Whether you’re looking to add extra alarms to your chili, give your omelets some oomph, or just put more spice in your life, hot sauce hits the spot. For many, it is a must-have condiment for a variety of homegrown and international cuisines, adding a dash of smoky heat to dishes as varied as pasta Bolognese, burgers, chilaquiles, lo mein, Buffalo wings, eggs, ramen, and fish and chips. A great hot sauce shouldn’t overwhelm food but bring out flavor while adding some fire. We wanted to find a sauce that had a good heat level without being outrageous, with a slightly smoky quality, a vinegary bite, and a subtle sweetness. Color and consistency were also considerations. A bright, vibrant sauce that wasn’t too thick or too watery was just what we were looking for. After blind-testing 10 widely available varieties, we found some sauces that ignited our palates and a few that flamed out.
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Best Hot Sauce Overall: Frank’s Red Hot ($3.29 for 12 fluid ounces) Pros: Judges savored the tangy, bright taste and strong spiciness. “This sauce would be really chicken-wing-friendly,” said one tester. “Addictive!” raved another.
Cons: Some tasters noted that this sauce was a little salty.
First Runner-Up: Crystal ($1.99 for 12 fluid ounces)
Pros: “A little lemony, very bright,” noted one taster. Others enjoyed this sauce’s thinner consistency and bold red coloring. The general consensus? “Hot and tasty!”
Cons: Some judges found this sauce to be too acidic.
Second Runner-Up: Cholula ($3.29 for 5 fluid ounces)
Pros: Tasters were taken with the strong earthy flavors and smoky aroma of this sauce. “Lots of visible spices, great flavor,” commented one tester. The thickness of the sauce was also very appealing to the judges, who noted that it would make an excellent topping for tacos and other Mexican dishes.
Cons: Most judges felt this sauce was on the mild side—if your taste runs to fiery, look elsewhere.
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The Other Contenders
Texas Pete was praised for its quick and potent heat, while Sriracha and Valentina were both admired for their complex flavors and thicker consistencies. Judges liked the straightforward burn of Tabasco and the strong but slightly less stinging heat of Red Devil, but both lost points for being highly acidic and watery. Louisiana earned points for its hints of sweetness but was ultimately judged too salty and tomatoey. And Tapatío lost favor among the tasters because of its unappealing dark brownish-red color and gritty texture.
Additional Taste Test Details
All 10 types of hot sauce evaluated are available in supermarkets nationwide. In order from highest to lowest score achieved, they are: Frank’s Red Hot, Crystal, Cholula, Texas Pete, Sriracha, Valentina, Red Devil, Tabasco, Louisiana, and Tapatío.
Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 10 brands of hot sauce. Results were ranked using the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best).
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