There’s no denying that people all over the world adore spicy food. Hot sauces can be made using a wide range of processes to dry, crush, smoke, pickle, cure, and preserve chilies, all of which improve the flavor and heat of any food you make. The U.S. market for spicy sauce is worth $1.3 billion. That’s how you know it heavily contributes to the country’s economy.
To begin, let’s define spicy sauce or hot sauce before we go on a global tour of the many varieties.
How Do You Put a Flavor in a Hot Sauce?
In our definition of hot sauce, it is a spicy condiment that is primarily liquid in nature. Chili-spiked cooking sauces and broths fall outside the definition of “condiment.” Here, we’ll use the term ‘hot sauces’ to avoid misunderstanding between chile pastes and hot sauce.
The Capsicum genus contains the majority of the chilies used in hot sauces. You’ll find bell, cayenne, and jalapeno peppers in most sauces. Habanero and Scotch Bonnet peppers are members of the Chinese family, and the C. Tabasco sauce and peri peri are both members of the frutescent family.
According to a general guideline, Scoville units (SHUs) are used to measure a pepper’s heat, which was originally developed by diluting peppers with sugar water and recording the amount of sugar water needed to make a pepper just noticeable to the human tongue. The Tabasco sauce, which contains about 95% water, can serve as a good comparison for the heat of a Tabasco pepper. The Scoville heat unit rating of pure capsaicin, the molecule that gives peppers their heat, is 16 million. The Scoville heat scale ranges from 500,000 to 5 million for pepper spray used.
Salt, vinegar, sugar, and garlic are just a few of the many additives that can change the taste and texture of food. Processing techniques also vary widely. Several hot sauces rely on the use of fresh ingredients. Preparation methods for some of the other ingredients include cooking, infusion, and fermentation.
There is no way to compile a definitive list of hot sauces because people around the world have spent thousands of years inventing new ways to make their food spicier. There are a lot of strange hot sauces out there, and many of them are based on or influenced by their cultural preferences.
The world of hot sauces is now open to you as we continue our exploration.
Asia has different hot sauces that differ from all others. Let’s explore them one by one.
Chopped Indian pickles, which are made from fruits, vegetables, and spices boiled in oil or brine, are the most common condiment for samosas, curries, and many other South Asian dishes. Lime and fresh chili are common ingredients in mango salsas. All of India and the subcontinent has its own distinct oily, puckering heat that is associated with pickled chutney.
2. Chilean Oil
Chile oil, a type of vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers, is a key ingredient in Sichuan cuisine. Tsin peppers and perhaps some Sichuan peppercorns can be added to hot oil and then cooled and left there for a few hours so that the flavor of the chili can permeate the oil, which is then used in a dish. You can serve it as a side dish or add it to dishes like noodle soups, stir-fries, and salads to use as a condiment after it has been prepared. While one type of chili oil is a finer consistency, the other is more like a thick, oily paste inconsistency.
Both rayu and Taberu rayu, an Okinawa-produced variety that has become increasingly popular since 2009, are types of Japanese chili oil. Ray is identical to its Chinese counterpart and is commonly used in soups and stir-fries.
Calabria’s Peperoncino olive oil, which is known for its hot peppers, is used as a base in this Italian dish. This oil is commonly served with a simple “spaghetti, Aglio, olio e peperoncino” dish, which is prepared in the same manner as Asian chili oils.
Chili peppers, sticky rice, fermented soybeans, and a sweetener are all ingredients in the Korean condiment Gochujang. In terms of popularity, it is only surpassed by kimchi. As a result of the fermentation process it undergoes, it has a thick consistency that resembles tomato paste.
To accompany bibimbap, you can use a Korean barbecue sauce known as hot chili sauce or Korean chili sauce to coat meats and lettuce and serve with bibimbap. Cooks all over the world use it to infuse non-Korean dishes with a distinctive spicy heat. As gochujang became more widely available commercially in the 1970s, homemade gochujang, traditionally fermented in earthen pots, began to disappear.
4. Nam Phrik
Every meal in northern Thailand is served with nam phrik, or chili water, which has a slightly thicker consistency than a jam or salsa. There is a wide range of heat and ingredients in Nam Phriks. Fermented fish sauce or shrimp paste and crushed chilis, shallots, garlic, and lime juice are all common ingredients in nam phrik. One variation includes pork and tomatoes, such as Nam Phrik Ong. When eating Nam Phriks, you can dip cucumber slices or pork rinds in the sauce to make it more appealing. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making your own.
Sriracha and garlic are ground together to create the spicy paste that forms the basis of Indonesian hot sauce. Traditional sambal oelek recipes typically call for ground red chiles, vinegar, and salt as the basic ingredients. It has a sour tang and a stinging heat, and the texture tends to be chunky.
Sambal ingredients are similar, but the Malaysian version has a few more unusual ingredients. Sambal Belacan and Sambal Tempoyak both use fermented shrimp paste for flavor. However, Sambal Belacan uses fermented shrimp instead of durian. In addition to chicken, fish, salads, and soups, sambals can also be used as a condiment on a variety of crunchy snacks.
It was in Si Racha, Thailand, in the 1930s, that Sriracha was first made by combining chilis, sugar, salt, garlic, and vinegar. There are many Vietnamese-American “rooster sauces” available in the United States; however, Sriracha is the most common.
Southeast Asian cuisine relies heavily on the use of Sriracha as a dipping sauce for seafood and as a garnish for pho and spring rolls. There have been many uses for the “rooster sauce,” from potato chips to milkshakes, since its invention. Sriracha has a vinegary flavor and a milder heat than jalapenos, with a Scoville heat unit rating of between 1,000 and 2,503. If you’re looking for the most versatile Sriracha on the market, Thai Sriracha is the way to go.
The following hot sauces are famous for their taste in the Caribbean:
1. Scotch Bonnet peppers
Wherever you are in the Caribbean, the scotch bonnet pepper sauces are all the rage. Everyone wants a taste of these peppers in every dish. These peppers are one of the most common ingredients in pepper sauces. The term “hot sauce” is not prevalent in the Caribbean. Pepper sauces are so frequently utilized in Moroccan cookery as a condiment that they can be used with anything—chicken, goat, and fish—and are a staple of the cuisine.
The predominant ingredients in most Jamaican sauces are Scotch Bonnet peppers and vinegar. These ingredients heighten the heat of the sauce. The Jerk marinades also rely heavily on Scotch Bonnet. In Guyanese cuisines, the Scotch bonnet pepper is replaced by a local pepper called wiri. A frequent sauce component in the British Virgin Islands is mustard, which gives the sauces a yellow tint and smoky flavor. Trinidad moruga scorpion (up to 2 million Scoville heat units, or SHU), mustard, and even fruit are commonly included in Trinidadian sauces.
In Caribbean stores, you may find pineapple and papaya-based Bacchanal Saucet. Roadside stalls also sell homemade sauces that are the most popular in the region.
Unique in flavor, this Haitian hot sauce is a fusion of heat and citrus sourness. Folklore mentions two characters – Bouki and Ti Malice. In an effort to keep Bouki from eating his food, Ti Malice, Bouki’s wicked companion, is supposed to have created a scorching sauce. Bouki, on the other hand, was smitten with the sauce and quickly began bragging about it to everyone. This is how this sauce became famous all across the region.
Ingredients such as shallots, garlic, and lime or sour orange juice are commonly used to add flavor and a little spice to Ti-Malice recipes. Fish, fried pigs, or goats are the most typical accompaniments to the main course.
Europe has its own set of sauces, popular for their unique taste. A couple of them are as follows:
1. Eros Pista
It’s not uncommon to see paprika in Hungarian dishes. This hot sauce is no exception. In Hungary, paprika paste is known as Eros Pista, or Strong Steven, a brand name for a simple paste created largely from two ingredients: minced paprika peppers and salt. In addition to being used as a spread, paprika can also be added to stews and soups to improve their flavor. A softer, sweeter variant is known as Édés Anna (“Sweet Anna”).
According to folklore, Szent István király (Steven I or Saint Steven), the first Hungarian ruler, might have been the basis for the cuisine’s name.
The African Bird’s Eye Chili, or “Piri piri” in Portuguese, is the inspiration for the sauce’s name (Swahili for “pepper pepper”). The pepper was introduced to Europe by Portuguese colonists in Angola and Mozambique, and it is still farmed there today. Nando’s, a casual chicken restaurant chain with outlets in South Africa and the United Kingdom, may be the most well-known brand associated with peri peri chicken, yet it is still regarded as a national food of Portugal. The sauce’s smoky flavor, intense heat, and thick consistency make it ideal for curry dishes. The Portuguese have also been known to bring the pepper to Goa, India.
Most peri peri sauces include only a small amount of pepper, making them milder in comparison to the pepper. Even while Nando’s sauce has a higher concentration of acidity, it still packs a tremendous punch.
The following are some hot sauces found in the United States of America:
Plantains and rotisserie chicken in Peru are slathered with a creamy pea-green sauce known as “green sauce.” Mayonnaise or sour cream are typically used in recipes for this dish to give it a creamy flavor. The grassy green chilies form the foundation of this meal. However, aji Amarillo, a dazzling yellow South American pepper paste, also plays a role.
Aji is prepared differently in Colombia than in other countries. Here, it is more of a chunky mixture of chili pieces and herbs in an acidic liquid, commonly a vinegar-lime juice mixture. As well as lime juice and salt, other popular components in Mexican salsa Frescas include chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, and other herbs. The aji, habanero, and rocoto peppers are just a few of the many options available.
2. Cajun Pepper Sauce
Most Louisiana-style hot sauces are fermented or sweetened with a small amount of sugar and a thin blend of chilies, vinegar, and salt. After that, everything is possible. The most prevalent ingredient in mass-produced products is cayenne pepper; however, other peppers and aromatics are also regularly utilized. To achieve a funkier flavor, Tabasco relies on a three-year process. Some peppers, such as the fiery habanero and smoky chipotle, are now popular.
Frank’s RedHot, which hails from Louisiana but is forever connected with the first Buffalo chicken wings served at Buffalo’s Anchor Bar, uses garlic and vinegar as crucial ingredients (that makes everything taste like wings).
3. Mexican Hot Sauces
Mexican hot sauces are the real deal. The versatility of Mexican salsa goes far beyond its usage as a hot sauce; it can be mixed with sauces and dressings and served as a side dish after cooking. Freshly chopped tomatoes and onions, roasted pepper purées, and even sauces based on dried chilies are just some of the components that can be used to make salsas in Mexico.
The closest similarities for bottled Mexican hot sauces are salsa and Cajun-style fermented hot sauce. To compare the two, Cholula has a rich, musty flavor that is evocative of Tabasco, whereas El Yucateco has a salsa-like flavor with habanero and tomato; however, it has no taste of vinegar. Salsa hot and salsa verde are both excellent toppings for tacos, but this one is a little sweeter.
4. Molho Apimentado
Many different names are given to the various types of fresh salsas that incorporate tomatoes, chilies, vinegar, and olive oil, among other ingredients. It is more common in Colombia to spell the word “aji” than “aj.” When referring to the country of Bolivia, this is referred to as llajuá. In Chile, it’s known as pebre. Florida, the national dish of Brazil, is a stew of black beans boiled with various pig parts and served with molho apimentado, a versatile sauce.
Malagueta peppers are commonly used in Brazil to prepare the sauce. However, the preferred chili differs from region to region and house to house. It is related to peri peri, which is also incredibly hot (60,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units, or SHU).
The African Continent and the Middle Eastern Region
The African and Middle Eastern Regions have their own plethora of sauces. Some of them are as follows:
A small plate of harissa sauce is all you need to add spice to your life.
In North Africa, Hassana is a thick and smooth but somewhat gritty chili paste made with ground red chilies, spices like cumin and coriander, and a small amount of olive oil. This sauce can be drizzled on everything from falafel to soups to salads. For a more intense, smokier, or sweeter flavor, you can play with the red pepper and spices used in your homemade harissa. If you want to tone down the heat in your yogurt dips and aioli, you can use harissa.
Despite its popularity in Israel, zhug is a Yemeni Jewish dish that was later adapted by Israeli chefs. Zhug can benefit from the addition of red and green chilies, garlic, and coriander to make it even spicier than harissa. You’ll find it at shawarma, falafel, and hummus stands throughout Israel.
Egyptian shatta is known to be a thick paste made from ground chilies and olive oil. However, the inclusion of tomato base, parsley, and coriander significantly affects the flavor of the finished product. Koshari is a popular Egyptian dish that combines rice, macaroni, and lentils. Only Sudanese that does not change the taste for the use of tomato paste.
The unbearably hot dish of Ghanaian cuisine is now considerably hotter because of the addition of shito. Ginger, garlic, and chili peppers are used in the preparation of this sauce. It is used as a dipping sauce in foods such as egusi (a seed-based soup), as well as palaver sauce (an aromatic stew made of taro leaves, egusi seeds, and silky palm oil).
Multiple hot sauces are mentioned in this article for your convenience. You can get your hands on the one that best complements your taste buds and enjoy the spice like never before!