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Like many condiments, hot sauce brands have attracted cult followings, with die-hard fans prepared to fight for what they believe to be the best recipe. Popular in Mexican, Central and South American, and Caribbean cuisine, there are many different types of hot sauce, also called chili sauce or pepper sauce, but they all contain chili peppers. The variety of pepper used influences the spice level of the sauce, with ghost pepper and habanero on the hotter side.
The list of ways to use hot sauce is seemingly endless: Put it on everything from eggs to tacos, or add it to soups, marinades, stir-fry dishes, and sauces (including the popular Buffalo wing sauce). Whether you want to buy bottles in bulk or try your hand at making your own with the help of a handy kit, here are the best hot sauces on the market.
Best Overall: Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce
The secret is out: Secret Aardvark’s Habanero Hot Sauce is downright tasty. While its price tag may be higher than many big-name brands, the item has garnered nearly universal praise, with hundreds of hot-sauce lovers awarding it five stars. A combination of habanero peppers and roasted tomatoes infuses the sauce with a one-of-a-kind zest, inspired by Caribbean and Tex-Mex flavors. The sauce is on the spicier end, clocking in at 5,000 Scoville units, but customers say it’s versatile and balanced enough to pair with a variety of meals. Secret Aardvark even offers a number of recipes that incorporate the sauce on its website, ranging from marinades to, yes, cocktails.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Tapatio Hot Sauce 5 Ounce
With glowing customer reviews, an affordable price, and an unbeatable taste, Tapatío’s is the perfect mealtime kick. This authentic Mexican hot sauce is crafted from red peppers and a blend of rich spices, delicious on everything from tacos and burritos to eggs, fish, and more. Tapatío’s is easy to find both in-store and online, and you can purchase the condiment in a variety of sizes, including 5, 10, and 32-ounce bottles, as well as a whopping 1-gallon option. Most importantly, Tapatío’s lands smack-dab in the middle on the spiciness scale. Expect it to be slightly milder than popular brands like Tabasco and Cholula but hotter than Sriracha and Frank’s Red Hot.
Best for Wings: Frank's RedHot Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce
Some people argue that the only proper hot sauce for wings is Frank's. It has the tartness from the vinegar and a little bite from the cayenne peppers. It’s not just great on Buffalo wings, though. It can add just the right flavor to spicy meatballs, deviled eggs, or even baked beans. This is a 23-ounce bottle, so you’ll have enough to use it in recipes and as a condiment for tacos, pizza, and more.
Best for Tacos: Cholula Original Hot Sauce
You’re likely to find Cholula hot sauce on the table of your favorite Mexican restaurant, ready to be added to your tacos, drizzled on your burritos, or sprinkled on your carne asada. Cholula is made in Mexico and includes both arbol and piquin peppers along with vinegar and spices for great heat and complex flavor. Not just a table condiment, you can add it to your rice dishes, soups, stews, and more, or even use it to help a salt rim adhere to your cocktail glass.
Best Mexican: Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce
Founded in Mexico and produced in Mexico, Valentina’s hot sauce perfectly captures the savoriness and zest that has come to define the condiment—and it's been doing it for over 60 years. The simple recipe of chili peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices has changed little over that time, and for good reason. Customers say the sauce is mild as far as spice goes yet packed with flavor. Valentina’s is available in two varieties: hot, which measures 900 Scoville units, and extra hot, which comes in at 2,100 SVU. The bottles are easy to find online and come in two sizes, 12.5 ounces, and 34 ounces.
Best Truffle: TRUFF Hot Sauce, Black Truffle Infused
If it seems that the unique flavor of truffle would get drowned by hot sauce, think again. TRUFF hot sauce provides the heat as well as the truffles, in a unique sauce that turns taco Tuesday into a gourmet affair. Not just for tacos, it’s also great on burgers and can be used in a marinade, sauce, or dip, so it’s great for chicken, steak, fries, and chips. This original version of the sauce packs medium heat, but a hotter sauce is also available for those who want more kick. This is gluten-free, vegan, and preservative-free and comes in a 6-ounce bottle that will look good in the kitchen and on the table—meaning it’s also great for gifting.
Best Habanero: El Yucateco Salsa Picante Verde de Chile Habanero
El Yucateco is one of the hot sauce brands you’ll find on heavy rotation in most Mexican restaurants. Made from habanero peppers, this green sauce adds a hefty kick and has a Scoville rating of 9000, but the flavor still comes through and the heat disappears fast enough that you’ll be going back for more... and more! If you can’t handle the heat of using this as a drizzle on your tacos, you can add it to your salsa or mix it into your guacamole. It can also add a delicious kick to your ramen or pho, or add a drop to your barbecue sauce to give it a kick.
Best Louisiana: SLAP YA MAMA All Natural Louisiana Style Hot Sauce
Do you remember when jalapenos used to be considered a very hot pepper? Now, compared to the hotter varieties of peppers, jalapenos are pretty tame, but they’ve still got a little bit of a kick along with great flavor. While this is a Louisiana style sauce, you don’t have to stick to Cajun recipes when you use it. Feel free to drizzle it on all your favorite foods, from tacos to jambalaya to your grilled chicken, smoked ribs, or oven-roasted meats. It’s also great in your red beans and rice or your black bean soup.
Best Sriracha: Bushwick Kitchen Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha Hot Sauce
This sriracha and gochujang sauce from Bushwick Kitchen has a delicious and unique taste that lends itself to a variety of dishes. Users praised the subtle sweetness, the fermented flavor, and the kick from the peppers. However, this isn't the hottest sauce on our list, which means you can add more to get the flavor you crave on eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, stews, marinades, and more. The only complaint people seem to have is that they wish it came in a larger bottle (it comes in a 10.5-ounce bottle) because it gets used up so fast!
Best Variety Pack: Yellowbird Sauce Hot Sauce Combo
When everyone in the family likes a different heat level, this three-pack of hot sauces will make everyone happy. It’s great for parties and potlucks, where guests can sample all three and then choose their favorite. This variety pack includes a red jalapeno hot sauce, a green serrano hot sauce, and an orange habanero hot sauce. This includes three 9.8 ounce squeeze bottles, with one of each flavor.
Best Ghost Pepper: Dave's Gourmet Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce
Dave’s Gourmet makes a wide variety of sauce, salsas, and condiments, like this ghost pepper salsa. Ghost peppers, also known as Bhut Jolokia, are one of the hottest peppers you’ll face, but they’re tempered somewhat in this sauce so you’ll still have taste buds left after you try it. Still, it’s a very hot sauce if you’ve only dabbled in the milder varieties, so if you don’t want it full strength, you can add a little to your slow-cooker chili or add just a drop to your salsa. This is a slightly thin sauce, so it’s easy to drizzle just a drop at a time if you don’t want extreme heat. Besides the heat, it has a mildly smoky flavor. If you’re really adventurous, add a drop to your frozen margarita or Bloody Mary cocktail.
Best Avocado: Kumana Avocado Hot Sauce
Avocado hot sauces may not be familiar—yet—but they’re a tasty alternative to more traditional sauces. This trio of avocado hot sauces from Kumana includes the original version that’s spicy (but not excessively spicy), a sweet version, and a hot version. The avocado tempers the heat and adds a creamy texture that makes it great on tacos, omelets, tomato salads, burritos, or just about any dish that needs a little bit of heat.
Best Kit: The Chili Lab Homemade Hot Sauce Kit
If you love hot sauce, why not make your own? This handy kit includes two different spice blends that will let you make two different 4-ounce bottles of hot sauce. Once spice mix is fruity and smoky, while the other has citrus and herbal notes. It only takes a few minutes to prep the hot sauce mix and then it needs to age for three days—so you’ll have your own hot sauce blend in no time. The bottles with corks are included, along with a fine-mesh strainer and a stainless steel funnel, so you can continue experimenting with your own spice mixes after you’ve made and used your first batches.
If you're looking for a middle-of-the-road hot sauce in terms of spiciness—and one that will add the perfect flavor to a variety of meals—you can't go wrong with Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce. Looking for something more gourmet to treat yourself or to gift a foodie? We suggest trying TRUFF Hot Sauce, Black Truffle Infused.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. She specializes in product reviews and recipes, has written her own cookbook, and knows what to reach for when she wants to add a spicy kick to everything from eggs to tacos to marinades.