For a long time, I thought homemade hot sauce wasn’t really worth making. I mean, there are hundreds of choices out there, so why bother making your own? Then, I had a bounty of peppers from the garden one year and figured I would give it a try. As soon as I dove into the world of homemade hot sauce, I realized that it’s not only easy to make, but it’s also pretty forgiving, too. So long as you use fresh chilies and a good-quality vinegar, there’s really no way to go wrong.
There are many different ways to make hot sauce, from using a single pepper to blending a few together. Some rely on lacto-fermentation for added health benefits, and others call for simmering away on the stove top to let the flavors meld. For this in-depth guide, we wanted to walk you through our favorite recipe. It combines a few peppers that were growing in our garden—fresh habanero and serrano peppers—along with dried arbol chiles for depth. The addition of carrots (our secret ingredient!) really gives this sauce a unique spin.
How to Make Homemade Hot Sauce
Yield: 5 half-pints
- 20 habanero peppers (4-1/2 ounces)
- 5 serrano peppers (2-1/2 ounces)
- 15 dried arbol chiles
- 2 large carrots (5-1/2 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise and quartered
- 1 large sweet onion (15 ounces), cut into eight wedges
- 8 garlic cloves, halved
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup high-quality white vinegar (minimum 5% acetic acid)
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Step 1: Prepare your peppers
Cut the habanero and serrano peppers in half. Discard the stems and seeds, saving just the flesh. Meanwhile, cover the arbol chiles with boiling water and set them aside to rehydrate for 10 minutes. Once they are softened, strain out the chilies and discard the water.
Test Kitchen tip: Always wear gloves when handling hot peppers. Those spicy oils will seep into your skin and remain there (even after washing your hands). That means trouble if you touch your eyes or other sensitive areas later in the day!
Step 2: Cook the vegetables
In a well-ventilated area, fill a 6-quart stockpot with a gallon of water and bring it to a boil. Add the carrots, onions and garlic and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add the peppers to the stockpot and return the mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute before removing the peppers to the vegetable bowl. Discard any remaining water.
Step 3: Blend it up
Place the cooked vegetables and chilies in a high-powered blender. Add the water, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper to the blender. Puree until the mixture is very smooth before placing the pureed hot sauce into a large saucepot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pot from the range and set it aside.
Step 4: Process the jars
Meanwhile, prepare five half-pint jars for canning by sanitizing them according to the package directions. Carefully ladle the boiled hot sauce into the hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Remove the air bubbles and adjust the headspace, if necessary, by adding additional hot sauce.
Wipe the rims clean and center the sanitized lids on top of the jars. Screw the bands on until they are fingertip tight. Place the jars into a canner with simmering water until they are completely submerged and covered with water. Bring the canner to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool at room temperature.