Hot Pepper Sauce

Even before sriracha sauce was all the rage, I was a fan of pepper sauces. Truth be told, I’m not a huge Tabasco fan, my sauce of choice was always Frank’s Red Hot. Until I started making my own.



Everything about this recipe is “about” because this is not an exact science thing here. What we’re basically doing is heating up the peppers in vinegar, letting them soak in that vinegar for a few days to release some heat and flavor, then pureeing the heck out of it to make a sauce. Well, then there’s a couple other steps, but you get what I mean.

I’m not sure if this would be a pickle, a fermentation or what… but I know the end results are pretty good, and while the overall process takes a few days, the amount of work is really pretty minimal.

A word about the peppers… use whatever you want. My personal sauce has evolved, it’s hard to always find ripe, red jalapenos, so I use a blend of red bell peppers for their color and habaneros for their heat. Call me a traditionalist, but I like a red sauce. If color doesn’t matter to you.. use green jalapenos, purple Thai chilies or whatever. If you don’t like the heat, use mostly sweet peppers, you can find them in most grocers now in 2-5# bags in red, yellow and orange (they work great for stuffing as appetizers by the way).

A couple of things I will emphasize, if you’re chopping up hot peppers, get yourself some disposable latex or vinyl gloves and wear them while chopping/handling. Then take them off before doing anything else. And never lean over the pot as you stir the simmering chili pepper mix. The fumes alone will make you suffer if you do.

My personal process has evolved, you can use the sauce right after the 3 days of “incubation”, though you may find the vinegar separates a bit. I’ve poured that layer off and it’s a great flavored vinegar for making some spicy salad dressings, or you can just stir it back in and you’re good to go.

At this point it is essentially a slightly thicker than usual, flavored vinegar. If you want a sauce that really sticks to whatever you put it on, and you’re willing to wait another half-day or so, after you’ve done the second trip through the blender put the sauce in a crock-pot on the lowest setting, leave the cover off and walk away. 8-18 hours later, depending on the heat of your crock-pot it will reduce by about half.

The one downside of doing this, you have half as much sauce.

This is one of those recipes that really… is never quite the same twice. The peppers you use will always have their own unique flavors, maybe you reduce it more this time… and less next time… and maybe you find something you can do that really makes this sauce your own.

So once you do have your sauce, what to do with it?

What can’t you do?! I use this on grilled meats, eggs, in other sauces, perk up soups, add some kick to your V-8 juice, and much more.

Ok, fine.. here, make some buffalo sauce for some chicken wings, nuggets, or how about buffalo shrimp? It’s the same recipe I used when I was running the kitchen at a pool hall/sports bar in Saint Paul about 20 years ago.

Buffalo Sauce

  • 1 part butter – melted
  • 1 part honey
  • 2 parts hot pepper sauce

So, if you just want a little bit to dip some chicken nuggets or grilled shrimp in, use 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp hot sauce.  Best way to coat shrimp or chicken wings is put them in a covered container, add the sauce, cover and shake.

Or how about a steak house style dressing with a kick?

Steak House Dressing

2 tbsp pepper sauce (original recipe calls for red wine vinegar if you want to try that)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp brown sugar (I don’t keep brown sugar on hand, so will use the turbinado or demerara sugar I usually do have on hand)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Blend well, store remainder in fridge.

Hot Pepper Sauce


  • 1 pound red bell peppers approximately
  • 6 habanero peppers approximately
  • 4 cups white vinegar approximately
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt approximately


  • Wash the peppers, done your gloves, then cut the stem and cores from the peppers. Coarsely chop and put in a medium sized, non-reactive pot. Removing as many seeds as you can will reduce the heat factor, or leave them all in.
  • Pour vinegar over the peppers, making sure they are covered. Add more if needed. Add salt and stir.
  • Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring every couple of minutes. Let boil for a couple minutes before turning off heat and removing from burner.
  • Using either an immersion blender or by carefully transferring a blender or food processor, blend to a "paste" consistency.
  • Pour mixture to a heat safe container such as a quart sized canning jar. Cover with a paper towel, clean dish towel or similar, using a rubber band or string to secure in place and put jar or jars in a secure place and let stand 3 days at room temperature.
  • Blend contents again to try and break down any remaining larger pieces of pepper, then strain through a mesh colander or sieve to remove as much of the solids as desired.
  • Bottle as is and store in fridge, or reduce to a thicker sauce by placing in a small crock pot on its lowest setting, uncovered, until desired consistency.

3 Responses

  1. Rob Portinga says:

    I may or may not have licked the spoon clean after taking that top photo there….

  2. Cindy says:

    Can I can it and keep on the shelf?

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