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How to Make Your Own Hot Sauce (Fermented or Quick Cook)

Two bottles of labeled hot sauce sit on a counter. One of the bottles is open.
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DIY Gift5 days
You can't beat the spicy, layered flavor of homemade hot sauce. It's a fun kitchen experiment that you can completely customize—make it mild or make it hot as can be! Then bottle it up using our free labels to give away as a thoughtful, handmade food gift.

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I used to be a total hot sauce hater. I didn’t get why people would douse their food in something so spicy that you couldn’t taste anything else!

My tune was changed a few years back when I was gifted a more mild hot sauce that was bursting with layered flavor. It tasted vinegary. It tasted sweet. And of course, it tasted spicy. Suddenly, I was a total hot sauce convert!

Close up of a bubbly red hot sauce.

Now, we rarely have a meal where there isn’t a hot sauce bottle on the table (and more often than not, multiple bottles). In fact, we love hot sauce so much, I’ve taken to making my own! This started off as a fun project to use up a bounty of peppers from a garden, and turned into a homemade hot sauce delicious enough to package up and give for gifts!

Close up of red peppers and garlic fermenting in a glass jar.

How do you make hot sauce? What’s it made of?

The traditional way of making hot sauce involves fermenting either straight hot peppers or a mix of hot and sweet peppers and other aromatic veggies (like garlic or onion). When the fermentation time is up, the whole shebang is blended with vinegar until smooth as silk. To help keep the hot sauce from separating, emulsifiers are usually used during the blending process—we recommend xanthan gum—which keeps the hot sauce smooth when bottled.

Two bottles of homemade hot sauce, with printable labels.

Wait. Do you have to ferment homemade hot sauce?

Don’t get intimidated! This is a super easy fermentation—even easier than sauerkraut—and it gives a complex, interesting flavor to the hot sauce. Here’s how easy it is to ferment your own hot sauce:

  1. Combine salt with warm, filtered water to create a brine.
  2. Fill a jar with peppers and garlic.
  3. Cover with brine.
  4. Cover the jar with a fermentation lid or cheesecloth, and let ferment for 5-7 days (or until the brine looks cloudy).

Wholefully Protip

If you choose to use cheesecloth, you’ll need to use some sort of weight to keep the peppers submerged under the brine. You can purchase speciality weights to do this, or fill a zip-top sandwich bag with water and submerge it in the top of the jar.

Side by side shots showing Day 1 and Day 7 of fermenting red peppers and garlic.

That being said, if fermentation isn’t your thing, we do provide a quick cook version in the recipe card below. It doesn’t have quite the complex flavor of the fermented version, but it’s done in a jiffy! It also doesn’t last as long in the fridge—make sure you use your unfermented hot sauce within a couple of weeks.

What are the best peppers to use for homemade hot sauce?

Jalapeños, reapers, Thai chilies, habanero, cayenne, ghost peppers, serranos, OH MY. It’s easy to get lost in the world of chile peppers! Which hot peppers you use really depends on your personal heat tolerance, the flavor profile you’re looking for, what’s available nearby, and pepper color. Yup, color! Feel free to mix and match different types of peppers to get the flavors and heat levels you desire, but make sure you stick to the same color family. Why? Well, if not, you’re going to end up with a brown hot sauce—which, trust me, doesn’t look so appetizing when drizzled on your food. The two hot sauces in the photos here were made with these mixes:

  • Red Medium Hot Sauce: Red bell peppers, red cayenne peppers, and red jalapeño peppers (we let jalapeños ripen until they were red)
  • Green Mild Hot Sauce: Green bell peppers, green jalapeños, and poblanos

Fermented red peppers in the basin of a blender.

Whatever you choose, just remember that you can always add more spice in, but you can never take it out once it’s been blended. I tend to like a more mild hot sauce, so I start with a 3:1 ratio of sweet peppers to hot peppers. When using a milder hot pepper, like jalapeño, I cheat to more like 2:1 or 1:1. Some folks use nothing but hot peppers—so it really is up to you to pick your poison here. Remember: you can always have an extra super spicy pepper nearby to drop into the blender if you want to up the ante. I recommend checking out a Scoville scale (which tells you how spicy peppers are) and making your plan based on that.

Blender full of blended hot sauce.

A word of warning about working with hot peppers:

Let’s stay safe here when working with hot peppers. So even when you’re working with “mild” hot peppers like poblanos and jalapeños, it’s important to:

  • Wear gloves while handling and cutting.
  • Wash hands extremely well after handling.
  • Wear goggles and work in a well-ventilated area (this is particularly true with super hot peppers).
  • Wash all cutting boards, knives, and utensils well after preparing.

What is the best vinegar for hot sauce?

Vinegar adds a tangy flavor, and it also adds acidity to the hot sauce—making it have a much longer shelf life. You can use either white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar here. I prefer the slight fruity flavor of apple cider!

Three bottles of homemade hot sauce, lined up on a counter.

How long does homemade hot sauce last?

The beauty of this acidic hot sauce is that it’ll easily last quite awhile in the fridge! Our quick cook version lasts in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, and the fermented version will last much longer—easily 3-6 months. Thank you, beneficial bacteria!

What’s the best way to preserve homemade hot sauce? Can it? Freeze it?

If you’d like to preserve your hot sauce for longer storage, you can either freeze it or process it in a waterbath canner (if you choose to can hot sauce, use a recipe that has been tested and proven safe for canning instead of ours). A caveat here: the beneficial bacteria created in the fermented version will be killed off by the high heat from the canning process. It’ll still be delicious, it just won’t add any probiotics into your diet.

A hand holds out a bottle of red hot sauce.

What are the best bottles for homemade hot sauce?

The ones you have! I’m a big believer in upcycling and reusing what you have, so any small bottle with a tight fitting lid will do the trick. If you can’t get your hands on bottles to reuse, I really like these hot sauce bottles from Amazon. These are what we package our hot sauce in for gift giving.

Where can you get those snazzy hot sauce labels?

Download our free hot sauce labels here. These are designed to print on Avery 2 1/2” round water-resistant labels. The water-resistant part is really nice when working with a food product that inevitably ends up on the bottle. If you can’t get your hands on these labels, you could also affix a regular paper label and just cover it with clear packing tape.

Three bottles of labeled hot sauce sit on a counter. One of the bottles is open.

Looking for fun ways to use your homemade hot sauce? Check out these recipes:

And check out these reader favorites!

  • Bread and Butter Pickles. These are the simplest pickles you can make. Mix up a batch to eat straight out of the refrigerator, or can a batch for later!
  • Mixed Berry Jam. Jars of this red-purple jam make for beautiful gifts—just wrap a ribbon and label around the rim, and you’re all set.

I hope you have fun experimenting with hot sauce making in your own kitchen! It is easy and the results are absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

 
Two bottles of labeled hot sauce sit on a counter. One of the bottles is open.

Homemade Hot Sauce (Fermented or Quick Cook Recipe)

Yield: About 2 quarts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 days
Total Time: 5 days 15 minutes

Homemade hot sauce makes a perfect gift! Make either traditional fermented hot sauce or a quick cook version, which is done in less than half an hour.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds peppers of your choosing (a mix of sweet peppers and hot peppers), tops/stems removed, halved
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, optional (see notes)

Instructions

For the Fermented Version

  1. Place the peppers and garlic in a clean wide-mouth quart canning jar. Set aside.
  2. To make the brine, heat the filtered water and sea salt in a medium saucepan until the salt has dissolved completely. Let cool to room temperature. 
  3. Pour the brine over the peppers and garlic, completely submerging them. If you run out of brine, you can make more by mixing 1 cup of warm filtered water with 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
  4. Fit the jar with a fermentation lid or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band (see notes on weighing down the peppers if using cheesecloth). Place in a warm, dark spot for 5-7 days, or until the brine looks cloudy and small bubbles begin to appear when you tap the side of the jar. Make sure the peppers stay submerged under the brine during the entire fermentation process to prevent mold-growth.
  5. When the fermentation time is up, strain the brine, reserving it. Place the fermented peppers and garlic in a blender, and add in 1 cup of the brine, plus the apple cider vinegar, and honey or maple syrup, if using. Blend until completely smooth, adding in additional brine to reach the desired thickness. 
  6. While the blender is running, sprinkle in the xanthan gum, if using, and blend for an additional minute.
  7. Transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge for 3-6 months.

For the Quick Cooked Version

  1. Combine the peppers, garlic, 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and honey or maple syrup, if using, in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the peppers and garlic have softened.
  2. Pour mixture into a blender (making sure to leave the cover vent open, but covered with a kitchen towel) and blend until very smooth.
  3. While the blender is running, sprinkle in the xanthan gum, if using, and blend for an additional minute.
  4. Transfer mixture to a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Notes

  • If you choose to use cheesecloth during fermentation, you’ll need to use some sort of weight to keep the peppers submerged under the brine to prevent mold growth. You can purchase specialty weights to do this, or fill a zip-top sandwich bag with water and submerge it in the top of the jar.
  • In this recipe, xanthan gum works as an emulsifier, stablizer, and thickener. It is 100% optional. If you choose not to use it, your hot sauce will separate in the fridge. Just give it a good shake each time you go to use it. 
  • The hot sauce will thicken considerably in the fridge, so keep that in mind as you decide on the consistency while blending. 
  • Depending on the power of your blender, your hot sauce may be foamy when you’re finished blending. If so, let the hot sauce rest for 15-20 minutes, then scrape off any foam before bottling.
  • Get your printable labels here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 384 Serving Size: 1 tsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 22mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

104 Responses
  1. Max

    Can you let it ferment for two weeks? I just started another batch, (first batch was awesome) and I realize I’m going out of town next week. Can I leave it in the brine an additional 7-8 days?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Max! You can definitely let it ferment as long as you want/need it to. The main difference will be that the longer it ferments, the funkier or tangier in flavor it will be. If you’d like to slow the fermentation down, you can leave it in a cooler location. The warmer it is the faster it will ferment. But it will still be perfectly safe after an additional 7-8 days. Let us know how it turns out for you!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Shaon! That should be fine. You can use more apple cider, more pre-made brine, or even just water to thin out your sauce. We’ve had folks use all of those with good results, though the water is obviously less flavorful! We’d love to hear what you did and how it turned out for you! =)

  2. EJ

    If using a bag as a weight, do not fill it with water. Fill it with the brine mixture. This way if there’s a leak it does not dilute the brine.

  3. Greg Carver

    We managed to make the sauce via the fermentation method. Everything worked according to the recipe with the fermentation. When we finished blending, we put through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds that were still in the liquid. What we wound up with was a very smooth sauce and a couple of ounces of red pulp in the strainer that would have gone into the bottle had we not strained. I packed the pulp and handed to my son who cooks at a pub. He is going to experiment with the pulp and let me know how it works and tastes.

  4. Graham J

    I just made you recipe and have blended the peppers etc. The issue is I still have lots of seeds in the sauce, how can I remove them.
    For next time can I remove the seeds before fermenting so I will be left with just pulp?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Graham! After blending, you can run the mix through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds that your blender didn’t take care of for you. But you can definitely remove the seeds from the peppers before fermenting next time—that should work out fine!

  5. Adele

    Hello!
    I have just begun fermenting my peppers in the brine, and am just worried about completely submerging everything. If I have already closed the fermentation lid, am I able to re-open it and push some of the peppers down further into the brine? They have been been fermenting for about 10 hours at this point.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Adele! Yes, you definitely want to keep the peppers submerged to avoid any issues with mold. If you have to open the lid to get the peppers back under the brine, that’s fine. We recommend putting in a little weight of some sort to keep everything submerged. There are specialty fermentation weights you can purchase for this purpose that we link to in the post, but since you’re already fermenting, you can fill a zip-lock sandwich bag with water and submerge that in the top of the jar. It should be enough to keep your peppers down! Hope this helps! Let us know how everything turns out for you =)

  6. I had great success with a trail batch and am now making bigger batches. I failed to follow the directions and added the vinegar to the brine for the fermentation process. Then, I had to evacuate for a hurricane. The house was 90F during the day for about half of the 9 days it ended up fermenting. All 3 test batches came out great. I still added another 1/3 cup vinegar total after fermenting while blending. I also took the seeds out of the Carolina reapers and the habaneros. It mellowed the heat a little and brought out the flavor of the peppers. I did not seed the Thai bird chilis and added ginger and lemongrass to that batch. I used glass fermentation weights to keep the peppers down and a drinking glass for another jar. I weighed the peppers once I had removed the stems and seeds.

    Thanks!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Anne! Thanks so much for coming back to tell us about your experience. We’re so glad your test batches turned out well! Those flavor combinations sound delicious!

  7. Natalie

    Hi! I’m making the fermented hot sauce version. What if the brine is cloudy and bubbles develop after only two days? Should I go ahead or wait another couple days?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Natalie! If the brine is cloudy and it’s bubbling, then it’s fermented! The time that takes depends heavily on the conditions of the room it’s in—so it’s definitely possible for it to ferment quickly if the conditions are right.

  8. Tina

    I had enough peppers to double this recipe. I’m new to this stuff, so I need some clarification: How many quart sized jars do I need for the fermenting process? I have some Half-gallon jars and the one if stuffed totally full and I still have 4 small green peppers left that didn’t make it in. Also, is it OK that I sliced them all up so they would fit in a half-gallon mason jar? I haven’t poured the water in because I’m waiting for it to cool still. The recipe seems like the whole 1.5 pounds should fit in one quart jar. Also, do I weigh the 1.5 pounds of peppers before or after trimming them? I probably won’t get a response before I have to fill my jar, so I’m just going to have to wing it. But maybe this will help other people or the next time I want to make hot sauce.

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Tina! We hope everything went well with your first batch! Here’s some additional clarification so that your next batch will go even smoother:
      Different shapes of peppers will fit differently into the jars. All of ours fit into one quart-sized jar—but if you find that yours don’t quite fit, it’s okay to use more than one as long as all of the peppers stay submerged in the brine. Slicing them is fine! And you’ll want to weigh your peppers before trimming them. Please let me know if your have any other questions—I’m happy to help!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Thamaga! We haven’t tried using apple sauce in place of water in either version of this recipe, so we’re not sure how it will turn out. We think it should be fine in the quick cooked version, though we can’t say how it will taste. Please let us know how it turns out if you try it!

      As for the measurements, the cups listed in the recipe are the volume measurements—but if you need to convert that to something else, there are lots of free resources online that can help with that. Let us know if you need help finding a good one!

  9. Caitlyn

    Has anyone made a tiny batch of this? Or is it the sort of thing that you need to do a lot to make it? I only have four peppers 😂

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Caitlyn! You can make a small batch of this, just as long as you can be sure the peppers stay under the brine while fermenting. Once the fermentation is finished, just add less of the reserved brine into the blender to get the consistency you want. Let us know how it turns out if you give it a go!

  10. Peter

    I just tried the fermentation recipe and have left my sauce in a warm dark place and it’s begging to get cloudy after one day. Is this too quick?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Peter! Nope—that’s fine! The time it takes to ferment will change depending on the conditions it’s in (how hot it is, etc.) So you could definitely see it starting to get cloudy as early as one day in if the conditions are right.

        1. Danielle @Wholefully

          That’s great, Peter! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and let us know how it turned out =)

  11. Jeff

    Hi, I want to try the quick sauce method, I have multiple different peppers and would like to see how they taste before I start investing more time. How much vinegar should I use? 1:1 water to vinegar or to taste?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Jeff! You can find all the information you need regarding the amounts of ingredients necessary for the Quick Cook version in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. We hope you love it!

  12. Gibson Patterson

    Hi Cassie ,
    Thank you for the advice before regarding doing small batches to test how tamarind would work in sauces. Its helped me expand my ingredients. Like adding lime juice or using fig paste instead of honey. I’m really hoping to tap into your expertise again.
    Now I have a question about pressure building up in the bottles. I recently did a “Quick version” of yellow bell peppers and mangoes. It was about a 10 bottle batch. I gave them away as gifts and to my friends who are my loyal taste testers. Friends told me after a week or so that sauce had pressure build up in the bottle. Almost like carbonation. Apparently a friends husband had it splash out on his face when he opened it.
    Please help…I’m not sure what I did wrong this time. I had made “Quick versions” before and this didn’t happen.

    Thanks Cassie!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi Gibson! We’re so glad you’re having fun and finding success with your hot sauce flavor experiments! They all sound great. Thanks so much for telling us about them!

      I don’t think you did anything wrong with your recent batch. Built up pressure and carbonation are signs of fermentation, though. If the bottles are left out at room temperature fermentation is always a possibility, although it is much less likely with the quick version because of the cooking process. So while I can’t say for sure what happened to make that quick cooked batch continue to ferment, I can say that fermentation is likely the cause of the pressure and bubbles. Do you know if your friends kept the bottles in the fridge?

      It’s important to remember that both the fermented version and the cooked version need to get into the fridge once they’re made to keep them from continuing to ferment. If they’re left at room temperature and that pressure builds up too much, your bottles could break! Let me know if this info helps you solve your mystery! If not, I’ll be happy to troubleshoot with you more =)

  13. Rick D

    I just started my 6th or 7th batch of hot sauce using your recipe as a base. Really enjoy experimenting with different combinations of ingredients.

    The first time I tried the peppers got moldy because they floated above the brine 😢. Now I put all the ingredients in small cheesecloth bags and weigh them down with “fermenting” weights.

    Thanks!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      We’re so glad you gave it another try after your first go. Keeping the peppers under the brine is a very important step! Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about your experience, Rick! We really appreciate it. Experimenting with flavors and ingredients is something we have lots of fun with, too. When you find flavor combinations that you really love, please come back and tell us about them!

    2. Brent

      I was planning to make the non fermented recipe. After I make it, is it ok to ship it as a gift or does it need to be refrigerated right away?

      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        Hi, Brent! Actually both versions of our recipe need to be refrigerated once they’re bottled, so shipping either one would be a no-go. Our recommendation for preserving your hot sauce for longer periods of time without refrigeration would be to seek out a recipe specifically developed for canning. Unfortunately, that’s not ours!

  14. Pat

    Step 7 in the fermentation recipe says to store in fridge for 3-6 months. Is that 3-6 months how long it is roughly good for? Or is that how long it has to be stored in the fridge untill you can use?

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      That’s how long the fermented hot sauce should be good in the fridge—so you’ll want to use it up within that time!

  15. Gibson Patterson

    Hi there !,
    Really love your website and hot sauce section ! I’ve just tried your recipe suggestions and made 3 different hot sauces. A mango , serrano /jalepeno and red Thai chili . They turned out excellent ! Friends really loved it.
    I was wondering, I wanted to enhance and build the flavour of the my red Thai chili sauce and add lime juice and tamarind paste. But still keep the honey.
    Do you see any challenges with the lime juice and tamarind paste together? I’m thinking it might turn out more acidy and tart because theres also the apple cider vinegar. Which may make it taste hotter but not flavourful. Any suggestions would very much be appreciated.

    Thanks for your help!
    PS , Im thinking over selling at a local flea market for fun! Very excited about this!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Gibson! Thanks so much for sharing your successes with us. We love hearing about them! We haven’t tried the flavor combo you’re describing so we can’t say for certain how it would turn out. Our best advice would be to make small batches to test it out. It’s possible that the lime and tamarind paste would make things too tart, but adjusting how much of each you add might help you find a balance. It’s just going to take some experimenting! Please come back to share how it turns out. Good luck!

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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