Skip To ContentSkip To Footer
Account icon

the sauce


What Is Hot Sauce Made Of?

Article hero desktop image.

What Is Hot Sauce Made Of?

If you’re a big hot sauce lover like us, you’re probably one to finish off many of your foods with a tasty, bright red sauce. But chances are, you’ve wondered about what ingredients are in hot sauce to give it all that spice while making it delicious.

Keep reading, and we’ll explain what hot sauce is made of that gives it its unique, spicy flavor and long-lasting shelf life.

Pepper Paradise

When searching through hot sauce bottles in a store, you’ll find that the main ingredient in the majority of hot sauces is some type of chili pepper. While it depends on the brand of hot sauce and the heat level, most hot sauces will utilize chili peppers for flavoring and heat because they provide a foundation for natural flavors and that powerful spice.

Most commonly, the majority of hot sauce producers will use one of these variations of chili peppers to make their hot sauce:

Habanero Peppers

Habanero hot sauce tends to be hotter than the others on this list due to habanero peppers’ Scoville heat ranking, which we will explain further in a moment.

Jalapeño Peppers

You may know them as either green or red jalapeños. These are the spicy, crunchy peppers usually found in your burrito order.

Chipotle Peppers

Though they’re of the same heat level as jalapeños, chipotle peppers can be distinguished by their deeper, bold flavor. Furthermore, just like the others on this list above, some refer to chipotle peppers as one of the many types of Mexican chile peppers due to their Mexican descent.

Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers aren’t as hot as a habanero pepper, but they’re far less mild than jalapeños or chipotle peppers! 

Not only are they often used in hot sauces, but cayenne peppers are also frequently seen in kitchens and spice cabinets as a red pepper powder used in recipes. They’re also seen traditionally in Louisiana-style hot sauce as the main ingredient. They were used in the first American-made hot sauces called “cayenne sauce.”

Measuring Heat

Earlier, we mentioned that all of the peppers have a different assigned heat level specific to their pepper type. 

All types of peppers, whether they are or aren’t used in hot sauce, have an assigned heat level. This means all hot sauces have an assigned heat level as well.

An essential part of understanding the hot sauce you eat is knowing what this heat level is and what it means. Without it, you might find yourself eating something much hotter than you expected.

They Call It the Scoville Scale

If you’ve ever seen advertisements for hot sauce, you might recognize the abbreviation ‘SHU.’ It stands for Scoville heat units — the unit of measurement most commonly used to represent different heat levels in chili peppers and hot sauces. 

The Scoville scale ranges from as high as 1.6 million SHU — as seen in one of the hottest peppers in the world, the Carolina Reaper — to something milder like the poblano pepper’s 1,000 to 1,500 SHU. Something lacking any heat, like a bell pepper, ranks at 0 SHU. 

But what causes this heat to arise in chili peppers in the first place, especially when it can come to be as intense as over 1 million SHU?

What Creates the Spice in Chili Peppers and Hot Sauce?

As we explained, hot sauce gets its heat from the chili peppers, which are the main ingredient. For chili peppers themselves, this heat comes from capsaicinoids, the compounds in peppers that create that heat you feel from eating spicy food. 

The main capsaicinoid in all peppers is known as capsaicin. It is responsible for the strong physical sensations eating peppers can cause — especially in higher doses. The more capsaicin found in a pepper, the hotter the pepper will be.

Hotter peppers like ghost peppers, which can be ranked at over 1 million SHU, will have much higher amounts of capsaicin than peppers that are much milder, like the serrano pepper, which is only 10,000 to 20,000 SHU and has a lot less capsaicin.

Now that we understand where all the spice is coming from in hot sauce, let’s see what goes into creating the rest of the flavors.

What Else Is Hot Sauce Made Of?

When it comes down to a hot sauce’s ingredients, recipes always depend on the specific hot sauce and the maker’s intentions in regard to the flavor. However, there are some common ingredients that many hot sauce producers use to complement the hot peppers and emphasize their heat.

The majority of hot sauces will use some sort of vinegar to add a sour element of acidity to the sauce. Most commonly, hot sauce makers will use either white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or, in some cases, lime juice to create that sour flavor. Other hot sauce producers may also ferment their hot sauce to add a unique flavor profile to the condiment. 

Another key ingredient to note is xanthan gum, a thickening agent added to hot sauces. But don’t worry, xanthan gum itself is natural and vegan — just like the large majority of hot sauces. Xanthan gum is also one hundred percent plant-based!

Specialized Hot Sauces

Meanwhile, some hot sauce types stick out from others and might not use the same ingredients that most popular hot sauces do.

Additionally, a Thai hot sauce, Sriracha, is made differently than the sriracha most Americans may know today. It uses Thai chili peppers, vinegar, and sugar, something not common in traditional hot sauces.

We can also note that most hot sauces use fresh chili peppers as the main ingredient, though some sauces use the less common option of dried and/or smoked chilis. For instance, the New Mexico chile pepper and the chipotle pepper are both dried chilis used often in hot sauces.

How Can You Make Your Own Hot Sauce?

Now, here’s something you might not see in traditional cookbooks: how to make your own hot sauce at home. Making homemade hot sauce is much simpler than you think. It is relatively easy to make in a food processor or blender at home.

Here is an easy hot sauce recipe to try:

First, choose your base pepper. If you’re looking for something mild, maybe try jalapeños, or if you’re a hot sauce aficionado, we’d suggest something hotter like a Scotch bonnet pepper. 

Simply take the hot chili peppers of your choice and add them to your blender or food processor. From there, add some vinegar, salt, a bit of water, and perhaps even sugar, all based on your taste preferences, and puree.

There you have it, your very own homemade hot sauce! It’s all up to you how you’d like to create your sauce, just adjust certain ingredients based on your own texture and flavor preferences. Feel free to add any other additional ingredients, such as garlic or honey.

Pairing Hot Sauce With Foods

Now that you know what goes into making hot sauce, what about making food with hot sauce? Let’s look into some dishes that go well with hot sauce so you can enjoy your sauce to its fullest potential. 

Since so many hot sauces are made with Mexican chile peppers, the spices and heat in hot sauce go great with Mexican dishes like tacos, huevos rancheros, or chicken taquitos. All of these dishes pair wonderfully with our TRUFF Hot Sauce to bring out those Mexican flavors. 

Another classic way to use hot sauce is in buffalo sauce, which is often used as a topping on buffalo wings. Do note that buffalo sauce itself is not considered hot sauce, but it uses hot sauce as its key ingredient alongside butter, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.

You can try our TRUFFaloTM wings recipe for a taste of buffalo sauce with our added hot sauce kick. It also uses our black truffle-infused TRUFF Hot Sauce, though you can also choose to use our TRUFF White Hot Sauce for a taste of white truffles. Or, for an even hotter version, use our TRUFF Hotter Sauce.

So go out there and use your new hot sauce knowledge. Make your own, or don’t (your choice!). Just know your ingredients, and we know it’ll be fantastic!


Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses | PMC

Capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin Determination in Chili Pepper Genotypes Using Ultra-Fast Liquid Chromatography | PMC

Chile (Capsicum spp.) as Food-Medicine Continuum in Multiethnic Mexico | PMC


Truff Logo

© 2023 TRUFF


Twitter logo

© 2023 TRUFF

Stay Updated

Subscribe for weekly recipes, updates, and more.





© 2023 TRUFF