Hot sauce! Whether on buffalo wings, tacos, or chips, hot sauce is one of my favorite additions to almost every meal. Surprisingly, it’s extremely easy to make, requiring only a few basic ingredients, and leaving a lot of room for experimentation and variation. I want to show you how to make the most brow–moistening, spine–tingling, heart–stopping hot sauce with the spiciest of peppers: habaneros!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes
- 10 – 12 habanero peppers
- ½ large carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 – 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 0 – 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1. Start by peeling and finely chopping half of a large carrot. The carrot acts as a sweetener and gives the sauce a much–needed flavor boost.
- 2. Remove the stems of all the habaneros, and slice them in half. You can deseed the habaneros if you desire. Removing the seeds will reduce the spiciness of the sauce a bit. Personally, I leave my seeds in. It is important to wear protective gloves when chopping habanero peppers. If you choose not to or can’t wear gloves, be extra cautious when handling them. The juice from raw habaneros is very spicy. Be extremely careful not to touch your face, or rub the juice in your eyes, as this will cause intense pain.
- 3. I recommend opening all windows and turning on all fans, as the fumes released by sautéing the peppers can irritate your eyes and lungs.
- 4. Splash some olive oil (around 2 –3 teaspoons) into a medium frying pan, and warm on medium heat. Begin by sautéing the carrots first. Sauté for 3 –5 minutes, then add the habaneros, garlic, paprika (use smoked paprika for extra flavor), and salt. Sauté for another 3 – 5 minutes or until caramelized. The point here is to soften them so they blend.
- 5. Transfer to a blender, add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar, and puree until a liquid consistency. This is the point where you should give it a taste test, preferably with a chip or cracker. If it is too spicy, you can dilute it by adding water. Add water in small increments, and be sure to blend each time. Be aware that once you add water, you can’t remove it, so it’s best to go slowly. For me, the sauce was perfect as is, so I did not add any water.
- 6. If you are happy with the level of spiciness and taste of the sauce, then it’s time to thicken it. For that we will use xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a common food thickener used in salad dressing and sauces. You can find it in the flour isle of most grocery stores.
“I don’t have any xanthan gum, what can I use instead?”
I would strongly recommend xanthan gum over more traditional food thickeners such as flour, corn/potato starch, gelatin, agar, or a liquid thickener. Those thickeners will not only change the taste, but they will also change the texture of your sauce. If you go to the hot sauce isle of your local grocery store and read the ingredients list on the back of the bottles, you will almost always see xanthan gum listed as the thickener. This is how I first discovered xanthan gum, and why I insist that you use it. It might mean an extra trip to the store, but it is definitely worth it.
7. Even a little bit of xanthan gum can thicken a large amount of liquid. Use the smallest measuring spoon you have; for most people that means ¼ teaspoon, to scoop the powder into the blender. It is important that you add the xanthan gum in small increments and blend thoroughly each time. How thick you make your sauce is up to personal preference. Personally, I like mine somewhere around the thickness of a BBQ sauce, so I added ½ teaspoon total (added in two increments), which was perfect.
Once the sauce is at your desired thickness, all that is left is to transfer it to a bottle. The sauce can be stored in the fridge almost indefinitely, as it is has an entire cup of vinegar. Enjoy it as a dipping sauce, on tacos, chicken, stir fry, and many other dishes. Finally, be sure to clean all your surfaces thoroughly to remove any habanero juice or hot sauce residue. The last thing you want is to accidently get that in your eye. And there you have it, folks! A hot sauce recipe so easy even a 24–year–old guy living alone can do it.
About the Author
Kyle Possai is an Educator II at Naples Botanical Garden. When not at the Garden he enjoys making music through guitar and piano.