Hot Sauce: A journey into fermentation

I absolutely LOVED the Michael Polan series, Cooked. I mean, this dude GETS it. He’s got an amazingly pragmatic outlook on food, he’s terribly smart and not hard to look at either! (Yes, I have a thing for intellectual nerd types). If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favor and get on it. It’s on Netflix so… go!

Ok, now that you’ve watched it, you may now see the reason I have been looking for ways to get some fermentation in my life. I’ve been fooling myself all these years thinking that the fermented booze products I’ve consumed are enough! I started my journey into fermentation with sourdough. I mean, BREAD right!?!? That whole shit show is for another post, but for now, let’s suffice it to say that it didn’t work. I’m not sure if it was a starter issue (I tried three times to get a good one) or if my bread making skills (at least a dozen attempts) are just not up to par! Either way, I was NOT successful. I’m sure that much like childbirth, the pain will seem less significant eventually and I’ll try again. For now, I’ll buy my bread at the market! I still longed to ferment something and I decided on hot sauce. The Rockstar LOVES hot sauce! Like, on ALL THE THINGS. I had to make a firm rule that he had to taste new recipes BEFORE dousing them with hot sauce. He complies, but I know he doesn’t wanna. I found a few pretty old recipes in which they make a hot pepper mash and let that ferment before turning it into a proper sauce. Then there were easier hot sauce recipes where you cook the ingredients and add vinegar for that fermented “tang”. Those recipes required blending the chunks of peppers, onions etc with salt and vinegar until smooth. That wasn’t quite what I wanted. I was looking for a real fermented hot sauce with the benefits associated with the probiotics etc. I settled on the following recipe which is kind of a mix of a few recipes. I am extremely pleased with the results and waited to post this until I could get through a second batch to make sure the deliciousness that was my result, wasn’t just dumb luck.

You will need the following:

  • 2 pounds peppers. I used Hatch Chilis because they were in season and I got my hands on some that were pretty spicy. Perfect for this! You can use Anaheim or jalapeños or seranos… you can use any variety of chili that you like.
  • 1 onion, I used a red onion but do whatchalike!
  • Garlic! 7-10 cloves
  • Sea salt
  • Large jar or jars or sealed containers used for preserves. I used a large swing top jar.


  1. Roughly chop your peppers into rounds. Remove stems and seeds for less heat. I left mine in.
  2. Peel and chop your onion. Large chunks are fine.
  3. Peel and smash your garlic.
  4. Place ingredients into the jar or jars that they will ferment in. Be sure to fill them only 2/3 full.
  5. Next, make your salt brine. I made mine a bit salty and was pleased with the result. I used about a tablespoon per cup of water. Do not use iodized table salt. Sea salt is best and I recommend using filtered water. Use enough salt water to completely cover the pepper mixture.
  6. Fermentation happens IN the brine and air is the enemy. You definitely want containers that seal and you’ll need to weigh down your pepper mix to keep it submerged. I used a ziplock baggie filled with water to keep my peppers down. Just set it on top and seal the jar over it.
  7. This is where we wait. And wait… and… well, you get the drift. You want at least ten days. I did my first batch for 13 and my second for 17. There was no notable difference. I’ve heard that these things can ferment for a LOOOOOOONG time. Let me know how that works out for you!
  8. Once your ferment is complete to your liking, separate the solids from the liquids but keep the liquid!
  9. Place the solids into the blender and add blend until smooth adding liquid a bit at a time until you’ve reached the desired consistency. I wante mine to be a similar consistency to sriracha so, I used about 1/4 of the liquid. If you want something thin like Tabasco, use all of the liquid and strain through cheese cloth to remove the solids. I tried a bit both ways and the thicker version was my fav.
  10. Lastly, jar it up. You can be as decorative as you like, just make sure that the container seals.

Voila! You’ve got hot sauce and on top of it being AAHHMAZING, it’s also had some health benefits that you may not be getting in your average store bought sauce. This will keep in the fridge for months, if it lasts that long! There are a lot of ways to ferment. There’s equipment that you can buy that will make the process quicker and more of a predictable science. I really just wanted to give it a shot the old fashioned way and I was not disappointed. That being said, different conditions can yield different results. Use common sense and pay attention to your ferment. If you get mold, it’s over. Throw it out. Likewise, when it comes time to blend, if your liquid is “snotty” toss it. Don’t let the “maybes” scare you off, though! This is delicious stuff and I hope you will try it out! I would love to hear your stories of fermentation in the comments! Swearing Mom out.



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