What's in a hot sauce? That which we call a Sriracha by any other word would taste as spicy, right? Not exactly.
You see, there are a million different types of hot sauce out there in the world, with flavor profiles ranging from smoky and mild to sweet and tangy. Sure, plenty of them will provide that eye-watering, mouth-tingling burn many of us enjoy subjecting our tastebuds to—but not all. The degree of hotness all depends on one thing: the amount of capsaicin in a chile pepper.
Before blindly biting into a pepper or dunking a tortilla chip into some unknown concoction, you'll want to find out where it falls on the Scoville scale. This measures just how concentrated the capsaicin is in a particular food (aka how spicy it is), and is often mentioned when talking about a Ghost Pepper or the Carolina Reaper (which has been equated to "eating molten lava").
Have I scared you off yet? Ok, enough science talk, let's get to the fun stuff: making your own homemade hot sauce. Whipping together this zingy condiment at home isn't only easy, it puts the power of spice in your hands: You pick the pepper and determine exactly how much heat you do—or don't—want to bring to the table.
To freestyle any hot sauce recipe, you'll need just three ingredients (yes, three!) to get started, and this base formula:
1 pound peppers + 1 cup vinegar + 1 tablespoon salt
In the video above, Sam uses fresno chiles, which have a similar taste to jalapeños, but can be a bit hotter; she leaves the seeds and the ribs in there for extra heat. For those who prefer a milder hot sauce, try starting with poblano or Anaheim peppers (both of which fall between 1,000 and 2,500 units on the Scoville scale) and adding a dash of sugar to mellow out the bite. Once you've blended everything together, all you need to do is reduce it down to a thick sauce and let it sit at room temperature until the taste is justttt right (up to a few days). After that, transfer it to the fridge and get ready to drizzle it on everything.
As for me? You'll catch me drowning these California-style tacos, countless pieces of crispy fried chicken, and many helpings of roasted potato salad in hot sauce this summer. And did I mention cocktails? That's right, DIY hot sauce is the zippy addition your Sunday brunch Micheladas and Bloody Marys have been missing. Trust me, once you make hot sauce for yourself, you won't want to buy it pre-made again.
Do you have a go-to hot sauce recipe? What are your favorite spicy dishes? Tell us in the comments below!
Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Brand Partnerships at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.
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