Hot Sauce Brands That Use The Highest And Lowest Quality Ingredients

If you love spicy food, chances are you have a stash of hot sauce to take your eggs, tacos, or chicken wings to the next level. You might have your go-to brand that you always keep in stock. Or maybe you're always on the hunt for new gourmet hot sauces to take your food from ho-hum to heat-seeking missile status. But how much do you know about the hot sauce you're buying? Is it made with high-quality ingredients or does it leave something to be desired?

Nearly all hot sauces contain chili peppers, so in that sense, they all have something good going for them. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which can help boost metabolism and decrease inflammation. Some companies amp up the nutritional value with extra veggies, herbs, and seasonings. Many also use all-natural ingredients. On the other hand, some brands use just a basic chili pepper blend and add preservatives and other additives that provide no nutritional value.

Before you go hunting for grocery store hot sauces or consider putting in an online hot sauce order, it helps to know which brands use high-quality ingredients and which are slightly lacking. These are some of the most standout hot sauces and a few that are not so stellar ones based on the integrity of ingredients.

High Quality: Marie Sharp's

Marie Sharp started making what would eventually become her legendary hot sauces in the early 1980s. She used fresh habanero chili peppers along with other vegetables and fruits from her farm in Stann Creek Valley, Belize. The hot sauces were a huge hit, earning her the nickname "Queen of Habanero." Today, the sauces sell in more than 30 countries around the world and are renowned for their fresh flavors and heady kicks of heat. There are more than a dozen different sauces, each of which is crafted in small batches and features fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you take a look at the ingredient lists on Marie Sharp's hot sauces, you'll recognize foods you might have in your own kitchen. For example, the Original Hot Habanero Pepper Sauce contains red habanero peppers, fresh carrots, onions, lime juice, white vinegar, garlic, and salt. There are no additives, preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. The result is an ultra-flavorful sauce that balances spicy, sweet, and tangy notes. If it's high-quality all-natural hot sauce you're after, Marie Sharp's is a solid option.

High Quality: Secret Aardvark

Secret Aardvark was born in Portland, Oregon, in 2004 with the ethos of doing things a bit differently. The quirky company uses unique flavor combos to create its sauces and marinades. It also supports music and arts festivals, donates to local organizations, and uses plastic containers that are produced close by to cut back on its carbon footprint. Consciousness is at the heart of the company, and that thoughtfulness can be seen in its choice of high-quality ingredients.

The flagship Secret Aardvark sauce is the Habanero Pepper Sauce, which combines Caribbean and Tex-Mex flavors. The sauce contains regular tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, white wine vinegar, carrots, onion, habanero chili peppers, mustard, and garlic along with other herbs and spices. All of the ingredients are non-GMO, plant-based, and gluten-free. The hot sauce has a slightly thick consistency that adds texture to dishes, along with a kick of heat from the chili peppers. Reviewers love that the sauce is hot, but also that it has a touch of sweetness and earthiness to it. For those looking for something a bit more fiery, the company also creates hot sauces made with reaper peppers and scorpion peppers.

High Quality: Burns & McCoy

Burns & McCoy is a small, family-run hot sauce company that goes big on flavor and high on the heat levels. It was established in 2015 in Fort Collins, Colorado, and it now sells its sauces in over 1,000 locations across the globe. The company has fun with its hot sauce creations, some of which are seriously punishing. Take for example, the Exhorresco hot sauce made with 7 Pot Primo peppers. These tongue-searing peppers clock in at about 1.79 million heat units on the Scoville scale. To put that in perspective, habaneros rate between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville heat units.

While the company may experiment with insanely hot peppers and interesting ingredients like black garlic and yuzu juice, one thing it doesn't waver on is the quality of the ingredients. Co-owner Jay Turner told 5280 Magazine, "Our sauces are all natural, we don't use xanthan gum or fillers like other places. We try to make our stuff a high percentage of peppers, and use mostly fruit and vegetables as sweeteners rather than relying on unnatural sweeteners." The company also sources fresh ingredients from local suppliers whenever possible.

Low Quality: Texas Pete

You might assume that Texas Pete hot sauce originated in Texas, but it was actually created in North Carolina. The Garner family needed a name for their new hot pepper sauce, and Texas was known for its spicy fare, so it seemed like a logical choice. The family created several other condiments as well, including barbecue sauce, honey mustard, and Buffalo wing sauce. However, Texas Pete is one of its most popular products. The vinegary sauce gets decent reviews for its tangy, spicy flavor. In terms of quality ingredients though, it's not exactly top-tier.

The Original Texas Pete Hot Sauce only has only a few ingredients: vinegar, aged peppers, water, xanthan gum, and benzoate of soda (aka sodium benzoate). It's the last two that are somewhat dicey. Xanthan gum is an additive that's used to thicken many food products. It's also used in some wallpaper glues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled it safe to consume, but it can cause digestive problems for some people. Sodium benzoate is a preservative. In small doses, it might not be so bad. However, a 2022 report in Nutrients states that it may cause inflammation and negatively affect the immune system, hormones, kidneys, and liver.

High Quality: Melinda's

While many hot sauce companies seem to want nothing more than to melt your face off, Melinda's claims that flavor is more important than just fire. The company was founded in 1989 by brothers Greg and David Figueroa with the goal of creating great-tasting, high-quality hot sauces. David Figueroa told Shoutout DFW, "I wanted to bring something to consumers that would be fresh and not primarily powders and vinegar." For the most part, the company carries through with that mission.

Melinda's hot sauces are very vegetable-forward. For example, the Original Habanero Hot Sauce features habanero pepper mash, carrots, onion, vinegar, lime juice, salt, and garlic. It also contains citric acid, which is an additive used to enhance flavor and acidity. Despite being an additive, citric acid can actually provide some health benefits like helping the body absorb nutrients and ward off kidney stones. The only ingredient that's not so great in many of Melinda's hot sauces is xanthan gum. That being said, the abundance of fresh ingredients amps up the quality of the sauces.

High Quality: Tabasco

Even if you don't like spicy sauces or foods, you're probably familiar with Tabasco sauce. The Original Red Sauce is a staple in restaurants, kitchens, and pantries across the world. The story of Tabasco began in 1868 when Edmund McIlhenny began selling a spicy sauce that he concocted from Tabasco peppers grown on Avery Island in Louisiana. The company still operates from the same place today, and the recipe for its Original Red Sauce hasn't changed.

There are no shady ingredients in Tabasco sauce. It contains just aged red peppers, vinegar, and salt. With such a simple recipe, you might wonder what makes Tabasco so special. It all comes down to the process. When CBS News interviewed CEO Tony Simmons a decade ago, he revealed that the peppers grown on the island are hand-picked, their seeds are sent to farmers around the world, and the mashed peppers that come back to the island are aged up to three years in oak barrels. For decades, the salt was mined from Avery Island (though the salt mine officially shut down in 2022), and the distilled vinegar is high-quality. Others may try to replicate Tabasco sauce, but it's hard to beat the quality and care that goes into every bottle.

High Quality: Truff

Truff is relatively new to the hot sauce game, having only come onto the market in 2017. It may just be the first hot sauce company to have started life as a social media account. When co-founders Nick Guillen and Nick Ajluni snagged the @sauce handle on Instagram, they posted mainly pop culture food content. As the account gained traction, they decided to use it to launch a product. At the time, hot sauce was having a heyday. Truffles were all the rage, too. Thus, they came up with Truff — a luxury hot sauce brand that combines fiery peppers with earthy truffles.

There are several hot sauces in the Truff line, each of which contains quality ingredients like chili peppers blended with organic sugar and vinegar, olive oil infused with black truffle essence, and organic agave nectar. All of the products are gluten-free and vegan. Truff doesn't get off scot-free though. Some of the products do contain xanthan gum. Putting that aside, the ingredients are pretty top-notch, making Truff a good choice if you're looking for something a bit different than typical chili pepper and vinegar hot sauce blends.

Low Quality: Huy Fong Sriracha

You may recognize Huy Fong Sriracha from its distinctive plastic bottle with a bright green cap and rooster logo. The company has been around since 1980 and has become one of the most ubiquitous Asian hot sauce products on the market. There are a few things you should know about Huy Fong Sriracha though. First, Huy Fong founder David Tran did not invent sriracha sauce. The sauce actually originated in the Thai city of Si Racha. Second, Huy Fong's recipe includes some not-so-great ingredients.

The ingredient list for Huy Fong Sriracha leads with chili, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar. A solid start. However, then it lists potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite, and xanthan gum. Potassium sorbate is a preservative that is generally considered safe in small amounts, although higher doses have been linked to cell damage that could lead to further health issues, according to a review in Trends in Food Science and Technology. Sodium bisulfite is another preservative that has been known to cause side effects in some people like asthma attacks, gastrointestinal issues, and rashes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. With that in mind, you may want to think twice about slathering your food in sriracha.

High Quality: HAB Sauce

HAB Sauce founder David van Overeem draws on his diverse family background as the source of inspiration for his small batch hot sauces. He has Indonesian, Latin American, Dutch, and American roots, so as you can imagine, his sauces span a wide array of flavors, including the Garlic Curry Habanero, Serrano Tequila Verde, and Smoked Habanero Cherrywood. Each bottle contains fresh ingredients like chili peppers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.

You have to love food producers who keep it local. The company partners with farmers in Oregon to source much of the produce. Even the firewood is sourced locally. In addition, all of the labels are designed by local artists. Read through the ingredient lists on these sauces, and you won't find any preservatives or additives. Take, for example, the Machismo Reaper hot sauce, which features recognizable items like Carolina Reaper and Serrano peppers, pineapple, peaches, garlic, ginger, and coriander, to name just a few of the all-natural ingredients. The lack of preservatives may shorten the shelf life of the hot sauces, but HAB Sauce makes up for that in taste and nutritional value.

High Quality: Cholula

Mexico is known for its fiery sauces, and Cholula Hot Sauce is one that transcends borders. The sauce is named after the ancient city of Cholula, which is home to the largest pyramid in the world and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in North America. Despite its illustrious name, the sauce is actually made in Chapala, Jalisco. According to the company website, the hot sauce is based on a family recipe that dates back 100 years. Today you can find Cholula in restaurants and homes all over Mexico, the United States, and farther abroad.

Cholula is made with arbol and piquin peppers that are hand-harvested and dried in the sun. The peppers are then ground into a paste and mixed with salt, vinegar, garlic powder, and spices like dehydrated carrot powder. The only additive that's not natural is xanthan gum. The overall result is a fresh-tasting hot sauce that's tangy and has a slight touch of heat. If you're looking for a hot sauce that's not overwhelmingly hot and made with quality ingredients, Cholula is a good bet.

High Quality: Casa Firelli

Italy may be best known for its olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but Casa Firelli goes the fiery route with its range of Italian hot sauces. There are three flavors to choose from: Original Hot Sauce, Extra Hot Sauce, and Truffle Hot Sauce. The sauces are hand-crafted in Parma, Italy, with Italian ingredients. Funny enough, though, the sauce first launched in the United States. In fact, The Manual reports that the idea for the sauce came from the American tradition of putting chili flakes and hot sauce on pizza.

Casa Firelli uses premium ingredients in its hot sauces. The Original Hot Sauce contains roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar, Calabrian chilis, apple vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and dried Porcini mushrooms. The Truffle Hot Sauce features truffles, and the Extra Hot Sauce has cayenne pepper for some additional heat. Once again, we see xanthan gum as a thickening agent, which is pretty standard for many hot sauce companies. Despite the addition of xanthan gum, these are some pretty high-quality hot sauces with an authentic Italian twist.

Low Quality: Tapatío

Tapatío Hot Sauce looks about as Mexican as you can get, but it's actually produced in California. To be fair, founder Jose-Luis Saavedra Sr. was born in Mexico and later migrated to the United States. According to The Hundreds, he originally named the company after his wife's family name of Cuervo. However, when the Jose Cuervo tequila company sued, he sold the rights to the name and renamed his sauce Tapatío, which is the name for a person from Guadalajara. Fast-forward to the present, and Tapatío is one of the most popular hot sauce brands in America.

Tapatío may have legions of fans who love the tangy, moderately spicy sauce. Unfortunately, the ingredients aren't exactly all-natural. The lineup includes water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum, and sodium benzoate. As we mentioned before, xanthan gum is a pretty common thickening agent. However, sodium benzoate is not great. Besides potentially causing inflammation and allergic reactions, according to the Nutrients study mentioned earlier, it can also convert into a carcinogen called benzene if combined with vitamin C. Small doses of sodium benzoate may be okay, but you probably want to avoid going overboard.

High Quality: Fat Cat

The first Fat Cat Gourmet hot sauces were homemade with fresh ingredients harvested from the garden of married couple Eyal Goldshmid and Deborah Moskowitz. Today, the duo still strives to use top-quality ingredients like fresh chili peppers, vegetables, and fruits. The Fat Cat line includes a wide variety of hot sauces ranging from mild to maniacally hot. Best sellers include the Purry-Purry Sauce, Hiss-y Fit Carolina Reaper Sauce, and Chairman Meow's Revenge Scorpion Pepper Sauce.

The all-natural ingredients and unique flavor combos are what set Fat Cat's hot sauces above many of its competitors. A quick glance at the ingredient lists shows only good stuff like habanero pepper mash, roasted red peppers, onions, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and lime juice. As the company states on its website, "Our sauces are 'flavor forward,' not 'heat forward,' in that we want you to taste what's in them, not just make your food hot." There are no preservatives or questionable additives, so you don't have to worry about much except how much heat you can handle. 

High Quality: Frank's RedHot

Frank's RedHot Sauce has been winning over Americans since 1920. Founder Jacob Frank was no stranger to the world of spice, as he already operated a company named Frank's Tea and Spice Co. In 1918, he traveled to Louisiana to delve into the world of hot sauce. Together with Adam Estilette, he created a unique sauce made with aged cayenne peppers and seasonings. The sauce was a hit and years later became the key ingredient in another iconic dish — Buffalo wings.

You may be surprised to learn that there are only five ingredients in Frank's RedHot Original Hot Sauce: cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder. But like many of the more straightforward hot sauces on this list, it's all about the preparation. Fresh chili peppers are ground into a paste and then aged in oak barrels until they're packed with flavor. Because the majority of the mix is cayenne peppers, you get a good hit of heat that melds well with the tang of the vinegar, salt, and garlic powder. With such simple, clean ingredients, it's easy to see why Frank's is a favorite.


To uncover which hot sauce brands use the highest and lowest quality ingredients, we scoured the labels of the most popular hot sauces on the market. We looked for tell-tale signs of quality like fresh chili peppers, herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. We noted which brands used preservatives and additives like xanthan gum for thickening or sodium benzoate to keep the product stable. We also researched the potential side effects of those additives to find out whether they affected the overall quality of the product. In addition, we delved into how the hot sauces were processed to see which brands stood out for their commitment to producing top-notch hot sauce.