Gourmet Hot Sauces Everyone Needs To Try

Most people are well-acquainted with the dominant hot sauce companies on the market like Tabasco, Frank's, and Tapatio. And while all of those brands are wonderful in their own ways, there's a less-explored world of smaller-batch hot sauce makers that deserve more of your attention. These craft hot sauce companies take pride in creating truly inventive and flavorful blends with special chili peppers and other surprising gourmet ingredients that are so delicious and unique that they'll have you questioning your loyalty to bigger brands. From the hottest pepper in the world to specialty ingredients like black coffee vinegar, you're bound to encounter a rich and vibrant flavor profile that leaves you deliciously intrigued and curious to taste more of what this smaller-scaled scene has to offer.

The hot sauces we're recommending here vastly differ in their levels of heat, ranging from gentle and mild to more assertive and searing, but they all share one important thing: They're delicious! Hot sauce shouldn't just be spicy — it should genuinely taste good and enhance the food you're eating instead of torching your tongue with the flames of an unforgiving, chili-pepper inferno.

So while there may be a few hot sauces here on the spicier end of the spectrum, every single one of them rises from the ashes to deliver extraordinary flavor. Fair warning: Once you dive into the world of small-batch hot sauces, your taste buds will likely emerge transformed with a new-found hunger. Here are gourmet hot sauces that everyone needs to try.


Exhorresco. What does this mysterious tongue-twister mean? According to Latin Dictionary, it's a verb that's synonymous with a terrified shudder. Between the ominous meaning of its name and the fanged Medusa on the label surrounded in hellish flames, it's immediately clear that this hot sauce is devilishly cloaking itself in an aura of evil.

Burns and McCoy make Exhorresco — they're a hot sauce company named after an old mine in Colorado (via Visit Ft. Collins). Billing itself as "one of the hottest all natural hot sauces in the world," Exhorresco is made with 7-pot primo peppers, oak-aged apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, yuzu juice, and black garlic (via Burns and McCoy). According to Chili Pepper Madness, the 7-pot primo pepper is a fiery blend created by a horticulturist from Louisiana that crosses a naga morich pepper with a Trinidad 7-pot pepper.

Fiercely flavorful and deliciously vicious, this is a hot sauce for those of us who love a head-flooding rush of spice so intense that it's nearly psychedelic. A quick burst of tangy sweetness from the agave and apple cider vinegar rapidly fades into a creeping burn from the chili peppers. Featured in season seven of Hot Ones — a wildly entertaining show where guests eat increasingly hotter chicken wings while being interviewed — Exhorresco is a truly one-of-a-kind hot sauce that will leave your tongue thunderstruck (via Sauce Mania). Needless to say, it's best for the uninitiated to proceed with caution on this one. 

Char Man (original)

Char Man is a small-batch hot sauce company based in California (via Fuego Box). The Char Man name is inspired by a gruesome ghost story born from a destructive fire that swept a nearby valley in 1948 (via JSTOR). Legend has it that one of the victims from the fire was so badly charred and traumatized from the experience that he lives in isolation on the edge of town, occasionally chasing away the locals who spot him to this very day.

Char Man's original hot sauce has a complex flavor profile considering its deceptively simple ingredients that include vinegar, hot chile peppers, cane sugar, lemon juice, and dried garlic (via Craft Hot Sauce). What makes this gourmet hot sauce unique is how the habaneros are fire-roasted, imparting a smoky essence into the sauce that elevates (and sophisticates) the flavor profile. The heat level on Char Man's original hot sauce is solidly hot, but still balanced and approachable: A tasty flash of tang from the vinegar is soon washed away with a sparkle of smoky heat. 

The consistency is medium-bodied, with specks and slivers of charred peppers throughout the bottle that give the sauce some subtle texture. This hot sauce is excellent on everything from a loaded breakfast burrito to a hearty bowl of chili. So jump on board the Char Man train and enjoy the ride — but be on the lookout for a burned ghost in the shadows!

Pineapple habanero

HAB Sauce is a small-batch hot sauce company based in Portland, Oregon (via HAB Sauces). The company offers a wide range of amazingly tasty sauces, including a serrano tequila verde and a sweet and spicy soy sauce (more on that one in a bit). But its pineapple habanero sauce is easily one of its best.

HAB Sauce's pineapple habanero is made with pineapple, habaneros, white vinegar, garlic, and Himalayan salt. The pineapple's inherent sweetness shines through without being too tart or cloying and the heat from the habaneros sparks a blaze without burning everything down. What we're left with is a remarkably balanced hot sauce that's pleasantly ignited by a moderate flicker of floral spice from the habaneros. The tropical feel of this hot sauce makes it ideal for fish tacos and Hawaiian pulled pork or a lively way to spice up a fruity vinaigrette. Pineapple habanero is a flavor combination that's fairly common among small-batch hot sauce companies, but HAB does it best. Score yourself a bottle and see what you've been missing out on.

Spicy sweet soy sauce

HAB Sauce earns another spot here with its award-winning spicy sweet soy sauce. Made with ingredients including habaneros, soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger, this hot sauce is sticky, spicy, and slightly sweet. There are several things about this sauce that make it truly special.

First: The decision to make spicy soy sauce is absolutely genius since there's really nothing else like this on the hot sauce market. But beyond the brilliant concept, this sauce is amazingly executed. The consistency is just right — not too thick or thin with a perfect balance between the saltiness of the soy sauce and the sweetness of the brown sugar. The spice level on this is on the mild end: There's enough heat here from the habaneros to feel it, but it's not overwhelming and doesn't linger long. Instead, the heat takes a backseat while the flavor takes the wheel, coating your tongue in a viscous blend that's perfectly suited for fried rice or to be used as a secret ingredient in homemade teriyaki. Once you give this stuff a taste, you'll be hooked for life.

Peach maple bourbon

Fat Cat is a hot sauce company based out of Orlando, Florida (via Fat Cat). One of the standouts from its lineup is the peach maple bourbon hot sauce. Made with ingredients that include peaches, brown sugar, serrano pepper mash, bourbon, and cinnamon, this hot sauce is tame when it comes to spice but delivers a wallop of luscious flavor.

The succulent and delicate flavor of peach is persistent while the serrano peppers provide a subtle hint of mild heat. The flavor of bourbon is understated but manages to conjure up gentle notes of oak, caramel, and vanilla that blend perfectly with the southern charm of this hot sauce. Fat Cat's peach maple bourbon hot sauce perfectly compliments smoked ham, pork chops, grilled salmon, or drizzled onto creamy cheese spreads. Because this hot sauce is on the milder end of the spectrum in terms of spice, it's an easily accessible gateway into the world of gourmet hot sauce for cautious newcomers. So, if you have a more sensitive palate and you're looking for a mellow hot sauce to check out, there's a good chance you'll really dig this.

Chairman meow's revenge

Chairman meow's revenge is another one of Fat Cat's blends, but this one turns up the heat. Made with roasted red peppers, scorpion peppers, cilantro, red habaneros, lime juice, mustard, and garlic, this hot sauce is flavor-forward but also brings the heat (via Fat Cat). The flavor starts with a pop of tang from the lime juice and then evolves into fruity, smokey notes from the roasted red peppers, habaneros, and scorpion peppers. The hints of garlic and mustard provide a pungent glimmer that pleasantly lingers in the background, complimenting the other bold flavors blended into the sauce.

The notes of roasted bell pepper and garlic pair perfectly on a hot slice of pizza or grilled vegetables, while the spicier elements take nachos, tacos, or burritos to the next level. Chairman meow's revenge is so tasty that you'll find yourself flying through the bottle and racing to score more before you run out. If you love big flavors with a steady but approachable level of heat, you're sure to love this hot sauce from Fat Cat. Drizzle a dash of this on your next taco and buckle up for a delicious blaze.

Red habanero & black coffee hot sauce

Coffee and hot sauce? You might think that sounds a bit wacky, but stay with us — wild combinations like this are what makes the small-batch hot sauce scene so extraordinary. Queen Majesty's red habanero and black coffee hot sauce is the company's hottest recipe. Made with coffee-infused vinegar, red bell peppers, sweet onions, red habaneros, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and ginger, this hot sauce is spicy and complex.

What really sets this hot sauce apart from the pack is the dark and roasty undercurrent from the black coffee vinegar. What may seem as an odd combination at first ends up being a brilliant play on flavors, triumphantly harmonizing the sweet acidity of coffee with the intrinsic spice of the chili peppers. All in all, this red habanero and black coffee hot sauce is truly delicious and unique — and that's really all we're looking for in a gourmet hot sauce, isn't it? Shake a stream of this across some coffee-rubbed steak fresh off the grill and you'll be in heaven.

Golden pumpkin

Pumpkin is one of those flavors that tends to only make a seasonal appearance, but why not enjoy it year-round? Small-batch hot sauce company Craic (an Irish word that's pronounced "crack") showcases the flavor of this bulbous winter squash in all its autumnal glory with its golden pumpkin hot sauce. Craic Sauce was founded by Brian Ruhlmann, a hot sauce enthusiast who not only runs his own gourmet hot sauce business but also interviews other hot sauce makers for his podcast and online hot sauce shop, Craft Hot Sauce.

Craic's golden pumpkin hot sauce is made with ingredients that include pumpkin, carrots, habaneros, apple cider vinegar, honey, pineapple, ginger, brown sugar, and ghost peppers. With a medium level of heat, golden pumpkin offers a gentle but steady tingle of spice from the ghost peppers and habaneros. And even though there are sweeter ingredients to the sauce, it's still more savory than sweet, with the pumpkin flavor really shining through more than anything. We recommend dashing some of this on a roasted sweet potato or drizzling it over a cozy bowl of stew. One thing's for sure: You have to taste golden pumpkin yourself to truly appreciate how exceptionally delicious it is.


Verde sauces are pretty common in the hot sauce scene, but there's something special about this one by Burns and McCoy. Made with a roasted pepper blend that includes green habaneros, cayenne peppers, carolina reapers, serranos, and jalapeños, this hot sauce is also mixed with tomatillos, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. The brightness of the vinegar and lime juice cut through the heat of the roasted peppers to round out the flavors for a smooth finish.

There's a unique freshness to this sauce that has to be experienced to be fully understood. The cilantro most likely plays a small part in that, but we think it really comes down to the use of high-quality ingredients combined with some seriously talented execution. The spice level on this one runs between mild and medium, depending on your heat tolerance, making it really accessible for most people. Try this over some chilaquiles or over a perfectly charred piece of flank steak and you'll be singing its praises for eternity.

Ghost pepper & blueberry

Blueberries aren't just for your muffins in the morning or the jam on your sandwich. Bravado Spice Company's ghost pepper and blueberry hot sauce will have you looking at those juicy orbs of tiny indigo-colored fruit a little bit differently. Featured on "Hot Ones" in season three, this ghost pepper and blueberry hot sauce is tasty and moderately spicy, clocking in at 28,000 Scoville units (via Flower City Flavor Company). For those unaware, the Scoville scale is used to measure a chili pepper's spiciness, ranging anywhere from a couple thousand for jalapeños to a couple million for the Carolina reaper, which is the world's hottest chili pepper (via Chili Pepper Madness).

Made with blueberries, white wine vinegar, ghost peppers, sea salt, and black pepper, this hot sauce is genuinely spicy without compromising flavor. In fact, this is easily one of the tastiest hot sauces we've ever tried. Pour a few spots of this on your toasted bagel with cream cheese in the morning to kick off your day with some deliciously fruity fire.

Cranberry orange clove

The hot sauce makers over at Pepplish Provisions struck gold when they dreamed up this citrusy blend: Cranberries, oranges, and cloves. Made with ingredients that include orange, cranberries, habaneros, hibiscus, cloves, ghost peppers, and orange peel, this hot sauce is more mild than hot.

There's some seriously tasty magic going on when the tartness of the cranberries mixes with the sweetness of the oranges along with the heat of the ghost peppers. What starts out with a burst of citrus slowly expands into a gentle glimmer of spice from the clove, habaneros, and ghost peppers. The flavor of this hot sauce is sophisticated and delicious, an impressive feat for a relatively newer hot sauce company that started up in 2015 (via Craft Hot Sauce). Try this with some creamy goat cheese or splash a little bit in your next margarita and you'll be thanking your lucky stars that we enlightened you to the wonders of Pepplish Provisions.

Secret Aardvark

Secret Aardvark is a hot sauce company based in one of the best food scenes in the country: Portland, Oregon. Secret Aardvark was founded in 2004 by Scott Moritz who started out slinging sauce at the local farmer's markets around the city (via Secret Aardvark). What started out as a humble operation has grown into a reputable brand that's sold all across the country.

Secret Aardvark is made with ingredients that include roasted tomatoes, vinegar, habaneros, carrots, mustard, and garlic. What sets Secret Aardvark apart from the pack is its unusual flavor profile. Straddling the line somewhere between Caribbean and Tex Mex, this hot sauce works very well on anything from enchiladas to Jamaican beef patties. The consistency is smooth and homogenous, giving it the ability to function as a marinade or glaze that can easily drape every corner of your food with its distinctive sheen. The spice level on this one lands pretty much dead center with a medium amount of heat, making it a hot sauce that's very approachable.

Secret Aardvark has a bunch of other sauces, including a smoky chipotle, red scorpion, and a green hot sauce made with serrano peppers and tomatillos (via Secret Aardvark). Now that the secret's out, we'd definitely recommend picking up a bottle or two and giving Secret Aardvark a try. And once you do, be sure to check out the special recipes the company shares online to explore some creative ways to enjoy all of its amazing sauces.