What's your favorite hot sauce?
June 8, 2013 6:28 PM   Subscribe

That's pretty much it. I'm down with the basics - tabasco, sriracha and the like, but I want to expand my experiences and styles.

Anything goes - from any color of the rainbow, blazing to mild and everywhere in between.

Bonus points if I can buy it online since I'm thinking about putting together a 'hot sauce' gift package for a relative.

So tell me YOUR favorite hot sauce and send me on a shopping spree!
posted by matty to Food & Drink (62 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Good old Tapatio. Can't get enough.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:30 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

two answers which probably also qualify as "basics": Frank's red hot, and the chipotle flavor of tabasco sauce
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 6:32 PM on June 8, 2013

It really depends on what you're putting it on (try the original Cholula on nut and granola waffles/pancakes sometime - yum), but for a good all-purpose hot sauce with an attention-getting but not blow-your-head-off kick, I'm a fan of Woman Scorned. It's especially good on hoagies and the like.

It's also worth finding a homemade recipe or two, if you haven't tried making your own yet. The Trinidadian Pepper Sauce listed a few posts down in this Chowhound thread is one of my favorites (I generally don't put in quite as much mustard, though).

Looking forward to seeing what other people recommend!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:37 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another suggestion: if you have a Firehouse Subs nearby (and are okay with chain restaurants), they usually have a whole line-up of hot sauces you can try, and they're generally lined up from least to most intense - go get yourself a sub and a bunch of little cups, and sample away! Last time I was there I found that Brother Bru Bru's original sauce was pretty tasty.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:41 PM on June 8, 2013

Peri peri is a good diversion, as are scotch bonnet-based sauces (the Dave's is great by itself).
posted by kcm at 6:48 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lao Gan Ma. It's not very spicy, but it tastes great. Don't be put off by the price on Amazon; it should be less than $4 at your local Asian grocery.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:51 PM on June 8, 2013

I really like Pukka. Jamaican style.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 6:54 PM on June 8, 2013

I experienced a drop of Dave's Insanity Sauce once at the Hot & Spicy Food Festival in LA. It was two hours before my tongue calmed down, in spite of all the milk and lassi I could find. Not actually pleasant. And I've eaten a cooked habanero pepper (or half of one, anyway). Is it good? I have no idea how it would taste used in a sauce.
posted by musofire at 6:55 PM on June 8, 2013

Sriracha is good for a bit of heat along with some flavor. You've probably seen it in Asian restaurants. If you are looking for some hot stuff that isn't Chile pepper based Chinese hot mustard and wasabi are different.

Asian and Latino groceries both tend to have stuff you aren't as likely to find in mainstream groceries if your up for some experimentation.
posted by logonym at 7:02 PM on June 8, 2013

Have you tried Hot Pepper Sesame Oil? It's not super duper hot but it has heat and a unique flavor. I lurve it!
posted by janey47 at 7:04 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

May I introduce you to Torchbearer Sauces? Excellent variety of flavors and heat, cooked up by a few guys in Central Pennsylvania, and sold online and in variety gift packs.

I can recommend Tarnation Sauce as a tasty mid-heat everyday sauce. Slaughter Sauce is hotter (and has awesome artwork). Hottest is their Zombie Apocalypse. Best applied to food via toothpick, and sparingly at that.

This is a small outfit, and I have met a couple of the guys in charge (the president was manning a stand, IIRC). Good folks. Great sauces!

And they'll be in Leesburg, Va. later this month for a brewfest.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2013

I'd take Cholula over Tapatio for Mexican food - I switched my preference after comparing side-by-side. I like El Yucateco habanero sauce - I see the green one at taquerias but I have the red at home. Despite having a reputation for their heat, habaneros are fragrant and delicious. If you're up for chili pastes, there's harissa, sambol oelek, good ol' chili oil. You also might want to try some srirachas besides Huy Fong.
posted by domnit at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm very fond of Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce. A little goes a long way, heatwise, and it has so much flavor. It's great on many different things. The Amazon reviews describe it really well.

I also like the web store Mo Hotta Mo Betta for my general hot sauce needs. Their price for Inferno is excellent.

Have fun trying things out!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 7:27 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

One supermarket sauce that's great for where you want a green flavor, strong heat, and not much vinegar is this green El Yucateco from the mexican foods aisle.

posted by ftm at 7:30 PM on June 8, 2013

It's barely hot at all, but it's delicious: Trappey's Indi-Pep. You can put enough of it on to really enjoy the flavor. Nice substitute for ketchup in that regard (though it isn't sweet).
posted by skbw at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2013

Co op hot sauce out of Chicago. I've liked every one of their sauces I've tried, and their green salsa is amazing.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Secret Aardvark! Wonderful flavor, good amount of heat, not too vinegary.
posted by Specklet at 7:35 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by Room 641-A at 7:35 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are looking for really hot peppers, I love the powders from here and know they make sauces too: Volcanic Peppers
posted by The Architect at 7:37 PM on June 8, 2013

Ring of Fire is a fine flavourful sauce, but my all-time favourite is Gochujang, the fermented chili paste from Korea.

(El Yucateco's pretty good, but don't do as I did and lick a couple of spilled drops of Kutbil-Ik. Hed asplode!)
posted by scruss at 7:43 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grow my own peppers and make my own sauce, so that's my favorite but for store-bought, I love GRACE Scotch Bonnet Sauce. Terrific flavor. Cholula is very different but also tasty - mostly something I use on eggs. The Insanity sauces are a nice thing when I want a challenge, but they are more pure heat than flavor, so I don't go that way too frequently. There's also a lot to like about Dr. Gonzo's Uncommon Condiments

If you happen to be in the NYC area and want some of my homemade stuff, email me - I've got gallons of it frozen and am more than willing to share/trade/etc.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love hot sauce. There is almost nothing that can't be improved by a shot of the right hot sauce. I think Frank's Red Hot should be enshrined in the Smithsonian. Cholula is my middle name. Why, just tonight, I snuck chipotle tabasco sauce into the burgers I made for a bunch of Germans (blandest palates in the world, those krauts) and chuckled to myself as they raved about how amazing they tasted.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that Marie Sharp's Grapefruit Pulp Habanero Sauce is the finest condiment ever created by human beings. It's ridiculous how good it tastes.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:07 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Crystal hot sauce. Very popular in Louisiana, has more flavor and less heat than Tabasco.
posted by phoenixy at 8:13 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Depends on the dish. I love me some Louisana Hot Sauce when I'm having something like a catfish or chicken dinner. But for more mexican types of foods, I LOVE the Tabasco Chipotle and Verde flavors. They are absolutely delicious.

And, don't judge me, but Taco Bell's fire sauce is pretty damn good.
posted by gjc at 8:16 PM on June 8, 2013

I never thought much of sriracha -- I'll take Korean hot pepper sauce any day. The paste that makes up the foundation (kochujang) is easy to buy and then you throw in some other ingredients and YUM.
posted by emcat8 at 8:42 PM on June 8, 2013

Gringo Bandito is great, sort of a deluxe version of Cholula by a guy who knows his hot sauce.

Marie Sharp’s hot habanero is one of the best. There are many like this though. Look for a sauce with habanero at or near the top, carrots, no filler, no capsicum. Capsicum is pepper extract, like pepper spray. It makes things hot, but tastes like dirt. It is for stunt sauces. Carrots and fruit smooth and balance the sauce out.
posted by bongo_x at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hot Picante Sauce by Santa Cruz Chili & Spice is one of my comfort foods.
posted by tinker at 8:58 PM on June 8, 2013

Yes, mmm, seconding gochujang! It's not really a "hot sauce" so much as a, uh, hot...sauce...but it's eminently craveable.
posted by threeants at 8:58 PM on June 8, 2013

As for online purchases, I luckily live within a 30 minute drive from Peppers. But they deliver too! In my opinion, it's the hot sauce mecca of the east coast.
posted by samsara at 9:18 PM on June 8, 2013

My everyday favorite is Cholula. I've been using it liberally to spice up eggs, chicken, and other bland or dry foods for years.

I'm very partial to the El Yucateco brand of salsas, especially the extra hot Kutbil-ik variety.

Prik nam pla probably doesn't count as a hot sauce, but it's an excellent condiment for Thai food, and it's a sauce, and it's hot.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:23 PM on June 8, 2013

seconding Dave's insanity sauce.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:34 PM on June 8, 2013

El Yucateco Chipotle is quite yummy.
posted by mmascolino at 9:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I keep one sweet hot sauce (usually sriracha); one vinegary hot sauce (usually Frank's, occasionally Tabasco); one non-vinegary, non-sweet hot sauce (Tapatio); and the occasional unusual flavor (Melinda's habanero at the moment). I think it's more about the array than the specific brands.
posted by willbaude at 10:20 PM on June 8, 2013

Seconding Crystal hot sauce. I also like green Tobasco (and green salsa in general), Pickapeppa sauce, and Sriracha. Dave's Insanity Sauce is not a joke.
posted by loveyallaround at 10:57 PM on June 8, 2013

Uncle Brutha's is fantastically tasty. Both the red and the green are great but I tend to stick to the green because I'm getting older and mild sauces agree with me more. The green has just enough kick to be good, and it has tons of flavor. I love it on scrambled eggs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and almost anything bland. It deserves to be famous. It's even eclipsed Sriracha for me on many things.

It seems to be mainly available in the DC area (reportedly it's at Whole Foods) but I live on the wrong coast so we order a case once in a while.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 11:18 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My favorite all around hot sauce is Cajun Sunshine, made by TryMe. I also love Sambal Olek, which is fantastic for anything Asian, it's like Sriracha but not sweet and it doesn't overpower what you are eating.

My advice, go to your local Hispanic and Asian supermarkets (i hope you have some) and grab a bunch and try them. They are super cheap at these places, often being less than $3.


Cajun Sunshine!!!

P.S I also make my own chili vinegars and oils which are nice too!
posted by hiddenknives at 11:21 PM on June 8, 2013

Pickapeppa Sauce is a great, piquant brown sauce. Not very hot, but complex and lovely. As is Bufalo Chipotle Sauce.
posted by mumkin at 2:15 AM on June 9, 2013

I'll stick a vote for El Yucateco in, too. Especially the basic red one. It's hot, but not gob-searingly so. Also, not too sweet, which is a big plus for me. I don't do sweet.

In the UK, I'm quite partial to Tropical Sun Caribbean Hot Sauce, for similar reasons.
posted by Decani at 2:18 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Big fan of Valentina for my go-to hot sauce. Also a member of the Cholula club. Discovered the scotch-bonnet pepper sauces in the Caribbean several years ago--big yum factor there.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:41 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually kinda like those sauce collections you can buy around Christmas in stores like Walmart. Tiger Sauce tends to be included along with some sort of tropical/"Jamaican"/mango thing.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:08 AM on June 9, 2013

Pico Pica is a pepper sauce without vinegar. For me it's the ideal pepper sauce, because it's moderately hot without strong flavors. You don't get a blast of salt, or vinegar, or garlic - just peppers.

Pepper Plant has unique and awesome salty, garlicy flavor. I can eat Pico Pica every day, but I only get a bottle of Pepper Plant every couple of months because it comes on strong. Not too hot, just... flavorful. I felt like I'd entered pepper sauce heaven when I found this.
posted by yath at 5:51 AM on June 9, 2013

I'm not a big hot sauce person, but I love Valentina.
posted by Fig at 6:36 AM on June 9, 2013

Seconding Melinda's.
posted by Danf at 6:51 AM on June 9, 2013

Chipotles en adobo is readily available in stores, but at least in my area they are not in the hot sauce aisle. Really excellent to use when cooking any meat you'd use in a taco, or with a pot of beans or chili, or ladled over baked potatoes. The taste is a little different than hot sauces made with chipotles or the dried and ground chipotle peppers.
posted by Houstonian at 7:05 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was in Rwanda recently and in every restaurant they had a little eye-dropper bottle of chili sauce called "pili-pili" or Akabanga. It's simple: 80% yellow pepper and 20% vegetable oil. At first I didn't trust it, but by the end of my stay I was pouring it all over my food, which you shouldn't do if you're trying it for the first time. Apparently it's around 50,000 – 100,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is pretty darn hot, but the thing I most love about it is the strong smoky taste - one drop (it's in an eye-dropper bottle for a reason!) packs a surprising punch of flavor.

I did a bit of googling to see where one could order some to the US, and these two websites seem legit.
posted by facehugger at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2013

My favorite vinegar hot sauce is Trappey's Red Devil, easy to find in grocery stores in my city.

For Mexican-style bottled hot sauce, we're a Poblano household. It's locally made since 1924, and so flavorful! The green jalapeno and salsa ranchera are our favorites.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:27 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll also throw in a vote for all the El Yucateco sauces and especially the Kutbil-ik one, which up until today I didn't know the official name of and always referred to as "the hot one".
posted by triggerfinger at 9:23 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Smoking J's stuff, the mango habenero is my favorite.
posted by abirdinthehand at 2:46 PM on June 9, 2013

Nthing Kutbil-Ik, Sambal Oulek, Bufalo Chipotle, and Chili Garlic Cholula--those are the ones I probably use most from day to day.

I make batches of homemade pretty often--it's fairly easy on a small scale (I must admit, too, that I'm sometimes tempted to use my homebrew equipment to attempt a larger batch).

If I want that Andrew Weil/Space Coyote hot sauce experience, I like Lethal Ingestion. It was, at one time, the hottest non-extract hot sauce. And it has a very nice flavor (if you're used to super-hot stuff), which is not always the case with super-hot sauces.
posted by box at 4:49 PM on June 9, 2013

I generally have a bottle of Tapatio and a chipotle Tabasco for general use. I also quite like the Pain is Good sauces I've tried, especially the garlic style. My favorite was a habenero and vinegar paste I used to buy in Senegal, which I miss nearly every day. I've tried to make it myself, but though the results have been good, they have not been the same. I think maybe it was slightly fermented.
posted by Nothing at 5:27 PM on June 9, 2013

Texas Pete. It is and always will be my standby/go-to.
posted by token-ring at 7:59 PM on June 9, 2013

I came to this question hoping someone would mention my hometown sauce and I wasn't disappointed. Poblano Salsa Ranchera is some of the best sauce I've had in my entire life. Every time I go back to Tucson I stock up. You can order it at https://www.acaciart.com/galleries/poblano/pob104_1.html
posted by JV at 11:09 PM on June 9, 2013

Seriously as Specklet said, it's all about Secret Aardvark. That stuff is incredible. Habanero, Jerk, Black Bean all the flavors. So delicious.
posted by Tevin at 7:46 PM on June 12, 2013

Ditto Dave's Insanity.

Be wary of some of their similarly named but hotter sauces though. They have a "total insanity," an "ultimate insanity," and the worst (best? I guess, depending on how hardcore you are) one I've tried is the "private reserve."

I mean by all means go for it if that's your thing, but if you're not sure, tread carefully. Especially that private reserve. Yeesh. That stuff will put a hurtin' on ya even in miniscule amounts.
posted by juv3nal at 11:39 PM on June 12, 2013

poking around some on their site, it seems "total insanity" may be less hot than regular "insanity"
posted by juv3nal at 11:57 PM on June 12, 2013

In the "basic" category, I put Crystal right up at the top. Very flavorful, without a lot of heat means I can and do add it to just about everything. Funny enough, this was what my dad always had on stock growing up, but I had forgotten for a few years when I went away to college, and ended up just buying Tobasco when I needed hot sauce. Not incredible on the flavor, but good for adding heat to things. It was over a decade before I re-tried Crystal and realized why it was the go-to growing up - it simply is better! Now I find myself needing to buy hot sauce much more frequently, since I use it so much more often. Also, if you like more heat, they do make an Extra Hot version which I also keep on hand.

As for others, Tapatio is a good mexican sauce, and Dave's Insanity Sauce is good on things one toothpick at a time (seriously, don't just pour it on until you know what you are in for).

Many mexican places will have different hot sauces, too, and I end up taking pictures of the labels of the ones I like with my phone for later. Looks like the last two sauces I captured were Valentina and El Yucateco Green Habanero. I remember the Valentina sauce being flavorful.

Also, An odd side-effect of using hot sauce constantly is that what I previously thought of as spicy simply isn't. The Fire Sauce at Taco Bell, for instance, is pretty weak stuff to me these days. I asked a family member who works at a Taco Bell if there was anything hotter, and she mentioned a Lava Sauce that they use for their "volcano" items. You can order a side of it. I only eat Taco Bell once every year or so, but I intend to check it out next time I go.
posted by mysterpigg at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2013

One of the differences between Tabasco and Texas Pete’s, Crystal, and other similar sauces is that the others have way more salt, like 10 times the amount. This may be one reason why many people like them more.

I found it funny that there’s a scene in Jerry McGuire where someone is chastised for using Tabasco because of the salt content. It’s actually pretty low.
posted by bongo_x at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2013

This is my current favourite: Chimay
posted by dhruva at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2013

Iguana Gold
Definitely adds tang and sweetness as well as habanero heat.
posted by Prevailing Southwest at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2013

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