Each bottle of hot sauce that sits colorfully on your shelf is a unique mélange of spices, flavor, and heat. Some are great for flavor while others are uniquely suited to deliver some heat to your meal. While most sauces you can choose will be delicious on almost anything, you should remember that each sauce has unique characteristics that will make it particularly delicious on certain foods.
So how do you go about selecting the right sauce? Well, first you need to decide what you're cooking. Then you need to decide how hot you're willing to go.
Making this second decision can be tough, so to get an idea of the level of spice you'll be getting into with each type of chili pepper and which foods they effortlessly pair with, read our list below.
1. Jalapeno Pepper Hot Sauce
Jalapeños are probably the most popular pepper in America. They are delicious; they full of flavor and spice, but not what many chili heads would call spicy. They are, after all, served everywhere from breakfast to football games.
So, if you are beginning your hot sauce journey, sauces that are made with jalapeños are a great place to start. Just look for a green colored sauce that says jalapeño based and start trying it on any meal that needs a little something extra.
2. Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce
Cayenne peppers can have quite a kick to them, but can still be handled by most folks. That's why sauces like Franks and Red Devil are perfect to dribble onto almost anything. Seriously.
Think macaroni and cheese, chicken wings, eggs, soup. The list could go on and on. Especially if you need a little extra jolt to get you up and going in the morning, try some cayenne hot sauce at breakfast.
3. Tabasco Pepper Hot Sauce
Yes, this hot sauce is actually named after a specific type of pepper, not the other way around. Known for being quite spicy, these peppers are bottled with vinegar and spices to make that familiar taste that goes so well with eggs, seafood, and Bloody Mary's.
As a Louisiana-based creation, it makes sense that this sauce pairs well with more down-home style cooking. Or maybe it's because this sauce is so good, that cajun cooking has evolved to require it an an ingredient? We leave this question up for debate.
4. Serrano Pepper Hot Sauce
Once you start eating serranos on a regular basis, it's safe to say that you like things hot. If you've committed yourself to the spicier side of life, then try serrano hot sauces with dairy-based ingredients like cheese, cream sauces, or beans. The spice will pair wonderfully with the cooling flavors of fattier foods.
If you're ready to take the next step and add some heat, but you still want to pack in the flavor, Yellowbird makes an excellent compromise between the two and is made locally in Austin.
5. Habanero Pepper Hot Sauce
Habanero peppers are nature's answer to mixing sweet and spicy. While these little orange peppers are not to be trifled with, they are also indispensable in some recipes like jerk chicken with mango-habanero sauce.
With a smoky-sweet flavor that is difficult to replicate, habaneros are a great addition to so many dishes. You just have to remember that a little bit goes a long way.
6. Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce
If you love your hot sauce on everything and like to test your spice tolerance, then you've probably crossed paths with a ghost pepper. If you're eating spice at this level, then you have probably already formed your preferences on which foods you like to drench in spice.
However, if you haven't braved the punch that these chilis can pack yet, try mixing a few drops of ghost pepper sauce into a burger or a meatloaf to really give your dish some life.
7. Carolina Reaper Chili Hot Sauce
If you're courageous enough to try this sauce, then we commend you. For the rest of you ... good luck.