Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to Make Raw Fermented Hot Sauce at Home

Fermentation is one of the oldest methods of food preservation, but now foodies are using this age-old method for more than increasing a food’s shelf stability. In recent years, researchers have discovered that fermented foods also have several health benefits, leading young, health-focused consumers to embrace food trends such as homemade kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi; and contemporary chefs have realized the potential of fermented foods and their unique umami-driven flavor characteristics and acidic qualities. One of the most exciting fermented ingredients for spice lovers, though, is hot sauce.

While the standard vinegar-based hot sauce favored by the fearless foodies brings the sting, tears, and even hallucinations — if the peppers are hot enough — lacto-fermented hot sauce brings a new palette of flavors in addition to the adrenaline rush of the heat. For those who want to take things a step further, creating a raw lacto-fermented hot sauce is the most natural method, and results in a hot sauce that contains probiotics.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Simply put, lacto-fermentation is a type of fermentation that uses salt, an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, and the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) formally known as lactobacillus, found on the skin of fruits and vegetables to break down the sugars in food to form lactic acid and sometimes alcohol or carbon dioxide.

Poor Devil Pepper Co.

“The salt in the ferment causes an osmosis where it’s pulling the water and juices out of the vegetables,” Jared Schwartz, founder, co-owner, and chief fermenter at Poor Devil Pepper Co. in Hudson, NY, says, “and with these lactic acid bacteria it starts to preserve itself in this liquid.” The salt content — which has to be at least 2% of the weight of the food being fermented — discourages bad bacteria from forming, allowing the LAB to do its job fermenting the food.

The Essential Equipment and Ingredients

“If you’re into fermenting foods, the only real necessities you should buy are some good jars or containers & a pH meter,” says Schwartz. “From there, personally, I’d spend more money on chopping, blending, or slicing equipment. A good kitchen scale never hurts.” Once you have your equipment sorted out, you’ll need to source your ingredients.

If peppers are in season where you live, we always recommend sourcing those locally, and organic is better for fermentation. Depending on your spice tolerance there is a large range of peppers to choose from, so it really comes down to personal preference. “I don’t know that there is a wrong pepper to work with,” Schwartz says, “although some have their own natural problems.” For example, meatier peppers with thick skins — like the jalapeño — will take longer to ferment, as opposed to habañeros which are more delicate. Ghost, Thai, Aleppo, and Cayenne are a few other hot peppers with great flavor worth considering if you can source them in your area.

Poor Devil Pepper Co.

If you like the flavor of one pepper, but have difficulty with the heat level (measured on the Scoville scale), then blend the hot pepper with a sweeter one to cut the spice. Other vegetables such as carrots, celery, garlic, onions, and so on, are also worth considering for your blend to add complexity in flavor — as they do at Poor Devil Pepper Co.

Lastly, you’ll want to have some good sugar on-hand in case you want to balance the spice a bit, and a natural sea salt, or any salt that isn’t iodized. Once you’ve sourced these few ingredients, and have your kitchen stocked, all you have to do is put it all together and let nature do its thing.

How to Make Raw Fermented Hot Sauce

Raw fermented hot sauce is different from a regular fermented hot sauce because it doesn’t include any additives, meaning it needs to be refrigerated whether or not it’s opened. This is similar to how probiotics have to be refrigerated.

“What we make at Poor Devil Pepper Co. are raw fermented sauces that really tap into that umami flavor through the natural fermentation without using any additives or vinegar,” Schwartz says. “Even though it is not traditional to have a hot sauce that stays refrigerated even before opening we think the flavor and probiotic benefits are worth it.” Vinegar is added in many versions of fermented hot sauces for shelf stability, but it isn’t necessary if you want the full effect of the natural fermentation.

Poor Devil Pepper Co.

“You’ll learn pretty quickly that fermented hot sauces, especially raw ones, give off a lot of heat whereas with pasteurized, vinegar-based hot sauces you lose a lot of that heat,” Schwartz points out. So, it is important to keep in mind that you will be getting the essence of the pepper’s heat with your end product — a scary thought depending on which peppers you choose.

If you are someone who likes to put their own spin on recipes, it’s important that you follow one rule and that’s making sure that 2% salt is added to the overall weight of your ingredients. “The more sugar in an item you’re fermenting you’ll want to increase the salt ratio,” Schwartz says, “unless you’re trying to make booze.” Once you’ve done that, you have created a bacteria-free environment and are ready to create your own healthy, raw fermented hot sauce.

Poor Devil Pepper Co.’s Raw Fermented Hot Sauce at Home

Ingredients:

  • 5-8 jalapeños
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 full bulb of garlic (all cloves peeled)
  • .5 white onion
  • 1 tablespoon + one pinch of sea salt
  • 32-oz Ball Jar (or other tight sealing jar)

Method:

  1. Snap the stems off the jalapeños, remove the stem and innards from the bell pepper, and peel all the garlic cloves and onion.
  2. Place everything in a food processor and blend until it’s chunky, then let the mix sit (without blending) in the food processor for about 5 minutes until you see more liquid forming.
  3. Pour all ingredients into a 32-oz jar, and make sure to only leave about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of head room (space between the ferment and the lid). Seal tight, and let it ferment!
  4. After 2-3 weeks of fermentation, open it up to properly check. If you have a pH meter check it. We’re looking for (legally) below 4.4 – (this is because no “bad bacteria” have been proven to live past this pH level).
  5. If you don’t have a pH meter, use your best judgment. Once you have reached desired fermentation (flavor and aroma), put the sauce back in the food processor and blend until preferred consistency is reached. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy it on all of your meals!

Other things to note:

  • Routinely check your jar to make sure too much CO2 has not built up. If the lid is bulging, slightly open to jar to release some CO2 and quickly close the jar.
  • If you see white specks starting to form on top, don’t panic, it’s not mold; it’s a strain of yeast called “Kahm yeast.” The yeast is not harmful, but it also doesn’t taste great either. Scrape it off and let it continue to ferment.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Tyler Zielinski
Tyler is a New York-based freelance cocktail and spirits journalist, competitive bartender, and bar consultant. He is an…
How to make the perfect breakfast burrito at home
The breakfast burrito: Everyone's favorite grab-and-go breakfast is easier to make than you think
Breakfast burrito

Is there anyone who doesn't love a good, hearty breakfast burrito? These satisfying little bundles are an easy, delicious, hearty yet simple way to start any day. Or, for that matter, end any day. Breakfast burritos make for a divine dinner that absolutely everyone, including the kids, will love.

As popular as they are, though, breakfast burritos aren't necessarily something we often think to make for ourselves. We usually think of them as a grab-one-with-your-morning-latte-at-the-corner-store kind of food. But if you know how to make a breakfast burrito, you possess a skill that will make you pretty popular. And you'll probably save a ton when you're not dropping six bucks every morning for the corner store version.

Read more
How to make the best spaghetti sauce, according to Jamie Oliver
Anybody can make a red sauce. Here, Jamie Oliver reveals how to make the best spaghetti sauce
Sunday gravy tomato sauce pasta pot

Spaghetti sauce is subjective stuff. Most who make batches claim their recipe is the best, thanks to a few extra ingredients or a few secrets they're unwilling to make public.

Regardless of how it's put together, it's impossible to go wrong with a good red sauce. As renowned chef Jamie Oliver says, the sauce serves as a lovely base atop which you can tinker and experiment. Once you get the gist of the sauce taken care of, you can spend the rest of the week fine-tuning and playing with various riffs on the traditional spaghetti. And for the record, Oliver's spaghetti sauce is arguably the best out there, for a couple of key reasons.

Read more
A novice cheesemaker’s guide on how to make cheese at home
Ever wanted to make your own cheese? Let this story be your faithful guide
how to make cheese a novice cheesemakers guide on at home

The art of cheesemaking is a time-honored tradition that is far less complicated than one might think. If you are a cheese connoisseur, knowing how to make your own at home can unlock a world of unpasteurized possibilities. For the beginner cheesemaker, it's best to start with a soft cheese like Chevre or Mozzarella, which require fewer steps and minimal aging. Once you have mastered the basics, the combinations are endless.

Want to impress next time you're pairing up wine and cheese? There's no better way than with some tasty dairy you made yourself, with your own bare hands. From the sheep to cow's milk to added herbs and even dairy-free, you can create the cheese of your wildest dreams. To help you embark on your cheesemaking journey, here are the fundamentals you need to know to begin making the freshest, most delicious cheese right at home.
The Basics of Cheesemaking

Read more