hot sauce

How to make hot sauce perfectly tailored to your taste, according to 3 experts

Posted by for Food and Drink

Finding a hot sauce that you love and suits all your needs and wants can be difficult. So why not try making your own, perfectly tailored to you? Here’s a guide on how to do it, from three women who founded their own hot sauce businesses.

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Hot sauce can really make or break a meal, depending on if the taste, spice level and kick of the condiment suits you. Maybe you have already found your favourite shop-bought hot sauce, but have you ever considered making your own, in order to nail the taste and spice that you love?

Making your own hot sauce actually isn’t as complicated as you may think. You can either cook it or ferment it, depending on the taste you’re looking for but once that’s done, you can store the hot sauce in your fridge for weeks, or maybe even months, to use with every meal.

There are so many amazing UK-based hot sauce brands, rooted in different cuisines and cultures, many of which showcase at the annual Peckham Hot Sauce Festival. 40 independent hot sauce makers will be selling their condiments this weekend, three of whom have shared their tips for making hot sauce from home as a beginner.  

How to find the perfect hot sauce recipe for you

Hot sauce is a fairly broad umbrella term for sauces whose core ingredient is a chili pepper. The popular condiment is made all over the world and there have been thousands of takes on it based on cultural and national cuisines. 

When finding the perfect hot sauce recipe for you, you should focus on flavour, as you can adjust spice levels in most recipes (find tips on that below). 

You can figure out which flavours you like by trying lots of different hot sauces, perhaps at an event like the Peckham Hot Sauce Festival. Or, maybe you already have a favourite cuisine and can find a hot sauce recipe based on that. For example, if you love Jamaican food, a hot sauce using ingredients originating from Jamaica might be perfect for you.

You should also consider whether you want to ferment or cook your hot sauce, as the two different methods create totally different flavours. Cooking your hot sauce will create quite a traditional taste, whereas fermenting it will give it more of a fresh, tangy taste.

Here, two makers share their hot sauce recipes, as examples of some of the ingredients used in the sauce.

Jen, condimaniac
Jen is the co-founder of Condimaniac.

Smokey Dragon Hot Sauce, from Condimaniac

Jen Dreier, the co-founder of Condimaniac, has developed a hot sauce recipe with fairly balanced flavours, thanks to the combination of garlic, onion and chili. 

Makes approx 700ml of sauce

What you will need:

  • 150g white onion
  • 25g garlic
  • 100g base chilli (medium hot, like jalapeno or red bullet or a mix of several)
  • 10g speciality chilli like habanero or ghost chilli
  • 140ml apple cider vinegar
  • 12g salt
  • 25g sugar
  • 1-3tsp herbs and spices of your choice (paprika, cayenne and curry work well)

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients and cook in a pan for 20 minutes, stirring regularly
  2. Blend to desired consistency and keep it in the fridge for up to 6 weeks
Natasha, Taino
Natasha is the founder of Taino.

Pineapple pique recipe, from Taino

Natasha Pencil, the founder of Caribbean food company Taino, has developed a hot sauce recipe inspired by Puerto Rico. “This recipe uses pineapple skin to add sweetness, which is also a great way to use up food waste,” Natasha says.

Unlike Jen’s recipe, Natasha ferments her sauce, which creates a totally different flavour.

Makes 600ml sauce.

What you will need:

  • 6 small hot chilli peppers, halved lengthways (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon pure sea salt
  • 2 slices of pineapple skin
  • Apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. In a freshly cleaned 600ml mason jar combine chilies, garlic, pineapple skins and spices. 
  2. Pour the vinegar on top and make sure all of the ingredients are covered. 
  3. Seal the jar and let it sit in a cool place for at least 4 days and up to 2 weeks. The flavours intensity and it gets spicier with time.
  4. Blend your sauce and keep it in the fridge.
  5. The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

How to tailor your hot sauce to your tastes

hot sauce
Peckham hot sauce festival
hot sauce
Lesley's hot sauce, Peckham Hot Sauce Festival, Trialling hot sauces

After you have found the perfect recipe for you, there are many ways you can tailor it to your own taste and spice preference. Jen, Natasha and Natalie Dinning from Lesley’s Sauces have shared their expert tips for perfecting your hot sauce.

Make your sauce stronger than you want it to turn out

To make sure you like the flavour, you should taste your sauce before fermenting it or during the cooking process. However, Jen says that your sauce should taste spicier, and more flavoursome than you want it to end up as the sauce will become less tasty and spicy during the cooking or fermenting process.

“You’ll probably think your sauce is too salty when you taste it during the cooking process but, really, it needs to be quite pungent,” Jen explains.

Taste your sauce for flavour, not spice

On tasting your sauce before it’s ready, Natalie adds that you should be tasting it predominantly for the flavour not for the spice level. “A lot of people will put whole chilis in to their sauces, blending them after they have been fermented or cooked,” Natalie says. “Because of this, you might not be able to taste how spicy your sauce really is before it’s ready.”

Natalie says that you should therefore focus on tasting your sauce for its flavour, rather than its spice.

You can always add extra spice but you can’t take away

You have to be specific in order to get your hot sauce’s flavour and spice perfect for you. Because of this, Natalie suggests adding minimal flavours and spices at first and slowly adding more in during the mixing or cooking process if it’s not right for you. “Taste your sauce constantly and try it after every time you’ve added something new,” Natalie says.

Natalie, Lesley's sauces
Natalie is the owner of Lesley's Sauces.

Remove the seeds from your chilis if you don’t like spice

According to Natasha, the seeds inside of chilis are what makes them so spicy. “If you want to make your sauce less hot, you can remove the seeds as this is where the majority of the heat comes from,” she explains.

Simply remove the seeds before you put them into your sauce.

Taste your chilies raw

To figure out which chilies have the right spice level for you, Jen recommends tasting them raw. “It’s not a very nice experience,” she says, explaining that it can be overwhelming, so you should only do it once to figure out which chilies you like and only try a very small amount.

“In the UK, chilies are in season between August and October, so try to taste them during that period if possible,” Jen recommends.

You can find more recipes and expert tips on The Curiosity Academy’s Instagram page.

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Images: Peckham hot sauce festival, Taino, Condimaiac, Lesley’s Sauces, Getty

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