The best peppers for hot sauce (& no fermentation recipe)

Are you looking to grow peppers for homemade salsa? Great, here are the best hot peppers to grow for making hot sauce at home.

And yes, we have you covered with recipes for any level of heat, from mild to really hot.

Finding the best chili peppers for hot sauces

You can, of course, use all types of peppers when looking to make hot sauce. But for me, hot sauce does imply a certain level of heat.

It does not have to be an extremely hot flavor, but I do expect a bit of kick.

Using my own peppers and garlic to make hot sauce
My own peppers and garlic

And over the years, I have perfected a mix of 3 mild to medium hot peppers to make a hot sauce that everyone in our family likes.

I will also share how to make the sauce milder or extremely hot.

Three chili peppers to use for hot sauces (medium heat)

We use SHU or Scoville scale heat units to indicate the heat of any given pepper variety.

  1. Cayenne peppers – medium hot peppers:
    25 000-50 000 SHU – deliver a distinct kick to the hot sauce
  2. Jalapeño peppers – medium chili peppers:
    2 500 – 10 000 SHU – popular among medium chili peppers
  3. Spanish Padron peppers – mild to medium hot peppers:
    1000 – 8000 SHU – delivers an excellent level of heat if left to ripen on the plant.

My best homemade hot sauce recipe

We make two variations of this hot sauce. One is the traditional Tabasco-style hot sauce condiment for adding to food.

But we also let part of the sauce boil down to a thicker paste that we use as a flavor enhancer for stews, casseroles, and marinades.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 pound of fresh peppers*
  • 1 medium-sized red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pound of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbs of red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • salt and black pepper to taste

* 3 parts of Spanish Padron peppers, 1 part each of Cayenne and Jalapeño peppers.

Instructions:

  1. Finely chop peppers and the red onion
  2. Cook on low heat in olive oil until soft
  3. Use a hand mixer to pulse the mixture smooth
  4. Add finely chopped garlic, cherry tomatoes, vinegar, and water
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes
  6. Season to taste
  7. Process until smooth using a hand mixer or food processor
  8. Transfer to a container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for later use.

It’s true. You do not have to ferment hot sauce.

We do not ferment our hot pepper sauces. Instead, we cook out the sauce and add red wine vinegar to lower the pH to that desired range and flavor we all expect from a sauce.

Making hot sauce and hot pepper paste
We make hot sauce and hot pepper paste

There are both advantages and disadvantages with and without fermentation [1].

We prefer the no fermentation method as it is faster and delivers a great result.

Fermenting the sauce means leaving the container at room temperature for days, weeks, and even months. And you have no idea about the result while the sauce is fermenting.

I prefer the instant feedback and much faster result of the no fermentation method where we add vinegar and cook the sauce.

How to make hot sauces milder

To make hot sauce milder, use more cherry tomatoes or chili peppers with a softer flavor profile.

  • Banana peppers (0-500 SHU): Milder bell peppers, sweet flavor, ideal for a milder salsa
  • Poblano peppers (1000-2500 SHU): Mild heat level, ideal for balancing a medium salsa
  • Anaheim peppers (1000-2500 SHU): Another example of sweet peppers
  • Serrano peppers (10000-25000SHU): Serranos are medium hot chili peppers
Add cherry tomatoes to the hot sauce if the heat gets too extreme. Using a sweet pepper like the Anaheim pepper could also do the trick, but with limited growing space, I prefer growing cherry tomatoes and hot pepper plants.

Making hot sauce from the hottest peppers

Some pepper varieties are almost too hot to be used in hot sauces. But making the perfect hot sauce is all about personal preference.

I grow and use habanero peppers, Carolina Reapers, and Bhut Jolokia peppers for hot sauces. But please note, when working with habaneros, ghosts, and reapers, be careful as the heat can be dangerous.

Always use gloves, and protective eyewear and never touch skin or face after handling ghost peppers. Also, do not ingest fumes or vapor when cooking. Have I scared you? Good. Do not handle ghost peppers unless you know what you are doing.

To add heat to your hot sauce, substitute the milder peppers for Bhut Jolokia ghost peppers, habaneros, or California Reapers.

Remember to add in moderation, as hotter is not always better.

Buy or grow your own peppers

We grow all the peppers we need. But these days, you do not need to grow all types of peppers yourself.

Well-stocked grocery stores sell the most popular chili pepper varieties, even though it is unusual to see scorching hot fresh peppers. The hotter types I have come across include half-ripe orange habanero peppers, green jalapeños, and cayenne peppers.

You know the peppers are half-ripe as the habanero is orange and the jalapeños are green.

Adding some depth to your hot sauces

Hot sauces need more than heat to be delicious and exciting.

And often, if you feel your sauce is missing that little something, you should have added some sweetness when cooking your sauce.

I have two favorites for adding depth and sweetness: pineapple and mango.

Both pineapple and mango have a way of tempering the unbridled heat that hotter peppers can bring to a dish. For best effect, add ingredients when preparing your sauce for the flavor to develop fully.

Frequently asked questions

Helpful sources:

[1] https://fartleyfarms.com/you-dont-have-to-ferment-to-make-hot-sauce/

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.