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Fermented Hot Sauce

Fermented hot sauce is a delicious and healthy way to add a zesty kick to any dish.

Unlike traditional hot sauces, which are made by boiling peppers, vinegar, and other ingredients, fermented hot sauces are created by allowing beneficial bacteria to break down the peppers and other vegetables in the sauce.

This process not only gives the sauce its characteristic tangy flavor but also provides numerous health benefits. Fermented hot sauce is rich in probiotics, which can help to improve gut health and boost immunity. In addition, the fermentation process helps to preserve the nutrients in the peppers, making them more bioavailable for the body.

Whether you enjoy it on its own or use it to spice up your favorite recipes, making your own hot sauce is a skill worth having and a flavor worth adding to your kitchen pantry.

This fermented hot sauce recipe is dedicated to versatility.

Hot sauce in a bucket of ice.
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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> When I talk about hot chilis, I mean, like, a habanero - not Flea. Technically, hot peppers, as we know them, are not really "peppers" They belong to the genus Capsicum, while true peppers belong to the genus Piper. Chilis are a group of hot fruit from the Capsicum family, but colloquially we call them peppers. I'll use both terms in this post interchangeably.

No. 2 --> There are a few different ways of making fermented sauce. Some advocate for fermenting only peppers, while others, like me, prefer to add other flavors to the mix. The process is the same whether you decide to add onions and garlic cloves or not!

No. 3 --> When I talk about burping your ferment, what I mean is to open the lid and allow the carbon dioxide to escape, reducing pressure inside the jar. During the process, the microbes in the ferment consume the peppers and other ingredients and excrete carbon dioxide which creates pressure on the jar. If left too long, the jar can burst due to pressure.

No. 4 --> Fermentation is a really accessible food preservation method, anyone can do it, with nearly any supplies. I have a section below detailing supplies required and easy substitutions that you'll likely have around home!

No. 5 --> It is very important to ensure that ALL ingredients in the sauce remain below the brine at all times during the fermentation time - this is the best way to keep baddies at bay and prevent batch-ruining molds or other unwanted visitors to your homemade hot sauce.

Hot sauce ready for fermenting.

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What Is Lacto-Fermenting?

Lacto fermentation is a process of food preservation that has been used for centuries and is an excellent way to preserve foods, as it not only extends their shelf life but also creates delicious and probiotic-rich foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles are all examples of lacto-fermented foods. This process preserves food by encouraging the growth of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. These good bacteria produce lactic acid, which helps to prevent the growth of bad bacteria and also gives fermented foods their characteristic sour taste.

Lacto fermentation is a great way to preserve food without the use of heat, harsh chemicals, or artificial preservatives.

In addition to preserving food, lacto fermentation can also increase its nutrient content and make it more easily digestible. As a result, many people find that fermented foods are a valuable part of their diet.

Why Make Fermented Hot Sauce?

Unlike other types of hot sauce, fermented sauce uses live cultures to help preserve the sauce and give it a more unique flavor. The fermentation process also accentuates the natural flavors of the peppers, resulting in a hot sauce that is both distinct and zesty.

The beneficial bacteria in fermented hot sauce continue to develop flavor, even after it's blended and stored in the fridge. Because although the fermentation process is drastically slowed at cold temperatures, it's not completely halted, meaning that the flavor will continue to get deeper and more delicious over time.

For those who enjoy spicy food, fermentation can be a great way to mellow out the heat of peppers while still preserving their flavor. The fermentation process breaks down the capsaicin molecules, which are responsible for the heat in peppers, making them less potent and allowing their flavor to shine.

Hot sauce in bottles.

What Hot Peppers To Use

This recipe is up to your personal tastes. Feel free to adjust for your desired heat level - if you like spicy foods, use hotter peppers, like scotch bonnets or ghost peppers. If you prefer to keep your taste buds intact, use a mix of hot and sweet peppers to make a more mild hot sauce. There are some great chili pepper heat scales on the internet to help you pick!

I chose to mix these hot pencil peppers with a single large bell pepper. Pencil peppers are hotter than jalapenos but less hot than scotch bonnets. They are around the same Scoville rating as Thai peppers.

That said, we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths - so one thing to consider is the color mixing, as silly as that sounds. At the end of the fermentation process, we will be blending the ingredients in a blender - mixed colors - like green chilis and red bell peppers will make for a brown sauce, which may be unappealing to you.

Key Ingredients

Hot Chilis: Use fresh, ripe chili peppers for this recipe. Discard any that have blemishes, bruises, or are otherwise damaged. You'll need between 3/4 and 1 pound of peppers. Feel free to use different types of peppers within the same batch.

Salt: Choose mineral sea salt for the best flavor profile or coarse kosher salt for the most neutral salt flavor.

Water: Spring water or well water works great in fermenting recipes. Avoid chlorinated water wherever possible as chlorine can affect microbial activity. I use straight well water or well water run through my RO system for all my ferments.

Ingredients required for fermented hot sauce.

How To Make Fermented Hot Sauce

Prepare Ingredients:

  1. Prepare for fermenting by washing a fermentation vessel, which can be as simple as a mason jar and lid. It does not have to be sanitized or sterilized but should be washed well with soap and hot running water. Set aside to dry. Wash fresh ingredients under warm running water.
  2. Coarsely dice 3/4 to 1 pound of peppers, 1/4 of a yellow onion, and slice 4-6 garlic cloves. Add all ingredients to the fermentation vessel.

Prepare The Brine:

  1. Combine 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Stir until completely dissolved.
  2. Pour salt brine into the fermentation vessel.
  3. Weigh down the ingredients before securing the lid tightly.
  4. Set it aside to ferment.

Ferment The Sauce:

  1. Keep your ferment somewhere where you'll see it daily to observe and open the lid and burp it but keep it away from direct sunlight. If you're using an airlock lid or pickle pipe, you won't need to burp your fermented peppers.
  2. After a few days, you should start to notice fermenting activity. There will be small bubbles that rush to the top of the jar when you tap it, the jar may hiss slightly when opened, the color of the peppers will dull, the brine will be cloudy, and the brine may leak over the top of the jar and run down the sides.
  3. Allow the sauce to ferment for 7-14 days.
Hot sauce fermenting in a glass jar.

Blend The Sauce:

  1. Once you're satisfied with the level of fermentation, strain the contents of the fermentation vessel and reserve the brine.
  2. Blend the peppers, onions, garlic, 1/4 cup of the reserved brine, and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth. I use my Vitamix and it creates a silky sauce. If using xanthan gum, add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to the hot sauce and blend until completely combined.
  3. Add more brine to increase the salty flavor or more vinegar to increase acidity until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Optionally, you can run the hot sauce through a fine mesh sieve to make it ultra-smooth. It takes a couple of minutes, but it's worth it.
  5. Transfer the finished hot sauce to small jars or bottles for storage.

Recipe Notes

Fermenting Time:

The great thing about fermenting hot sauce is that it's a personal process, and there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to fermentation time. Most people ferment their sauce for 7-10 days, but you can certainly ferment for longer if you want to develop a deeper, more complex flavor.

The key is to experiment and find what works best for your taste buds. If you're new to fermented food, start with a shorter fermentation time and then taste your sauce after a few days to see how it's developing. If you like what you taste, then you can bottle it up and enjoy it. But if you want a deeper flavor, then you can let your sauce ferment for a little longer next time.

Ultimately, the decision of how long to ferment your hot sauce is entirely up to you, so have fun and experiment until you find the perfect flavor profile for your taste buds.

Fermenting Temperature:

The ideal range for fermentation is between 68-75°F.

If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

Fermenting your hot sauce at the right temperature will ensure that it has a bold, flavorful taste that everyone will love.

Kahm Yeast:

If you're familiar with fermenting, you've probably heard of kahm yeast.

If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it's more than likely kahm yeast - which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.

The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your sauce - though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I'd advise you to scrap it and start again.

While it may be tempting to try and salvage your sauce, it's generally not worth the risk. Starting over may seem like a pain, but it's better than ending up with a batch of sauce that's inedible.

Xanthan Gum:

I list xanthan gum as an ingredient in the list. It's completely optional, but adding a small amount of xanthan gum helps to emulsify the sauce as well as increase its viscosity and create an almost creamy texture.

Another added bonus to using xanthan gum in your hot sauce is that it thickens without heating, meaning that you're able to thicken while also maintaining all the probiotic goodness of your sauce.

Adding a pinch of xanthan can really set your homemade sauce apart from the rest.

Fermented hot sauce in bottles.

Batch + Storage

Batch:

This recipe makes between 1/2 to 1 pint, though it depends on how much you water down the sauce with vinegar and brine. 10 oz is a real sweet spot because that will fill 2 hot sauce bottles!

Storage:

Keep your delicious homemade hot sauce in the fridge for up to 12 months - if it even lasts that long!

The microbes in your hot sauce are still live and viable, even though you've blended them, they'll continue to create carbon dioxide and you will create a hot sauce booby trap. In the interest of avoiding a hot sauce explosion, please, please, keep it in the fridge!

More Fermentation Recipes To Try

Fermentation Supplies Required

As previously mentioned, fermentation is very accessible - it doesn't require any specialized equipment.

Fermentation vessel: This can be any glass jar that has an airtight fitting lid. A mason jar, an old pasta sauce jar, an old kombucha bottle. Anything you have around will certainly work! It just needs to be airtight and glass. Non-glass materials can be porous and difficult to clean, and/or harbor bad microbes.

Fermentation weight: While there are specific glass fermentation weights or pickle pebbles, you can use a few different things. A ziplock-style bag half filled with brine placed on top of the ingredients works great. A crumpled piece of parchment paper placed on top of the ingredients also works.

I have airlock lids and pickle pipes as well as glass fermentation weights here in the Crave kitchen, but I also don't have enough of them to keep me in the ferments, SO I often end up using other things from around the house and they work just fine!

📖 Printable Recipe

Hot sauce in a bucket of ice.
Yield: 250 ml

Fermented Hot Sauce

Making your own fermented hot sauce is a great way to add some extra zing to your meals. The key to making a good fermented hot sauce is to use high-quality peppers and sea salt. You'll love your homemade hot sauce and it's complex flavor profile - even if it takes 10 days!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 - 1 lb (340-454g) fresh peppers
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 4 -6 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups room temperature water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum, optional

Instructions

  1. Prepare for fermenting by washing a fermentation vessel with soap and hot running water. Set aside to dry.
  2. Coarsely dice 3/4 to 1 pound of peppers, 1/4 of a yellow onion, and slice 4-6 garlic cloves. Add all ingredients to the fermentation vessel.
  3. Combine 2 cups of room-temperature water with 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Pour salt brine into the fermentation vessel until the contents are just covered.
  5. Weigh down the ingredients before securing the lid tightly. Set it aside to ferment. Keep your ferment somewhere where you'll see it daily to observe and open the lid and burp it but keep it away from direct sunlight. If you're using an airlock lid or pickle pipe, burping is unnecessary. After a few days, you should start to notice fermenting activity. There will be small bubbles that rush to the top of the jar when you tap it, the jar may hiss slightly when opened, the color of the peppers will dull, the brine will be cloudy, and the brine may leak over the top of the jar and run down the sides.
  6. Allow the sauce to ferment for 7-14 days. Tasting the contents each day.
  7. Once satisfied with the level of fermentation, strain the contents of the fermentation vessel and reserve the brine.
  8. Blend the peppers, onions, garlic, 1/4 cup of the reserved brine, and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth. If using xanthan gum, add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to the hot sauce and blend until completely combined. Add more brine to increase the salty flavor or more vinegar to increase acidity until you reach your desired consistency. Optionally, you can run the hot sauce through a fine mesh sieve to make it ultra-smooth. It takes a couple of minutes, but it's worth it.
  9. Transfer the finished hot sauce to small jars or bottles for storage in the fridge.

    Notes

    Fermenting Time:

    The great thing about fermenting hot sauce is that it's a personal process, and there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to fermentation time. Most people ferment their sauce for 7-10 days, but you can certainly ferment for longer if you want to develop a deeper, more complex flavor.

    The key is to experiment and find what works best for your taste buds. If you're new to fermented food, start with a shorter fermentation time and then taste your sauce after a few days to see how it's developing. If you like what you taste, then you can bottle it up and enjoy it. But if you want a deeper flavor, then you can let your sauce ferment for a little longer next time.

    Fermenting Temperature:

    The ideal range for fermentation is between 68-75°F.

    If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

    Kahm Yeast:

    If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it's more than likely kahm yeast - which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.

    The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your sauce - though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I'd advise you to scrap it and start again.

    Xanthan Gum:

    I list xanthan gum as an ingredient in the list. It's completely optional, but adding a small amount of xanthan gum helps to emulsify the sauce as well as increase its viscosity and create an almost creamy texture.

    Another added bonus to using xanthan gum in your hot sauce is that it thickens without heating, meaning that you're able to thicken while also maintaining all the probiotic goodness of your sauce.

    Batch:

    This recipe makes between 1 pint and 1 quart, though it depends on how much you water down the sauce with vinegar and brine.

    Storage:

    Keep your delicious homemade hot sauce in the fridge for up to 12 months. This is not a shelf-stable product and needs to be refrigerated.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    20

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 4Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 319mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

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    Share Your Thoughts

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    Nic

    Wednesday 7th of December 2022

    Wish I had seen this before I dried all my peppers!!

    Ally

    Thursday 8th of December 2022

    Next year :)

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