What makes a taco tantalizing, a plate of pad see ew so damn super, or buffalo wings so buffalo-y? Hot sauce! That’s what. Adding just the right amount of liquid pepper spice to your meal helps bring to life all of the other flavors of whatever you’re cooking … basically bringing out the best in each ingredient in the dish. A fine hot sauce is like the punctuation of a great sentence — use just the right amount, and the intended tone and ideas will be transferred with grace. (Use, too much, and — then — the whole thing … is … no good!!)
If the mere mention of capsaicin (the chemical in peppers that gets the lips tingling and the tongue burning) sets off your Pavlovian reflex, then you have come to the right place. Those of us who have a passion for hot sauce know that almost no food is complete without it (exceptions include ice cream and a limited number of fruits … but who knows what the future holds for our palates?).
But how to choose the perfect hot sauce when there are so many available? Do you stick with hipster ketchup Sriracha? Add a bit of Aztec’s Revenge? Turn to timeless Tabasco? Or do you cast off the bonds of cowardice and boldly march ahead, turning left down the hallway, stopping briefly to check the pile of mail left on the sideboard in the living room, and then entering the kitchen to make your own homemade hot sauce? Yeah, you do!
Fortunately, as it turns out, making homemade hot sauce is laughably easy. The best thing about the basic recipe I’ll share today is that you can alter it in countless ways. You can add a chunk of fresh ginger, a splash of soy sauce, some brown sugar, change up the peppers, and so forth — what you have here is a recipe for homemade hot sauce that will taste great just like it is, but is, in fact, a jumping off point for your own journey exploration and discovery. Think of yourself as the Hernán Cortés of hot sauce making, but without being a murderous bastard.
How to Make Homemade Hot Sauce
- About .5 lb of peppers (We recommend a blend of habanero and jalapeño, but you need to explore and experiment. Consider poblanos, Serrano, and more. Feel free to add some bell pepper and/or banana peppers for a milder sauce and an added depth of flavor.)
- 1 medium onion, diced (white or yellow, of course)
- 1 tbsp of minced garlic (fresh)
- About .75 cup of white vinegar
- 1 tbsp or so of salt
- A pinch of sugar (optional)
Pretty simple, right? Peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar, and some fabulously basic spices. Now that we have our basic recipe ready, let’s talk about how we actually make this stuff.
- Put everything but the vinegar into a blender or a food processor with a pulse setting. (Or plan to spend a long time chopping stuff super fine with a knife, if that’s how you get your kicks.) Now put all that finely-chopped goodness in a bowl and cover it with tin foil (or plastic wrap, but poke a small hole or two) and leave it out on the counter.
- The next day, pour in the vinegar and make sure all the solid ingredients are mixed around and fully submerged. Now re-cover the bowl or pour everything into a jar or other container. Seal it, but plan to briefly open or uncover the concoction once a day for the next week to let off any built-up pressure.
- After a week, put the mixture back in the blender or food processor and grind that goodness up until it’s a smooth, even goo. Or, actually, let’s go with the word sauce, instead. That’s much more appealing and on-topic.
There! You just made homemade hot sauce! And the entire process takes about a half hour of hands-on work and only a week of waiting around. Is it worth it? Taste the spicy goodness and you tell me. Or we can cut to the chase and I’ll tell you: It is.
Article originally published May 4, 2017. Last updated January 2020.
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