There is no condiment that invites as much debate as hot sauce. Pardon the expression, but it can get pretty heated. To say it’s simply a matter of preference downplays how seriously people take their hot sauce. Hot sauce fans don’t have “preferences.” Preferences are for weaker condiments. Hot sauce enthusiasts will stake their entire identities on the Cholula/Tapatio divide. But with so many options out there, it can be hard to find the one that’s best for you if you’re not already totally immersed in hot sauce culture. Or maybe you already are a hot sauce connoisseur who is looking to expand your palette and subject it to a new, fresh hell.
One of the major factors in choosing a hot sauce is the heat level, which is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), or Scovilles for short. The bell pepper is 0 Scovilles, and the Carolina reaper is somewhere in the 1.5 million SHU to over 2 million SHU range. Between that range is a bunch of peppers, including the ever-popular habanero, which is 150,000 SHU. But if heat was the only factor to consider, there wouldn’t be as many hot sauces are there are. There’s a ton of variety in how peppers taste, and producers put a bunch of other ingredients like mustard, vinegar, and fruit, which all affect factors like sweetness and tartness. Plus, consistency-wise, hot sauces can range from as liquidy as soy sauce, to as dense as ketchup. Like with any ingredient, you’ll want to tailor your choice to the food you’re eating.
If you’re looking to try hot sauces that aren’t as widely available at grocery stores, check out one of these options on Amazon. They include some truly dangerously hot picks, as well as sweet options that offer a little kick. Try one, or buy them all and line them up, “Hot Ones”-style.
1. Secret Aardvark Habanero Sauce, 8 oz
There are a lot of sauces that increased in popularity thanks to the YouTube show, “Hot Ones,” and Secret Aardvark habanero sauce is one of them. It comes in an 8 oz. squeeze bottle, and the blend of mustard, white wine vinegar, and habanero chili peppers makes for a flavor that’s described by the brand as a “unique Caribbean Tex-Mex hybrid.”
Pros: Flavorful habanero blend, good for people who like a thicker consistency. Reviewers liked that it was spicy but not overwhelming.
Cons: Some found the sauce too thick for the small nozzle size.
2. Dirty Dicks, Sauce Hot, 5 oz
Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce has won a lot of awards, including accolades from the New York Hot Sauce Expo and the Scovie Awards. It’s habanero-based, so it has a kick, but it also features considerable sweetness with notes of mango and pineapple.
Pros: Good blend of sweet and spicy, tropical fruit flavor.
Cons: Some found it overly sweet.
3. Da Bomb Beyond Insanity Hot Sauce, 4 oz
Even if you’ve only seen one episode of “Hot Ones,” you probably remember Da Bomb. It’s the sauce where things start to go awry for a lot of guests, so it’s one to be careful with. If you like very hot sauces, this is a good option. The 4 oz. bottle should last a while, even for heavy hot sauce users. Just a dab should do the trick.
Pros: Good for fans of extreme heat.
Cons: Reviewers found that there is not much flavor aside from the intense heat.
4. Mike’s Hot Honey, 12 oz
For something that’s a little different from hot sauce, but still will deliver a kick, this Hot Honey is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: honey infused with peppers. Sweet and spicy is one of those immensely delicious if slightly confusing flavor combinations, and this Hot Honey can go with a lot of different things — they even suggest ice cream. We like using it as a marinade too for chicken and steaks.
Pros: Unique combination of honey and hot sauce, offers a sweet and spicy blend; heat is not overwhelming.
Cons: It’s worth noting that it is not actually hot sauce, but honey infused with peppers.
5. Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
Frank’s RedHot is one of the most widely available and popular hot sauces, used on everything from hot dogs to well, as their commercial goes, “on everything.” This serving of Frank’s comes in a gallon bottle, which is economical and convenient. As for the sauce, it’s made from aged cayenne peppers, so it provides some heat but isn’t overwhelmingly spicy.
Pros: Classic hot sauce flavor that’s tried and true.
Cons: Some reviewers found that the plastic bottle affects the flavor.