Homemade Hot Sauce

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chiltepin hot sauce recipe in a ramekin
photo by Holly A. Heyser

I’ve always wondered about who makes money on all those hot sauce bottles arrayed in the condiment aisle of the supermarket. Especially when it’s easy to make homemade hot sauce.

Think about it: My local Raley’s carries several dozen varieties of hot sauce, and there are thousands of brands of hot sauce out there, ranging from the venerable Tabasco (one of the only hot sauces I still buy) to the ridiculous Dave’s Insanity Sauce, which is so hot it really ought to be a controlled substance. It’s simply a case of too much choice, and not enough difference in the sauces to matter.

I think one of the reasons there is so much hot sauce on the market is because it is so easy to make at home.

(If you’re looking for more of a challenge, I have a recipe for a fermented Tabasco-style hot sauce, too.)

I am imagining all these inspired home cooks in Texas or Florida or New Jersey who were happy making their own sauce, when someone said: “You oughta bottle that!” They do, hemorrhage money, then promptly go out of business a year or so later. Mercifully, I’ve never been tempted to sell my own hot sauce. But if I did, it’d be this one.

chiltepin chiles next to a quarter
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

And since I am about to give you my recipe, I guess I won’t be making my fortune (or bankrupting myself) on “Hank’s Cray-zey Hawt Sauce” anytime soon. What makes my rendition of homemade sauce so special is the chile — I use wild chiles for this recipe.

Now before I go on, know that any chiles you want to use will work, fresh or dried. But my advice is to make your homemade hot sauce with a single type of chile at first, so you can really enjoy the nuances in that variety, whether it’s serranos, habaneros, poblanos, or any other type, even wild.

Yep. Wild chiles. They exist. Known mostly as chiltepin, pequin or bird’s eye chiles because, I suppose, they are small and round like a bird’s eye, these grow wild in much of Central America — and have the distinction of being the only chile peppers native to the United States. You can forage for them in southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and they reportedly live in southern Florida as well.

I’ve known about chiltepins for years — I am a serious chile head — and I now finally grow them at home, so I have a stash now. You can buy them in Tucson, or in some Mexican markets, too. I’ve found fresh chile pequins in Mexican markets in Brownsville, Texas, for example. You can also buy chiltepin chiles through Gourmet Sleuth. Apparently when the harvest is on, locals drop what they’re doing to gather the little chiles because they bring such a high price — up to $30 a pound in some years.

You can also buy seeds online and grow your own, although the seeds are really hard to germinate; soaking them in chamomile tea for 2 days first will give you a better germination rate.

As for flavor, it’s smoky, hot and rich all at once. The closest store-bought equivalent I can come up with in flavor is Cholula hot sauce, which is another of my favorites. The chiltepin chiles whack you right up front, but then go away — it’s the opposite of a red jalapeno, whose heat can sneak up on you a few minutes later.

I use this hot sauce on pretty much everything: Eggs, Mexican food, cold chicken or pheasant, in tomato sauces, on clams… you get the point. Use it wherever you would use any normal hot sauce.

chiltepin hot sauce recipe
4.96 from 24 votes

Homemade Hot Sauce

While I use wild chiltepin chiles in this recipe, you can use any small, red, hot chile. Thai and cayenne are good substitutes. Smoked salt is not strictly needed, but it does add a lot of flavor. Ditto for the xanthan gum in this recipe. Again, not strictly needed, but it really helps the sauce hold together. Xanthan gum is, oddly, becoming very easy to find in places like Whole Foods, because the stuff is used in gluten-free baking. Bob's Red Mill makes it.
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 cups
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chiltepin chiles, or 2/3 cup Thai chiles
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Instructions 

  • Put everything except the xanthan gum (if using) into a blender and puree for 1-2 minutes. You really want everything blitzed here, so if your blender heats up too much in 2 minutes, stop, let it cool, and continue.
  • Pour the xanthan gum that's been mixed with the water into the blender, cover and buzz for another 30 seconds.
  • Pour into a bowl or large jar and let this settle for 1 hour to allow all the trapped air you introduced into the sauce while blending to escape. If you skip this step your sauce will not hold together as well. Bottle and store in the fridge for up to 9 months.

Notes

If you are interested in a full-on, fermented, Tabasco-style hot sauce, here is my recipe for that.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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103 Comments

  1. My daughter absolutely loves this hot sauce and I do too. I followed the recipe using dried péquin peppers, apple cider vinegar and smoked paprika. It is excellent. Similar to Cholula but better. I’m doing another batch as soon as the hot smoked paprika arrives from Spices, Inc. I’m thinking about using a boutique small batch vinegar.

  2. My daughter loves this hot sauce. There were a few minor changes: smoked paprika, rather than sweet paprika; dried péquin rather than chiltipin peppers; no smoked salt, didn’t have any. Still great.

  3. Hank,

    Have you ever made this with lime juice instead of vinegar? I’m looking to make some hot sauce for my father, who loathes vinegar, and that’s the only thing I can find that might substitute.

    Cheers,

    Chris

    1. Chris: Yes, but not for long storage. It works well, but I find that hot sauces made with citrus juice get weird if you process them in a hot water bath. They tend to be much better raw.

  4. I love this recipe for my tepins. I also have Aji Amarillo chiles, can i do something similar with them or mix with Tepins?

  5. Made this afternoon,following the recipe exactly cept for potato starch in place of gum.
    Very happy with the taste.
    Hank, Thanks again, from far far away. !

  6. I used about 2/3 cup of thai chiles, and about 2/3 of a cup of white vinegar instead of apple cider for my first batch. This stuff tastes really similar to Cholula, but better! Given how easy it is, I’ll definitely be doing this with other pepper varieties and different vinegar mixtures in the future.

  7. I have been making chile pequin hot sauce for years.

    My thoughts:

    The fresh fruity aroma is what makes this killer. While vinegar and salt are essential preservatives. I want to minimize competing flavors. So simple WHITE vinegar, salt, peppers and NOTHING ELSE.

    The bottles I give away are labeled “PLEASE REFRIGERATE.” I hate to see a bottle at somebody’s house left out at room temperature for months and it has gone dark, the complex fruitiness is gone and it tastes like Cajun Chef or some other cheap stuff.

    It is wonderful poured over sharp cheddar cheese! The fat cuts the heat and you can use a lot of it for full flavor. Wonderful combination!

  8. Hi Hank – I’m interested in using dried peppers, would I halve the amount of peppers in that case?