The Best Hot Sauces

I love hot sauces. Not just small, citrusy serrano peppers or large, milder jalapenos, but sauces and pastes that can keep in the fridge or cupboard to up your spice quotient at any time.  And, in the style of one of my favorite bloggers, Justin, I have decided to write a comprehensive post on all of my favorite spicy condiments, so you might be able to spice up your dish. Bland meals, begone!

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

These are smoked and dried jalapenos that are rehydrated in a vinegary tomato sauce. They become plump and soft in the sauce, and the sauce itself often has onions and sometimes carrot coins. Chipotles in adobo are smoky, with a back of the throat heat that is mild at first, but can build when used in copious amounts. The tastes is very earthy, and goes well with strong flavors such as beef, and tangy flavors such as sour cream. One of the best mixtures on the planet is chipotles in adobo, mashed with a spoon, mixed with mayonnaise and spiked with lime juice. Spicy, smoky, sour, and creamy, this is delicious on everything from baked chicken to french fries. I confess to eating these whole out of the jar with a wedge of baguette.

Cholula

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My favorite Mexican hot sauce, hands down. Not especially spicy, it has a gentle zing that combines garlic, vinegar, and some chiles. There is the slight, heady note of cumin in there, and that makes this sauce expressly Mexican – don’t try using it in an Asian dish.  Thin and smooth, it is fantastic drizzled on a fish taco or mixed into some fresh guacamole. This isn’t the kind of hot sauce that blows your head off, it is the one that accents other flavors. Suitable for even the worst spice wimps.

Habanero Tabasco

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Regualar Tabasco is so vinegary, so thin, so, just kind of…well…weenie. There, I said it. It’s a weenie hot sauce. Habanero Tabasco, on the other hand. is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Slightly more saturated in color and thicker in texture, this could nonetheless look like regular Tabasco sauce. The taste, however, is worlds different. It is lip tingling, cheek flushing, nose running hot. Use with caution, because this is far more habanero-forward than salt or vinegar-forward. It is really the closest thing on the market to shaving fresh habaneros on your food. Slightly fruity toward the back of the palate, with a tongue-prickling heat that, when used in large quantities, sends a chill right down your spine. This is just the stuff for spicing up omelettes or making chili sing in a higher note.

Chinese Mustard

Similar to wasabi, this thick paste has nasal clearing properties. Much more hot than actually spicy or subtle, this has just a bit of mustardy tang and is far closer to horseradish than the stuff you put on hot dogs. A bit mixed with soy sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce makes the most delicious dumpling sauce on the planet, and if you cut your regular mustard with a teaspoon or so of the stuff, your macaroni and cheese will find new heights.

Gochujang

This Korean condiment uses fiery red chiles, rice powder, and fermented soybeans. This gives the sauce a complex flavor that is sweet, spicy, nutty, and incredibly umami (fromt he fermentation). It has a bit of funk to it, like fish sauce, and is not too hot – more spicy or zesty. This is a key component in any Korean meal, and when mixed with ketchup, makes a fantastic hamburger topping. Also, thin it with vinegar to make some quick Asian pickled onions.

Sambal Oelek

Pure chile flavor. Little garlic and almost no vinegar taste, these chili flakes are hot and a bit pungent, perfect for suing in salads or stir fries. I use this anywhere I want pure chile flavor, but have no fresh chiles in the house or am too lazy to chop fresh ones. Sambal Olek has such a straightforward chile flavor that it is useful in many types of cuisine – I have used it to spike everything from pasta sauces to leftover chicken mole. Just use a little at a time,a s the stuff here is really incendiary. This is hot sauce in the purest sense of the word.

Sriracha

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The mothership sauce. The holy grail of sauces. The I’m-so-hungover-I-can-barely-see-please-get-me-something-to-eat-sauce. Sriracha is king of the castle. This thin, but not runny sauce, fire truck red, mixes vinegar, chiles, and garlic in a way that no other sauce can duplicate. Squirt its smooth red paste from its green cap onto anything that needs a garlicky, acidic, and quite spicy punch. Since it’s Thai, it is a natural for Asian food – pho, oyako don, and steamed fish are all delicious with Sriracha. But it’s oddly addictive flavor finds its way into other types of food too. Eggs, baked potatoes, cold pizza, salad dressings, fried chicken, bacon sandwiches, and stalks of celery have all been kissed by Sriracha to great effect. It makes a fantastic chicken wing sauce and gives Bloody Marys both body and an addictive heat. This is not the spiciest hot sauce around, nor the most exclusive. But it is, unmistakably the most delicious.

Have I missed any great hot sauces here? If so, PLEASE let me know in the comments!

Because: I like it hot.

Comments

  1. Justin says:

    Funny, I just re-read that post this morning because I was writing about taco sauce. I love your list, although have you had Tapatio or Valentina? I like those more than Cholula. I can bring you bottles in a couple weeks!

    • fritosfg says:

      I have seen Tapatio but have never tried it – I would LOVE a bottle of valentina, if you feel so inclined to bring one :) I can pay you and Elizabeth back in Knishes!

  2. Jack L says:

    3 Words: Lao gan ma.

  3. Sarah says:

    No Frank’s Red Hot? ;)

  4. Sarah says:

    Love this page! Would you recommend any hot sauce that’s versatile to put on all types of foods but that isn’t that ketchupy, sweet, or sour? Based on your descriptions, tobasco habanero seems like a good bet?

    • fritosfg says:

      Hi Sarah!

      Yes, tabsco habanero is a great one – it is a little acidic but not overly sour. Cholula is also one of my favorites – very garlicky and delish! Let me know what you think!

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