We Tried 19 Sauces From Hot Ones, Here's How They Rank

"Hot Ones" is more than just a YouTube show; it's a sensation. "The show with hot questions and even hotter wings" gives viewers an insight into how their favorite celebrities act when their guards are down, or, more accurately, when their guards are broken down by eating 10 wings coated in increasingly spicy hot sauces (via YouTube). By the time the 7th or 8th wing rolls around, it's rare to see a guest who doesn't at least have a bit of a red face and a few tears in their eyes.

Fans can join in on the fun by ordering the hot sauces featured on the show. We needed to see how we would fare when facing the "Hot Ones" challenge. Would we accept the last dab with relaxed stoicism like Thundercat, or would we tap out after the second wing like DJ Khaled?

We tried the complete sauce lineups from Hot Ones Season 19 and 23. We're ranking them not by heat level, but by overall deliciousness from worst to best. (We'll touch on our methodology more at the end.) However, we will mention the Scoville Heat Unit rating of each sauce (which runs from 0 at the mildest to 1,500,000+ at the evilest) so you'll know what you're getting into spice-wise if you decide to buy one.

19. Chile Monoloco Matasanos

With a name that translates to "quack doctor" or "charlatan," you know that this Costa Rican Carolina Reaper-based hot sauce probably won't be good for you. It's the only sauce that delivers a worse flavor than Da Bomb (which you'll find in the second-worst spot on this list) — all we can taste is a punishing, pepper-spray-like heat accompanied by a kind of burnt, acrid aftertaste. At 680,000 Scovilles, it's much hotter than Da Bomb as well, though at these upper reaches of the Scoville scale, it's hard to differentiate between levels of spiciness. Everything in your nervous system tells you not to ingest this potent irritant as your tongue screams for mercy.

This sauce does contain seasoning ingredients like lemon, garlic, and spices, but they might as well not be there — we can't perceive them at all. The strongest tasting notes are bitter pepper seeds and powdered chili. If you diluted this sauce quite a bit, you could use it in cooking, but it's not recommended. As far as we can tell, it doesn't contribute any desirable flavor to food beyond heat.

18.Da Bomb Evolution

Anyone who watches "Hot Ones" knows that Da Bomb is usually where guests start to lose their composure. The version of "Da Bomb" you can buy on Heatonist is actually a little different from the one used on the show. On "Hot Ones," the guests are tortured with Da Bomb: Beyond Insanity, which is made with chili pepper extract. Heatonist has a no-extract policy, so the bottle of Da Bomb Evolution we tried is made with pure natural chiles instead.

Da Bomb Evolution is rated at around 135,000 Scovilles, just like Beyond Insanity. As far as we can tell from watching the show, it seems to replicate the experience of the original sauce closely. Ominously dark red, it pours thick and sludge-like. Despite being made with tasty ingredients like lemon juice, herbs, and garlic, Evolution tastes quite bad. You can't detect anything in the sauce besides punishing heat and bitterness; it barely has any flavor besides pain. This sauce is murder on your lips — it feels like they're receiving low-grade chemical burns when Da Bomb touches them. The heat grows over time; it's bad immediately but keeps on hurting more and more long after you swallow. We recommend this for masochists only. 

17. Karma Sauce Cosmic Disco

The fourth-hottest sauce in the "Hot Ones" roster, Karma Sauce Cosmic Disco is the first one that's so hot that it feels more like stunt food than a functional condiment. It's made with red jalapeños as well as super-spicy scorpion peppers and it definitely delivers the bite of the scorpion with 103,000 Scovilles of heat. The recipe also includes tamari, a type of soy sauce. Karma markets Cosmic Disco as an umami-forward blend. We must say, we can't taste the soy at all, and this sauce doesn't strike us as having a prominent umami flavor. It's not gross like Da Bomb, but we think most of the other hot sauces (even the super-spicy ones) have more going on flavor-wise.

Like Da Bomb, the perceived spiciness of this sauce grows over time. Other than the heat, you get a lot of sweetness. The second item after peppers on the ingredient list is brown sugar. None of the other flavorings like orange juice, garlic, culantro, or sesame oil register on the palate. The combination of extreme heat and sweetness makes Cosmic Disco taste sort of like a demonic barbecue sauce.

16. Funky's Hot Sauce Factory Stellar Fuzz

A medium-mild hot sauce (19,000 Scovilles) flavored with habanero, garlic, and ginger should be an easy home run, but Stellar Fuzz doesn't work for us. It just has too much going on — in addition to the above-named ingredients, it also contains apple cider vinegar, carrots, onion, lime juice, and sugar. As the manufacturer's name would suggest, it's funky, but not in a good way. This sauce has a strange, fermented aftertaste, perhaps from the type of vinegar used in the recipe. The other flavors don't feel well-balanced, either. The garlic and onion are a bit abrasive, and the ginger doesn't blend smoothly into the mix of tastes.

Stellar Fuzz is also a bit too sweet, though it's not as cloying and thick as Tropiquante, so it was a bit more enjoyable. Overall, it feels overly ambitious — if it were made with fewer ingredients, it would probably be a tastier condiment.

15. Sinai Gourmet Tropiquante

Too much sweetness in a hot sauce throws us off. A little bit of sugar can help balance out the heat and acidity of the chiles, but a ton of it just makes a sauce feel unbalanced. That's the main problem with Sinai Gourmet Tropiquante. The first four ingredients on the label are all fruit purees: banana, mango, papaya, and pineapple. The fruit not only makes the sauce super sweet, but also thick and sludgy. With so many different types of fruit, it's hard to taste any of them individually — it's almost a fruit punch effect. A little more salt and acidity would help tame all of the fruitiness and make for a tastier eating experience.

Heat-wise, this sits at a relatively tame (but noticeable) 4,000 Scovilles. Scotch bonnet chiles are responsible for the burn. In addition to being very hot, Scotch bonnets also have a lovely fruity, tropical flavor on their own, and we wish we could taste that more instead of all the fruit puree. While we don't like Tropiquante much as a hot sauce, we could see finding other uses for it. It tastes kind of like chutney, and we think it would be a good rub for grilled meats.

14. Morita Bourbon Maple Reaper

This is another hot sauce that is too ambitious for its own good. Registering at 73,000 Scovilles, it's in the upper half of the Hot Ones roster in terms of heat, but the generous amount of spice doesn't cover up the fact that the underlying flavor is a bit confusing and marred by too many ingredients duking it out for your tongue's attention.

The most distracting element in this sauce is the bourbon whisky. We're not inherently opposed to liquor in hot sauce — for an example of a good use of booze in hot sauce, check out the Turmeric Bomb that's ranked higher on this list. However, with this tasting, the bourbon in this sauce is overbearing and distracts from the flavor of the chiles. The amount of onion and garlic in the sauce is a bit excessive for our palate as well.

That's not to say this sauce gets everything wrong. The level of spice is perfect for people who like a lot of heat but don't want to ruin their whole day with capsaicin. The taste of morita chiles (dried jalapeños) comes through quite strong as well. These peppers bring warmth, fruitiness, smokiness, and a lot of depth to the sauce.

13. Sam Sa'House Smokey J

Sitting at a very reasonable 6,000 Scovilles, Smokey J is more about flavor than heat. And its name does it justice — this sauce is very smokey. The jalapeños used in the recipe are smoked over Honduras white oak. Beyond the smoke, though, there isn't much that grabs the taste buds about this sauce.

When we reach for a green hot sauce, we want savory, vegetal flavors and a decent hit of acidity. There's a certain sharpness to be expected from a sauce that looks like this. Smokey J's, instead, is a bit sweet thanks to the addition of blue agave. From a textural perspective, it's also strangely thick — we'd guess the sauce's gloopey texture comes from the inclusion of powdered chia seeds. Some extra salt or acidity would really help cut through the sweetness and the sauce's thick consistency. We think a smoked green jalapeño sauce is a great idea, but Smokey J's execution isn't exactly what we want.

12. Hot Ones The Last Dab: Apollo

As Sean Evans says in every episode, "It's tradition around here to put a little extra on the last wing" (via Twitter). After climbing to the top of Sauce Mountain and meeting The Last Dab, we felt we had to honor tradition by putting an extra blob of sauce on our final wing. The Last Dab: Apollo is the hottest sauce ever made for the show. It's made with a base of pureed and powdered Apollo peppers, a proprietary variety concocted by Smokin' Ed Currie, the man responsible for the Carolina Reaper. It's allegedly the hottest pepper Smokin' Ed has ever created, but its Scoville measurement has not yet been made public.

This sauce doesn't mess around: It's a pure delivery vehicle for the Apollo pepper with very little else in the mix. The only non-pepper ingredient in the bottle is vinegar — there's not even any salt. You really get the flavor of the pepper itself, which is a little bitter, a little earthy, and just a touch fruity. However, we would prefer if there was some salt, which we think would make the flavor pop even more. The heat experience of this sauce is surreal. When you first take a bite, it literally doesn't taste spicy at all. Then a minute later, you're walloped with heat. It makes you sweat and almost feels mind-altering. This sauce is too spicy to use regularly, but it's a worthwhile special event for real spice heads.

11. Hot Ones Buffalo Hot Sauce

This is the most boring Hot Ones-branded hot sauce, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Since it delivers only 1,800 Scovilles' worth of heat, it doesn't stand out from a spice perspective. This buffalo sauce tastes like any decent example of the mild or medium sauce from a competent wing chain. That does mean it's easily tastier than most bottled, processed wing sauces — it's made with real butter, which comes through strong, and the fermented pepper mashed that spices it up is flavorful, if not hot. We were impressed that the butter stayed emulsified with the hot sauce inside the bottle. However, you could easily whip up homemade wing sauce in five minutes that would taste just as good or even better for a fraction of the cost.

Ultimately, unless you really can't be bothered to melt together hot sauce and butter, there's no reason to shell out $10 or a 5-ounce bottle of this stuff. That said, now that we have it, it certainly won't go to waste — Buffalo cauliflower, here we come.

10. Fly by Jing Sichuan Gold

Sichuan Gold is an outlier in this hot sauce lineup. It's the only oil-based sauce we tried and it's seasoned with Sichuan Chinese flavors, so it tastes very different from any of the other sauces. It tastes very similar to the Fly by Jing Sichuan chili crisp made by the same manufacturer, minus all the crunchy chunks.

Despite its rank in the middle of the hotness scale at 46,000 Scovilles, we don't get too much heat from this chili oil. Perhaps the fat neutralizes the burn of the chili a bit. It does have a strong pepper flavor that trends toward the smoky side. You also get the flavor of cooked oil (if you're having trouble imagining this, think of the way the oil that clings to deep-fried food tastes). After chilies, the next most prominent flavor is Sichuan peppercorn, which adds floral character as well as a bit of a numbing sensation. Aromatics like ginger, anise, garlic, and cassia all add complexity and depth. This oil would be a great companion to steamed dumplings or Asian soups, but it has a very specific flavor so it wouldn't be a great all-purpose hot sauce.

9. Hot Ones The Last Dab: Xperience

At an estimated 2.6 million-plus Scovilles, Xperience is probably the hottest sauce on this list (the Season 19 version of The Last Dab didn't come with a confirmed Scoville ranking). Despite its truly scary spice level, we like Xperience more than Apollo. Since both are composed almost entirely of super-hot peppers with just a little vinegar to thin them out, that must mean Pepper X (the base ingredient of Xperience) tastes better than the mysterious Apollo pepper.

Pepper X has been crowned by Guinness as the world's hottest pepper, dethroning Smokin' Ed Currie's previous creation, the Carolina Reaper. And yes, it does deliver tongue-blistering heat — we find that the heat from Xperience hits much faster than that of Apollo — but there's more stuff going on. We detected a vegetal, green note from the peppers, as well as more acidity and tang than expected from just the small amount of vinegar on its own. It's a surprisingly nuanced condiment, and we were reaching for this bottle repeatedly to try to suss out all the flavor notes. Still, this sauce is simply way too hot to be enjoyed by all but the most intense capsaicin fiends so we can't rank it higher than the middle of the pack.

8. Hot Ones The Classic: Chili Maple Edition

This is billed as the least spicy sauce, measuring in at a mere 1,600 SHU. However, we perceive it as spicier than Topiquante and Piko Peppers, which should theoretically be hotter based on their spots in the lineup. We don't mind the unexpected spice, though — in fact, the kick helps balance out the other flavors in The Classic: Chili Maple Edition.

Other than the inclusion of maple syrup, this reads as a well-made, typical Louisiana-style hot sauce. The flavor of hot red chilis is the first thing you taste, but there's a significant hit of acidity from apple cider vinegar as well. The salt, black pepper, and turmeric that this sauce is seasoned with add savoriness and heft to the overall flavor profile. We like the addition of maple syrup as well. It tastes like high-quality syrup with notes of woodiness and caramel, and it transforms this sauce from normal to special. If we could change one thing, though, we'd slightly lower the amount of syrup in the recipe, as the sweet maple dominates the other flavors in the sauce a bit. For some applications, that would be great (chicken and waffles come to mind), but we don't want maple syrup on everything we eat.

7. Chile Lengua de Fuego Turmeric Bomb

This hot sauce may be Honduran, but it reminds us of Jamaican food. The combination of turmeric, fresh ginger, and Scotch bonnet screams Jamaican goat curry to us, and we love it. This sauce gets an extra kick from Aguardiente, a kind of Honduran hard liquor. We don't pick up any alcohol taste in the sauce (honestly, we're glad we don't), but we bet the booze helps extract the flavors from the other ingredients.

Turmeric Bomb is a veritable symphony of pepper purees. The first ingredient is Scotch bonnet pepper mash, and the sauce also includes mashes of jalapeño, chocolate ghost pepper, Carolina Reaper, and Trinidad scorpion. We're kind of surprised it's only 69,000 Scovilles (about equivalent to a Thai birdseye chili). It has a serious kick, but if you're a fan of spicy food, it's not unpleasant. The Scotch bonnets lend the sauce a bright, tropical fruitiness without being too sweet. We'd eat Turmeric Bomb on just about anything.

6. Hot Ones Los Calientes Verde

Los Calientes Verde is the smoked green sauce we were hoping for when we cracked open Smokey J. It helps that it's a bit hotter — 36,000 Scovilles, which gives it some real pep. The main peppers used in the recipe are a mix of smoked and unsmoked green serranos, which add a ton of zesty flavor and just the right edge of pleasant bitterness. Habaneros are included to crank up the heat slightly.

Our favorite non-pepper ingredient in this sauce is tomatillo, which brings the sourness that's missing in Smokey J. The tomatillo, combined with the serranos and other seasonings like cumin and cilantro, give this sauce a flavor that's very similar to the type of salsa verde you'd get with chips or on enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant. It's very versatile — this is a great hot sauce for breakfast, and it obviously works well with things like tacos and quesadillas too. It doesn't rank higher on the list simply because it's not as original or inventive as a couple of the hot sauces at the very top.

5. PuckerButt Pepper Co Unique Garlique

Of the stupid-hot sauces in the "Hot Ones" roster, Unique Garlique is by far the best tasting. It's a creation of Smokin' Ed Currie's PuckerButt Pepper Company, so you know it's going to bring the heat, but the spice is balanced with careful attention to flavor as well. Somehow, you can taste the garlic clearly through all the chili peppers; it's a nice, mildly sweet, roasted garlic flavor that complements the chilies perfectly. This sauce is made with Italian seasoning as well, which we can't taste, but that's fine — the garlic is delicious enough on its own.

With most of the super-hot sauces, the pain grows over time, but Unique Garlique's heat works in the opposite way. You get blasted with pain immediately, then the heat briefly rises, and then it goes away rather quickly. The spice affects the front of your tongue rather than going all the way down your throat. Don't construe this as us saying Unique Garlique isn't hot — it's a scorching 642,000 Scovilles and contains a chili blend that includes Carolina Reaper, 7-Pot Primo, and scorpion peppers.

4. Hot Ones Los Calientes Barbacoa

Barbacoa traditionally refers to various methods of slow-cooking, barbecuing, or pit-roasting meat, so we didn't know what to expect from a so-called barbacoa hot sauce. It turns out that this sauce is inspired by the flavors of barbecue and brings heaps of smoky flavor to anything you put it on. It's by far our favorite of the three "Hot Ones"-branded sauces in the Season 19 roster.

Los Calientes Barbacoa is made with fresh red jalapeños smoked over maple as well as chipotle peppers (which are dried, smoked jalapeños). Habañeros add extra kick (at 33,000 Scovilles, this sauce is around four times hotter than even the hottest jalapeños). Additional ingredients like lime juice, tomatillo, cumin, and culantro combine to lend this sauce a classic Mexican flavor profile. We love the Los Calientes Barbacoa because it's mild enough to eat every day but not so mild as to be wimpy. Its strong smoke flavor adds a deep savoriness to a variety of foods. However, since we don't want every single thing we eat to taste like smoke, this sauce is bested by one competitor that's a little bit more versatile.

3. Good Heat Queso Sin Queso

Given our disappointment with many of the more complicated sauce recipes in this ranking, We didn't have high hopes for Queso Sin Queso, but this sauce proved that a long ingredient list doesn't have to be a bad thing.

The gimmick of this sauce is that it's supposed to imitate the flavor (and to a certain extent the creamy texture) of queso dip while being vegan and shelf-stable. It accomplishes this by using your hippie friend's favorite vaguely cheesy-tasting vegan ingredient: nutritional yeast.

The nutritional yeast, when combined with the onions, bell peppers, and hot chiles in the sauce, really does make this taste similar to queso. An oat-based liquid made with water and canola oil takes care of the creaminess — it's not as thick as real queso, but it has much more body than most hot sauces. All of the flavors work exceptionally well together, and this sauce would taste great on any type of Mexican-ish food. It's not out-of-this-world spicy but its 52,000 Scovilles of heat would be too much for people with lower spice tolerances.

2. Microsaucerie Piko Peppers Piko Riko

Microsaucerie Piko Peppers is based in Montreal, Canada, but its Piko Riko sauce is based on piri-piri, an African pepper sauce typically served with chicken. Once you taste Piko Riko, you won't just limit yourself to poultry, however — you'll want to use it on everything.

This is the only sauce we tried that includes bell peppers. They don't contribute any heat, but they do make the pepper flavor more multifaceted and complex than if the sauce just contained hot chilies. Piko Riko is hot (15,500 SHU), but it's mild enough that you can perceive every single ingredient in its formula. Habañeros and cayenne peppers bring fruity spice, vinegar and lemon juice add tang, and the sauce gets a savory backbone from garlic, sea salt, and beer. The hops in the beer also contribute a mild bitterness that helps offset some of the sweetness from the bell peppers and sugar. It's just a really well-rounded sauce with no weaknesses and plenty of strengths. There's no type of food this wouldn't taste good with.

1. La Pimenterie The Forbidden Fruit

What's happening in Montreal? I used to live there, and I can't say it seemed like most people there were into spicy food — but my two favorite sauces from Hot Ones are both from this French Canadian city.

Ultimately, whether you prefer Piko Riko or The Forbidden Fruit depends on personal preference and heat tolerance. While Piko Riko is on the milder end of the Hot Ones spectrum, Forbidden Fruit is super-hot — 124,000 Scovilles, to be precise. Those who like extra spicy food will appreciate the intense burn of The Forbidden Fruit. While it's not described as "Louisiana-style" anywhere on the label, it's predominantly made from a mash of fermented, aged peppers, which is similar to how Tabasco is made. That's what this sauce tastes like — much, much hotter Tabasco.

The fermentation adds savoriness that's reinforced by an infusion of smoky oak wood. The primary other flavors are vinegar and salt; the remaining ingredients, such as garlic and shallots, are used in such small quantities that they don't steal the show from the chiles. This sauce has enough flavor to be interesting but it's also somewhat neutral — you could use it on any type of food to add savoriness and a bit of nose-clearing heat. It's an everyday hot sauce, but it's also special, which is why it earns the top ranking.


We sampled the sauce lineups from Hot Ones Season 19 and Season 23 in two separate tasting sessions. In both cases, we copied the show by pouring the sauces on chicken wings and tasting them in order from mildest to hottest. The sauces were primarily evaluated on how good they tasted. Some of the secondary considerations included versatility, uniqueness, and heat level — the absurdly hot sauces tended to lose points since many people would find them unpleasant to eat.