A fermented hot sauce
A fermented hot sauce
Hot sauces come in many varieties.
Hot sauces come in many varieties.

Hot sauce is a type of condiment, seasoning, or salsa made from chili peppers and other ingredients. Many commercial varieties of mass-produced hot sauce exist.


Humans have used chili peppers and other hot spices for thousands of years. Inhabitants of Mexico, Central America and South America had chili peppers more than 6,000 years ago. Within decades of contact with Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, the New World plant was carried across Europe and into Africa and Asia, and altered through selective breeding.[1] One of the first commercially available bottled hot sauces in America appeared in 1807 in Massachusetts.[2] Few of the early brands from the 1800s survived to this day, however. Tabasco sauce is the earliest recognizable brand in the United States hot sauce industry, appearing in 1868. As of 2010, it was the 13th best-selling seasoning in the United States[3] preceded by Frank's RedHot Sauce in 12th place, which was the sauce first used to create buffalo wings.[4]


Many recipes for hot sauces exist, but the only common ingredient is some variety of chili pepper. Many hot sauces are made by using chili peppers as the base and can be as simple as adding salt and vinegar. Other sauces use some type of fruits or vegetables as the base and add the chili peppers to make them hot.[5] Manufacturers use many different processes from aging in containers to pureeing and cooking the ingredients to achieve a desired flavor. Because of their ratings on the Scoville scale, spicier peppers such as the Ghost pepper or Habanero pepper are sometimes used to make hotter sauces. Alternatively, other ingredients can be used to add extra heat, such as pure capsaicin extract or mustard oil. Other common sauce ingredients include vinegar and spices. Vinegar is used primarily as a natural preservative, but flavored vinegars can be used to alter the flavour.[6]


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Belizean hot sauces are usually extremely hot and use habaneros, carrots, and onions as primary ingredients. Marie Sharp's is a popular brand of hot sauce produced in the Stann Creek Valley.


Bermudian sherry peppers sauce is made from a base of Spanish sherry wine and hot peppers. The major producer on the island is Outerbridge Peppers.[7][8]


Hot pepper sauces, as they are most commonly known there, feature heavily in Caribbean cuisine. They are prepared from chilli 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. Over the years, each island developed its own distinctive recipes, and home-made sauces are still common.[citation needed]


Trinidad Scorpion is considered one of the hottest and most frutal families of strains, and is primarily cultivated and hybridized in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.


Bajan pepper sauce, a mustard and Scotch bonnet pepper based hot sauce.


Sauce Ti-malice, typically made with habanero, shallots, lime juice, garlic and sometimes tomatoes[9]

Puerto Rico
Pique sauce
Pique sauce

Sofrito - small piquins ("bird peppers") with annatto seeds, coriander leaves, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Pique (/ˈpk/) sauce is a Puerto Rican hot sauce made by steeping hot peppers in vinegar. Don Ricardo Original Pique Sauce, which is made with pineapple, is a Puerto Rican staple. Don Ricardo originated in Utuado (Spanish pronunciation: [uˈtwaðo]) a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the central mountainous region of the island known as La Cordillera Central.


Scotch bonnets are the most popular peppers used in Jamaica. Pickapeppa sauce is a Jamaican sauce.


The most popular sauce is the Diaguitas brand, made of pure red (very hot) or yellow (hot) Chilean peppers mixed only with water and salt. Other hot sauces are made from puta madre, cacho de cabra, rocoto, oro and cristal peppers, mixed with various ingredients. Mild hot sauces include some "creamy style" (like ají crema), or a pebre-style sauce, from many local producers, varying in hotness and quality.


Mexican cuisine more often includes chopped chili peppers, but when hot sauces are used, they are typically focused more on flavor than on intense heat. Chipotle peppers are a very popular ingredient of Mexican hot sauce. Vinegar is used sparingly or not at all in Mexican sauces, but some particular styles are high in vinegar content similar to the American Louisiana-style sauces. Some hot sauces may include using the seeds from the popular achiote plant for coloring or a slight flavor additive. The process of adobos (marinade) has been used in the past as a preservative but now it is mainly used to enhance the flavor of the peppers and they rely more on the use of vinegar. Mexican-style sauces are primarily produced in Mexico but they are also produced internationally. The Spanish term for sauce is salsa, and in English-speaking countries usually refers to the often tomato-based, hot sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips. There are many types of salsa which usually vary throughout Latin America.

These are some of the notable companies producing Mexican style hot sauce.


Traditional Panamanian hot sauce is usually made with "Aji Chombo", Scotch Bonnet peppers. 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. Although the majority of Panamanian cuisine lacks in spice, D'Elidas is seen as an authentic Panamanian hot sauce usually serviced with Rice with Chicken or soups.

United States

In the United States, commercially produced chili sauces are assigned various grades per their quality.[10] These grades include U.S. Grade A (also known as U.S. Fancy), U.S. Grade C (also known as U.S. Standard) and Substandard.[10] Criteria in food grading for chili sauces in the U.S. includes coloration, consistency, character, absence of defects and flavor.[10]

Original Tabasco red pepper sauce
Original Tabasco red pepper sauce

The varieties of peppers that are used often are cayenne, chipotle, habanero and jalapeño. 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. Artisan hot sauces are manufactured by smaller producers and private labels in the United States. Their products are produced in smaller quantities in a variety of flavors. Many sauces have a theme to catch consumers attention. 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.[11]

A type of sriracha sauce manufactured in California by Huy Fong Foods has become increasingly popular in the United States in contemporary times.[12]


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.

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.



The availability of a wide variety of hot sauces is a relatively recent event in most of southern Australia (with little more than the flagship Tabasco cayenne variety and thick, medium hot Indochinese sauces widely available last century), although very faithful locally produced versions of habanero and Trinidad Scorpion sauces are now available.

United Kingdom

Two of the hottest chilies in the world, the Naga Viper and Infinity chili were developed in the United Kingdom[citation needed] and are available as sauces which have been claimed to be the hottest natural chili sauces (without added pepper extract) available in the world.[14][failed verification] The Naga Viper and Infinity were considered the hottest two chili peppers in the world until the Naga Viper was unseated by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion in late 2011.[citation needed]


Habanero, bell pepper, and garlic hot sauce
Habanero, bell pepper, and garlic hot sauce

The heat, or burning sensation, experienced when consuming hot sauce is caused by capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The burning sensation is caused by the capsaicin activation of the TRPV1 heat and ligand-gated ion channel in peripheral neurons.[15] The mechanism of action is then a chemical interaction with the neurological system. Although the "burning" sensation is not real, repeated and prolonged use of hot spices may harm the peripheral heat-sensing neurons; this mechanism may explain why frequent spice users become less sensitive to both spices and heat.

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 million Scoville units, which is pure capsaicin. An example of a hot sauce marketed as achieving this level of heat is Blair's 16 Million Reserve, 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 sauces, Cackalacky Classic Sauce Company's Spice Sauce, weighing in at less than 1000 Scoville units on the standard heat scale.


A general way to estimate the heat of a sauce is to look at the ingredients list. Sauces tend to vary in heat based on the kind of peppers used, and the further down the list, the less the amount of pepper.


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 mitigating 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 specialise in the use of chilis. Mechanical stimulation of the mouth by chewing food will also partially mask the pain sensation.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Brown, David (February 16, 2007). "One Hot Archaeological Find". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 16, 2017.
  2. ^ Thompson, Jennifer Trainer (2012-04-24). Hot Sauce!. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-60342-813-2.
  3. ^ "The Best-Selling Condiments in the U.S.: No. 13 Best-Selling Condiment: McIllhenny Tabasco Sauce". BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on 2013-04-28. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  4. ^ "The Best-Selling Condiments in the U.S.: No. 12 Best-Selling Condiment: Frank's RedHot Sauce". BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  5. ^ Chili History and Hot Sauce. Archived from the original on 2016-10-12.
  6. ^ Tate, Nate; Tate, Mary Kate (2011-09-20). Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes. ISBN 9781449408480.
  7. ^ DeWitt, Dave (2018). The Essential Chile Sauce Guide. Terra Nova Books. ISBN 9781948749343.
  8. ^ Hillinger, Charles (30 January 1990). "Peppers profiting packer". The Bulletin. Australian Consolidated Press. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Whats 4 Eats recipe for Sos Ti-Malice". 30 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-12-01.
  10. ^ a b c Tomato Production, Processing and Technology, WA Gould. pp. 460–462.
  11. ^ Rombauer, I: Joy of Cooking, p. 847. Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.
  12. ^ Edge, John T. (May 19, 2009). "A Chili Sauce to Crow About". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Slash Food Article on Chili Pepper Water". Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.
  14. ^ "Chilli Sauce Online". Fire Foods. Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
  15. ^ Yang, Fan (2017). "Understand spiciness: mechanism of TRPV1 channel activation by capsaicin". Protein & Cell. 8 (3): 169–177. doi:10.1007/s13238-016-0353-7. PMC 5326624. PMID 28044278.
  16. ^ "Ghost Chili Scares Off Elephants". News.nationalgeographic.com. Archived from the original on 2010-03-29. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  17. ^ "Peri-Peri Peppers". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03.
  18. ^ "Hottest chilli pepper". Guinness World Records Limited. Archived from the original on 2019-12-16. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  19. ^ "Does Hot Sauce Go Bad?". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  20. ^ Nasrawi, Christina Wu; Pangborn, Rose Marie (April 1990). "Temporal effectiveness of mouth-rinsing on capsaicin mouth-burn". Physiology & Behavior. 47 (4): 617–623. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(90)90067-E. PMID 2385629. S2CID 40829476.