Just like most things in life, there is no “One Size Fits All” when it comes to hot sauce. Everyone has their own preferences, and one chilihead may turn his nose up at the same sauce another guy swears by. If you’ve been wondering why hot sauce is so popular and would like to try it for yourself, you need to find the right style that will suit your taste as you ease into the world of fiery foods. I put together a few suggestions of each of the most common styles of hot sauce to help get you started.
Then the blog got way too long, so I broke it up into 4 parts to make it easier to read! This first part in the series focuses on sweet hot sauces, the second part is about chipotle/roasted sauces, the third part is about green sauces, and the fourth part is about classic-flavored hot sauces.
First, I’d like to remind you that although these aren’t the HOTTEST hot sauces around, you’ll still notice their heat. If you’d like to branch out into trying spicier foods, expect your mouth to tingle or burn. If you don’t like this feeling, you can either persevere and get used to it as you try more over time (which you will), or you can drink some milk/take a spoonful of cream cheese to stop the burn quickly.
Something else to note: Tasting just the sauce on a spoon is fine, but I also encourage newbies to try sauces on or in foods. I believe that hot sauces are meant to complement and enhance a meal, and even just adding a few dashes to your favorite recipe could add a whole new dimension to your cooking. Okay, now onto the hot sauce…
If You Like Sweet Flavors, Try A Fruit-Based Hot Sauce
Some people who don’t like vinegar may have had a bad first impression with hot sauce if they tried a traditional Louisiana style. It turns out that not all hot sauces have an overwhelming vinegary taste. There are a bunch of fruit-based styles that can add a little kick to your baking or taste divine as an ice cream topping. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Irazu Mango Habanero (Medium)
This one is listed as “Medium,” but I’d place it more in the “Mild” category, which makes it a good one for beginners to start with. It’s got a nice, fresh mango flavor without too much sugary sweetness, so if you really like mangoes, you’ll probably enjoy this sauce. It gives a nice punch to chicken or veggies, and it’s pretty much ideal on fish tacos. Again, it is a milder heat level even though it uses habanero peppers, which are actually hotter than jalapenos, but the fruit cuts the heat.
2. Sweet Heat Gourmet Key Lime Pear Hot Sauce (Medium)
Just the name of this sauce makes my mouth water. Sweet Heat Gourmet Key Lime Pear Hot Sauce uses habanero peppers, too, but the key limes in this sauce really help to tone down the heat. They recommend using it with poultry, fish, or pork, but I actually use it on pierogis! I never really knew what to put on pierogis, but I tried ketchup, marinara sauce, honey mustard, other hot sauces, etc., and nothing tasted as perfect as this Key Lime Pear did.
3. Bravado Spice Co. Pineapple & Habanero (Medium)
Like the Key Lime Pear above, this sweet sauce is also made with habanero peppers, but the pineapple flavor does cut some of the heat. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this sauce so tasty, but another blogger pointed out that the habanero balances the pineapple flavor so it doesn’t taste overly sweet or sour. Just delicious. I personally like it best over vanilla ice cream, but you can use it with fish or pork, or even work it into a salsa.
4. Marie Sharp’s Orange Habanero (Medium)
Another unique and fruity habanero blend is Marie Sharp’s Orange Habanero. Marie Sharp’s hot sauces are a popular brand all over the world. Even though this one says “Hot” on the bottle, it would probably be classified as a “Medium” on the full hot sauce spectrum, so you can handle it. The orange pulp give it a nice bite of citrus that complements the habanero. Marie Sharp herself recommends working it into a seafood recipe.
Fruit-based hot sauces are my personal favorites, and I do enjoy a bit of heat sometimes. Don’t confuse sweet and fruity with wimpy because there are plenty of HOT sauces out there with a fruit base. In Part 2 of this blog series, I’ll introduce you to the chipotle and roasted-style sauces (my husband’s favorite style), which are smokier and great for grilling.