Homemade Hot Sauce

You’ll be amazed how closely you can approximate one of the world’s tastiest hot sauces in your home kitchen.

| August/September 2011

You’ve no doubt seen the iconic bottles of Tabasco sauce at your favorite diner or greasy spoon. Tabasco is the brand name for a hot pepper sauce produced on Avery Island, La. Ever wondered how it’s made?

Although the recipe for the original sauce is top secret and, as legend has it, guarded by an army of 10,000 ravenous crayfish somewhere deep in the bayou, the ingredients list is surprisingly short: peppers, vinegar, salt. The one ingredient that doesn’t appear on the label but should is “time.” Tabasco sauce’s deep flavor comes from its three-year fermentation in white oak barrels. (Vegetable ferments are based on the science that the veggies contain benign microbes that will flourish under the right conditions, and suppress other microbes that cause spoilage.)

While reproducing the exact flavor of Tabasco sauce is difficult to do, you can approximate it in your kitchen using freshly picked hot peppers. The original recipe calls for Tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), but you can use any type of hot pepper you like. I make mine using a jalapeño variety, which is milder on the official Scoville spiciness scale but more than hot enough for most palates.

How to Make Hot Sauce

Spicy peppers can be dangerous (think “pepper spray”). Take precautions to protect your skin, eyes and nasal passages from irritation. With super-hot peppers, you should definitely wear gloves and a mask.

Step 1: Pick Your Peppers 

To make a fermented hot sauce, you need to pull liquid from the peppers in the same way that liquids are extracted from cabbage to produce sauerkraut. This means starting with red-ripe peppers. The experts at Avery Island use a red stick (called a “baton rouge”) to gauge whether peppers have reached the right stage of red ripeness, but as an amateur sauce-maker, you can be more flexible. If you’re using homegrown peppers, chances are you won’t have them all ripening at the same time. There’s no harm in throwing some green ones into the mix. They may bring the spiciness and redness of the final product down a notch, but only enough to be noticed by a connoisseur. You can also use ripe peppers of other colors if you’d like.

10/18/2013 10:19:23 PM

OK, Here's what i did to pack the mash into a jar. You know those Chinese food plastic container lids?? They are food grade. Draw/scratch and cut the circumference to your jar mouth, with your kitchen scissors.... Don't be too perfect cause you still want the water to flow over the lid. Squeeze that lid into the jar(boil it if you want lid sterilized), over the mash. Now get a smaller bottle that will fit thru the jar mouth and fill it with water (for weight (i did this for 1 cup of mash). I had a big empty worcestershire bottle around (again, Sterilize) . This worked well with a Quart pickling jar... I'm still waiting for the final product. So, wish me luck... lol

12/31/2012 11:16:19 AM

Hi folks, I know this is an old thread but pour a layer of oil (1/2 inch +/-) on top then set it and forget it. This keeps the floating mash essentially submerged, keeps air out and stops evaporation. Use 6% (by weight) salt. If you go over 10% it might not work.

Regina Smith
9/3/2012 3:08:13 PM

I use a french press coffee make to keep the mash under the water.

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