1. La Costena Chipotles in Adobo – Medium
When it comes to utility, chipotles — smoked, ripe red jalapeño peppers that traditionally hail from the Mexican state of Chihuahua — are incredibly versatile. They appear whole, as a powder or in hot sauce form in Mexican and Southwestern dishes. Our favourites, however, are these canned versions, marinated in vinegar, garlic and tomato purée. They’re rich, flavour-packed and incredibly handy in your pantry: blend them into sauces, condiments or marinades or throw them into a slow cooker with your favourite braising meat.
2. Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce – Hot
Popularized by South African roast chicken chain Nando’s (which now has nearly 40 locations across Canada), piri-piri sauce was commercialized by the Portuguese, who encountered the tiny piri-piri (or African bird’s eye chili) peppers after colonizing Mozambique. The peppers are coarse and spicy and the sauce, which incorporates lemon, sweet peppers and a variety of herbs, is great as a marinade for grilled meats or as a finishing sauce to add kick to any dish.
3. Huy Fong’s Sriracha Sauce – Mild-Medium
As trendy and beloved as hot sauces come, sriracha is made from red jalapeño peppers, garlic and vinegar. Tangy, mildly spicy and incredibly addictive, the traditional Thai condiment is used on everything from fresh spring rolls to avocado toast. Not convinced of the sauce’s popularity? Huy Fong sells about 20 million of the distinctive red and green bottles annually, Lay’s created a sriracha-flavoured chip and there’s even a cookbook dedicated to sriracha-accented recipes.
4. Huy Fong’s Chili Garlic Sauce – Medium-Hot
While sriracha is traditionally used as a condiment — a sort of spice-lovers ketchup — its close relative, chili garlic sauce, is a less-sweet, thicker concoction, packed with pepper seeds and pulp. Made from coarsely chopped dried red chili peppers and heavy on the garlic, the paste-like sauce, claimed to be of Indo-Chinese origin, is perfect for stir fries, soups or even a plate of eggs.
5. Frank’s RedHot Sauce – Mild
Nowadays, Frank’s RedHot Sauce is most well-known for its profane ads (seriously, who puts this sh*t on everything?) and countless variations. The original, created in 1896 in Cincinnati, gained acclaim when Teressa Bellissimo of Buffalo’s Anchor Bar and Grill used it as a key ingredient when she crafted the first buffalo wing sauce in 1964. Made with cayenne peppers, vinegar and garlic, Frank’s original recipe is ideally suited to spice up mac and cheese, pizza and, of course, chicken wings.
6. Tabasco Original Red Sauce – Mild-Medium
Arguably America’s oldest mass-produced hot sauce, Tabasco is considered by heat-seekers to be the layman’s choice. And, in a pinch, it’s great for spicing up chili, stews and even tacos. True to the original recipe created in 1868, the hot sauce is still made from Mexican tabasco peppers, distilled vinegar, and salt from Avery Island, Louisiana. Mildly spicy, tart and, ultimately, accessible, Tabasco is the favourite hot sauce of Queen Elizabeth II and there are reportedly even bottles of it on Air Force One.
7. Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce Picante – Mild-Medium
One of the most widely available Mexican-made hot sauces worldwide (and the best-selling hot sauce in Mexico), Valentina hails from Guadalajara and is known for its mild spice and full-flavoured, citrusy taste. More condiment than cooking sauce, and slightly thicker than Tabasco in consistency, Valentina is made from red chili peppers and is popular at taquerias, of varying authenticity, throughout North America. For added kick, try the extra hot version.
8. GiGi Bomba Calabrese – Medium
Think of Bomba as an Italian salsa, made from oil-packed, cherry-sized Calabrian hot peppers and a paste of sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, fennel and olives. The addictive, spicy spread hails from Calabria in the toe of Italy, a region known for its fiery food. While it’s not the easiest to come by, most Italian specialty food stores keep it in stock. Try it with bruschetta, pizza or pasta (or in an arrabbiata sauce).
9. Grace Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce – Very hot
Though scotch bonnet peppers are ubiquitous in cooking throughout the Caribbean and West Africa, their most popular application is arguably in the marinade for jerk chicken and pork recipes, giving that requisite sweet, spicy, floral taste to the traditional Jamaican dish. Don’t let the benign name and the pepper’s adorable appearance fool you: this hot sauce is not for the faint of heart, ranking just under piping habaneros on the spice meter.