The ongoing lockdown has seen more of us getting creative in the kitchen than ever before – and a good dash of hot sauce will liven up even the most basic of dishes.
Chilies are also a good source of protective antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, so they can be a great addition to a nutritious, balanced diet.
These sauces take inspiration from global ingredients, from the medium warmth of Thailand’s sriracha to the blow-your-head off habanero. When looking for the best hot sauce, it wasn’t just the heat we were interested in.
We favoured full-flavoured condiments right along the Scoville scale. Think of this as a heat-o-meter, ranking chillies from the completely mild bell pepper through to the much more potent bhut jolokia (ghost pepper).
Versatility was also key, and many of these sauces can be used in multiple ways – try them as a dip, marinade, or as a final fiery kick just before serving. They can also be used from breakfast through to dinner, whether that’s with eggs, on tacos and burritos, in stir-fries, with pizza, burger or chips. There are endless cuisines where an extra dash of hot sauce will act as the icing on the cake.
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We took one for the team and tried each of these sauces neat to get the full burn-factor. Making a note of unusual ingredients and uses, these are the ones we’d recommend stocking up on…
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Cholula original hot sauce, 150ml
With its recognisable wooden top, this little bottle is loved worldwide. It’s warm and spicy without blowing your head off and follows a generations-old secret recipe. We love adding a generous glug to our weekend eggs, but it’s also essential for burritos and tacos. This hot sauce is already huge in the United States and we’re thrilled you can now buy it here in the UK.Buy now £2.59, Souschef.co.uk
Sauce Shop hot sauce challenge set
Based in Nottingham, this husband and wife-led brand has nailed the condiment market. This pack contains five of its most fiery hot sauces (3x225ml, 2x150ml). In order of heat, these include the habanero ketchup (with 22 peppers per bottle!), habanero hot sauce, our favourite buffalo hot sauce, the southeast Asian sriracha, and finally the medium-spiced chilli ketchup which is ideal for every day. Each offers something a little different, but you can’t go wrong eating with wings, chips and burgers.Buy now £19.99, Sauceshop.co
Kold Sauce original, 150ml
Naturally fermented and aged in barrels (a bit like wine, kimchi or sauerkraut is), Kold Sauce is raw and cold-pressed in small batches, giving it a vibrant freshness. It gets its heat from cayenne, habaneros and red Thai chillies but has a depth to it with nutmeg, smoked paprika and cardamon. Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s nothing cooling about it.Buy now £6.99, Koldsauce .com
Eaten Alive fermented hot sauce discovery box
We tried to choose a favourite from the Eaten Alive hot sauce range, and then thought, why choose one when you can stock up with this discovery pack? It contains seven of the brand’s hot sauces (each 150ml), ranging from the relatively mild smoked sriracha to the fiery, extra-spicy scotch bonnet. There is also a super fresh lime and jalapeno flavour which we add to fish tacos, and the cacao and lime is excellent in a classic chilli con carne. They’re all raw fermented and have picked up a stack of Great Taste awards along the way.Buy now £29.99, Eatenalive.co.uk
Mic’s Chilli inferno chilli sauce, 165g
Ireland might not be known for its spicy food, but this chilli sauce aims to change that perception. Inspired by a trip to Belize, it contains all eight varieties of habanero chillies, along with onion, carrot and garlic. As you can tell from the Day of the Dead-inspired bottle, the brand recommends this fiery sauce with Mexican food, but you could also use it as a dip.Buy now £4.95, Harveynichols.com
Chilli No.5 kitchen collection
We adore hot sauce, but once opened most need refrigerating and consuming within three months. This collection is ideal, as the five slim 25ml tubes give you plenty of variety, without the huge volumes. The kitchen collection pack contains five completely different flavours – including “wicked wasabi”, “Chinese hot and sour”, “sriracha cha-cha”, the beetrooty “ever so English” and “forever phall” with plum, red pepper and mango.Buy now £20, Chilli-no5.com
Flying Goose sriracha, 200ml
Deliciously sweet and garlicky, this simple hot sauce is great on meaty kebabs and noodle dishes. It’s named after the Thai coastal city Si Racha, and as such, works really well with traditional Thai flavours, from seafood curries through to stir-fries. We love the precision-pour squeezy bottle which makes it easy to add an attractive final drizzle to dishes. You can also buy it in 455ml and 730ml tubs if you’re a big fan.Buy now £1.99, Souschef.co.uk
Truffle Hunter truffle hot sauce, 250ml
It doesn’t get much more decadent than this. Truffle Hunter has created a slightly sour, tomato ketchup-type hot sauce and infused it with the brand’s deliciously earthy black truffles. This one is divine in a beef burger and for chip dunking, and we’ve also been known to add a little to fried eggs.Buy now £11.95, Trufflehunter.co.uk
Pico Sauces naga ghost pepper sauce, 260g
Pico Sauces is a new brand, making Indian condiments, in India, with all-Indian ingredients. This is the brand’s classic hot sauce and uses the famous naga ghost pepper, or bhut jolokia chilli, from the North-East corner of India. It is the spiciest chilli in the country by a long way and we’re told they are used locally by farmers to ward off elephant herds, by hanging bunches on the fences of their fields.
If your spice tolerance isn’t up to the challenge, we recommend “diluting” this sauce down with mayonnaise which is delicious in burgers. As well as dipping, this versatile sauce is also good as a yoghurt marinade – try it with pork shoulder for a spicy Sunday roast.Buy now £2.50, Picosauces.com
Fortnum’s hot chilli sauce, 100ml
Fortnum & Mason are purveyors of luxury food items, and this chilli and red pepper-based hot sauce is a decadent little shot to have on standby. The thin texture makes it ideal for adding a splash to oysters, instead of your traditional tabasco. It also contains fenugreek, coriander and cumin seeds, which makes it a particularly delicious addition to a Bloody Mary.Buy now £5.95, Fortnumandmason.com
Orriss and Son even flow, 200ml
Produced in small batches Orriss & Son is a punchy collection of fermented chilli sauces, that can be used as a marinade for fish, meat or veg, in dressings, or splashed on neat at the end. The “Even Flow” is the brand’s original hot sauce, with fruity habanero, smoked tomato notes and a dash of apple juice. There’s also a sweeter piri-piri version and a fresh green jalapeno-based sauce if you’re looking for something tangier.Buy now £7.25, Orrissandson.com
Dr Trouble bundle deal
Produced in small batches in Zimbabwe, following a 125-year old recipe, these natural hot sauces contain wild lemons and locally grown chillies, and are left to ferment in the African sun for 100 days to let the flavours develop. This pack contains two 250ml bottles; the hot lemon chilli sauce, which has delicious ginger and mango notes, and the mild oak-smoked chilli sauce, which is ideal with chicken wings.
Buying a bottle supports the local African villagers who produce the sauces, as proceeds from every sale go back to supporting 150 local school children with education and conservation initiatives. Buy now £19.99, drtroublesauce.co.uk
En Root’s raja bonnet sauce the original, 250ml
Raja Bonnet sauce combines Indian flavours such as turmeric and coriander, with scotch bonnet chilli and mango for a fruity, medium-spiced favour injection. It’s from En Root’s, a south-London, Indian-inspired vegan street food concept who are now offering food delivery to the local area.Buy now £5, Enrootldn.co.uk
The Woolf pack
This range of spicy sauces was launched during last year’s lockdown and is inspired by founder Dominique Woolf’s Thai roots. This pack of three 150ml bottles contains the sweet, tangy tamarind ketchup, fruity jalapeno and lime, and the “Hot + Sour” which has a delicious sweet and spicy garlicky kick. Use them in everything from stir-fries to avocado on toast.Buy now £13.49, The woolfskitchen.com
Casa Firelli Italian hot sauce, 148ml
Owned by the founder of Malfy Gin, and part of the Hotel Starlino family who make vermouths, aperitivos and maraschino cherries, Firelli is an all-natural, Italian hot sauce made in Parma, Italy. It was designed as a healthier alternative to chilli oil for pizza and is also delicious on pasta, eggs, salads and Bloody Marys. More stock expected later in February.Buy now £4.75, Amazon.co.uk
Frank’s Redhot original cayenne pepper sauce, 148ml
Sold as “the original Buffalo wing sauce”, this is another popular American brand. If you’re into your chicken or cauliflower wings, a teaspoon of this is essential. Aged cayenne peppers add a decent thwack of heat, but we like the garlicky notes too.Buy now £1.50, Ocado.com
Dr. Will’s sriracha, 250g
Sauces can be loaded with all sorts of hidden sugars, but not at Dr. Will’s, which only ever contain natural ingredients. This sriracha contains red peppers, fermented chillis and garlic, but is sweetened with date paste. Try using as an alternative pizza base, as a marinade or simply with chips.Buy now £3.49, Drwills.com
The verdict: Hot sauces
With these hot sauces coming from all corners of the world, it’s very hard to choose a favourite. We’ve awarded our best buy to the crowd-pleasing Cholula original hot saucewhich offers a full-flavour, but with a heat almost anybody could handle. Although, with such a strong line up we’d recommend experimenting with as many as possible.
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