Hot Sauces Around the World and 10 Tips for Making Great Hot Sauce

Learn about the importance of hot chiles across the world and how and what makes them and the cuisines they influence distinct.

| September 2019

Photo from Adobe Stock/grinchh

Unlike many other vegetables and fruits, hot chiles grow all over the world and consequently are found in many cuisines. Their oldest origin has been traced back 7,000 years, where remnants of chiles were found at prehistoric Peruvian burial grounds. More evidence of chile cultivation was found in Mexican cave dwellings dated 3400 b.c.e. and also among Southwestern Pueblo tribes from 900 c.e.

Chiles grew wild over all of South America, much of Mexico, and the southern tip of Texas. Birds expanded the sprawl of chiles even more. Birds are immune to capsicum, so when they ate these chiles, they carried the seeds and dispersed them far and wide. The chiles themselves were very easy to transport, so Columbus was able to return to Spain from the Americas with chiles, thereby introducing them to Europe, and Portuguese explorers introduced them to Asia. Today chile sauces belong to every continent on earth, and one can find signature hot sauces from cuisines all over the globe.

Each sauce has a few ingredients or methods that are indicative of its style. Some sauces reflect a combination of cultures and cuisines, but among the hundreds of traditional hot sauces, the following are some of the most recognizable. They are easy to find on grocery store shelves or to make yourself at home.

Louisiana-style hot sauce is known for its blend of red chiles, like tabasco chiles or cayenne peppers, which are combined with vinegar and salt and can be fermented for years to develop flavor. Brands like Crystal, Louisiana, Texas Pete, and Frank’s RedHot are among the most well known in this category. Perhaps the most ubiquitous Louisiana-style hot sauce is Tabasco, first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny on Avery Island, Louisiana. Today, the Tabasco brand has expanded from their original recipe to produce flavors like chipotle, green jalapeno, Buffalo, and habanero to compete with the expanding hot sauce market.

Called “pepper sauce,” hot sauces in the Caribbean islands are extremely spicy and often feature tropical fruits combined with very hot chiles, most notably the Scotch bonnet. This close cousin of the habanero pepper may also be called Bahama Mama, Scotty Bons, or Bonney pepper. This distinctive Caribbean ingredient is fresh, fruity, and one of the hottest chiles on record. It is found in jerk seasoning, a common flavoring found throughout the islands. Though most people use it as a marinade, jerk sauce is a condiment too. “Jerk” is also part of a method of barbecuing that dates back 1,200 years to the native Arawak Indians, originally from what is today Guyana, and to the Caribs from South America. They used a mixture of chiles, spices, and garlic rubbed onto their meat and then cooked it slowly over a hot wooden grate known as a barbacoa. Today dry jerk spice blends and jerk sauces are used for chicken, pork, goat, beef, and fish.



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