Homemade Hot Sauce

Homemade Hot Sauce

Spectacular. That’s the word one of our recipe testers used to sum up his feelings about this homemade hot sauce recipe. Spectacular. We’re not going to argue.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Pickling Salt Note

Don’t let a single potentially unfamiliar ingredient keep you from making this homemade hot sauce recipe. The ingredient in question is pickling salt. It’s simply pure granulated salt without any anti-caking agents. And it’s more readily obtainable than you may think. Go on. Google it. Then make this recipe.

Homemade Hot Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 7 D
  • Makes 1 quart

Special Equipment: Mason jars with O-rings (that's the metal ring thinger)

5/5 - 2 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Pick a Pickle cookbook

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  • 1 pound fresh cayenne peppers, stemmed (about 4 cups)
  • About 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar


  • 1. Pack the peppers in a food processor and pour in the water. Pulse until the peppers form a chunky mass made of small pieces and then add the salt. (You’re going for about 2.5% salinity in your initial fermentation, if you pay attention to such things.)
  • 2. Place the peppers in a large Mason jar, cover it with a square of paper towel, and secure the towel with the jar’s O-ring (that’s the metal ring thinger). Store the jar in a dark spot that hovers around 70°F (20°C)—a kitchen cupboard is good—and let it do its thing for 48 hours.
  • 3. Skim any accumulated mold from the surface and stir the peppers. Cover again with the paper towel and the jar’s O-ring and repeat the skimming and stirring every day or so for 5 more days. The total fermentation time is 1 week.
  • 4. After skimming any accumulated mold from the surface on the last day, dump the fermented peppers into the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Strain the mixture into a large pitcher or other container, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon or with a small spatula to remove all the liquid. Add the vinegar to the strained liquid and stir. Pour the hot sauce into jars, cover tightly with rings and lids, and refrigerate for up to several weeks.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

SPECTACULAR! If I could use just a single word to describe this homemade hot sauce recipe, it would be spectacular. I used a pound of VERY hot, small, green Thai peppers, as the markets near me had no cayenne peppers. I kept the jar on a high shelf in a kitchen cabinet so it wouldn't fall into enemy hands. After 2 days, the surface had a thin layer of a furry green mold, which I scraped off with a spoon and discarded. In the following days, I noticed very little, if any, mold growth. What I did notice was a bit of liquid forming at the bottom and a powerfully GOOD smell, which actually surprised me. After 7 days, I put the peppers in a food processor. There really was not a lot of fluid. I pulsed everything to a nice puree. I used a small strainer over a jar to collect the liquid, and again there was very little liquid, so I used a small silicone spatula to press the very thick liquid from the peppers and into the jar. This step was by far the most time-intensive, taking nearly 20 minutes. For the final step, I poured 2 cups vinegar through the remaining pulp and seeds in the strainer, stirring until it ran dry. The overall time was a week. Would I do this again? Was it worth it? Absolutely! I have NEVER tasted a hot sauce so complete and, to use an overused yet perfect word to describe it, complex.

I love hot sauce—a lot. My cabinet and fridge are full of various bottles of hot sauce from all over the world, and I reach to each one for specific types of food. This homemade hot sauce is a best-of-all-worlds hot sauce, but with a few changes to meet my needs. I didn't have cayenne peppers on hand, but I did have a ton of other kinds of peppers, hot and sweet. I used a blend of them, leaning heavier on the spicy pepper side. I used my pickling salt from Penzey's and stored my mixture in a quart-size Mason jar covered with cheesecloth in the pantry. The proportions are good. My peppers didn't accumulate actual mold during the entire process. At the end of the week, I blended everything together in a blender and loved the flavor and texture so much that I didn't want to strain it. Instead, I left it a little thicker, and it was still easy to pour from a jar. I brought about 4 cups in a huge bottle to a big party, and it was gone before dinner was finished being served. The remaining sauce is in the fridge, and I have found it to be delicious on everything from tacos, eggs, Vietnamese food, and more. I'll definitely be making this again and look forward to seeing the variations in flavor as the availability of peppers at the market change.

This homemade hot sauce recipe took me about 10 minutes and then a week of patient waiting. I ended up with a foam-like "growth" on top of my peppers, which I easily skimmed off. I didn't want to waste the peppers, so I mixed them with a cup vinegar and shook it up. I let that sit overnight, and it made a delicious pepper sauce as well.


  1. This recipe is a keeper! Definitely trying this simple recipe with (hopefully) next season’s garden peppers! We did a slightly more complicated version this past fall, aging it (still) in a moonshine-soaked wooden keg, and it’s pretty great. Also, when we originally made the pepper mash, we had it in a Mason jar, and covered it with a layer of cheesecloth, a heavy rock (to weigh down the mash so it wouldn’t float), and then a thick layer of kosher salt on it (kind of a la what Tabasco does), and found it stopped the mold issue…

    1. Elisse, terrific, on all counts! Many thanks for taking the time to share your tricks and tactics. Incredibly helpful. And I must admit, I envy you that moonshine-soaked wooden keg. Brilliant use for it—although I can think of many more!

  2. Thank you for this. I just made some home made Sambuca and Apple Pie Moonshine for holiday gifts and door prizes. They were a big hit. I have the recipes if anyone is interested.

    1. Hal, you’re very welcome. And heck yeah, we want the recipes! Oops, I mean, yes please we would be grateful if you shared the recipes here. (Sorry got so excited I forgot my manners for a moment.)

  3. Pressure canning is a great way to go if you want to preserve. It is a fantastic way to keep low acid foods shelf stable…no more frozen stock!

    The idea of skimming mold off is a bit concerning though. Mold can permeate deeper into the ferment than is visible to the eye. Might I suggest using a jar with an airlock system and avoid any potential risks?

    1. Hi Renee, I posed your concerns to Melissa, our resident expert on food preservation. These were her thoughts; “There is really no risk from just skimming off the mold. It is quite common for a layer of yeast or a white mold to form on the top of fermenting vegetables. They are both harmless, and should just be skimmed off. Sometimes colored molds will form on the surface. These are also harmless, but can impact the texture and flavor of the underlying ferment. But they can also be skimmed off, and if you check your ferment often, and skim them off as soon as they appear, they underlying ferment will be just fine, and perfectly safe. Vegetable ferments are easily the safest kind of preserved food.

      Airlocks are used for fermenting alcoholic beverages because acetobacter (which feeds on alcohol) requires air, and will grow on the surface of the ferment (turning it to vinegar) if there is air can come into the fermentation vessel. Airlocks are not necessary for vegetable ferments, which are producing lactic acid, not alcohol.”

      1. Renee, I wanted to chime in, too, as I not only share your name but your concern about mold and it’s less visible side. We included that note in the recipe because the original recipe in the book included it. But in our testing, only once did we notice the appearance of anything remotely resembling mold. So it may not appear. Also, the very nature of fermentation with some foods—hot sauce, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, to name just a few—relies upon the growth of little critters. It may not be pleasant to think about, but in many cases it’s actually beneficial to health, per numerous studies that have come out in recent years urging the consumption of these types of food produced by controlled fermentation. Anyways, I wish you luck if you try the recipe and would love to hear what you think of the hot sauce.

    1. Hi Richard, the recipe is essentially calling for a salt with the fewest additives and anti-caking ingredients. Picking or canning salt is the preferred salt though many Kosher salts are free from added ingredients.

  4. So what’s the difference between a paper towel versus cheesecloth? Will the chilies produce gases that need to escape or will it ferment better with a paper towel?

    I’m going with scorpion and red (sweet) Serrano chilies.

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