How to make fermented hot sauce from scratch.

I posted this in a chile thread, but figured this might be a place to make it more accessible.

Fermented chile hot sauce can be made with any fresh chile peppers except small ones and thai. They just don’t work as well. Also green jalapeos don’t work as well as ripe ones. I suggest cayenne varieties, habanero, etc.

To make an incredible fermented hot sauce takes at least a month, but very
little actual work.


I halve the chiles, wearing plastic gloves, and goggles and mask with the
superhots. Then I de-seed and de-vein them. I weigh them and add 5-7% by weight
of salt, and sometimes 2-5% sugar, and process very fine in a food processor.

Then I let them ferment in Ball jars with plastic lids (they started selling
plastic screw tops for the jars recently), filled to the top, in a dark place
in my basement. I seal them loosely at first so gas can escape. I tighten the
jars and shake them daily, then loosen the lids again, for the first few weeks.
This distributes everything and prevents mold. I have never had mold grow.
After a month they are usually fully fermented and you can tighten the lids and
let age, or process into the final sauce. I usually take a small amount of
starter or an old batch of chile paste to kick the fermentation into action. I
also buy a commercial yoghurt that has a large variety of pro-biotics, pour
into a paper towel lined strainer over a bowl and let it drain and use the
liquid (the whey) to add to the paste after it has fermented for two weeks.
This gives the fermentation a bit more zip. I may also add a teaspoon of sugar
at the two week point to get the paste to ferment more, and make more lactic
acid. This fermented hot sauce paste has great flavor as is, but to make it
truly shelf stable I want to raise the acidity slightly. I don’t heat treat
this paste at all, it will have enough salt and acidity when finished.

To make the sauce I first make a 2:1 distilled white vinegar:water solution.
Then I add this 1:1 to the fermented chile paste, and run for a minute or two
on high in my blender. To thicken it, because I like a slightly thick sauce
that I can control the pour, I may add a small amount of xanthan gum powder to
the sauce while it is in the blender, a tiny bit at a time, like 1/8th teaspoon
each time until it is a bit looser than I want. Then one more minute of
blending for the shearing action of the blender to fully activate the xanthan
gum. I then jar or bottle it. It should have a pH of 3.2 or less, if not I may
add some citric acid or more vinegar until it hits this point.

I make several varieties of chile sauce from my peppers. A superhot Ghost
sauce, a superhot Carolina Reaper sauce, a very hot habanero sauce, a hot
habanero sauce using 1/3 habaneros and 2/3 perfume habaneros, a mixed cayenne
using whatever of the 14 types of cayennes, this differs in flavor, but has
that characteristic base flavor. I have still to finish off a batch of Thai
Dragon chile sauce. This was made with seeds and all, since the peppers are to
small to easily de-seed. I just have to finish it off with the vinegar solution
and zanthan gum in the blender. It’s been aging at room temp. for around 6-7
months now.

This process of fermenting and finishing the sauce gives you a sauce with
all the flavor of the chiles, and nothing else except a bit of acidity from the
vinegar to make the flavor pop.


Nice instructable.

I think it’s neat that you add bacteria cultures from yogurt when yogurt makers who want a natural starter have used chili stems. Full circle!


I make a similar one, only I refrigerate it.

I only leave it on my counter (dark spot), for a week with the plastic (Saran wrap), cover and then after that, I cover it tightly (ball jar top). It keeps in the refrigerator for months.

I do add a bit of sugar to the vinegar and a garlic clove to the Thai chilies.

I found the recipe online a few years ago and it’s so easy, I never buy it any longer.

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Seamunky, That’s why I don’t start with the yogurt cultures, but use the naturally occurring ones in the peppers first, with mayber some sauce from a previous batch. The whey from yogurt is added at the two week point. Just to have the extra pro-biotics in there since it is a live, not hot processed sauce.

Oh, and to check the pH I use an inexpensive digital probe meter like the Hanna Instruments Checker portable pH meter which I got for $33 on Amazon, plus some buffering solution, and pH calibration solutions, which cost about $4-6 a small bottle that will last forever.

I have also seen $13 meters on Amazon, which I haven’t tried but will order one to keep in my consulting travel bag.

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I’ve made hot sauce before, but not in awhile, and not with serranos. I have a lot of serranos, and want a recipe I can do in stages, and will keep awhile.

Does anyone have any additions or updates? Any reason besides heat to remove seeds and veins? Can i add some "Scotch Bonnets "? They are beautiful, but have none of the aroma I was hoping for.


Best way to reduce heat is to use a milder chili :wink:
Or add bell pepper in the mix. Or even tomato
Removing vein & pips definitely helps.

I roughly use the method as described. Just no yoghurt. And I weigh the chili’s, then calculate 2 to 3 % salt and make a brine of equal amount.
Let’s say I got 1 kg peppers. I then take 1 litre water with 4-6 % salt and add to chilis
I also make a 2-3% solution and put in a plastic bag on top of chili’s to keep them down

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Thank you!
What are your thoughts about a pepper mash with salt, vs chopped peppers and brine?

I wasn’t wanting to reduce the heat, i just couldn’t think of any other reason to remove the seeds and inner membranes.

I’ve never tried a mash.
Might be more difficult to keep everything under the liquid?
I don’t remove seeds and all, just the green stalk.
Probably takes longer to ferment than mashed or cut up chili’s, but easier to decide if you want to use all liquid.
I got something interesting on the go with half ripe pawpaw, chili’s, tomato, onions and garlic. Should be almost ready

Sounds interesting!

I believe @bogman has some fermented hot sauce going as well.

I am on around day five with mostly red serranos and some sugar rush peach, in what I think is a 3 percent brine. I used a circle of parchment to cover the top of the peppers ( as seen on YouTube!), and may have overfilled the bottle. A small amount of juice occasionally makes its way up into the air loc. I’m shooting for a four week ferment, but I’m not sure I trust this set up and may change something before the two weeks is up.

I’ve heard of people interrupting a ferment and adding things, but I’m still researching that.


I opened and stirred the floating mash down. Is that a no-no? :grimacing:

Here’s what the air lock looks like now;

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You’ll need to put some water your airlock :wink:
If active fermention is still going, it will eat the oxygen you introduced.
It would be better not to, but you can never prevent it totally

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Thank you!

It doesn’t show well in the earlier picture, but the “chamber” on the right is full, and the water line is center of the bend in the plastic.

Now, several hours later, both chambers are equal, but I see air spaces in the mash. I think I will hold off disturbing those.

OTOH, I’ve tasted a bit, and it is tasty, but it doesn’t seem hot enough.

How about I add more peppers, and maybe garlic at two weeks? Would that start the fermentation again? and be safe? Beneficial?

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I would make a second batch with a hotter chili type.
Then mix when both are done


When I do a pepper mash, I’m using 2% of the pepper weight of salt, with enough water to cover. Small peppers usually just get crushed or chopped in a Vitamix at low speed to prevent cracking the seeds. If you don’t have a Harsch crock or fermenting crock, there are a bunch of places selling mason jar kits with glass weights to hold the peppers under the liquid. “Submerge in brine and all will be fine.”

In order to keep everything under the glass weights, I used some flexible plastic screen, used to top dehydrator shelves. This was cut to the shape of the inner jar diameter. It’s flexible enough to get through the mouth of the jar, but springs back to make a good “follower”. A follower is an object, cabbage leaves, etc which sits above the ferment and below the weight. This keeps the product submerged.

Instead of yoghurt starter, my preferred starter is a small amount of fresh kimchi juice. Yoghurt bacteria are not really great at plant ferments. Leuconostoc, Weisella koreensis and Lactobacillus are present in vegetable ferments, like kimchi. Fermented batters made from rice and bean flour, such as Indian idlies, can also be very helpful.

Because these organisms are much more common inside cabbage leaves and typically sparse or absent on peppers (bacteria hate sunlight and dry), I have made effective starters by peeling off some regular European cabbage leaves or Chinese cabbage (Napa/Michihili) and rinsing them off in a bowl. Then, that water gets put into the fermenter.

Fermented hot sauces are rarely shelf stable for long. The typical method to drive the pH down to around pH 4 or below is to add vinegar. To reduce diluting the hot sauce with excess vinegar (5% acidity), you can use Essig Essenz (25%) acidity. Citric acid can be used, but adds a certain flavor.

Currently, I’ve got 9 half-gallons of pickled Grenada Seasoning + Rocotillo (true) and 6 half-gallons of Grenada Hot Red + Jamaican Goat. The former are mild, while the latter are blazing hot. Unlike a ferment, these were cored, deseeded and packed tightly into jars. Because of the water content in the peppers, 100-125 mls. of Essig Essenz is added, plus enough vinegar to fill the jars right up to the top, to exclude air, which can discolor the pickled peppers.

While a ferment adds certain flavors and softens the peppers, the above method uses room temperature vinegar and allows pepper enzymes to soften the fruits. It’s too acidic to spoil and there’s almost no oxygen. More fresh pepper taste is retained. However, very small peppers and those which are juicy, like Tabasco peppers, are impractical to deseed and require fermenting. Fermented Charapita peppers make outstanding hot sauce! The flavor, no matter how you handle it, dissipates in time; the complex fruitiness slowly disappears. I made some freeze dried Charapita pwder and will experiment with adding that to sauces, as needed.

The jar lids are plastic, screw-on types, with a silicone rubber gaskets, which I got from a fun little company, Mason Jar Lifestyle. These lids are airtight and don’t rust.

After 4-6 months, or more, the peppers soften and get liquified in a Vitamix, keeping the hot and mild separate. After blending to taste, Balsamic vinegar (a little) and salt get added and the half gallons of blend get a bunch of white oak sticks, which get lightly charred, toasted to impart a bourbon flavor component. This needs to age a minimum of 6 months before filtering and bottling. After aging with oak, it’s usually necessary to bump up the heat, as the sauce gets a bit milder. I just add more of the hot mix or a tiny amount of Carolina Reaper puree.

If your ferment is really foaming hard, it may be good to put the fermenter in a slightly cooler spot, slow it down to prevent eruptions or clogged air locks.

Yellow and orange peppers usually come out of a ferment a beautiful color, because there is no oxygen and the peppers hold their colors in the CO2 rich brine. Sadly, they’ll turn a muddy color over time. The easiest solution is to use red peppers or a majority of red peppers in the mix, and keep oxygen away. Fill containers to the top, once there is no fermentation, of course!

Another destroyer of color is light. I use the dark amber-colored Ball jars which exclude 99% of light (especially uv) and/or brown paper bags to cover the jars. Then, they’re kept in a cool, dark basement.


Just seeing this! Thanks!

Thank you!

I’m afraid I disagree, having used the small Thai in very good ferments. Tabasco chilies are small. Bird peppers have also been fermented. I’ve fermented Aji Charapita many times with consistently great results; those are pea-sized.

There may be an issue with the salt concentration you are using, given the typically lower water content ,percentage-wise, in the smaller peppers.


@bogman and others;
I’ve put my 14+ day fermented mash of red serranos and some sugar rush peach in the fridge, because I wasn’t sure about what I think was kahm yeast, and I’m not sure about using my ph meters in the kitchen. I think I need to calibrate.

Mash smells and tastes good right now, but I’m considering continuing with another ferment with new peppers and garlic. Any advice?

Here’s how the mash, stored in the refrigerator for two days, looks today.

Also, I want to preserve a lot of my sugar rush peach peppers, and some more ripe serranos and “scotch bonnets” for hot sauce. I am hoping to procrastinate regarding the final sauce, but want to get started with some fermentation, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed with choices.

I’m thinking I want to start with a ferment of peppers that I can keep submerged, but im wondering if Im missing something about using vinegar, given the color.

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The batch in the fridge looks fine. If it tastes good and is acidic, there should be no issues. The kahm yeast is common, but often doesn’t appear if there isn’t oxygen leaking in. There’s also a balance between “headspace”, the empty air above the ferment: too much space and there’s a lot of oxygen to expel; too little and the ferment may foam, rise into the airlock. Fermenting at a cooler temperature can reduce foaming and the headspace required. If the batch in the fridge is done bubbling, fermenting, I’d put it in a smaller jar with less air.

A pH meter is very useful. For longer-term stability, you’ll want to add more acid to the product. Using Essig Essenz (25% acetic acid) will result in less dilution because you can add five times LESS of it to achieve a stable pH. I’d strain the mash before adding additional acid.

Of course, you can skip a ferment and go straight to the pickling method I’m using this year, described above. Keep in mind that Sugar Rush Peach tends to fade color and yellow Scotch Bonnets turn a muddy color over time (especially in a hot sauce bottle, where air gets in).

My hot sauces mix in some yellow (Grenada Seasoning) with primarily red types, giving the sauces an appealing color. A lot of sauce makers use other ingredients to color sauces, such as carrots, beet juice Achiote/Annato seed powder. I imagine even a good paprika can be used, but it will thicken the sauce as you add more. The lack of moisture in paprika means it won’t drop the pH significantly. If you have a lot of red serranos, those might do the trick.

Overwhelmed? Don’t stress; have fun! Maybe it’ll work, maybe not. Keep notes, weigh everything and like any “recipe” it’s apt to improve over time. Next year will appear with more options to choose from.

A very good book on general ferments is “Fermented Vegetables”, by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. My only complaint is that, like most books on the subject, the authors give salt measurements in vague terms, “teaspoons, tablespoons” etc. The brand and type of salt one uses can have a huge impact when using non-weight measurements. A teaspoon of Kosher salt can have nearly a half of the actual salt-Sodium Chloride, found in pickling salt. For reference, I made a salt cheat-sheet to help me maneuver recipes, using weights.
One Tablespoon (15 ml) by volume yielded the following results:
•Diamond Crystal Kosher salt = 8.2 grams
•Mrs. Wages fine Pickling salt=19 grams
•Non-iodized fine table salt=18.45 grams
Larger quantities, other brands…
1/2 cup (118 ml) by volume gave the following weights:
•Morton Coarse Kosher Salt= 125.45 grams
•Morton Canning & Pickling Salt= 149.45 grams
•Morton Natural Sea Salt= 142.95 grams

As mentioned above, with peppers, especially those with less moisture, I’ll go with a 2% salt, based on the pepper weight (for mash). (I’m trying to keep my sodium intake down!) With juicier peppers, like serranos, pimientos, jalapeños, etc., a 5% brine may be better, if one isn’t making a mash. Want an easy way to figure out brine? Use the metric system!
2% brine = 20 grams per liter of water
5% brine = 50 grams per liter of water.
With the above quantities, the weight of the vegetable/peppers is less critical; you just need enough brine to cover the vegetables by an inch or more. The above is not for a mash! This is best for halved peppers, You can strain out. excess brine, puree/liquify the fermented peppers, strain, then add vinegar.

I’ve got a cute, little Harsch crock and may try a brine ferment with halved peppers next. The only issue is the crock weights are an unglazed ceramic, which will hold onto the capsaicin/hotness! I may need to use bleach and repeat soaking to remedy that. These ferments generally do best at temperatures in the 64-70°F (18–21°C) range.

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