Homemade Hot Sauce

ancho pepper

Make your own hot sauce, fresh salsa, spicy BBQ sauces and great rib rubs with our exotic peppers and spices. By doing it yourself you have complete control over the flavor and heat.

How Hot Is It

The heat in hot sauce comes from the capsaicin compound found in all hot peppers. The human tongue can detect as little as 1 part per million of capsaicin. The amount of capsaicin in a type of pepper determines how hot the taste will be. The Scoville Heat Units (SHU) scale was developed in 1912 by William Scoville to rate the preserved heat of hot peppers. SHU rating identifies the parts per million of capsaicin in a pepper. The actual capsaicin level of a given pepper will vary due to growing conditions, age since harvest and other natural factors.

Using Pepper Mash

The best hot sauces are made from pepper mash; a fermented product. This type of fermentation is call dry or salt fermentation and little is understood about the exact process other than it makes better hot sauce. Pepper mash is pure pepper, not concentrates or blends. Please treat these products using the safety guidelines under Handling Hot Peppers.

Preparing Fresh Peppers

Using fresh peppers from the farmers market or your own garden will make high quality hot sauces. Peppers purchased from the supermarket will work as well but they may be old and are usually waxed to make them more attractive.

There are two methods of preparing peppers for your sauce. One is to blanch the peppers and the other is to roast them. In both methods, the safety instructions are the same. The capsaicin mentioned above is not only hot on the tongue; it is brutal on the eyes or in cuts on your fingers. When preparing peppers you can wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and keep your hands clean. Capsaicin has a way of staying on your hands even after washing. Safety glasses will help you avoid splashes or touching your eyes while cutting and cleaning peppers. For more information on hot peppers see our book, Grow the Best Peppers.

Cleaning & Blanching

Cleaning your peppers of all veins and seeds will reduce the bitter and hot character greatly. This also applies to sweet red and green peppers. Wash the whole peppers in running water to remove any pesticides and dirt. Remove the stem end of the pepper and then cut along its length into quarters. Lie each quarter flat on the cutting board and slice out the seeds and veins. Any good flesh left around the stem can be cut away too. Wash the cleaned peppers again in running water.

Prepare a boiling pot of enough distilled white vinegar to cover the cleaned peppers. Do not use any aluminum cookware. The acids in the vinegar and the peppers will break down the aluminum and put it in your sauce! The steam from boiling vinegar is very strong. Avoid breathing it. Place the peppers into the boiling vinegar for 2 or 3 minutes. This will kill any bacteria and soften the pepper flesh making it easier to process. Remove the peppers and drain. Save the vinegar for use in your recipes and blanching more peppers later.

Roasting Peppers

Sauces and salsas made with fresh roasted peppers have that extra flavor only an open flame can provide. Wash the whole peppers in running water to remove any pesticides and dirt. Place the peppers over low heat on you gas grill or the burner of a gas stove. Turn the peppers regularly and allow them to roast until the skin blisters and turns black. Place the hot peppers into a clean brown pepper bag and close it up, cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and peel away the burnt skin with your hands or a soft cloth. Remove the veins and seeds as described above. There is no need to blanch roasted peppers.

Other Fresh Ingredients

Adding fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs will liven up your recipes and make the sauce more complex. Almost anything can be used as long as you think the flavor combinations will taste good. The one concern with fresh additives is the amount of moisture they will add to the recipe and the natural bitterness of seeds and skins.

Fresh Tomatoes

To remove the excess moisture and seeds from fresh tomatoes, cut the tomato in half across its middle leaving the stem on one half. Hold the half with the skin side up and gently squeeze the liquid and seeds out. If you wish to remove the skin, place the seeded tomatoes into boiling water for 3 minutes. The skin will loosen and peel right off. Seeded tomatoes can also be roasted just like peppers. Roasting also removes more moisture. The best substitute for fresh tomato is canned tomato juice.

Fresh Fruit

Fruits can be added to any hot sauce recipe to increase sweetness and flavor. All peel and rind must be removed because it’s extremely bitter; seeds must be removed too! Pulpy fruit like orange and pineapple should be strained. The stringy pulp fibers will plug up the dropper inserts in the bottles. Canned or frozen fruit juice works well in place of fresh. There is also the added advantage of the addition flavoring that can be gained from using frozen concentrates.

Fresh Herbs

Adding fresh herbs to your recipes will increase flavors and let you put in your own special touch. Fresh herbs must be washed and chopped prior to use. Do not use the plant stems. You must use a food mill in order to remove the herb particles which will plug up your dropper bottles.

Other Spices

The use of ground spices is an easy way to add your own touch to any hot sauce recipe. Your kit includes a variety of spices for use in the recipes given here. Please remember that dried and ground spices which are fresh, have a stronger more concentrated flavor. You may need to experiment with how much to use in order to suit your taste. See our complete line of spices.

Food Processors

An electric food processor is perfect for blending ingredients prior to cooking but it is not necessary. A good sharp knife and clean cutting board will do the job too. You should never use an electric food processor after the cooking stage. The reason is the amount of air these machines pump into whatever is being blended.

After cooking, it’s a good idea to run your sauce through a hand crank food mill. These are inexpensive and they are designed specifically for making smooth purees. If one is not available, a kitchen sieve will also work. The objective is to remove or crush any solid matter left in the sauce and squeeze out every drop.

Cooking Methods

Cooking your hot sauce will help blend the flavors together, break down pieces of solid ingredients and pasteurize the sauce. It is an important step which should only be skipped if the sauce will be used up completely within two days. Our recipes will make one 5 ounce bottle of sauce and include instructions for cooking the sauce in the microwave oven. This is a quick way to make a small batch without a lot of cleanup. Larger batches and some recipes you develop may require cooking the sauce on the stove top. The stove top method offers more control over the cooking process. Your sauce should be simmered over low heat for at least 5 minutes. Constant stirring will prevent boiling and insure that all ingredients are well blended.

Hot Pack Instructions

The hot sauce bottles included with the kit are primarily for thin, vinegar based hot pepper sauce recipes. Since the bottles come with dropper fitments, they are ideal for a thin condiment. If you would like to use them for the thicker sauces or your hot sauce contains larger particulates, omit the dropper fitment.

To sanitize and prepare your bottles for filling, place the empty bottles in a pot, cover and fill the bottles with water. Bring the pot of water to a boil for 5 minutes, turn off heat and remove the bottles using tongs, hold upside down to remove the water. Do not boil the dropper fitments or caps.

Hold the bottle with a dry towel and fill it with the cooked sauce using the funnel. It may help to first pour the cooked sauce into a clean measuring cup with a spout and then pour into the funnel from the measuring cup. Place the dropper cap on the bottle and screw the cap on tight. Turn the bottle upside down and let set for 5 minutes; this will sanitize the lid. If you choose to use the tamper proof seals, you can use a hairdryer to shrink them in place over the cap.

Your bottled sauces should be stored refrigerated. We make this recommendation for your safety. Since we do not know the exact recipes you prepare, the ingredients used or their condition, we cannot make any claim to the stability of your sauces or their shelf life.


You may choose to package your hot sauce using standard canning methods, however, it must be properly heat processed in order to ensure safety and shelf life. The pH or acidity of your sauce will determine the canning method to use. Fresh peppers are considered a low acid food. Tomato products can sometimes be borderline high or low acid and would require different canning methods based on the level of acid. You should consult your local agriculture extension service for proper canning instructions for your specific sauce.


Your hot sauce is going to improve with age. Keep the sauce in the refrigerator for at least one week prior to using it. The longer the sauce ages, the more complex the flavor will become. Properly packed, unopened hot sauce will last six to nine months.