If you aren’t well-versed in the art of hot sauce, you’ve lived your entire life thinking inside of a Tapatio-stained box. You think of it as nothing more than a fiery stomach ache in a bottle, just waiting for an opportunity to ruin a plate of eggs or make your next bowl of chili unbearable.
But if you do know about hot sauces, you understand that it’s not just about heat or hurt, but that the best sauces comprise some of the most robust flavors—fruits, peppers, smoke, heat, and a veritable smorgasbord of others. You know that good hot sauces come in all different shapes and sizes. And, most importantly, you know that a good hot sauce doesn’t burn out the flavors of a dish, but rather accentuates them, transforming a food into a whole new plate. Good hot sauces come in all different shapes and sizes.
Here are 8 award-winning hot sauces you can buy right now.
Chili Pepper Magazine awards 2015
Scotty O’Hotty’s signature Beer-Bacon Chipotle sauce may sound like a gimmick, but it’s actually anything but. Savory, smoky, with a very light heat and just the right spark from the chipotle, Scotty’s BBC is an everyman’s sauce that goes well on everything from huevos rancheros to flank steak. It has taken home numerous titles, but perhaps its most important accolade is 1st Place for Chipotle in the 2015 Chili Pepper Magazine awards.$8
Best Hot Sauce in the World, World Hot Sauce Awards
It takes a lot for a brand to bring home the “Best Hot Sauce in the World” title from the World Hot Sauce Awards, but if anyone can do it, it’s John Hard and the folks at CaJohn’s. They’re consistently putting out the best spices, marinades, salsas, soup mixes, and hot sauces on the market, and their NOLA is everything you’d expect from a good Louisiana-style sauce. Vinegar, cayenne, garlic, habanero, and a little lemon extract give this hot sauce a robust flavor with plenty of heat. The garlic and vinegar blends incredibly well over steak or in a bowl of chili.$7
World Champion (Medium), World Hot Sauce Awards
Crazy Bastard Sauce (Yellow Label) is the original concoction from the folks at Crazy Bastard. A careful medium mix of habanero, apple, lime, garlic, onion, and some roasted Mexican tomatillo, come together to create one of the more complex flavor profiles on this list—fruity and bright, a little citrusy, with enough vinegar and heat to make things worthwhile. This sauce is meant to be tasted (and meant to be put on everything). We’re not at all surprised it took home a World Champion award at the World Hot Sauce Awards.$7
Chili Pepper Awards, 1st Place, Best Overall Hot Sauce
Ken’s Pepper Works is another smaller brand with a small offering of sauces, but what they do, they do very well. Red Thunder is reminiscent of more traditional Asian sauces —sweet, sour, and tangy, with a subtle bite of smoke. It’s an extremely palatable sauce that’ll please an array of taste buds, with a complex enough flavor profile so as not to be considered anything less than extraordinary.$7
1st Place, 2014 Best Pepper Blend Sauce,
Chile Pepper Magazine
Briggs True Houston Hot doesn’t just talk a big game—it’s the real deal. Hand-selected fire-roasted chilies, authentic spices, and plenty of peppery kick, makes this sauce an excellent addition to grilled meats, tacos, most breakfast foods, and even pizza, if you’re looking for a new experience. Winner of Chile Pepper Magazine’s 2014 Best Pepper Blend award, it’s definitely a sauce to be experienced by all.$18
2012 Easton Chile Pepper Festival –
1st Place People’s Choice
High River Sauces’ Hellacious sauce is another big award winner—Golden Chile Award, New Orleans Chile Pepper Extravaganza, blah blah blah. But what makes its awards portfolio so special is it’s a winner of the coveted People’s Choice Award, an award it took home at the Easton Chile Festival in 2012. And while it carries a name like Hellacious (and quite a gnarly bottle design), it’s a multifaceted sauce, not just spicy. Habanero and chipotle peppers, some sweet agave, lime juice, garlic, and vinegar, all in one bottle. It goes great on meat and poultry, in chili, over tacos, and just about anywhere else you can think of.$6
Winner — Best Chipotle — Mr. Chilli Awards 2015
The Lucky Taco is yet another smaller company making a name for themselves in the hot sauce game. Gold award winner of the Australasia Mr. Chilli Awards 2015 for Best Chipotle, Lucky Taco’s Chipotle Hot Sauce isn’t a fire burner. The “mild child” of the brand, the sauce has a low kick, but high flavor, with its clever use of citrus, tomato, onion, and vinegar. It won’t light your mouth on fire, but will add a wonderful array of flavor to everything from burgers and steaks, to eggs, potatoes, and even things like grilled watermelon.$9
Best Hot Sauce, Zestfest 2016
Zestfest is like the Oscars of the hot sauce world, and Primo’s Peppers’ Swampadelic Sauce is a golden child—Best Overall Product, Best Ultra-Hot Sauce, Best Hot Sauce, Best Logo, Best Label, and a bunch of others. This sauce is a gustatory blasting furnace, made with 7 Pot Primo (their own concoction!) and Aji Panca chili peppers. Just a heads up, this one is not for the novice hot sauce sampler. It’s hot. Like, really, really hot. You’ve been warned!$8