Homemade HOT Sauce!

There seems to be a mutual appreciation for good BBQ and spicy things, including hot sauces. Many of us search out super hot sauces with scary sounding names, which usually include words like “death” or “destruction” (not to mention specifically affected body parts at times).

But just like in the case of making your own BBQ, you can easily make your own hot sauce! And you can dial up or down the heat to your liking.

If you’ve taken some homegrown or grocery store bought peppers and tried in the past but got a less-than-desired result, my guess is you were missing one simple step: fermentation.

Don’t freak out! It’s easy, and here’s how you do it. All you need is:

Photo of raw pepper mash

Raw, unfiltered pepper mash

  • 1 pound of fresh peppers (jalapeños, habanero, or any pepper you like)
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt

Simply cut the stems off each pepper and throw them into a food processor (I use a Ninja blender). Add the salt, and pulse until you have a consistent slightly chunky mash.

Pour that into a one quart jar – but be careful!  If you used hot peppers like habanero (or hotter), the puree will give off fumes that will be akin to police grade pepper spray!

Set the lid on the jar loosely or slightly ajar and leave it be for 24 hours.


After 24 hours you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of distilled white vinegar

Add the vinegar to the pepper mash mixture and stir until mixed together. Put lid back loosely on the jar and wait. This time, I’m talking a week.  5-7 days.  You will be rewarded.

Photo of pepper mash

Pepper mash fermenting for 5 – 7 days

During the initial 24 hours, and afterward during the week, the sauce mash is fermenting, where all kinds of magically delicious science happens.

As a final step in the creation of your base pepper mash, run the fermented mash one more time through a food processor until WELL pulverized. Next, take a small fine sieve or mesh strainer and pour the mixture through the strainer and back into the jar. Use a spoon as necessary to press the mash through the strainer, and discard pulp that will not go through the strainer.

That’s it! You now have your pepper mash base ready to make hot pepper sauce as diabolical or gentle as you wish.

Here’s where you can get creative, adding anything that suits your fancy, from sweet (sugar, molasses, maple syrup, sweet spices) to savory (garlic, onions, black pepper). You can also adjust the heat level by adjusting the other sauce ingredients. Here is a baseline recipe you can use for a hotter pepper like a Habanero; adjust for your desired heat level and the peppers used:

  • 6 Tbs vinegar
  • 2 Tbs pepper mash
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Add all ingredients into a 1 cup measuring cup and whisk together. Taste. Too hot? Lessen the pepper mash and add water. Not hot enough…well, you get it.

Now, if you were adding all of the liquid ingredients together, you may have noticed this adds up to right about 5 oz. Why? Because that’s what most hot sauce bottles contain. You can shop online for these if you want to share your hot sauce with others, but here is a link to hot sauce bottles to get you started. Use a funnel and pour the hot sauce into the bottle.

Photo of Hot Sauce

Finished hot sauce (Habanero) bottled

One last thing. You will notice that, like many other hot sauces, these ingredients separate, so you have to shake well before each use. It also has a fairly thin consistency, which works great with a drip top. But if you would like the sauce to not separate as much and be a bit thicker, you can add the teeny-tiniest bit of xanthan gum. I’m not kidding about the tiny quantity – much more than a pinch or two and you will have hot sauce goop. Also, don’t add it in even the smallest clump or it will be almost impossible to disperse. Sprinkle it in on top while the sauce is still in the measuring cup and whisk until incorporated.  You will see its magical thickening properties as you go.  And yes, xanthan gum is available on Amazon…this time, go search for it yourself!

Enjoy, and let me know what you come up with by emailing me at Phil@BBQPhil.com!

Philip Allen