Hot Sauce 101: Best Hot Sauces For Your Fridge
Last updated April 14, 2017
Hot sauce is more popular than any other condiment on the planet right now.
If you wanted a healthy reason to start downing hot sauce, then how about this: it's good for you. Hot sauces and peppers actually contain some solid health benefits, according to a study of 500,000 men and women from China. The study found that those who ate spicy foods had 14% reduced risk of death than those who didn't.
We're going to present some sauces for you in 3 different categories:
Measuring Hot Sauce Heat
A humorous chart showing the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) in action.
A big factor for people buying hot sauces is how spicy the sauce actually is. In order to measure the spiciness of a pepper, hot sauce manufacturers use the Scoville scale, which quantifies the "pungency" (or spicy heat) of a chili pepper. The peppers are measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).
Most popular hot sauces
These are the staples, the most notable hot sauces. These are typically milder than some more exotic hot sauces, and perfect for hosting dinner with guests who may not have a palate built for heat.
Tabasco Hot Sauce: Ubiquitous for hot sauce.
Aside from Sriracha, Tabasco is arguably the most popular brand of hot sauce here in the United States. The sauce is made by the McIllhenny Company, which combines peppers that come exclusively from tabasco peppers.
The company started in 1848, and has been cranking out the heat for nearly 150 years. The original Tabasco recipe is made from hand-picked peppers, which are turned into mash (with salt) and aged for up to three years in oak barrels. (Fun fact: these barrels were previously used in the aging process for Jack Daniel's whiskey.)
The Tabasco company currently offers 7 different flavors to choose from, ranging in spiciness and tastes.
2. Louisiana Hot Sauce
The iconic Louisiana Hot Sauce.
If you could give American hot sauce a breeding ground, it would be in Louisiana. The Bayou State lays claim to both Tabasco and Louisiana Hot Sauce. The "Louisiana style hot sauce" is traditionally salt, tabasco peppers and/or cayenne peppers and vinegar.
Louisiana Hot Sauce is manufactured in New Iberia, Louisiana. It's history started in 1928, when the sauce was made in a family kitchen and sold to neighbors. It's tagline is "Not too hot, not too mild."
3. Cholula Hot Sauce
The Cholula Hot Sauce line.
Known for it's iconic wooden top, Cholula is manufactured in Chapala, Jalisco Mexico, and is licensed by Jose Cuervo.
Cholula is a fairly tame hot sauce, ranking at about 1,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). The sauce recipe uses pequin peppers, which are 13-40 times hotter and more citrusy than a jalepeño, giving Cholula a more acidic taste.
The Cholula line currently has 5 different flavors.
4. Franks RedHot Sauce
The legendary Frank's RedHot Sauce line.
Frank's recipe can be traced back to Cincinnati around 1896 to the Frank Tea and Spice Company. It's a very tame sauce, coming it at just 450 SHU on the Scoville scale.
What's most notable about Frank's is that it's the hot sauce used in the original Buffalo wings sauce recipe for the Anchor Bar and Grill, home of the original Buffalo wings.
Srirarcha Sauce, one of the most popular products in the world.
Srircha is an iconic hot sauce brand, and instantly recognizable by the Rooster on the bottle. You can even buy tiny portable bottles of the red stuff for your keychain. It was first created by the Huy Fong Foods in California
Srircha is a bit spicier than some of the other popular hot sauces, clocking in at 1,000-2,500 SHU. Sriracha's main pepper is red jalepeño, and is much thicker than Louisiana style sauces.
A lineup of some of the Sriracha-style sauces. The term Sriracha isn't trademarked as it's deemed too broad of a term.
Interestingly, in the United States, the Huy Fong Foods lays copyright claim to the green cap and rooster logo, but won't enforce other uses of the term "Sriracha", which is why there are so many different off-brands of Sriracha.
Spiciest Hot Sauces
Heat your thing? The above sauces too tame for your palate? Then these little vessels of fire will certainly light you up. Here are some of the hottest hot sauces that you can legally buy over the counter.
(I should add that there are hotter hot sauces out there, but they're not readily available or made in very small batches. You'll have to dig for those.)
1. Crazy Uncle Jester's Spontaneous Combustion
Crazy Uncle Jester's Spontaneous Combustion sauce
Weighing in at 1.1M SHUs, Spontaneous Combustion is not for the faint of heart. It's a Louisiana-style sauce that takes the heat of an entire bushel of habenero peppers and crams it into a tiny little bottle of pain. Spontaneous Combustion is the only Louisiana-style Ultra-Hot Sauce to win the Fiery Food Challenge (2010, 2011).
The flavor is rooted in habenero and capsicum extract.
2. Purgatory Hot Sauce
Purgatory Hot Sauce, featuring the world's hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper.
There are no extracts used to make this sauce, which has flavors of onion and garlic, if you can pretend to taste anything other than unbelievable heat.
3. Bumblefoot's Bumblef**ked
The hot sauce with the weirdest name, Bumblefoot Bumblef**ked.
The Bumblefoot's Bumblef*ked isn't a normal hot sauce. Aside from the fact that it's a whopping 6M SHUs, it also contains ginseng and caffeine. I couldn't say why the manufacturer needed to add ingredients that added extra stimulus, but hey. To each his own.
Aside from wicked heat, caffeine and ginseng, the sauce also has notes of ginger, pineapple and papaya. Assuming you can taste anything other than your molten tongue.
4. Meet Your Maker Sauce
Meet Your Maker Hot sauce comes with a coffin and 5 Million SHUs.
Heavenly Heat has a sauce titled Meet Your Maker that uses ghost pepper extract to bring the heat up to 5M SHUs. The bottle comes inside a wooden coffin, and the description says that a couple of drops will heat 8 quarts of chili.
This sauce is so wicked, Heavenly Heat makes you sign a waver before you can purchase a bottle.
Here's a review of the Meet Your Maker Sauce. (Just be warned, the guy tosses his cookies.)
5. Mad Dog 357
This sauce features the trinity of incredibly spicy peppers: Carolina Reaper, Scorpion, and Ghost Peppers.
The Mad Dog 357 is a mere 1M SHUs, comes with a bullet key chain and tasting spoon. It's made from a combination of Reaper, Scorpion and Ghost peppers.
Here's a review of the Mad Dog 357:
6. Git Bitten Black Mamba 6 Hot Sauce
The "6" in Black Mamba 6 stands for 6 Million Scovilles.
The 6 in the "Black Mamba 6" stands for 6 Million Scovilles. If you need comparison for this level of heat, it's 1,200 times hotter than a jalepeño. Keep this away from your children and pets if this is actually something that you'd like to purchase, you masochist.
Here's a video of a guy eating teaspoons of the stuff.
Most interesting hot sauces
These hot sauces aren't for the faint of heart, nor are they what I would define as normal. They're weird, I tell you. Don't say I didn't warn you.
1. Ass Blaster Hot Sauce
The complimentary outhouse really drives home the title of the sauce.
As the name implies, this hot sauce is hot. So hot, that it, well... you get the idea. It's clocking in at around 300,000 SHUs, or 100 times hotter than Tobasco. It's hot.
If the name itself didn't clue you in as to the "effects" the sauce might have on your constitution, the Ass Blaster is packaged in wooden outhouse.
2. Oskar Blues Hot Sauces
Oskar Blues' hot sauce line.
When you think of hot sauce makers, brewers don't come to mind. Sure, some hot sauces are aged in whiskey barrels, so distillers might come be a natural fit. But craft brewer Oskar Blues has a line of hot sauces that pair some of their best beers with different types of hot sauces. The result is pretty tasty.
3. Ghost Pepper and Blueberry Hot Sauce
An interesting combination in a hot sauce: Ghost peppers and blueberries.
The Bravado Spice Co. has created an interesting sauce by combining Ghost peppers, blueberries, and cracked black pepper.
4. Chicaoji Chil Sauce with Chipotle, Goji Berries and Raw Cacao
An interesting combination of Goji Berry, Cacao & Chipotle peppers.
There's a lot going on with the Chicaoji hot sauce. The fusion of bitterness (cacao), sweet and tart (goji berries) and medium heat (chipotle) mean that it's a nice changeup to the normal tomato-based hot sauce.
5. Sgt. Pepper's El Chipotle Picante Pumpkin Hot Sauce
We're fairly positive that the Beatles made no mention of pumpkin in a hot sauce, but this sauce looks interesting nonetheless.
This hot sauce would be good for lots of Fall and Holiday-themed food. It goes well with smoked meats, soups, stews, and the maker even believes it's tasty on top of cream cheese and pumpkin pie. (I think I'll still stick with whipped topping.)
6. Hot Chocolate Hot Sauce with Chocolate Habanero Peppers
These are Chocolate peppers, which actually do not contain any chocolate. Only lots and lots of heat.
In case you're wondering a chocolate habenero is a variety of pepper that is on average 142 times hotter than a jalapeño.
To make things even more confusing, there actually isn't any chocolate in the Hot Chocolate Hot Sauce . The unique taste of a chocolate habenero is enough, though.
7. BLiS Blast Hot Pepper Sauce
Hot sauce aged in oak barrels that contained bourbon, stout beer and maple syrup.
The Blast hot pepper sauce is a mixture of three chilies: Chipotle, Arbol and Cayenne.
What makes this sauce unique is that it ages up to a year in oak barrels that were used to age Kentucky bourbon (as part of the normal distillation process of whiskey), barrels that were used to hold maple syrup, and barrels used to age Imperial Stout beer. This makes for a surprising mixture of chocolate, maple, hops, garlic and wood, along with a giant blast of Umami.
Choosing a hot sauce
Now that you've seen some of the most common, hottest and most interesting sauces, you might feel a bit paralyzed on the decision of when to use a particular style. Here's a helpful graphic on how to choose the perfect sauce to compliment your dish.
Need help picking the right hot sauce for the right occasion? Just follow the flow chart above.
The bottom line is this: there's no wrong answer when it comes to choosing a hot sauce. Sweet chili, chipotle, Louisiana style, Sriracha... all excellent choices for adding a little heat to your entrée.
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