the simplest hot sauce known to man

Homemade is best.

After the fist batch I couldn’t but regret not having done this before. If you think those hot sauces at the store have anything on homemade stuff, think again and the beautiful thing is: Hot sauces are extremely basic and easy to make. Just a few ingredients and cooking is really optional. In fact 1 ingredient is all that’s required. Fresh hot chiles,  puree them and that alone is already a killer hot sauce. Add salt and you have a seasoned sauce. Add liquid and control the consistency. Add salt and season it… trust me, 1-3% is more than enough.

I like this 1%-3% salinity.

Why is this range good? well, it’s good for me, that’s for sure… but I think you would probably agree that food seasoned in the range of 1% to 3% salt content aren’t bland and aren’t salty. That’s about the amount of salt concentration needed to season water for cooking pasta for example. Above that 3% limit I believe things start tasting a bit salty which is not a bad thing necessarily but I personally rather not. The salinity of the ocean is around 3.5% and for the sake of my own health I would not go above this as a rule. I keep this in mind when brining or seasoning anything. Ok let’s make some hot sauce!

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Let’s go over this Q&A (inner monologue) on the simplest hot sauce known to man. 

So grab some fresh chiles, remove the stems, puree and done? 

yeah, pretty much.

What kind of pepper would you use? 

I would say experiment with those you have access to being careful not to use ones that are too spicy. Some are actually dangerous (scorpion, ghost, stay away unless you really know what you’re doing) so do your homework and read about them.

The puree too thick to qualify as a sauce? 

Time to start solving problems here. How about adding some water.

Using water the sauce is kinda boring and spoils too quickly 

How about replacing most or all of that water with something like vinegar. It makes for a much interesting sauce anyways. The sauce will never go bad either.

Oh, that’s cool but what kind of vinegar? 

I would say, up to you. I like sharp ones myself. Champagne, Apple cider, even distilled white is totally fine.

Ok, this is all great  but I only have dried chiles. 

Same thing add those to the food processor but make sure you have some liquid in there. Vinegar will also bring out that vibrant color we all love.

You don’t reconstitute them before using?

hmmm… no. They will re-hydrate on their own anyways.

But wait, don’t you need hot water to do this?

hot water, hot vinegar, sure…. helps speed things up but trust me. Don’t waste your time.

Why don’t you cook the chiles? 

I could. That will change the flavor though, Not necessarily a bad thing. Up to you.

But wouldn’t cooking add more depth? 

probably, specially if you get some browning. I like bright hot sauces though… otherwise, we’re getting into mole territory. You could smoke your chiles too.. I mean, you could even add liquid smoke to your hot sauce. See why I hate recipes? they keep you from trying fun things.

What about adding other ingredients? 

Sky is the limit here. Tomato is pretty common as are sweet peppers. If your chiles are too hot, adding other ingredients can help cut down the heat by lowering its concentration.

How about fruits? 

yeah, mango, pineapple, are common. We’re getting into chutney territory here though but go nuts.

What about garlic? 

absolutely, Specially raw, talk about a double punch. Onions too? triple the fun!

Spices? 

yes, sure you can play with that but Mexican hot sauces are more about the chiles themselves and don’t usually have too many spices. Cumin and coriander seeds are common though. Again, you know I don’t care much for traditions. If you feel you need to add curry powder in there, up to you.

Salt? 

to your liking. Remember my whole spiel about 1% to 3% salinity?… up to you though.

Sugar?

I like adding sugar to balance the acidity and the sweetness goes really well with poultry and pork. Again, this is up to you.

So can we say that a hot sauce is basically a few ingredients blended together? 

pretty much.

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So how do I make the one in the picture? 

well, start here:

Ingredients (makes one litre of awesome sauce):

100g dried arbol chiles
85g yellow onion (half an onion)
30g  minced garlic (10 cloves, i love garlic)
300g crushed tomatoes (no idea.. tomatoes come in all sizes, I used canned)
70g water
350g white vinegar
15 salt
30g brown sugar

Method.

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. If you don’t like the seeds you could strain your sauce but that will take away most of the heat. Another trick for dealing with the seeds: Dehydrate them or if you’re using dehydrated/dried chiles then you ready to go. Collect them and if you have a spice blender powder them and add them back into the sauce. No seeds but all the heat. Good luck to you and your hot sauce making endeavours!

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22 comments

  1. Good on you for making your own hot sauce, not only do you know what goes into it, apart from less salt and thus less sodium, it probably tastes better too. My mum always makes her own homemade Indonesian chilli sauce, which is called sambal belacan in case you ever want to check it out and make it.
    I have to admit that I still haven’t made my own chilli sauce (because of that big bottle of sriracha in my fridge) but right now I am into making my own mustard. And its spicy and strong!
    PS. All that sauce on the photo of the chicken, if your sauce is as spicy as I think it is, thats kind of hot overdose, right?

    1. Hi Sofia! What’s your mom’s recipe for it? I’d like to try it out! Sriracha happens to be the one sauce with %3 sodium hahaha and I love it too. How do you make mustard? is that mustard seeds and vinegar? I have never even read anything about it. And in regards to the chicken shot…. Arbol chiles aren’t super hot, it’s spicy I won’t lie but delicious and not an overdoes. I can drink the whole bottle just like sriracha 🙂 PS. Sriracha is made in California… only hahahah

  2. What is this??! National hot sauce week or something? Just last night I bottled my homemade fermented Serrano hot sauce (made in the style of Tabasco) and this morning Serious East send me an email with the “Top 30 Hot Sauce brands…” and now you too 🙂

    Wow, 26%. Really?? that almost seems like a typo! The hot sauce I’ve been making is dead simple, cheap and very customizable. that’s why there are a ton of hot sauce brands on the market. I process the chile with salt (roughly 5% by weight) and a touch of sugar. I let it ferment in on the counter then in the fridge. A month or so later I puree it with plenty of vinegar and bottle. Let is sit for a couple weeks and it is good to go. Tasty stuff and lasts forever at room temp. Let me know if you are interested in the actual proportions. I base the recipe on the one from John Currence’s book “Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey”

    1. hahahha! It has to be an absolute coincidence! Now… let’s talk about this serrano sauce. Fermented? I wish I had thought of it. This is genius! What if you just let it fermet for like 6 months? wouldn’t the acidity be high enough that vinegar wouldn’t be necessary? Anyways, if you don’t mind sharing the info that would be great! thanks for stopping by! Always super useful comments! love it.

      1. I’ll be happy to share the sauce recipe when i get home today. I have not pushed the limits of fermenting this but I think it can be done. However, it is not going to work with no vinegar as a sauce. It might make for an interesting chunky relish, but not as a hot sauce the way we think of it (again, think Tabasco as far as texture and acidity). You can use less vinegar to make a puree but not eliminate it altogether.

        1. look forward to it.. i was reading a little bit more today. Sriracha is fermented. I guess I never realized this is actually the thing to do with these sauces. I need to start fermenting stuff in here asap! thanks so much for the info!

          1. here’s the basic recipe I use
            450 gr chilies (Jalapeno, Serrano,…or a mix)
            60 gr salt (sounds like a lot, but with the added vinegar later it ends up a smaller %)
            15 gr sugar
            1-2 Tablespoons minced garlic (optional but I like what it adds a lot)
            2.5 cups vinegar (white wine, cider, champagne,…)
            1/4 teaspoon or so xanthan gum (optional, but I like adding it to help homogenize the sauce and prevent too much separation of solids from liquids)

            process the chilies, salt, sugar and garlic to a fine mince. allow them to ferment on the counter for 2-4 days in a loosly covered tupperware or jar then move them to the fridge and leave them for a month. Now, blend them with the vinegar and xanthan and put in bottles. Ideally the sauce should mature for a few more weeks at room temperature before tasting but even at this point it tastes good. It mellows with age and the bottled sauce does not need refrigeration. It lasts for at least 6 months or more.

          2. wow, thanks so much for sharing! I really wanna try this. I’ve fermented so much kimchi over the years hahah 🙂 I can’t wait to change it up a bit and now that I’m getting all into hot sauces this is perfect!

  3. I just want to dive in! Beautiful pics, as always. Salt content is high, but how much are you actually ingesting? I think when it comes to those numbers, it’s more critical when you eat processed, boxed “food” on a daily basis. Which I don’t, so I don’t worry about small issues. Sugar amounts really bother me, though. And why the hell is there 14 g of sugar in a hot sauce??? That’s ridiculous. Like you, that’s why I make most all of my condiments myself. It’s work but it’s definitely worth it!

    1. hi Mimi!!!! well.. it’s a pretty long store let me say at some point i thought i was allergic to hot sauces… it ended up being salt. Not from hot sauces, just my diet in general. I was abusing salt period. Not from my recipes but I ate a lot of pickled stuff and cured hams and stuff. It adds up quickly and I’m sensitive to that (there’s a history of high blood pressure in my family). So.. yeah, I agree, it’s all about overall salt intake like you say and not about how salty some condiment might be. I do love hot sauces and being able to regulate the sodium content is important to me. I wanted to share that. Regarding sugar… I’m not much into sweets so I’m not paying too much attention to sugar intake but I do like sweet hot sauces and I just made mango habanero sauce. Thai sweet hot sauces are very popular but I’m curious to hear your take on sugar and hot sauces a bit more. Anyways Mimi, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughtful comment! I hope you’re doing well.

  4. Hi, I may have the wrong end of the stick regarding what you’re saying about salt, but I get the impression you’re quoting those figures as the salt content of the products. They’re not; they’re the percentage of RDA the salt content represents. In the case of the one where it says 26%, that refers to 630mg in 30g, which is actually just 2.1% by content.

  5. HI. I may have the wrong end of the stick regarding your comments about salt but I have the impression that you’re quoting those figures on the labels as if they’re the salt content of the products, which they’re not. They are the percentage of the Daily Value (RDA – Recommended Daily Allowance in the UK) that the content represents. In the 26% example, that’s actually 630mg per 30g serving, which is just 2.1% by content. 630mg salt is 26% of the amount of salt you should consume in a day.

    1. I’m about to head to bed but I didn’t want to before I said thank you. I spend some time today going over what you said and after some calculating I realized I was wrong in my interpretation of the labels. Actually, my recommended 3% tends to be higher than most of the sauces I listed as examples. Some of the products I tested: Soys sauce is about 5% salt (surprisingly, I thought it would be a lot saltier). Most hot sauces I listed were around 2%. My suggested 3% is high (in comparison) and I will drop it in subsequent recipe posts. Surprisingly cheddar cheese which I thought was very salty is actually about 0.6% (which seems weird)… at least that’s what the label claims. Oyster sauce is about 1.5%. Anyways, thank you for clarifying this for me. Hope the garlic confit turned out awesome!

    1. now you to me thinking hahaha, let me ponder about this one for a bit and I’ll get back. And yes, RDA in the US is called %DV. Thanks for the clarification!

      1. Also worth noting the wide variation in serving size between the pictured sauces. The Sriracha’s is just 5g, for example, so if you ate the same amount of it as the ‘26%’ sauce you’d be at 18%DV. By content, the Sriracha is 1.6% salt.

        (I’m a bit of a number nerd)

        1. Yep, serving size should be normalized, it’s all over the place. This is great btw! 🙂 I’m calculating some numbers and I’ll run them by you to see what you think.

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