The Ultimate Guide To Hot Sauce

Discover what makes each bottle of hot sauce unique, when to add this fiery ingredient to your cooking, and how to make your own version at home.

What is hot sauce?

Hot sauce (also known as chilli sauce or pepper sauce) is a condiment based on one key ingredient chilli. You’ll find numerous hot sauce varieties around the world, from Thai sriracha to Louisiana-style Frank’s RedHot Sauce.

Asia, South America, the Caribbean and the USA all make their own types of hot sauce. Usually, the main difference between them all is the type of chilli used, and ingredients which are added to it.

Southeast Asian Hot Sauces

  • Korean gochujang pairs soybeans with red pepper powder for a fermented umami-hit as well as rich spice. The condiment comes in a paste form and can be added to soups, stews, rice, and in a marinade for bulgogi beef
  • Sambal is an Indonesian chilli sauce or paste, typically made with red chillies, garlic, ginger and onions. Tomatoes, tamarind, shrimp paste and palm sugar are also sometimes added

North America, Central America, USA and Caribbean Hot Sauces

  • Generally speaking, Mexican hot sauces focus on flavour rather than heat. They use classic Mexican chillies too. Valentina hot sauces are made with dry árbol chillies, and the El Yucateco brand uses habanero peppers as a base
  • Belize hot sauces are fiery and typically use habanero chillies and carrots as a base
  • Louisiana-style Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce is made with aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar and water. Apparently, Frank’s RedHot Sauce was the secret ingredient in America’s first ever buffalo wing sauce, created in Buffalo, NY in 1964
  • In Jamaica, scotch bonnet chilli peppers are commonly used in hot sauces 

North African and Southeast African Hot Sauces

  • Harissa is a North African condiment. Red hot peppers are combined with lemon, herbs (often coriander and caraway seeds) and garlic for a hot, aromatic paste that can be used as a dip, a marinade, or used as it is, stirred through hummus and tagines
  • Peri-peri hot sauce originated in Southeast Africa. It is believed that when Portuguese explorers arrived in Mozambique and discovered the fiery bird’s eye chilli, they added lemon and garlic to form a punchy spice. To make a sauce version, bird’s eye chillies are combined with garlic, sugar, salt, vinegar, lemon and olive oil

European Hot Sauces

  • Nora pepper paste is made from nora, small round peppers. The flesh of the peppers are air-dried, then made into a purée and mixed with citric acid. Nora peppers have an intense red pepper flavour with very mild heat and fruity notes. The paste is a popular ingredient in Spanish fish stews
  • Bomba Calabrese is a spicy Italian spread made with peppers and chilli peppers alongside tomatoes, capers and garlic. The thick vegetable spread - which comes from Calabria - is great tossed through pasta, stirred through green bean salads or spread over a pizza base

What is sriracha sauce and how do I use it?

Sriracha chilli sauce is typically used in Southeast Asian cooking, especially in Thailand and Vietnam. It takes its name from the coastal Thai city, Si Racha, and has a distinctively hot-sweet-sour flavour.

Sriracha hot sauce is made from a paste of chilli peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. The most recognisable brand of sriracha sauce is Flying Goose, which uses sun-dried chillies in its recipe.

Flying Goose Sriracha

Sriracha chilli sauce is often paired with seafood dishes, and is also delicious in a pork bánh mì or with Chinese steamed buns. Stir a spoon of Flying Goose Sriracha chilli sauce through mayonnaise for a great accompaniment to crab or prawns.

Flying Goose Sriracha - Lemongrass 455ml

Lemongrass adds citric-floral notes to this chilli sauce. It’s gentler than other Flying Goose sauces, and works wonderfully with steamed fish.

Flying Goose Green Sriracha 455ml

Flying Goose’s green sriracha is made with green chillies. It adds both tang and sweetness to pork bánh mì, Chinese steamed buns, and fried rice.

MORE: Shop all 15 flavours of Flying Goose brand here.

Where was hot sauce invented?

The history of hot sauce starts with the Aztecs, who used chillies for both flavour and medicinal purposes. But in terms of mass-produced hot sauce, one of the oldest brands is TABASCO®, founded in 1860s Louisiana. At the time, that American state’s diet was fairly bland, so founder Edmund McIlhenny decided to create a pepper sauce to give his food some punch. 

How is hot sauce made?

In its simplest form, hot sauce is made from a chilli pepper base, plus salt and vinegar. Extra flavourings including garlic, ginger, herbs and spices provide warmth, fragrance, or an extra fiery kick.

If you want to make hot sauce at home, below is a step-by-step process. For correct ratios, carefully follow your chosen recipe.

  1. Mix chopped chillies with sugar, salt, vinegar and water, then leave for a couple of weeks to ferment
  2. Strain the chillies and add to a blender. Blitz with vinegar and a little of the brine to create a smooth sauce
  3. You can choose the level of heat you want by picking the right type of chilli

Which hot sauce should I try first?

Valentina Extra Hot Sauce 370ml

Valentina's salsa muy picante, or extra hot sauce, is designed to add fiery heat to your cooking. It’s made from árbol chillies, which rank between 15,000 and 30,000 units on the Scoville scale of chilli heat.

Frank's Red Hot Original Pepper Sauce 354ml

Frank's RedHot Original Pepper Sauce is made from a premium blend of aged cayenne peppers. This spicy sauce is a must-try for chilli fanatics. 

Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce 150ml

Cholula’s Chipotle Hot Sauce is a smoky, fiery, sweet table condiment – fantastic on barbecued meat and fish, or homemade Mexican tacos. Drizzle a little over a pepperoni pizza to really spice things up! The sauce is gluten-free and suitable for vegans.

Shop all hot sauces and learn more about fermenting with our guide


  • I have to agree with the above comment on Linghams sauces. They are very tasty and my favourite sauces. I wouldnt however really consider them as hot. The extra hot for some people may be a little tingly but there are far hotter sauces out there.

    Jon Espana on

  • There is a hot suace I thibk you might want to try. It is Lingham’s Hot sauce. It is a sweet and spicy hot suace made in Malaysia. And it is HOT and they even make a hotter version. It does not taste like any other hot sdauce I have tried. I have to order mine online. Ask any Malaysian friend about it and they will tell you it BURNS! It has a unique flavor.

    Per Axel Oxenstirna on

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