We put the tastiest, hottest chilli sauces through their paces in an assortment of edible ideas – not just meals, but pickles, sweets and cocktails – plus you were hot on our heels with some spicy hacks of your own
Dale Berning Sawa
Dale Berning Sawa
Fri 24 Feb 2017 15.03 GMTLast modified on Tue 9 Jul 2019 09.35 BST
The (un)usual suspects: but which one’s merchandise is hottest? An illustration of hot sauces.
The (un)usual suspects: but which one’s merchandise is hottest? Illustration: Dale Berning Sawa
Hot sauce is 2016-17’s must-have edible accessory: like Beyoncé, we all know to carry some in our bags, and slather it on, well, everything. When we say hot sauce, we’re talking the table-top condiment bottles – not chilli pastes (like aji panca, harissa, gochujang) or chilli-sauce ingredients (such as chilli bean or XO sauce), or any kind of chilli jam or chutney (or baseball bats). Today we focus on the slim bottles of mostly red heat that abound in your fridges and are easily found in supermarkets or online. There are plenty of extreme options in hot-sauce-land (cue Dave’s Insanity) – but we like our heat to come with flavour instead. So here are our nine easy hacks to spice up your cooking …
1 Condiments The natural first step is to spruce up other condiments with hot sauce. Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, butter, soy sauce, citrus juice, chutney – they can all join forces with chilli, with pleasing results. At the mild and creamy end of the spectrum – butter, mayo, cream cheese – we’d opt for a thicker, sweeter sauce (sriracha, Lingham’s or peri peri), whereas thinner, hotter vinegar-based sauces work well with the more complex condiments (ketchup, mustard et al).
2 Baked beans Stirring hot sauce through a can of baked beans as you heat it up will bring a welcome kick to your fry-up or baked tattie. Top with grated cheese and you’re sorted.
A homely recipe for stacked blue corn tortillas with red chilli sauce
3 Chicken Frank’s Redhot Sauce is famous as the spice in the original buffalo wings, and serves as a good example of how much hot sauce loves a bird. The Kitchn does an excellent easy fix for oven-baked buffalo chicken wings, using butter, your favourite hot sauce and salt, with a creamy blue cheese dressing to serve. It is also a welcome addition to any marinade – buttermilk-based, or otherwise.
4 Stews Of course, beyond chicken, hot sauce is all you need to bring some spice to stews, ragus, hotpots and braises. US website Food52 lists Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach’s pork shoulder ragu in their “genius recipes” column: the meat braises in tomato, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel, onion, garlic and a crucial tablespoonful of hot sauce. Try out the same amount in your next batch of bolognese, a shepherd’s pie or a vegetable stew.
5 Seafood Just as oysters aren’t ever quite as joyous as when drizzled with green Tabasco, so any seafood stir-fry, prawn cocktail or fish pie – or even your basic tin of tuna – will be transformed with a generous helping of hot sauce from the outset. It’s the way the heat counters the sweetness of the fish.
6 Pickles Adding hot sauce to your pickle brine just makes sense, given that most hot sauces come with built-in vinegar. Bon Appetit magazine do a sriracha chard-stem pickle with celery seeds, sugar, white wine vinegar and onion that we’re quite eager to try.
7 Pale foods Stir some hot sauce through cheesy pasta sauce, or into a mac’n’cheese mixture, spike your roux, scramble your eggs or mash your potatoes with a generous sprinkling.
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8 Cocktails Beyond bloody marys, hot sauce works wonders in a drink: cue the cocky rooster – a cold beer with sriracha, lime juice and Maggi sauce. (courtesy of the Kitchn and NYC banh mi restaurant, An Choi)
9 Sweets Just as chilli works with chocolate, caramel and butter, so can hot sauce. In most cases, it comes with a whole lot of vinegary tang, which is something to bear in mind when working it into recipes. Add just a few drops – atop a fruit salad, or swirled into a batch of brownies or a hot caramel sauce to top some ice-cream.
How you cook with your hot sauce …
Tabasco is a steady go-to: @l_vincentz dashes it over fresh, still-warm popcorn, @louisecarew puts it in arrabiata sauce, and @rhiannondeas mixes it with plain yoghurt, lemon juice, spices and black pepper for a curry marinade. Another excellent marinade, this time for lamb chops, comes courtesy of @shahmeel2012: “two parts honey BBQ sauce to one part sriracha”. @paul.cashmore cooks up prawns “on a low heat with olive oil, lots of garlic, fresh chillies and then Encona Original Hot Pepper Sauce added at the last moment”. Beautiful served on rye toast.
@proresting is a sucker “for Encona’s Hot Pepper Sauce poured generously over savoury porridge topped with a poached egg”. @rasika254 mixes “Pussers or any other West Indian scotch bonnet hot sauce with mayo and ketchup for a Marie Rose sauce on fried tilapia sandwiches”. And @dyhohen loves Aunt May’s Bajan Pepper Sauce on a lamb neck Wellington.
And then there are the chilli heads proper, who go for not one, but two hot sauces in a dish: @jotezza scrambles eggs with Tabasco, then tops them with sriracha. And @angesdesucre combines sriracha and Frank’s Redhot sauce in buttermilk to marinate chicken before coating it in seasoned self-raising flour to fry.
…. And some craft brands you asked us to check out
“It’s all about Tubby Toms,” says @franodimloughlin. And @hettykitt – along with, seemingly, the rest of Instagram – agrees: good for buffalo-wing marinades, cheese and onion toasties, glazing belly pork and spicing up slaws. Sauce Shop gets quite a few mentions – @purpleneeks recommends “Indonesian peanut soup with its green sriracha. I get through a bottle every other week.” The Rib Man is doing well in London – @keefola turns to him for a “breakfast of champions!” – while in Birmingham, @hannahmkeating points to Pip’s Hot Sauce: “Only got a new bottle on Friday and it’s a third gone! I put mine in mayo for a spicy condiment, and a splash in homemade baked beans!”; @flyingcrumpets highlights Jock’s hot sauce, “amazing homemade hot sauce made by my old banjo teacher. He grows the chillies himself, in Shropshire.” Special mentions from @periksen for El Yucateco, Marie Sharp’s, KanKun and Glasgow Chilli Guy.