How hot is a tablespoon of hot sauce?

I have a macaroni and cheese recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of hot pepper sauce. I don't like spicy food because I can't handle the heat, but I can handle a little "kick". So should I lessen the amount or use a replacement that's less hot?

  • Posted by: MJLove
  • July 20, 2019


Emma L. July 21, 2019
Hello! I would start with a smaller amount (say, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon), then increase to taste. Another option: Ground mustard is great mixed into mac and cheese, and it's a little more subtle than hot sauce; for this, start with a pinch and go from there.
Smaug July 21, 2019
Once again, really can't see how you're going to mix a small amount of sauce into a dish of mac and cheese evenly. Of course if you're going to abandon the recipe- and there are certainly plenty of others available- it might be easier to use a more familiar ingredient (if you have one).for heat- pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika etc. I personally don't like using made up sauces and such as ingredients anyway since you're adding a mixture of ingredients that you have no real control over.
Gammy July 21, 2019
MJLove, I agree with Nancy that your best bet is to check the Chiliworld list for the least hot hot sauces and use one of them for the spiciness. Start with a smaller amount, I have found some peppers' heat increases the longer it is cooked. In any case, feel free to put a bottle of the hot sauce on the table so others can heat up their mac and cheese to their own liking!
Smaug July 21, 2019
I've generally found that the heat decreases with cooking, but it's a raging debate in the chili world whether cooking increases, decreases or has no effect, with no resolution that I've heard of. Scoville measurements are helpful, but it should be noted that it is a subjective measurement based on taste tests- more scientific methods are available, but don't seem to be widely used.
Nancy July 20, 2019
MJLove -
There is something called the Scoville Scale which rates chile peppers by heat.
Some bottles note it (most don't). Here's an article which explains it and has ratings for both hot sauces and individual peppers (click on the tabs for those items to see the lists).
How to season to taste. Start with the smallest measurement that's either convenient, or that you know you like (in this case, maybe a quarter or half teaspoon). Add to dish. Taste. If ok, don't add any more. If not ok, add more. If too much, make a note so you don't repeat the mistake next time you're making that dish or a similar one.
MJLove July 20, 2019
Thank you :)
Smaug July 21, 2019
I'm not a mac and cheese enthusiast, but the way I understand the dish it's not going to be very practical to reseason the sauce once the pasta has been added, and you really can't judge the heat until it has- both starches and cheeses will temper the heat of the dish considerably.
Smaug July 20, 2019
Usually with heat (capsaicin) you should add to taste. Since people perceive it so differently, it doesn't make much sense to match someone else's measurement- you won't really be feeling it the same.
MJLove July 20, 2019
I'm a new cook and I don't know much about spices so I don't really know how to "season to taste". For right now, while I'm starting out, I need a specific amount.
Smaug July 20, 2019
Not really an answerable question, since it's a matter of your taste. Different hot sauces can vary widely as to the amount of heat- in your case (and mine) it's probably best to avoid those with pictures of people with flames shooting out their ears on the label, but there's no real standard. Without knowing anything about the particular sauce or the quantity of the dish you're making, it's pretty much guesswork. 1 Tb. is not a large amount for a dish feeding several people, so you might as well stick to the recipe; if it's too hot, at any rate you learned something, and cheese is pretty good at offsetting heat. In related news- you do develop a tolerance for hot peppers with exposure- heat slightly out of your comfort zone may not be a bad thing. Best of luck with your dish.
MJLove July 20, 2019
Thank you
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