Hot sauce

For other uses, see Hot sauce (disambiguation).
There are thousands of varieties of hot sauce
A fermented hot sauce

Hot sauce, also known as chili sauce or pepper sauce, is any condiment, seasoning, or salsa made from chili peppers and other ingredients.


Humans have used chili peppers and other hot spices for thousands of years. Inhabitants of Mexico, Central America and South America had chili peppers more than 6,000 years ago. Within decades of contact with Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, the American plant was carried across Europe and into Africa and Asia, and altered through selective breeding.[1] One of the first commercially available bottled hot sauces in America appeared in 1807 in Massachusetts.[2] However, of the early brands in the 1800s, few survive to this day. Tabasco sauce is the earliest recognizable brand in the United States hot sauce industry, appearing in 1868 and becoming synonymous with the term hot sauce in the United States.[3] As of 2010, it was the number 13 best-selling seasoning in the United States[4] preceded by Frank's RedHot Sauce in number 12 place, which was the sauce first concocted and used with the creation of Buffalo wings.[5]


There are many recipes for hot sauces but the only common ingredient is some variety of chili pepper. Many hot sauces are made by using chili peppers as the base and can be as simple as adding salt and vinegar while other sauces use some type of fruits or vegetables as the base and add the chili peppers to make them hot.[6] Manufacturers use many different processes from aging in containers, to pureeing and cooking the ingredients to achieve a desired flavor. Because of their ratings on the Scoville scale, Ghost pepper and Habanero peppers are used to make the hotter sauces but additional ingredients are used to add extra heat, such as pure capsaicin extract and mustard oil. Other common ingredients include vinegar and spices. Vinegar is used primarily as a natural preservative, but flavored vinegars can be used to attain a different taste.[7]

Styles of hot sauce

South and Central America

North America

Original Tabasco red pepper sauce

They are prepared from chilli peppers and vinegar, with fruits and vegetables added for extra flavor. The most common peppers used are habanero and Scotch bonnet, the latter being the most common in Jamaica. Both are very hot peppers, making for strong sauces. Over the years, each island developed its own distinctive recipes, and home-made sauces are still common.[12]


East Asia

South and Southeast Asia

Sambal hot sauce served with lalab vegetables.
Phrik nam pla is served with nearly every Thai meal

Middle East and North Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa




Habanero, bell pepper and garlic hot sauce

The heat, or burning sensation, experienced when consuming hot sauce is caused by capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The burning sensation is not "real" in the sense of damage being wrought on tissues. The mechanism of action is instead a chemical interaction with the neurological system.

The seemingly subjective perceived heat of hot sauces can be measured by the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale number indicates how many times something must be diluted with an equal volume of water until people can no longer feel any sensation from the capsaicin. The hottest hot sauce scientifically possible is one rated at 16,000,000 Scoville units, which is pure capsaicin. An example of a hot sauce marketed as achieving this level of heat is Blair's 16 Million Reserve (due to production variances, it is up to 16 million Scoville units), marketed by Blair's Sauces and Snacks. By comparison, Tabasco sauce is rated between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units (batches vary) - with one of the mildest commercially available condiments, Cackalacky Classic Condiment Company's Spice Sauce, weighing in at less than 1000 Scoville units on the standard heat scale.

A general way to estimate the heat of a sauce is to look at the ingredients list. Sauces tend to vary in heat based on the kind of peppers used, and the further down the list, the less the amount of pepper.

Remedies for pain caused by eating hot sauces or chilis

Capsaicinoids are the chemicals responsible for the "hot" taste of chili peppers. They are fat soluble and therefore water will be of no assistance when countering the burn. The most effective way to relieve the burning sensation is with dairy products, such as milk and yogurt. A protein called casein occurs in dairy products which binds to the capsaicin, effectively making it less available to "burn" the mouth, and the milk fat helps keep it in suspension. Rice is also useful for ameliorating the impact, especially when it is included with a mouthful of the hot food. These foods are typically included in the cuisine of cultures that specialise in the use of chilis. Mechanical stimulation of the mouth by chewing food will also partially mask the pain sensation.[21]

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hot sauce.
  1. Brown, David (February 16, 2007). "One Hot Archaeological Find". The Washington Post.
  2. Thompson, Jennifer Trainer (2012-04-24). Hot Sauce!. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-60342-813-2.
  3. Belson, Ken (February 3, 2013). "Tabasco's Ties to Football Burn Deep". The New York Times.
  4. "The Best-Selling Condiments in the U.S.: No. 13 Best-Selling Condiment: McIllhenny Tabasco Sauce". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  5. "The Best-Selling Condiments in the U.S.: No. 12 Best-Selling Condiment: Frank's RedHot Sauce". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  6. Chili History and Hot Sauce.
  7. Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes.
  8. "Business Intuit Mexican Hot Sauce". Archived from the original on October 6, 2013.
  9. "Sudbury Firm Gets Fired Up About Its Sauces". February 2010.
  10. "Slash Food Article on Chili Pepper Water". Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.
  11. Rombauer, I: Joy of Cooking, p. 847. Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.
  13. "Whats 4 Eats recipe for Sos Ti-Malice".
  15. "Hottest chili". 2011-03-01. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
  16. Fire Foods. "Hot Chilli Sauce Online | Hot Chili Sauce UK | Hottest Chilli Products". Retrieved 2013-03-02.
  18. "''Ghost Chili'' Scares Off Elephants". Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  19. "Peri-Peri Peppers".
  20. "Does Hot Sauce Go Bad?". Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  21. Nasrawi, Christina Wu; Pangborn, Rose Marie (April 1990). "Temporal effectiveness of mouth-rinsing on capsaicin mouth-burn". Physiology & Behavior. 47 (4): 617–623. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(90)90067-E. PMID 2385629.

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