Hot sauce – a piquant favorite that has been the darling of chicken wings in recent years. The sweet and tangy taste of this hot pepper-based condiment has raised the bar of deliciousness of this simple comfort food by leaving your mouth pleasantly assaulted with flavor.
Hot sauce is not just the domain of Buffalo wings; it has become ubiquitous for adding flavor and fire to scrambled eggs, stir-fry, drinks and everything in between. Of course, what is considered hot for one person may not be hot enough for another. Tastes vary greatly and luckily, there are enough brands of hot sauce to meet the needs of the meek as well as the mighty.
The ‘heat’ of a hot sauce is measured on a Scoville heat unit scale, and can range between 0-100 SHU all the way up to 3.18 million SHU. Finding the right one to suit your tolerance level can take a bit of trial and error.
We narrow down the best hot sauces you can buy online. Read on to find the one that suits you best.
Top Pick Best Mild Hot Sauce: Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
Chicken wings are your comfort food and an especially favorite go-to treat for football games and tailgate parties. You make them by the bucketful to treat yourself and all of your friends. Now you’re looking for a sweet/tangy sauce with just a bit of heat to coat those wings and bring them to a new level.
We recommend Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce for enough hot sauce to add extra flavor to a bucket of chicken wings as well as entrees, sides, snacks, small plates and beverages. Crafted from real, select, aged red cayenne peppers, this hot sauce delivers the perfect blend of flavor and heat every time. With 450 SHU, it is perfect for anyone looking for a gentle caress of heat in their food.
Frank’s RedHot Original is dairy free, vegetarian, kosher, has no high fructose corn syrup and is also gluten-free. The one-gallon plastic jug is ready to use and shelf stable – pour what you need straight from the jug or portion it out into smaller jars, which makes sharing easy.
Ingredients are aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder.
- Made from all natural ingredients, no extracts
- Gluten and dairy-free
- May be too mild for some tastes
Top Pick Best Moderately Hot: Tabasco Original Red Flavor Hot Sauce
For anyone who’s interested in progressing upward from a more tepid introduction into hot sauce and jumping into something more exhilarating but not too hot, a good idea would be to look for a brand that boasts Scoville heat units (SHU) of between 2,500-5,000. If the notion of upping the flavor ante of some of your favorite foods is appealing and you’re brave to stick a toe into hot waters – then this brand may be for you.
For a finely handcrafted, medium-heat hot sauce that has stood the test of time since it was created in 1868, we recommend Tabasco Original Red Flavor Hot Sauce. For over 135 years, this sauce has been made from the same three ingredients – aged red pepper, Avery Island salt and distilled vinegar – producing a unique pungent flavor that works with just about any cuisine.
The beauty of this hot sauce is that you add it drop by drop to whatever foods you want to enhance. Scrambled eggs, a sandwich, soup, pasta, a bloody Mary – a few drops of hot sauce brings each dish or drink to a new level of taste sensation. Gluten-free with no calories and low in sodium. You’re going to end up putting it next to the salt and pepper shaker in your kitchen to add a little extra spice to all your meals.
- Made from simple, clean ingredients
- Moderately hot
- Easy to customize to taste using one drop at a time
- May be too mild for some people
Top Pick Best Really Hot: Zombie Apocalypse Ghost Chili Hot Sauce
The challenge is on – you and your friends are die-hard hot sauce fans, constantly on the lookout for the perfect blend of heat that will almost, but not quite, have you crying out in pain. You’re working your way up the Scoville heat unit scale, carefully selecting various hot sauces to add into your food. You’re also looking for authenticity, real ingredients and not extracts.
For a hot sauce that will bring you to the edge of surrender, we recommend Zombie Apocalypse Ghost Chili Hot Sauce. This all-natural, gluten free hot sauce has 16 ghost chili pods in every bottle – now that’s a lot of heat. In fact, this hot sauce rates approximately 500,000 Scoville units.
This Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Chili pepper) hot sauce combines Ghost Peppers and Habaneros with a mix of spices, vegetables, vinegar and oil to create an almost sweet yet immensely hot, hot sauce. Add it directly to any prepared dish for a shot of great heat and flavor, or use it while cooking to bring out awesome flavor and heat.
Ingredients are Bhut Jolokia peppers, Habanero peppers, carrot, Mandarin orange, tomatoes, distilled white vinegar, vegetable oil, garlic, sugar, and other all natural spices.
- Very hot, measuring approximately 500,000 SHU
- Made from all natural ingredients, no extracts
- Vegan and gluten free
- Featured on Hot Ones
- Extremely spicy and hot, do not get in nose, eyes or other sinus cavities
Things to look out for:
Consider these things when looking for a hot sauce so you will choose one that best suits your taste:
Hot sauces are used both in upping the flavor in a recipe during the cooking process, or as a condiment to top anything from scrambled eggs and stir-fry to finish it with a fiery kick. With everyone’s tolerance for spice and heat so varied, it’s good to know there are an endless variety of sauces to choose from. What you choose is also dependent on your need: Sweet-spicy blends are perfect for barbecue sauces, kicked-up pastes add depth to soups and stews, while vinegary styles lend a zip to pretty much everything.
Before choosing a hot sauce, be realistic about how much heat you can handle. Certain sauces are incredibly potent, so even just a little can make your eyes water in an instant.
The best way to determine the spice level of a particular sauce is to find out where it lands on the Scoville scale. This scale measures the heat of certain chili peppers or anything derived from chili peppers (like hot sauces). Peppers can range between 0-100 SHU all the way up to 3.18 million. Not every bottled sauce indicates its Scoville rating, so if you’re concerned, look at the ingredients and take note of which types of peppers are used in the sauce. You can also go to the manufacturer’s website. Often it will mention the Scoville rating of its sauce.
Different sauce styles
Common Louisiana-style hot sauces are Tabasco or Red Hot, and generally is a thin, slightly salty sauce that can be used either as a condiment or as an ingredient in cooking. Typically, it’s a simple combination of pureed chili peppers, vinegar and salt, although some brands go one step further and ferment the pureed product. Tabasco’s versatility and relative mildness on the hot sauce scale make it a great entry-level sauce to try for anyone’s first attempt at flexing their heat-seeking taste buds. A good place to use this kind of hot sauce is to marinate meat, mixed into a dip, as a sauce base for a stir-fry, and even sprinkled over eggs, tacos, and burgers, not to mention as a delicious glaze for Buffalo wings.
Mexican-style hot sauces have a similar thin consistency to Louisiana-style, but use sparing amounts of vinegar, or none at all. They’re typically made from a combination of chipotle, habanero, jalapeno and pequin chilies. Cholula is a brand found at many Mexican restaurants. You can use a picante hot sauce to give heat to soups and stews, or add a splash to Spanish rice or drizzle over eggs.
Often referred to as “rooster sauce” this is a popular red-orange hot sauce that originated in Thailand. Made from red chilies, sugar, salt, garlic and vinegar, the versatile sauce can be used on pretty much anything, whether Asian-inspired or not. You can mix it into rice or noodle dishes, in a glaze for chicken wings or stirred into soup. You can even mix a little with some mayo to make a snappy spread for sandwiches or a fiery dip for French fries.
Close to Sriracha in taste, chili garlic sauce uses many of the same ingredients, but is chunkier, slightly spicier and has a fresh punch of garlic. It typically contains hot red chili peppers, garlic, white vinegar and a bit of salt—but uses much less, if any, sugar, compared with Sriracha. Chili garlic sauce can also be used as a condiment, but is probably best used while cooking, so you can mix it into dips or stirred into soups or a stir-fry.
This hot sauce, which is regularly used in North African cooking, is a thick paste made from a combination of dried chilies like bird’s eye and serrano, oil, and herbs and spices like coriander, cumin, caraway and garlic. It comes either jarred or canned, and can be found in specialty food stores or in the ethnic aisle at the grocery store. You can use it in cooking or as a condiment. Stir it into plain hummus for a unique kick, mix it into ketchup or as an ingredient in sauce for braised beef. Being creative can certainly add flavor to many recipes and foods.
Commonly used in restaurants in New Mexico, red or green chili sauce is smothered, drizzled, stuffed or stirred into almost any meal from breakfast to dinner. These sauces are made with either red or green New Mexican chili peppers (usually Hatch, Pueblo, or Rio Grande), plus onion, garlic, cumin, chicken stock and sometimes a little flour for thickening, so check the ingredients if you need something gluten-free. You can use it on everything from enchiladas, burritos and huevos rancheros, to potatoes, tamales and even burgers.
Chili oil is a popular choice in Chinese restaurants. This dark red, flecked oil is most commonly used to spice up Sichuan cuisine, and has a fiery kick to it. It’s made of ground dried chilies, ground Sichuan peppercorns, and spices like garlic, star anise and paprika soaked in vegetable or sesame oil. You can happily use it in a stir-fry sauce or as a condiment in noodle dishes and in dumplings.
This hot sauce is a staple in Korean cooking, and is a thick, sticky paste with a unique flavor that’s a blend of sweet and spicy with some unique ingredients. It gets its flavor from red chili powder, sticky rice, fermented soybean powder, malt barley powder and salt. Gochujang has a very concentrated flavor, so a little goes a long way and is often mixed with liquid to thin it out a bit. This sauce is used as a meat marinade in the traditional Korean bibimbap dish, but you can also use it in noodle bowls or stirred into soups and stews.
These are only a few of the many varieties of hot sauce that you can find online, but is a good starting point in your hot sauce journey. Start slow to find the right level to amp up the flavor in your favorite dishes by selecting a sauce based on how much heat you can handle. You can always move from low to high; what you don’t want to do is take more than you can handle and be turned off the delights of adding hot sauce to your foods.