A Dash of Hot Sauce History

with Stephanie Bullen
Chief Flavor Advisor
January 14, 2014
Tags: Caribbean chiles harissa hot hot sauce spicy Sriracha

Nearly every cuisine has a version of hot sauce that is used regularly as a condiment. Since International Hot & Spicy Day is this week on January 16, we thought we’d give a shout out to some of the staple hot sauces as well as some that have gained popularity in recent years.

It’s quite possible that the introduction of chile peppers is the greatest contribution the American continents made to the culinary world. The Columbian Exchange, sparked by Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas in 1492, eventually spread capsicums to all other inhabited continents. These chiles ultimately transformed condiments worldwide, giving us an amazing variety of hot sauces to spice up our food. Here are some of our favorites:

homemade srirachaHomemade Sriracha

Tabasco: This American-born hot sauce is so popular that it’s become a household condiment staple and is a common recipe ingredient (Bloody Mary, anyone?). Created in the 1860s by a Louisiana gardener, Edward McIlhenny, the original Tabasco sauce recipe included Capsicum frutescens peppers from Mexico or Central America, which McIlhenny grew himself from imported seeds. He mashed the red peppers with a local Louisiana sea salt and fermented them in oak barrels with white wine vinegar. The recipe continues to be made in much the same way today.

Sriracha: Thailand’s gift to America has gained a cult-like following, with iPhone cases and cookbooks dedicated the spicy sauce. The most popular version of the sauce contains red jalapenos, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. If you’re feeling adventurous, make your own with our Homemade Sriracha recipe.

Harissa Spiced Green Beans

Harissa: Originating in North Africa, harissa is traditionally made with piri piri peppers—a labor-intensive crop not commonly found outside of the region. American versions use a variety of chiles to achieve the heat. Recipes for harissa vary widely but typically include coriander, caraway, and garlic, usually in combination with some other spices. Those spices pack a punch in our Harissa Spiced Green Beans recipe.

Gochujang: This hot new condiment (pardon the pun) from Korea has a savory, umami flavor resulting from the fermentation process. The ingredients are simple but distinctive, setting it apart from other hot chile pastes, with the inclusion of sticky rice and fermented soybeans. Gochujang is an essential part of bibimbap (a rice bowl dish) and Korean fried chicken.

Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce

Bajan Pepper: Probably the least popular on this list, Bajan pepper sauce is a staple Caribbean hot sauce used to accompany Barbadian cuisine. The traditional ingredients include habanero peppers, mustard, vinegar, onions, and turmeric. You can prepare a simple homemade version using our recipe for Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce, which is an essential ingredient in our Bajan Hot Pepper Grilled Chicken recipe.

Whether you choose something more familiar, like Tabasco, or you branch out to the exotics like gochujang adding a bit of zip to your food is easier than ever. If you decide to make your own hot sauce, just remember that you can vary the heat level depending on the type of chile you use. And other variations in ingredients…different types of vinegar, sugar, mustard, or herbs…will subtly alter the flavor of your dish, so we suggest experimentation!

As always, we’d love to hear your feedback about our spices and our recipes. You can review our recipes online or send your own recipe creations to testkitchen@savoryspiceshop.com.

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