Hot take of the day: Hot sauce deserves to be its own food group. Even the blandest meals can be transformed into something special with a few (or more) drops of your favorite hot sauce. And not only can you plop it onto finished dishes, you can incorporate your favorite sauces into your cooking to create the most delicious marinades, sauces and dips.
Any well-stocked kitchen contains at least a few bottles of hot sauce. But for the real heat-lovers among us, it’s appropriate for your entire fridge door to be dominated by the spicy stuff. But if your spicy-averse, mayo-loving partner or roommate is upset that there’s no room for their Hellman’s, you may need to cut down on the number of hot sauce bottles clogging up your precious food storage space.
That’s why I’ve done the difficult, backbreaking work of trying out some of the most popular hot sauces on the market: to help you decide which ones to keep (or to go out and try) and which to retire from your spicy repertoire. You may disagree with some of these rankings, and that’s okay: Everyone is entitled to their own misguided opinions. Without further ado, here’s how some of the most popular hot sauces on store shelves stack up.
Louisiana is responsible for some of the most delicious foods in all of the U.S. They introduced the country to po-boys, beignets and the crawfish boil, which is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate celebration food. But when it comes to Louisiana Hot Sauce You’re not getting anything too special. There’s nothing wrong with this sauce, per se, but compared to the others on this list, it’s just kind of boring.
It has a medium heat level, but most of that heat greets you upfront: As you continue chewing, you’ll lost almost all of the spice you’re craving. Instead, you’re just left with an overwhelming salty flavor. I likely consume more salt than 90% of humans on this earth, and the saltiness of this sauce is still a bit overwhelming for me. If you don’t have any other options, Louisiana Hot Sauce is fine. Otherwise, there are way better options out there to choose from.
One thing I love about Valentina is the fact that, compared to many other hot sauces on the market, this one looks and feels thicker. It’s better for coating meats and veggies, and it doesn’t have the thin wateriness you might expect from other hot sauces. That being said, though, it just doesn’t have the spiciness I’m looking for in a good hot sauce.
This brand is surprisingly mild, which makes it a good option for households with many different spice tolerances living under one roof. But for true spice lovers, this sauce doesn’t make the cut. I think of it more as a seasoning than a true hot sauce. The flavors are great, and it can be added to all types of dishes, but it’s certainly not my top choice when I’m going for heat.
Here’s another one that tastes great but just can’t bring the level of heat we’re looking for: Texas Pete. This brand’s original hot sauce is the kind of stuff you would drizzle on every bite of a burrito, hoping to imbue the tortilla and fillings with more flavor. The best part of the sauce is the acidity, which can brighten up even the fattiest, most carb-heavy dishes.
But similarly to the other sauces addressed so far on this list, it offers minimal heat. Really, it’s more about the vinegar than anything. That means you can put a lot on your food, so there’s a good chance you’ll use up the bottle relatively quickly if you like the taste. Pair it with some chili flakes if you want to up the heat factor.
Yet again, we’re talking about a sauce that doesn’t bring enough heat. This time, it’s the Tex-Mex restaurant staple, Cholula. These types of mass-produced hot sauces tend to go light on the spice level to appeal to a wider swath of customers, but they often disappoint those of us who are actually looking to add a bit of heat to a dish. But I can’t deny that Cholula can dress up a wide variety of dishes.
Me personally? I love adding Cholula to eggs for some extra flavor. The arbol and piquin peppers offer a flavor profile you won’t often encounter in a typical hot sauce, which is why this one ranks above many of the other not-too-hot varieties. But, again, those who are on the hunt for the hottest of hot sauces would do well to skip this one.
Okay, okay, I know I might get some pushback from this one, but Taco Bell’s Fire Sauce, is, well, really good. Unlike their milder flavors (some of which are also delicious—looking at you, Verde Sauce), the Fire Sauce has quite a bit of heat to it. Is this the spiciest sauce you’ll ever try? Of course not. After all, it’s produced by a fast food joint. But for those just dipping their toes into the wide world of spicy sauces, it’s a perfect addition to any taco.
You probably don’t want to have to take multiple trips to Taco Bell just to stock up on enough sauce packets to complement a single dinner, which is why you’ll be happy to know that this stuff is actually available in the bottle. Make your own tacos so you have a perfect canvas for all that spice.
Tabasco is a classic we all know and love. The original red pepper sauce is a winner for so many reasons. First of all, and most importantly, it’s actually spicy. It’s not so spicy that those with a strong aversion to spice won’t be able to manage it, but it definitely offers a significant amount of heat. That means you don’t have to absolutely coat your food in it to pick up on the flavor: A little bit truly goes a long way with this brand.
It also has an ideal balance of vinegar, so it’s not just adding heat to your dish but also providing an intense burst of flavor. It could be a bit less watery, but I don’t even mind the strange consistency considering how good the flavor is. Tabasco is a staple in my kitchen and probably always will be.
I know that not all fans of spice love Frank’s RedHot because it is quite mild. However, this hot sauce provides such a punch of flavor to anything you put on it that it has earned its distinguished position in this ranking. It’s definitely good on its own, but it’s even better when it’s used as a marinade or added to dips. The sauce is relatively thin and runny, which makes it perfect for mixing with other ingredients.
What I like most about Frank’s RedHot is the distinctive flavor of garlic, which is what sets it apart from other hot sauces you might find at the grocery store. Add it to a dish with even more garlic, and you’ll see what all the hype is about.
Perhaps the most essential of all hot sauces, Huy Fong Foods Sriracha is an absolute fridge essential. I’m also in love with their Sambal Oelek, but the sriracha just seems to go on anything and everything. It has some serious spice to it, but it really depends on how much you add to whatever you’re cooking. Because of its consistency, it’s easy to add just a few drops to a dish to add a mild layer of heat, but you can also really pour it on to get that ultra-spiciness so many of us love.
This sriracha has a simple enough flavor profile that it can truly be added to everything, which makes it an essential for so many of us. And compared to all the other sriracha brands I’ve tried, this one from Huy Fong Foods remains my favorite.
One of the hottest peppers out there is the habanero, so it only makes sense that a habanero-based hot sauce would rank high on this list. Yellowbird’s Habanero Hot Sauce is everything I’ve ever dreamt of in a spicy condiment. Not only does it offer some serious heat, it also presents whoever tastes it with layers upon layers of flavor. The addition of carrot offers the sauce a slight sweetness, while the citrus adds a generous kick of fruity acidity that sets itself apart from other vinegar-based sauces.
Add in the garlic, and it’s clear why this is one of my absolute favorites. While Yellowbird may not have the name recognition of Tabasco or Cholula, I fully expect this sauce to become a favorite for spice lovers everywhere.
Does chili crisp count as a hot sauce? For me, absolutely. It can be used in much the same way, even though this Fly By Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp adds not just flavor but also a lovely texture. It offers plenty of spice, just a touch of crispiness and even has a numbing effect that makes every bite of food so much more interesting. While it’s not the spiciest sauce on this list, it is the most savory and satisfying. Take any basic dish and add this chili crisp, and you’ll realize that it’s all you’ve ever needed or wanted in life.
While you can put this stuff on all of the standard dishes you’d add any hot sauce to, Fly By Jing makes a nontraditional suggestion you have to try: adding it to vanilla ice cream. Seriously. The creamy texture and sweet taste provide the perfect canvas for the chili crisp to shine.