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The 6 Best Hot Pepper Sauce Substitutes in a Recipe

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For those who don’t have access to hot pepper sauce, or the ingredients to make your own, there are some really good substitutes that can give you that flavor and spice you are seeking.

1. Chili Powder

Red Chili Powder

If you don’t have hot pepper sauce and are simply looking for a bit of heat to spice up your food, then chili powder should do the trick. While many people use different types of chili peppers to make their homemade hot pepper sauce, then using chili powder as a substitute will provide them with the same basic flavor.

But, because I always use cayenne peppers for making hot pepper sauce, the flavor of chili powder will give me a slightly different taste, although probably not enough to be noticeable to most people.

Chili powder is made of several types of peppers, so the range is considerable. But here are just a few examples, although there are many more we could add to the list.

  • Ancho
  • Jalapeno
  • Cayenne

Substitute ⅛ teaspoon of chili powder for 1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce.

2. Habanero Sauce

Homemade Organic Habanero Hot Sauce in a Bottle

Habanero sauce is another substitute for hot pepper sauce, but it is much hotter than cayenne peppers and sauces made from cayenne pepper. Habanero sauce is made from one of the hottest peppers and will require caution with its use. While the cayenne pepper has a milder flavor with just a hint of heat, the habanero pepper has its own unique taste that will change and even dominate the taste of the food on which it is used. The habanero pepper tastes sweet, fruity, and floral, is crunchy, and loaded with heat.

The habanero pepper is one of the spiciest peppers and is ranked 150,000 to 575,000 SHU, making them among the hottest peppers on the Scoville scale.

Substitute habanero sauce for hot pepper sauce on a 1:1 basis.

3. Hot Paprika

Paprika is made from a variety of peppers ranging in spiciness from mild to very hot. The difference in spiciness gives us the 3 primary types of paprika. While they look the same, the difference is obvious in the taste.

  1. Regular Paprika is the mild version which is made from dried red bell peppers and is primarily used for its vibrant red color as a garnish. It makes a striking garnish for deviled eggs and potato salad. Regular paprika, because of its mild flavor, would not be a good substitute for hot pepper sauce.
  2. Hungarian Paprika, however, is a different story. Paprika is known as the national spice of Hungary, and there are a total of 8 different versions of Hungarian paprika. The different versions of Hungarian paprika range from mild, which is similar to regular paprika, to strong and very spicy.  But the hotter versions can definitely be used as a substitute for hot pepper sauce.
  3. Spanish Paprika, like Hungarian Paprika, can be found in different versions. But Spanish paprika is available in only 3 versions: mild, medium, and hot. Some of the Spanish paprika, however, differs from all the other types of paprika because it is made from peppers that have been dried over an oak fire giving the paprika made from grinding these fire-dried peppers a smoky flavor that is not found in other types of paprika. The hotter types of Spanish Paprika that do not have a smoky flavor could also be used as a substitute for hot pepper sauce.

Regular Paprika, which is primarily made from bell peppers, ranks on the Scoville scale at only 500 to 1,000 SHUs, but when you get into Hungarian and Spanish paprika, which include other types of spicy peppers, then those paprikas go up dramatically on the scale depending on what the other types of peppers are.

Substitute ⅛ teaspoon of hot paprika for every 1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce.

4. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes in a bowl

Red pepper flakes make a great substitute for hot pepper sauce in a pinch. Often used to enhance the taste of pizza, red pepper flakes are made from different types of chili peppers, primarily cayenne. But, even though the taste of the peppers used to make the hot pepper sauce and hot pepper flakes are very similar or even exactly the same since hot pepper sauce is made by adding vinegar to the peppers, the vinegar taste will be missing when using red pepper flakes.

But, if what you are looking for is the spiciness of the peppers to add some heat to the dish you are making, then red pepper flakes will make an excellent substitute for hot pepper sauce.

Cayenne peppers rank 50,000 to 100,000 SHU on the Scoville scale.

Substitute ⅛ teaspoon of red pepper flakes for every ½ teaspoon of hot pepper sauce.

5. Crystal Hot Sauce

Crystal Hot Sauce is an excellent substitute for hot pepper sauce. Most other hot sauces contain additional ingredients, but Crystal hot sauce contains only aged red cayenne peppers, vinegar, and salt. These are exactly the same ingredients found in my homemade hot pepper sauce. The only difference is that the peppers in Crystal hot sauce are ground before being added to the salt and vinegar, while homemade hot pepper sauce is made by pouring boiling vinegar over whole cayenne peppers to which salt has been added.

By using Crystal hot sauce, you will get the same flavor that you get from pouring homemade hot pepper sauce over your food with the exception that you do not have the hot peppers to munch on.

Cayenne peppers rank 30,000 to 50,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) on the Scoville scale.

Substitute Crystal hot sauce for hot pepper sauce on a 1:1 basis.

6. Tabasco Sauce

A bottle of Tabasco hot sauce

Now we get to Tabasco Sauce which, in my opinion, is the best substitute for homemade hot pepper sauce. Tabasco has been made and marketed in the South Louisiana area since 1868 and has many dedicated users, especially in the South, who refuse to use any other type of hot sauce.

But, what is interesting to me is that the recipe for Tabasco Sauce requires only three ingredients: aged red peppers, salt, and distilled vinegar. Those are the same ingredients used in homemade hot pepper sauce, with the exception that fresh peppers in all colors and stages of development are used in the homemade version. The differences between the two types of hot sauce include:

The peppers used in Tabasco Sauce are made into a mash that is aged for 3 years in white oak barrels before they go into making the hot sauce. Homemade hot pepper sauce, on the other hand, is made with fresh peppers.

Tabasco Sauce is a mixture of mashed peppers, salt, and vinegar to make a liquid sauce, while homemade hot pepper sauce is made with whole or sliced peppers that are suspended in white distilled vinegar.

According to Ochsner Health, which is one of the most well-known and respected medical facilities in the South, Tabasco Sauce is among the healthiest of all hot sauces because it is low in sodium and has no added ingredients.

Tabasco ranks on the Scoville scale at 2,500 to 5,000 SHUs.

Tabasco Sauce can be substituted for hot pepper sauce at a ratio of 1:1.

What is the Healthiest Hot Sauce?

According to Ochsner Health, among the healthiest hot sauces is Tabasco Sauce because it is low in sodium with only 35 milligrams per teaspoon and contains only peppers, vinegar, and salt with no additional ingredients, which compares favorably with homemade hot pepper sauce.

What Is The Scoville Heat Chart?

In 1912, a pharmacologist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale or measurement to compare the level of heat provided by the various types of peppers that contain capsaicin and their effects on the human body. Capsaicin is the active element found in hot peppers that produces a burning sensation whenever it touches any part of the human body. In fact, it is a chemical irritant for all mammals, not just humans.

A pharmacologist is a scientist who studies the effects of drugs, chemicals, and other substances on the biological system. Through his work, Scoville developed a test that allowed him to rate each pepper for the amount of capsaicin and to compare all types of peppers. Scoville’s scale is based on the amount of dilution that is necessary to eliminate the burning sensation caused by the peppers when ingested. So, the higher the number on the scale, the hotter the pepper.

Recipe For Homemade Hot Pepper Sauce

Homemade sauce made of peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables in a glass jar

When someone mentions hot pepper sauce, for me, it conjures up visions of picking cayenne peppers from a bush in the garden and making homemade hot pepper sauce.

The process of making homemade hot pepper sauce is one of the easiest canning projects to make. You simply pour boiling vinegar over peppers to which salt has been added. Here is the complete process.

Ingredients:

  • Hot Peppers (Use only unblemished peppers)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Wash the peppers thoroughly and trim the stems, leaving only about 1/2”.
  2. Wash the jars, lids, and rings well and sterilize the jars.
  3. Fill the sterilized jars with peppers, and add salt to each jar, ½ teaspoon per pint, 1 teaspoon per quart.
  4. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil over medium heat. You will need approximately 1 cup of vinegar for each pint of peppers.
  5. Fill the jars with the boiling vinegar, leaving a 1” headspace.
  6. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, wet cloth.
  7. Apply the lids and rings to the jars and hand tighten, firm but not overly tight.
  8. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
  9. Check the lids for a good seal and wash and dry the jars. If any jars did not seal, refrigerate and use those first.
  10. Label the jars and store them in a cool, dry area away from any heat or light source, like a pantry or cabinet, until ready to use.

Please note that this recipe will work no matter how many peppers you have. You can make 1 jar or a dozen. A good rule of thumb for measuring the vinegar is that for a pint of peppers, it usually requires about 1 cup of vinegar.

Final Thoughts

The process of making your own hot pepper sauce is quick and easy and is a great way to preserve those extra peppers when you happen to have a plant that just won’t stop producing. The hot pepper sauce will last for a long time and is a very nice gift idea and a treasure for those who love the spicy zing it adds to their food.

But, if you happen to be out of the homemade stuff, any of the substitutes mentioned here will get you by until the pepper plants are in full production in the spring.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The 5 Best Substitutes for Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

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