Homemade Hot Sauce

Homemade hot sauce is easy to make with just hot peppers, salt, vinegar, and patience. That’s all you need to make the best hot sauce ever.

Three corked vials of homemade hot sauce

“Spectacular.” That’s the word more than one of our recipe testers used to sum up their feelings about this homemade hot sauce recipe. Another referred to it as “a best-of-all-worlds hot sauce.” And someone else said “I have NEVER tasted a hot sauce so complete and, to use an overused yet perfect word to describe it, complex.” We’re not going to argue. Trust us when we say that with this recipe, you’ll earn bragging rights as the maker of the best hot sauce ever. Originally published January 17, 2015.Renee Schettler Rossi

*NOTE What Is Pickling Salt?

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
  • (2)
  • 25 M
  • 7 D
  • Makes 1 quart
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: Mason jars with O-rings (that's the metal ring thinger)


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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. (If you’re the sort of home cook who likes to use weights and measures, you’re going for about 2.5% salinity in your initial fermentation.)

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 (the metal ring thinger). Store the jar in a dark spot that hovers around 70°F (20°C)—a kitchen cabinet works well—and let it do its thing, undisturbed, for 48 hours.

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.

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.

Print RecipeBuy the Pick a Pickle cookbook

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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.

I made 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.


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  1. If I wanted to can this to make it shelf stable would I use the water bath method at 10 minutes? Would that change the flavor at all?

    1. Hi David, I asked Melissa our resident expert in canning and she said this is fine in a water bath, though it will last quite a long time in the refrigerator.

  2. By any chance is this the traditional Portuguese hot pepper sauce called piri-piri? I ask this because I googled various hot sauce recipes today, looking to make good use of this year’s bountiful little hot pepper harvest from my garden, and was pleased to find one from Leite’s Culinaria, which I have found to be a delightful source of traditional Portuguese recipes over the years, especially those from my maternal grandparents’ homeland nos Açores.

    1. Yes, Loralee, this can be processed in a water-canner. It will also keep a long, long time in the fridge, whether uncanned, or canned then opened.

  3. Question about the temperature that it needs to ferment at. What would be the minimum and maximum? Thanks for your reply.

    1. Hi Ronald, most ferments can be done at room temperature. Higher temps will cause it to ferment faster, conversely with cooler temps.

        1. Hi Ronald, that is hard to say with complete accuracy. I would find the coolest spot in your home, cover the jar(s) with a kitchen towel and following the instructions as written. For more detailed instructions on canning and fermenting, have a look at the USDA site.

  4. Your Taste Testers are describing the wonderful taste of a fermented product. I am an avid fermenter and would call myself an expert. I would (and do) ferment hot sauces in a canning jar with the ring and lid put loosely on. Burp daily and there will be little to no mold. I have never encountered mold in a hot sauce recipe, with this method. Just remember to burp daily! And try fermenting for 2-3 weeks! The flavor is magical! I also use Bragg’s Organic Vinegar in all my ferments, if the recipe calls for it. Keeps more of those gut-healthy bacteria alive and well!.

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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!

    1. Only Pressure Canned. But, you will lose what you did this for. Goodbye Probiotics! The heat will destroy the enzymes you made. Point. Hope you didn’t name them…

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