Killer Hot Sauce

Last year I gave this hot sauce out as Christmas presents and it was a big hit! My brother – I kid you not – drank it straight from the bottle! This year I managed to find some habañero peppers at the farmer’s market to kick up heat, so I hope he’ll use it more sparingly. 😉 I’m also making A LOT more. I’ve got over a gallon fermenting right now, and will probably make another gallon before summer ends. This recipe is for 1 quart, but I recommend doubling or quadrupling it when you find fresh hot peppers at your local market. I use big 3L or 4L Fido jars for fermenting mine. I like to use a mix of hot peppers – jalapeño, serrano, cherry bomb, and habañero – but feel free to use whatever is available to you. One tip I have is to snip off the stems, but leave the crowns; they impart a lovely earthy flavor. Adding the dried tomatoes at the end gives this hot sauce a little sweetness. I also love to throw in a couple of chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor, but that is optional. For information on how fermented pickling works, see my post for Killer Dill Pickles.

Killer Hot Sauce

Killer Hot Sauce

Killer Hot Sauce
Makes 1 quart or liter

1Tbs mustard seed
1 small head garlic
Assorted hot peppers, about ¾lb.
Brine: 2tsp salt dissolved in 2 cups water
¼ cup dried tomatoes
2 dried chipotle peppers

Put mustard seed in bottom of jar. Separate the garlic cloves, peel them, and slice off the root ends, then add them to the jar. Snip the stems off the peppers, but leave the crowns intact. Pack them firmly into the jar to fill to about 1 inch from the top (to the lower rim). Place a small weight on top, and then add brine to cover completely. (It may be helpful to put a grape leaf or oak leaf on top to prevent any peppers from poking above the surface.) Secure the lid: for a mason jar, place the lid on top and screw on the ring, then loosen it one-half turn; for a wire-bale jar clamp down the lid.

Peppers, garlic, and mustard seed in brine.

Allow to ferment 4-5 weeks until all bubbling has ceased and peppers have lost their crunch. The peppers will be considerably reduced in volume, with quite a lot of brine at the bottom. This is a good thing, so the sauce will not be too thick.

Fermented peppers – soft and tangy.

Place dried tomatoes and optional chipotle peppers in a bowl. Ladle out enough of the brine to cover them, and let them sit overnight until softened. Purée the fermented peppers, rehydrated tomatoes and chipotles, and all the brine until smooth. Pour back into jar and let sit a day or two for flavors to meld, then bottle and refrigerate.

Happy Fermenting!

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69 Responses

  1. Rebecca says:

    This looks absolutely wonderful!
    I’ve got quite a few pounds of jalapenos and serranos tucked up in the freezer that have been waiting for exactly this… and some smoked sun dried tomatoes that will work beautifully.
    Added bonus that this is the first fermented hot sauce recipe I’ve seen that doesn’t have you either cooking everything at the end or adding extra ACV. Thank you!

    • Sarah says:

      I’m not sure how viable the bacteria on the vegetables will be after freezing. You may want to add some fresh peppers to the jar to ensure success. Enjoy! 🙂

      • Rebecca says:

        Just a quick update.
        Started the peppers (mix of frozen Serrano and jalapeño from last year’s harvest) on Sunday and they are an insanely active ferment. I’m *very* glad I put a bowl underneath because it was so happy it bubbled over. 😀 I did a taste test on the spillage and it was absolutely delicious. Can’t wait for the hotsauce!
        I made sure that the garlic was fresh – I swiped two cloves when I was prepping a pound of it to ferment – but the peppers are much more active than the garlic by itself.
        I’m in NE Florida, and the household temp is kept in the mid 80’s.

  2. Dianna says:

    Yum! I’ve pickled jalapenos with great success…I will now give hot pepper sauce a try. My husband is a huge fan of hot pepper sauce. I only hope he will like the homemade variety!
    Thanks for the excellent instructions! Blessings to you.

  3. Susan says:

    Awesome, thanks! I love making edible Xmas gifts, and my ‘work-husband’ loves super spicy foods and hot sauce…this will be his present this year.

  4. Pat Bitton says:

    Sounds delicious – except for the tomatoes (to which I am allergic). Any suggestions for substitutions? Maybe sweet peppers?

  5. Ryyn says:

    How long would this last in the fridge?

  6. kristine says:

    I don’t have mustard seed, but have mustard powder. Do you think that would work?

  7. ann scott says:

    I am looking to see if there would be anyway to make this recipe shelf stable? Looking to put up our harvest and enjoybit throughout the year.ft

    • Sarah says:

      Fermented foods are shelf stable. They will not spoil if left out. However, they will continue to change. If you have a cold basement or garage, that would be a suitable place to store excess. Otherwise, you could can some it. Canning negates the beneficial enzymes and probiotics, but since this is only a condiment I wouldn’t worry about that too much.

  8. fawn says:

    This will by my first food fermenting trial. What do you use for a weight to hold it down? Is there anything else that can be used in place of grapeleaf that might be in a typical kitchen?

    thanks! Looks dynamite.

  9. fawn says:

    another question added to my last one…. we are supposed to keep the snap lid closed? When i brew Kombucha, i keep it open unless i am going for 2nd ferment. Just wanted to make sure! no risk of explosion?

    • Sarah says:

      Close the lid; there is no danger of explosion when fermenting vegetables – only with fruits and juices, which produce a lot of CO2. Kombucha contains acetic acid bacteria which must have access to oxygen to reproduce. Lactic acid bacteria (which ferment veggies) prefer an oxygen-free environment.

      • fawn says:

        Ok, another question… I have the most beautiful container of soon-to-be hot sauce waiting for me…. The container I used was a little big for my stuff. I used thick slices of carrots to make a cross-hatch cover and used a shot glass to weigh it down. Some of the carrots are peaking above the water level. Are they going to be full of boutulism?

        • Sarah says:

          Botulism is really not a risk with fermented veggies, but anything above the brine could attract mold. I would try to submerge them if possible.

          • fawn says:

            thanks. there is already white scum on the stuff above the water level- is it too late? And will I lose the precious anaerobic environment by opening it up to bury the carrots?
            First on-purpose fermentation adventure- thanks for the helps!

          • Sarah says:

            The brine is anaerobic whether the jar is open or closed, so popping the lid to make an adjustment is fine. White scum is probably kahm yeast. I would remove it, push the carrots down, and top off with more brine, if necessary.

  10. fawn says:

    I have a few questions I hope you can help with.
    Im getting on my 30 days of fermenting!! I haven’t really ever seen bubbling per se, so Im not sure exactly how to determine the doneness? do I cut the pepper to see if the crunch factor is gone? Also, I skimmed off the white kham yeast layer as you recommended- another less thick one has grown back and there is some bits of white throughout the jar and on the bottom as well. My brine is definitely more cloudy than the one in your picture- is this ok to eat?

    thanks so much!!

    • Sarah says:

      White sludge on the bottom and cloudiness in the brine are normal. Bubbling is less obvious in some jars, especially if the lid lets gas escape. The peppers should be pretty soft by now. If they are, you should go ahead and proceed with the recipe. 🙂

      • Peter says:

        I learned from another blogger that by putting a 1/2inch thick slice of onion on top keeps everything below the brine. I have made dozens of hot sauce and veggies this way without issues. Also adds some flavor. Try adding some blueberries or strawberries or mango. They add a great flavor with just a hint of sweetness. Currently brewing a fatalli, Habanaro, ghost sauce. Cannot wait. 2 weeks baby, then I’ll feel the pain.

  11. I have just put a quart jar to ferment try this sauce. I did not have any red jalapeños, so went all green. The jar was rather full, so I placed a little measuring glass container and while closing the lid it pressed down enough to get everything under the brine. By the time it is ready, I am hoping that I will have dried some tomatoes to add to it. If it turns out well I am sure I will be putting more and more jars up. Thank you for sharing this recipe and your knowledge.
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  12. Pasha says:

    Love this recipe Sarah….. Question – 2t salt…. coarse? fine? I only ever have coarse sea salt – so, would appreciate knowing what you are using so that I can adjust accordingly……. Great site!!! Oh – have the smokey corn on now :)) it looks to be a killer :))))

  13. Bethany says:

    Can you put the dried chipolte pepper in the bottom during ferment?

  14. Holly Carter says:

    When you say “remove the stem but leave the crowns intact.” I am working with little chili peppers, and wonder if you mean to remove all the green parts from stem attachement? I really want to leave them! (there are a LOT of peppers!)

    • Sarah says:

      The stems are the pokey part that connects the chile to the plant. The crown is the green leafy part at the top of the top of the chile where the stem is attached. 🙂

  15. Deb says:

    Hi Sarah,
    My peppers haven’t reduced in volume,it’s been 5 weeks,should I just go ahead or leave them a bit longer?
    I never had much bubbling either,just a few float up when I move the jar lol.

  16. Jan says:

    I made this recipe and would like to process it now. I don’t see a yeast film on top, but the liquid is cloudy. And one jar looks like it has very small white spots on the peppers.

    Is this yeast or mold? And is that jar safe?

    I’m about to puree this in my blender. Hope it’s tasty!

  17. Lindsey says:

    I just got the idea to make a fermented hot sauce as a Christmas gift today (I don’t like spicy things myself). I know that it will take longer than the five days I’ve got, but I figured I could get it started and include a “ready by” date on the bottle. My question is, do you think I could blend everything up to begin with, and let it ferment that way? Otherwise, it would require the recipient to blend it up (as well as rehydrate and add the dried peppers), which isn’t ideal. Any reason it couldn’t be fermented as a sauce?

    • Sarah Miller says:

      The ingredients get really soft during fermentation, for a nice smooth sauce at the end. If you were to blend it now, I don’t think it would be as smooth. Also, kahm yeast and mold are more of an issue with with a puree.

  18. Cindy Myers says:

    Well, I’m about to give up on fermentation. I just had to toss a large batch of sauerkraut. I went to blend my killer hot sauce and it smelled sour or bad too. It was actively fermenting in a 2 qt mason with kraut kap air lock on top. After a month I checked and the peppers hadn’t softened and the liquid wasn’t at the bottom like yours. My brine is still at the top of the jar. I let it go several more weeks. No signs of mold, and the cloudiness or kahm yeast is at the bottom. The off smell isn’t strong but it is there. Do I have to toss that too?

    • Sarah Miller says:

      Well, it is supposed to smell sour, and whole chiles have a kind of funky odor to them. I would take a tiny taste of the brine. If it tastes sour then you can be sure it is safe and you may proceed with blending.

  19. Cindy Myers says:

    Sorry to bug you again, but I blended my sauce, jarred with a regular cap not the airlock and it is very active again. I’ve been burping it several times a day. Should I put an airlock back on and let it do a second ferment until it calms down or just refrigerate as is?

  20. Merryn says:

    This is wonderful. It takes sriracha to a whole new level. I will be making it tonight thanks for sharing 😀

  21. Andrew says:

    I started my first attempt just over 3 weeks ago, using a combo of red chillies, red jalapenos and some ghost peppers. Filled a jar similar to what you instruct and added the liquid – like a couple of other commenters, after a couple of days it almost overflowed, as it expelled liquid from the peppers, which was cool and a good sign. Then, a few days later, the liquid level had receded back to where it was at the beginning. So after 22 days, I have the murky sediment at the bottom with the nice gap from the bottom to where the peppers now float. Haven’t seen anything growing up top – nothing to scrape away. I don’t see that much activity at this point, just the odd bubble. Is there value in waiting a couple more weeks? It seems to smell okay. I’m just wondering if it may be “done”. Most of the activity happened in the first week or so but it’s been fairly docile since.

  22. Kay says:

    Can’t wait to make this for Christmas gifts… Thanks for your generous sharing of “the recipe”… 🙂

  23. Bryan says:

    Instead of using a grape or oak leaf, I used cheese cloth to help hold the peppers down with a zip lock bag filled with water on top, is this ok

  24. Kay says:

    My peppers, etc have been working for 12 days and I too have the scummy stuff on top… Looks like skim milk… I removed it and pushed the peppers below the brine… I have a baggie full of brine sitting on top… I think I have too many peppers in the gallon jar… May have to make an adjustment… got my fingers crossed that this will be the best “Killer Hot Sauce” my tribe has ever tasted… 🙂

  25. Tim says:

    When I did this the first time, I bottled the sauce after a couple of months, and fermentation re-started in the fridge. Luckily I used plastic water bottles, which swelled up with the pressure instead of exploding… but it was tricky getting the pressure released without spraying the precious sauce all over! Took weeks of “burping” before it finally settled down. I’m suprised you don’t get pressure in those clamped Fidao jars.

  26. Kay says:

    I just got the gallon of peppers pureed and back in the jar for melding… My color is a dark chocolate slight dark orange ish … The taste is good and hot… I think I added too many dried tomatoes (when I put them in the brine, they turned it dark brown) and I didn’t have the dried chipotle so I used dried chili peppers… I reread the ingredients and was looking to see if I needed to add salt… Scratching my head on how to get that pepper sauce color… 🙂

  27. ValentineD says:

    Hi Sarah!
    I have a jar of chilli peppers fermenting right now (for a month now), and they will probably be ready soon since I live in Cambodia where the weather is (too) hot. I was considering adding pineapple to sweeten the sauce a bit (I cannot find any sun dried tomatoes). Do you think I could add some fresh pineapple when blending everything, without risking to spoil the sauce (I am afraid that the sugars would allow unhealthy bacteria to take-over good ones)? Or I could probably find some dried ones, or some dried mangoes, so what about following the same protocol than with the dried tomatoes but with one of these dried fruits? And finally, what about putting fresh or dried pineapple or mango during the fermentation? I will start a new batch this weekend to give away for xmas, so I am looking for ideas to pimp my sauce…
    Thanks for your help and big up for your blog, I love it!

    • Sarah Miller says:

      If you put the dried fruit in at the beginning it will lose its sweetness during fermentation. I think fresh pineapple or mango added just at blending sounds lovely, but be sure to refrigerate right away. 🙂

  28. illy says:

    My batch got kahm yeast … I removed it already but it is back now. I will remove it again before I blend it. I’m not sure if it will be back when I store the sauce in the fridge. Should I heat a little bit?

  29. Mike says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I just got done fermenting mine for about 4 or 5 weeks. One question though, did you strain the seeds out? The recipe didn’t mention that, but I wanted to be sure. I’ve made a couple other fermented hot sauces and had strained them then added a thickener with great results. I’d be willing to try something different and keep it all together though if that’s what you did.

  30. Lp says:

    Yo if your jars have yeast it’s not right and will impart bad flavor. What I do is prepare a new brine and rinse and wash the yeasty batch of peppers well, put into new jars with new brine, new ferment and it will fix it and not taste much different. I make a ton of gherkins fermented and learned to rinse that yeast off.

  31. Deb says:

    Mine got some kahm yeast around the edge of the jar and on the plastic bag filled with brine that I used to weight down my peppers. I have removed the bag, pitched the carrots that I had on top and any peppers that looked like they might have yeast. I also wiped off the yeast & closed up the jar. There was no mold evident (nothing black, green, pink or fuzzy), so I hope I’m still good to finish up my ferment? I am right at week 5, and have removed some brine to cover my dried tomatoes and let them soak over night before blending. Anxious to read any comments. Thanks!

  32. Don Augustyn says:

    I haven’t read the entire set of comments so this question may have come up before, forgive me if it has. Have you ever had a batch of peppers, Jalapeños in my case, completely lose their heat after fermentation? This happened to me twice. All flavor was gone and they were so mushy I dumped them out. They were in two one quart mason jars and there was no bad smell or anything. I had a theory that maybe it was because I used the wrong kind of culture starter since I never had this problem if it was a wild ferment. Anyone else ever have this happen? Or do you know if different starter bacteria result in different tasting peppers?

  33. Billy says:

    I want to make my own hot sauce so badly! This sounds delicious. Really want to give this a try. I have never fermented peppers before but it can’t be much different from the other stuff i’ve done! Thank you!

  1. January 2, 2015

    […] I made fermented hot sauce for Christmas gifts this year from the recipe at Killer Pickles and it came out sooo yummy!  I also fermented two kinds of mustard, which also came out very […]

  2. April 24, 2015

    […] was the days on end of 100+ degree F heat.  Given our abundance of hot peppers, when I came across this recipe by Killer Pickles, I knew I had to give it a […]

  3. September 18, 2015

    […] Killer Hot Sauce […]

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