican dish is served with red or green chile sauce. The sauce is often added to meats, eggs, vegetables, breads, and some dishes are, in fact, mostly chile sauce with a modest addition of pork, beef, or beans.
      • Green chile: This sauce is prepared from any fire roasted native green chile peppers, Hatch, Santa Fe, Albuquerque Tortilla Company, Bueno and Big Jim are common varieties. The skins are removed and peppers diced. Onions are fried in lard and a roux is prepared. Broth and chile peppers are added to the roux and thickened. Its consistency is similar to gravy, and it is used as such. It also is used as a salsa.
      • Red chile: A roux is made from lard and flour. The dried ground pods of native red chiles are added. Water is added and the sauce is thickened.
  • West Indies - Hot pepper sauces, as they are most commonly known there, feature heavily in Caribbean cuisine. Like American-style sauces, they are made from chili peppers and vinegar, with fruits and vegetables added for extra flavor. The most common peppers used are habanero and Scotch bonnet, the latter being the most common in Jamaica. Both are very hot peppers, making for strong sauces (e.g. Capt'n Sleepy's Quintessential Habanero, or Matouk's). Over the years, each island developed its own distinctive recipes, and home-made sauces are still common.
    • Antigua - "Susie's Hot Sauce", a mustard based hot sauce.
    • Barbados - Bajan pepper sauce, a mustard and Scotch bonnet pepper based hot sauce.
    • Dominica - "Bello Hot Pepper Sauce", a hot sauce made from scotch bonnets, manufactured by Perry W. Bellot, LTD, a family owned business that has been manufacturing this hot sauce for over forty years.
    • Haiti - Sauce Ti-malice, typically made with habanero, shallots, lime juice, garlic and sometimes tomatoes
    • St. Lucia - Baron Hot Sauce, manufactured by Baron Foods Limited using fresh local Scotch bonnet peppers, mustard, garlic, onions to focus more on flavor than heat profile.
    • Puerto Rico
      • Pique - habaneros with orange
      • Sofrito - small piquins ("bird peppers") with annatto seeds, coriander leaves, onions, garlic, and tomatoes
    • Jamaica - Scotch bonnets are the most popular peppers used on Jamaica. They are often pounded with fruits such as mango, papaya and tamarind.
      • Pickapeppa sauce
      • Grace's Hot Pepper Sauce
      • Encona and Dunn's River brand is the choice for WestIndians in Britain
      • Goldson's MoreFire! Hot Sauce (1st place winner of a 2011 Scovie Award)
    • Virgin Islands - Asher (from "limes ashore"), made with lime, habaneros, cloves, allspice, salt, vinegar, and garlic.
  • Belize
    • Melinda's, made with habaneros, carrots, onions
    • Marie Sharp's, commonplace in Belize
    • Hot Mama's, another hot sauce from Belize, winner at the 2006 Fiery Food Challenge with its Sweet Pepper Sauce and 2007 Scovie awards
  • Panama
    • Picante Chombo D'Elidas is a popular brand in Panama, with three major sauces. The yellow sauce, made with habanero and mustard, is the most distinctive. They also produce red and green varieties which are heavier on vinegar content and without mustard.
    • Sista 100% Natural Pepper Sauce is a gourmet authentic Caribbean flavor pepper sauce/seasoning. Family recipe made using the "aji chombo" (Scotch bonnet/habanero peppers). It was a winner of a 2009 Scovie Award.


  • China. Chinese chili sauces usually come as a thick paste, and are used either as a dipping sauce or in stirfrying.
    • Dou ban sauce (la dou ban jiang 辣豆瓣醬, la dou jiang 辣豆醬, dou ban jiang 豆瓣醬), ("la" is "spice", "dou" is "bean", "ban" is "piece", and "jiang" is "sauce") originates from Szechuan cuisine in which chilis are used liberally. It is made from broad bean or soybean paste, and usually contain a fair amount of chili. Often referred to in English as chili bean sauce.
    • Pao la jiao or yu la jiao (泡辣, 鱼辣椒), dipped chili or fish chili, is made by pickling whole, fresh red chilis in a brine solution; this sauce is the key ingredient in the famous Sichuan dish Yuxiang rousi (鱼香肉丝), julienned pork in fish fragrance sauce. The key to this pickle is to add a live crucian carp to the pickling pot along with the chilis, hence the name fish chili. The carp is supposed to lend its fragrance and umami to the pickle.
    • La jiao You or hong you (辣椒油, 红油), chili oil or red oil, is another distinctive Sichuan flavoring found mainly in cold dishes, as well as a few hot dishes. Chili oil is made by pouring hot oil onto a bowl of dried chilis, to which some Sichuan pepper is usually added. After steeping in hot oil for at least a few hours, the oil takes on the taste and fragrance of chili. The finer the chili is ground, the stronger the flavor (regional preferences vary - ground chili is usually used in western China, while whole dried chili is more common in northern China.)
    • Guilin chili sauce (Guìlín làjiāojiàng 桂林辣椒酱) is made of fresh chili, garlic and fermented soybeans; it also is marketed as soy chili sauce (la jiao jiang and la dou ban jiang are not the same thing, though they look vaguely similar in the jar).
    • Duo jiao sauce (duo jiao 剁椒) originates from Hunan cuisine, which is reputed to be even spicier than Sichuan cuisine. Duo means chopped, and jiao means chili. Duo jiao is made of chopped red chilis pickled in a brine solution, and has a salty and sour pickled taste; it is the key flavoring in the signature Hunan dish duo jiao yu tou (剁椒鱼头), fish head steamed with chopped chili.
  • Japan
    • Rayu or La Yu chili oil (辣油, Chinese 辣椒油), is the same as la jiao you, and is often used for dishes such as gyoza.
    • Shichimi togarashi (七味唐辛子) and ichimi togarashi (一味唐辛子) are seven or one ingredient spicy seasoning mixes, with chili, used for many soups and foods, such as udon.
    • Okinawa - Kōrēgūsu (コーレーグース, 高麗胡椒), made of chilis infused in awamori rice spirit, is a popular condiment to Okinawan dishes such as Okinawa soba. It refers to Goguryeo.
  • Korea
  • Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore
    • Sos Cili, a category of its own, uses tomato puree, chili juice, sugar, salt and some other spices or seasonings to give the spicy, but not too hot, taste. Some countryside commercial varieties use bird's eye chili (cili padi, cabai rawit or burung) together with its seeds to raise the level of heat (piquancy) of the sauce. Variants include the typical concoctions with ginger and garlic (for chicken rice) and variants that are made into gummy consistency as with ketchup/tomato sauce.
    • Sambal is a generic term for many varieties of chili-based sauces popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Phrik nam pla is served with nearly every Thai meal
  • In Thailand, Thais put raw chilis on a very wide variety of food, in lieu of chili sauces. Chili sauces are eaten as condiments but they can also be used as an ingredient.
    • Thai sweet chili sauce is used as a dipping sauce. Mae Ploy is a leading manufacturer.
    • Nam phrik is the generic name for a Thai chili dip or paste. Nam phrik phao (roasted chili paste), nam phrik num (pounded grilled green chili paste) and nam phrik kapi (chili paste made with shrimp paste) are some of the more well-known varieties.
    • Many Thai dipping sauces (nam chim) contain chili peppers. Nam chim chaeo uses ground dried chili peppers to achieve its spiciness.
    • Phrik nam pla is fish sauce (nam pla) with chopped raw chilis, lime juice and sometimes garlic.
    • Sriracha sauce is a Thai style of chili sauce.
  • Vietnam
    • Vietnamese hot sauce is made from sun-ripened chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It is very popular in Vietnamese cuisine, often used in a wide variety of foods.


  • Tunisia
    • Harissa is a popular hot sauce used in Tunisia. It is usually made from grounded red birdseye chili peppers with olive oil, garlic, cumin and coriander although caraway is sometimes used instead of cumin and recipes vary. The sauce is of a dark red grainy texture. It is sometimes spread on bread rolls but also used as a condiment with a variety of meals. Tunisian Harissa is much hotter than that found in neighboring countries. Cap Bon is a popular brand of Harissa. Harissa is often sold in tin cans.
  • South Africa
    • Peri Peri sauce is a style of piri piri chili sauce used by Nando's Chicken fast food restaurants.
  • Malawi


  • England - The two hottest chillis in the world, the Naga Viper[3] and Infinity chilli were developed in England and are available as a sauce[4] resulting in England producing the hottest natural chilli sauces (without added pepper extract) available in the world.
  • Portugal - Peri Peri is a style of piri piri sauce.


Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands are influenced by Asian and European cuisines.

  • Hot chilli sauce is a thick Chinese style sauce.
  • Sweet chilli sauce is a Thai style sweet dipping sauce.
  • Peri Peri sauce is a Portugese style piri piri sauce.


The heat, or burning sensation, experienced when consuming hot sauce is caused by capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The burning sensation is not "real" in the sense of damage being wrought on tissues. It is instead a chemical interaction with the body's neurological system (see this technical explanation).

The seemingly subjective perceived heat of hot sauces can be measured by the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale number indicates how many times something must be diluted with an equal volume of water until people can no longer feel any sensation from the capsaicin. The hottest hot sauce scientifically possible is one rated at 16,000,000 Scoville units, which is pure capsaicin. Examples of hot sauces marketed as achieving this level of heat are Blair's 16 Million Reserve (due to production variances, it is up to 16 million Scoville units), marketed by Blair's Sauces and Snacks. By comparison, Tabasco sauce is rated between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units (batches vary) - with one of the mildest commercially available condiments, Cackalacky Classic Condiment Company's Spice Sauce, weighing in at less than 1000 Scoville units on the standard heat scale.

An easy way to determine the heat of a sauce is to look at the ingredients. Sauces tend to vary in heat by the ingredients in them.

  • Jalapeño - These sauces include green and red jalapeño chilis, and chipotle. Green jalapeño and chipotle are usually the mildest sauces available. Red jalapeño sauce is generally hotter.
  • Cayenne - Sauces made with cayenne, including most of the Louisiana-style sauces, are usually hotter than jalapeño, but milder than other sauces.
  • Tabasco - Sauces made with tabasco peppers, like Tabasco sauce, are generally hotter than cayenne pepper sauces. Along with Tabasco, a number of "extra hot" sauces are made using a combination of tabasco and cayenne or other chili peppers.
  • Scotch Bonnet - Similar in heat to the Habanero are these peppers popular in the Caribbean. Often found in Jamaican hot sauces.
  • Habanero - Habanero pepper sauces are almost the hottest natural pepper sauces, only second to the Bhut jolokia or Naga jolokia.
  • Piri piri - Also known as the African birds-eye chili, the unique characteristic of sauces made with this pepper is the delayed sensation of heat when consumed. This allows consumers to taste their food first, then experience the heat.[citation needed]
  • Capsaicin extract - The hottest sauces are made from capsaicin extract. These range from extremely hot pepper sauce blends to pure capsaicin extracts. These sauces are extremely hot and should be considered with caution by those not used to fiery foods. Many are too hot to consume more than a drop or two in a pot of food. These novelty sauces are typically only sold by specialty retailers and are usually more expensive.
  • Other ingredients - heat is also affected by other ingredients. Many sauces contain tomatoes, carrots (in habanero sauces), onions, garlic or other vegetables and seasonings. Generally, more ingredients in a sauce dilute the effect of the chilis, resulting in a milder flavor.

Remedies for pain caused by eating hot sauces or chilis

Capsaicinoids are the chemicals responsible for the "hot" taste of chili peppers. They are fat soluble and therefore water will be of no assistance when countering the burn. The most effective way to relieve the burning sensation is with dairy products, such as milk and yogurt. A protein called casein occurs in dairy products which binds to the capsaicin, effectively making it less available to "burn" the mouth, and the milk fat helps keep it in suspension. Rice is also useful for ameliorating the impact, especially when it is included with a mouthful of the hot food. These foods are typically included in the cuisine of cultures that major in the use of chilis. Mechanical stimulation of the mouth by chewing food will also partially mask the pain sensation.

Cooling and mechanical stimulation are the only proven methods to relieve the pain; many questionable tips, however, are widely perpetuated. Since capsaicin in its pure state is poorly soluble in water, but is more so in oils and alcohol, an often heard advice is to eat fatty foods or beverages, assuming that these would carry away the capsaicin. The value of this practice is questionable and the burning sensation will slowly fade away without any measure taken. Milk, however, has been found to work, as seen on the American TV shows MythBusters and Food Detectives.

See also


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