The Real Reason There Is Vinegar In Almost Every Hot Sauce

Are you a fan of hot sauce? Then you're likely to have favorite brands and maybe even a collection, too. If you've ever looked at the label and turned to the ingredients list to see exactly what's inside the bottle and what makes it so darn spicy, you may have noticed that many hot sauces contain vinegar. Common vinegar is used to preserve food, boost flavor, and to meet a certain pH level, according to Doc Hotties.

When it comes to hot sauce products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) heavily regulates them because hot sauce is classified an acidified food. The FDA monitors the manufacturing and bottling process to ensure the mixture is shelf stable and any risk of botulism is eliminated, according to Doc Hotties. 

Vinegar is an acidic liquid that can be used to attain the required level of acidity for hot sauce. The pH is a way to determine the acidity level, and hot sauces must have a pH level that is 4.6 or under in order to meet FDA requirements, according to Flowercity Flavor.

Vinegar can change the flavor profile of a hot sauce

Vinegar is also included for the sour, zing, and tangy flavor it provides. It's the vinegar that makes many people reach for the hot sauce bottle over and over again, thanks to its lip puckering components. As it turns out, sauces rich in vinegar complement many meat-focused foods, such as burgers, pork, wings, or fried chicken, according to Doc Hotties.

It's likely that without vinegar, the flavor just wouldn't be the same. Plus, there are different varieties of vinegar, so each style will offer its own touch, according to Flowercity Flavor. However, many smaller brands are experimenting with an array of vinegars, such as cider, champagne, balsamic, and red wine vinegar to create different flavor profiles and add a uniqueness to the sauce (via Doc Hotties).

Some hot sauce makers are using other acidic ingredients, like limes or lemons for citric acid, instead of vinegar, though it's not typical, according to Doc Hotties.

So now you know why vinegar is ubiquitous in hot sauces.