Jalapeño Hot Sauce, the Heat and the Flame

Yes, I’m speaking to you, Habanero enthusiast.  Friend of the Serrano.  Lover of the Scotch Bonnet.   

You who believe that a little heartburn can make a person feel alive.  You who used to search out fireballs as a small child and who can now name all the bars in the city where hot and dirty gin martinis are consumed. You who enjoy Modelo Especials with Tabasco, salt, and lime.  You who have cried after consuming a Ghost Pepper.  And liked it.  

Amigo. We are going to get along fine.  And I have a hot sauce for you.

The recipe is simple.  One.  Find someone with a charcoal grill. Bribe with beer, if necessary. 

Two.  Hit up a local famers’ market on a mission for peppers.  Government Center. Copley Plaza. Harvard Square.  These are all places I’ve frequented in the past week.  Not possible?  Your local Ralphs likely has some too. 

Three. Buy up a bunch.  As much as you think is necessary.  As much as you think you can humanly take.  And then get a little more. 

Four.  Light grill.  Grill peppers.  Drink some beers with your new friends that came with the charcoal grill. 

Five.  Blend the peppers with white vinegar, garlic, and a little salt.  Pour into any number of bottles.  You’re done.

You can probably extend this hot sauce to any number of peppers. I like jalapeños because when grilled, they leave you with a floral note.  They transform handsomely. 

As for the charcoal?  I just so happen to have a charcoal grill.  I believe in charcoal.  I believe in fighting with an open flame like I believe in fighting with chile heat.  I like a challenge.  I’m also told—by a fellow heathen for hot sauce—that the jalapeño doesn’t have consistent heat.  It varies a bit from pepper to pepper.  It’s unpredictable.  And I like that too.  Capricious flames, have at it.

Jalapeño Hot Sauce


about 5 jalapeños
olive or canola oil
kosher salt
1 clove garlic
a few tbsp of white vinegar (just enough to get the jalapeños to a thick liquid consistency)


Prepare your grill.  Toss the jalapeños with enough oil so they have a gloss to them and won’t stick to the grill; season with salt.  Grill them on a medium-hot grill (you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand five inches above the grill for more than 3-4 seconds). 

Grill the peppers until they are well charred and have shrived down slightly.  Once they have cooled a bit, remove the stems (the seeds should come with them too) and whirl them in a food processor or blender with the garlic clove until well pulverized.  (You may also wish to do this step another day with cold, refrigerated peppers.  Using cold peppers will allow you to taste the hot sauce as it will be consumed and you may have better luck with seasoning this way.) Add a tablespoon or two of vinegar and a pinch or two of salt to the pepper mixture and blend to combine.  

Check the consistency and flavor by adding more vinegar and adjusting for salt, as needed; the salt will help coax out the flavor of the peppers, so taste as you go.

Makes about half a cup

-You’re going to want to pretty much char the living daylights out of this pepper.  It should be dark green and blackened in spots and should shrink and shrivel down slightly from the heat of the flames. (The peppers will deflate more once they are removed from the heat.)

-A gas grill would work just fine too here.  You could try roasting the peppers at a high temp or broiling them in an oven, but it will lack that certain smoky quality a grill provides.  If you have a gas range you could even try charring the peppers that way, on the stovetop.

-We’re deep in hot pepper season, so now is the perfect time to bottle some up before summer officially ends.  I can’t guarantee what would happen with canning the sauce, but I’ve been keeping some in a jar in my fridge.  I’m thinking of trying this with Habaneros soon too before the season closes.

-If you’d like to make more sauce, just up the ratios of everything.  (Depending on your love of raw garlic, you might want to keep it at 1 clove unless you plan to drastically increase your yield.)


  1. I'm a proud heat lover, and this looks like something I would definitely fall for! Never made my own hot sauce before though, but I get a kick out of trying different bottles.

  2. Bianca! You totally should ... you'd be amazed how simple it is.

  3. i confess that i'm a little bit masochistic when it comes to spicy food, but even i have my limits. making your own hot sauce is a great idea!

  4. Okay, so I've already been scheming to borrow a friend's charcoal grill to char up a bunch of scallions for something. Now with this sauce, I have a list of things I need this grill for. It makes for a better case, right?

  5. I am ashamed to say that I am a total heat wimp. I want to be able to handle the heat, but my poor mouth just won't cooperate. As a result, most of the beautiful peppers that come in our CSA go to waste. I wonder, though, if this sauce might be the answer. Then I'd be able to take my heat a little tiny bit at a time, dab by dab, just how I like it. How long do you think this will keep in the fridge?

  6. Hi Jess, I've had mine in the fridge for at least 2-3 weeks now no problem. Hard to say how long it will officially last for, though I've been using the staying power of my other condiments as a theoretical guide ... chili garlic sauce, Sriracha, an expired bottle of Heinz, they've all been in there an embarrassingly extended time. I think the acidity from the vinegar should help the sauce's staying power. It's so easy and tasty that it's hard for me not to advocate making it though. :)

    Katie ... charred scallions sound like a great idea too!

    And Grace, I'm glad we are both masochistic with the heat ;)

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