Homemade Hot Sauce

Homemade Serrano Pepper Hot Sauce.

So we grew a bunch of Serrano peppers this year and they really took off. So again we find ourselves asking the question, “what do we do with all of this stuff?” The Serranos are a hot pepper (think 2x Jalapeno) with anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville units (the standard “hotness” rating system for chili peppers). This batch runs closer to 25,000- very spicy. We used the Serranos in Tom Yum Goong and in some other dishes, but we needed to use up the bulk of them. Time to make our own hot sauce. We were a bit worried that even in sauce the Serranos would be too hot, but this experiment turned out much better than expected.

There are a number of ways to make hot sauce, but we chose to use a “Louisiana-style” sauce recipe and tune it somewhat. Most sauces in this style are a mix of peppers, vinegar, salt and aromatics- think Tabasco sauce. But we also like sweeter, fermented hot sauces like Sriracha. So we figured we could split the difference, but use a quick recipe. The key was to use slightly less Serrano pepper (plenty hot, regardless) and add a little sugar to the recipe. Sugar softens the heat of the peppers and adds some depth and complexity to the vinegary bite of the sauce.

So now that we had the recipe, we made the sauce. But here comes the warning: if you try to make this recipe- make SURE to cook the sauce in a well-ventilated area. Open the windows. Send your loved ones out for ice cream. Be ready to cough a bit. Why? Well, the peppers will send out some seriously hot, caustic vapors when you cook them. The vapor clears quickly, and won’t kill you (but you may wish you were dead if you breathe in too much), but it’s best not to “share” the experience with others.

Happily, once you cook the peppers and the air clears, the rest of the process is easy. Process the pepper mixture with an immersion blender, blender or food processor and add the vinegar. Then strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer or Chinoise. Taste (just a bit) and add salt or more vinegar, to taste. Let the sauce steep for a few days (a few weeks will be better) and then use it however you like. We like the hot sauce with coconut rice or even as a dip for veggies. This hot sauce will clear your sinuses, but it does taste good.

Hot Sauce:

Notes Before You Start:

  • The recipe uses 8 ounces of Serrano peppers, but will work with other hot peppers. Check their Scoville rating here, and then adjust the recipe as needed.
  • You really want to make the sauce in a well-ventilated area. Seriously. This sauce is better than store-bought and worth making, but you still want your family to love you when you’re done. Exercise caution.

What You Get: Very tasty hot sauce. Spicy, but with sweet notes.

What You Need: No special equipment required but open windows and a kitchen fan are a good idea.

How Long? About 40 minutes to make, with 10 minutes active time. The sauce benefits from a few weeks of aging in the fridge, but is ready to eat immediately.


(Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups)

  • 8 oz. Serrano, or other hot peppers, stemmed and cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons brown or turbinado (“raw”) sugar
  • 1 cup white or cider vinegar


  1. Make sure the cooking area is well-ventilated. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and then the peppers onions, garlic and salt. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the water and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water evaporates, 15-20 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor. Add the vinegar and mix until combined. Run the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or Chinoise. Taste and add salt or a dash of vinegar, if needed. Pour the sauce into a sterilized, non-reactive container and steep in the fridge for 2-14 days. The sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-4 months.

44 thoughts on “Homemade Hot Sauce

  1. I have a bunch of peppers to use up before they turn. I was looking for a good hot sauce recipe last night and struggled to find something that looked appealing that wasn’t going to need to ferment for a while. This came just at the right time. My peppers aren’t as hot as serranos, but I think the recipe sounds just perfect!

    • Cool. Just adjust the volume of peppers based on hotness. Also adjust the sugar as you like…more sugar, more like Sriracha.

      We were pleasantly surprised by this recipe…the sauce is very tasty…

  2. We always cook our hot sauce outdoors, on a propane camp stove. My husband figured this out after clearing the house with his first batch of sauce. It works great. Can’t wait to try your recipe.

  3. I grew a bunch of devils tongue hot peppers. What in the world can i do with them. They are like 250,000 on the scoville scale?

    • You can still make this style of sauce (probably best to do it outside). I would use less peppers, more liquid and more sugar.

      Also, there are a lot of “chili-heads” out there. Those are some serious peppers. I bet you could trade/ give them away on Craigslist…just a thought…

  4. Looks great! A friend of mine, who owns a restaurant on Hilton Head, has been making a smoked pepper sauce for many years. It is a top secret recipe but I did manage to pry it out of him years ago during with the course of an evening (a lot of wine drinking was involved) and he swears that he, his wife and I are the only people who know the recipe. He serves it at his restaurant with his house-smoked seafood appetizer platter – and on the side with shrimp and grits – needless to say it is awesome. Yours sounds just as delicious!

  5. I have about a dozen cayennes so I’m going to try making this sauce! The Thai use sugar with their birds eye chilies, but I know Mexicans use salt to numb the heat but intensify the flavor of the peppers. Thanks for the recipe 😉

  6. Is it okay to omit the sugar or would that make it hard to preserve? I can deal with some sugar in my desserts, baked goods, and balanced sweetness in my glass. But I avoid it in most culinary endeavors. Looks delicious!

    • You can totally omit the sugar. If you omit the sugar it will simply be a “louisiana-style” sauce. No other changes to the recipe are required…

  7. Looks like you kept the seeds in? They can always be scraped out for ‘slightly’ less heat. I was also going to suggest an outdoor setup! My experience with chilies has been not to touch your face or any mucous membranes for many hours after handling them! Kudos for your successful effort!

  8. Pingback: A Pair of Pepper Sauces « Fried Neck Bones…and some home fries

  9. The Sauce came out great tasting! I added more garlic and used coconut sugar and ACV. My only “complaint” or trouble was that mine separated afterward. I tried to ladle off as much sauce and omit the more liquidy part that stuck around, but some still showed up after sitting for a day. Anyone else get this?

    Also, I ended up canning this recipe and as I of course recommend it, I must note that the metal lid reacts to the vinegar a bit. So if you are canning, when you open it up for use and you are putting it back in the fridge, switch out the lid for a plastic one. Or find rubber/plastic lidded jarring bottles.

    • Glad you liked it. Sorry about separation. We did not have any separation (at least in the 3-4 weeks it takes us to finish a batch).

      Did you use an immersion blender, blender or food processor?

  10. Wanted to say thank you for sharing this recipe. My ghost pepper plant is still producing peppers like crazy and I had no idea on what to do with all of them. I didn’t just use those but I also added habaneros, serranos, chilé piquin, sandias, and chilé guajillo. Yeah I had a lot of peppers this season. Needless to say, my fiancé has dubbed this creation “I Ate The Sun” hotsauce. He’s also begging me to add our Carolina Reapers when they come in. Any way, thank you again so much. Now to make chili!!!!

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