I'm a firm believer that each food requires it's own hot sauce. Frank's for wings, Sriracha for ramen, Cholula for eggs - you get the idea. I've been happily set in my ways until my foodie mom introduced me to a new hot sauce recipe, pique sauce. One dash and I was hooked. I wanted to slather it on anything and everything.
Before I tell you about the wonders of this sauce, you should know a little about it. To start, you're probably wondering what is pique sauce? Pique is a style of Puerto Rican hot sauce made with vinegar that previously had hot peppers soaking in it.
Some recipes call for habanero peppers and pineapple juice. Others, which choose the more traditional route, call for aji caballero. While the heat will vary, recipes will consist of chili peppers, garlic cloves, and varying spices. And basically the longer it sits the hotter it gets.
I'm told pique is like the Tabasco of Puerto Rico - each house and restaurant has their own bottle of the stuff. The pique recipe I made posted by food blogger Husbands That Cook is a copycat from a restaurant north of San Francisco called Sol Food. While I've never had the pleasure of eating their Puerto Rican fare, I'm told this recipe is as close to Sol Food's pique sauce as it gets. I'm also told this particular sauce is so sought after the restaurant started bottling and selling it.
While I have yet to do my own side by side comparison, I'm positively addicted to the copycat version! So thank you to Sol Food for creating this magic red sauce and Husbands That Cook for posting a copycat recipe.
Now, about the sauce. Tangy, slightly sweet, and just the right amount of spice, it has a unique flavor, unlike any other hot sauces I've had before. Its attractive bright orange hue draws you in while the flavor gets you hooked. By the look of it, you would assume it was made out of habaneros. By the taste, you would be incredibly confused. Less spicy than a habanero based sauce, the fiery orange color is actually from carrots - hence the subtle sweetness.
It's the balance between the sweet, tangy, and spicy that makes it a wonderful accompaniment for all types of meals. Fried chicken, breakfast burritos, loaded cheesy french fries, pasta, sandwiches, you name it and this sauce will be good on it. Heck, I'd even use it as a salad dressing or smother some vanilla ice cream in it it's that good. But since we had eggplant gyros for dinner last night, I doused it on that - and it was amazing!
What's even better than its versatile nature is how darn simple it is to make. Seriously, if you've been too intimidated to make hot sauces before, this is a good one to start off with. So if your up for trying your hand at a Puerto Rican pique hot sauce, grab a blender, a pot, and let's get started.
To begin, you need to soak jalapeños in distilled white vinegar for 12-24 hours. Obviously the longer you soak it the hotter it will be.
Once the peppers are ready, you boil chile de arbor, onion, chopped carrots, and whole cloves garlic until the carrots are tender.
Add it all to a blender with the jalapeño vinegar, rice vinegar, some cooking liquid, a ton of salt, and a dash of black pepper. Pour it in a glass bottle, plop in a serrano, and enjoy!
I should also tell you, if you like things spicy hot, let the bottle sit for a bit before using. If subtle is your thing, strain the ingredient through a mesh strainer and omit the extra serrano. The beauty is you can adjust the spice level to your liking without sacrificing flavor.
Be forewarned, this stuff is incredibly addictive. Even though this recipe makes a ton, you'll be amazed at just how fast you go through a bottle. Try it out next time your breakfast burrito needs some sweet hot lovin', you whip up an authentic Puerto Rican dish, or you discover a new favorite food it pairs beautifully with - and let us know what you think.