What my granddaddy and a lot of Southerners call sport peppers are little green and red and sometimes yellow hot peppers, Capiscum annuum, similar in taste to Tabasco and the Thai chiles found in many Asian markets. I store my sport pepper sauce in the refrigerator, not in the pantry, which means I hardly need to cook the peppers first. The sauce doesn’t last as long as it otherwise would, but the flavor is brighter. Use on slow-cooked greens when you want a jolt of flavor.–John Besh

LC Sport Pepper Primer Note

If you’ve yet to be acquainted with the sport pepper, allow us to introduce you. In the south, a bottle of sport pepper sauce awaits on darn near every table, not for dipping your grubby fingers into so you can snag a pepper for your sandwich but rather for you to shake and dribble willy-nilly. Those in the know rely on the vinegary twang to anoint cooked greens, fried chicken, and, though the taste isn’t quite the same as Tabasco or Crystal, just about anything you’d douse with bottled hot sauce. Can’t find sport peppers? Use whichever skinny pepper of whatever Scoville heat unit you can tolerate.

Sport Pepper Sauce

Sport Pepper Sauce

4.88 / 8 votes
This sport pepper sauce is used to dribble on everything in the south–fried chicken, especially. If you're unfamiliar with sport peppers, they're little green and red and sometimes yellow hot peppers, Capiscum annuum.
David Leite
Servings96 tablespoons (1 1/2 cups)
Calories3 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • 2 cups mixed sport peppers or small, slender Thai chile peppers
  • 1 quart (4 cups) white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • Scrub the sport peppers under cool running water. Leave them whole unless they’re terribly large, in which case you can halve them lengthwise. Place the chiles, vinegar, and salt in a medium pot, bring to a boil, and let ‘er rip over medium–high heat for 2 minutes.
  • Working quickly and using a slotted spoon or tongs, divide the chiles evenly among several hot, sterilized jars or bottles. Using a sterilized funnel, carefully fill the jars or bottles with the hot liquid. Seal the jars or bottles according to the manufacturers’ directions. Let rest at room temperature until cool.
  • Stash the bottles or jars in the refrigerator for at least 1 week before using to let the flavors develop. The “sauce” will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.


Serving: 1 tablespoonCalories: 3 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 49 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 John Besh. Photo © 2009 Ditte Isager. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This sauce is a keeper. I ended up leaving most of the peppers whole and cutting a couple of large ones in half so that they fit into the jars better. I tasted it at 3 days and again at 6 days and it is noticeably better at 6. It tasted bright without the harsh vinegar taste that it had at 3 days. We tried it on sautéed Swiss chard and it was amazing. I had to use store-bought peppers for this batch and the sauce is hot but not too hot. I will try it with Thai peppers out of my garden later in the summer and I think we will like it even more.

Wow—perfect pickle with a multitude of uses. So easy to make year-round. I used to make mine with peppers, garlic vinegar, and soy sauce, but I did not cook the peppers in vinegar. Had it on pork burgers and it was delicious. Cooking it for 2 minutes takes the bite out of the peppers a little. It is in the fridge aging now. Can’t wait to test it in a week.

Simple spicy recipe to always have handy to add to any stew, pasta, or other dish you like with a little kick. The taste reminded me of some spicy Asian homemade sauces I have had in the past, so I was surprised to find out it is a Southern recipe. Shows how food cultures blend so amazingly.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Homemade Yellow Mustard

Why make your own mustard? Because you can, dammit! And if that’s not reason enough, there’s no comparison between this and the store-bought stuff. Enough said.

1 hr 45 mins

Cheddar Cheese Sauce

So satiatingly superlative, this cheese sauce is going to whisper seductively to you to ladle it onto everything. And we do mean everything.

15 mins

Garlic Confit

Cloves of garlic are slowly simmered in oil until unthinkably tender, intensely aromatic, subtly sweet, and insanely irresistible.

1 hr

4.88 from 8 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Perfect. Great info source. (this site AND the Colorado extension). Going to add vinegar to the peppers AND refrigerate. Thank you.