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This homemade hot sauce makes good use of the bountiful tomatoes, onions and peppers in your garden or farmers' market. Adjust the heat to your preference: in our tests, two habaneros yielded a pleasantly spicy sauce without excessive heat--take it up a notch for spicy-food fans by adding extra hot peppers.

EatingWell Magazine, September/October 2008


Read the full recipe after the video.

How To Make Hot Sauce

Sure, you can buy hot sauce at the store, but it's easy to make at home and you can easily control the flavor and the heat level to suit your taste. Our hot sauce starts with cooking onions, peppers and garlic in olive oil. This brings out the flavor of the veggies and adds sweetness to the sauce from the onions as they cook. Tomatoes are added for additional sweetness, body and to balance the heat from the peppers. Vinegar is added here to give the hot sauce its signature tanginess. Salt and sugar are added to give the hot sauce a nice balance between salty and sweet. If you like hot sauce on the sweeter side, you can add more sugar. After the mixture cooks together and the flavors meld (about 5 minutes), the hot sauce is pureed and then poured through a strainer to make it extra smooth before it cools down and is ready to use.

Ways to Control The Heat

Which peppers you choose will dictate how hot your hot sauce will be. In our recipe, we pair milder chiles (poblano, New Mexico or Anaheim) with hotter chiles (small chiles like habanero, Scotch Bonnet or Thai chiles) to make a well-balanced, crowd-pleasing sauce. To make it hotter, use more small, hot chiles. To make it milder, use fewer small chiles or skip them entirely. The membranes that hold the seeds are the spiciest part of chile peppers (that's where the capsaicin is). The seeds pick up some spiciness by association. You can customize the heat of salsa or hot sauce by using some or all of the seeds along with the flesh of the pepper and tasting as you go. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after chopping hot peppers or wear rubber gloves.

How Long Can I Store Homemade Hot Sauce?

You can store the hot sauce in small or large jars (or another air-tight container) in the refrigerator for up to one month or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Additional reporting by Hilary Meyer


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, chile peppers, habaneros to taste and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

  • Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt and sugar to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 minutes.

  • Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot ingredients.) Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; pour the pureed mixture through the sieve, pushing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid. (Discard solids.) Let the sauce cool to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.

Nutrition Facts

1 tablespoon (recipe makes about 2 2/3 cups total)
12 calories; protein 0.2g; carbohydrates 1.3g; dietary fiber 0.3g; sugars 0.7g; fat 0.7g; saturated fat 0.1g; vitamin a iu 126.8IU; vitamin c 9.9mg; folate 2.7mcg; calcium 3.3mg; iron 0.1mg; magnesium 2mg; potassium 36.8mg; sodium 110mg.

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