Skip to Content

This article contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

12 Best Hot Sauces In America

No longer relegated to Mexican restaurants and Cajun cafes, hot sauces now appear in many American restaurants and fill even more American kitchen cupboards. But which hot sauce is the best hot sauce? Read on to discover 12 top hot sauce contenders that bring both heat and happiness to the table.

Hot Sauces Close Up at Casa Mexicana
Image: ©2foodtrippers

A world without hot sauce would be a sad world.Though we’d survive with condiments like mustard and ketchup, we’d miss the tongue-tingling effect that hot sauce provides every time we sprinkle it on our food.

Luckily, today’s world has more hot sauces than countries. Go to any American grocery store and you’ll likely find dozens of hot sauce bottles in different sizes and colors. The choices can be mind boggling.

Explore the wonderful world of hot sauces on Amazon where you can buy hot sauce bottles, hot sauce cookbooks and even a DIY hot sauce kit.

What Is Hot Sauce?

Hot Sauce in New Orleans
Life is full of choices. Some of these choices involve hot sauces. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Hot sauce is a condiment that brings the heat to the party thanks to one key ingredient – chili peppers. What started as a defense mechanism in the bulbous nightshades has grown into a desired flavor component. Hot sauce brands have grown exponentially, especially in regions of the world where mouth-burning chilies are most abundant.

Depending on the manufacturer and recipe, typical hot sauce chili peppers include cayenne, habanero, jalapeño, piri-piri and tabasco. Then there’s the ghost pepper which has enough capsaicin to make a grown man cry.

Fun Fact
Many of the most popular hot sauces are manufactured in Mexico and the US. This should be no surprise since chili peppers have been a staple in the Americas for millennia.

Our Favorite Hot Sauces

Gallery of Many Hot Sauces
Life is too short for just one hot sauce. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

While we’re always game to try new hot sauces when we travel around the world, we have our hot sauce favorites that fill our cabinet and add spice to both our food and our lives.

Most of these hot sauces are red and have roots in the Americas – but not all of them. However, they’re all sold in America, either in physical markets or online. Heat levels run the gamut on the Scoville scale depending on their peppers and recipes. To us, they all taste great.

Read on to discover our 12 favorite hot sauces:

1. Valentina

Valentina Salsa Picante
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – Mexico
Heat Level – Mild (Salsa Picante) and Hot (Muy Picante)

Valentina isn’t a new kid on the hot sauce block. Salsa Tamazula has been producing its somewhat thick, mostly mild signature hot sauce with puya chili peppers, vinegar, water, salt, spices and sodium benzoate in Guadalajara since 1954. The company also produces a hotter version with more than double the heat. Kapow!

Valentina Hot Sauce Muy Picante
Image: ©2foodtrippers

We don’t know when it happened but Valentina Salsa Picante is currently our go-to hot sauce at home. It’s the bottle we pull out most often when we want an extra flavor kick whether we’re eating fajitas, omelettes or pizza. We recently bought a bottle of Valentina’s hotter Muy Picante sauce. It’s great in salsa recipes as well as for those times when we feel the need for extra heat.

Fun Fact
Valentina hot sauce was named in honor of Valentina Ramírez Avitia, a heroic Mexican freedom fighter who died in 1979.

2. Tabasco

Tabasco Pepper Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Varies from Mild (Green Pepper Sauce) to Call the Fire Department (Scorpion)

Produced since 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana with just three ingredients (tabasco peppers, salt and vinegar) , Tabasco’s original hot sauce is both versatile and ubiquitous. It’s the hot sauce that we see most often in restaurants in the United States and beyond. It’s also the hot sauce that provided our gateway to the joys of capsaicin.

Blast from the Past
Daryl toured the Tabasco factory with his high school buddies when he was still in college. As for Mindi, she enthusiastically added Tabasco to everything from cottage cheese to soup when she lived in New York City.

Burrito Bowl with Tabasco at Chipotle
Adding Chipotle Tabasco sauce is a must when we eat Chipotle burrito bowls. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The original Tabasco sauce is relatively thin compared to its Louisiana hot sauce competitors. Just a few drops will add a good amount of heat to just about anything.

While we keep tiny bottles of Tabasco’s signature pepper sauce and its green pepper sauce in our Lisbon pantry, we’re actually partial to the brand’s chipotle sauce. However, we only use that sauce when we eat burrito bowls at the American fast food chain Chipotle. If we were to buy a bottle of Tabasco’s chipotle sauce, it would likely be gone in a day.

Fun Fact
Tabasco currently produces nine different sauce flavors – Buffalo Style, Cayenne Garlic, Chipotle Pepper, Garlic Pepper, Green Jalapeño, Habanero Pepper, Red Pepper, Scorpion, Sriracha and Sweet & Spicy.

3. Huy Fong Sriracha

Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Mild

A staple in Asian food restaurants, Huy Fung Sriracha wasn’t invented in Asia. Instead, David Tran concocted the sweet yet spicy condiment in Los Angeles in 1980. But he wasn’t the first person to concoct a sriracha sauce. That honor goes to Thai cooks almost a century ago.

According to NPR, while Tran was initially inspired by sriracha hot sauce sold in Thailand, the two condiments aren’t identical. Tran’s version includes a mix of jalapeño peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar plus potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite.

Not surprisingly, Thai people prefer the original version while Americans are partial to Tran’s sauce with the familiar rooster symbol on each bottle.

Squeezing Sriracha on Yangzhou Fried Rice
Huy Fung Sriracha enhances the flavors in Asian dishes like Yangzhou Fried Rice. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We’re unabashedly on team rooster. Huy Fong’s sauce has a deep red carmelized quality that makes it grip to just about any food. It also has deeper flavors that skew more sweet and savory than sour.

Huy Fung is the sriracha sauce that we first added to bowls of Pho in Philadelphia. It’s the sriracha sauce that we add to Asian dishes like Yangzhou Fried Rice when we them cook at home. And it’s the sriracha sauce that we can’t currently buy in Lisbon due to global supply chain issues. Le sigh.

Fun Fact
Hardcore sriracha fans can dip sriracha flavored potato chips into sriracha hot sauce.

4. Frank’s RedHot

Franks Red Hot
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Mild

Frank’s RedHot sauce is one of the most popular hot sauces in America for one main reason. That reason isn’t its great taste or its roster of all-natural ingredients which include fermented red cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic powder, salt and water.

Instead, Frank’s popularity sprouts from its role in one of America’s most iconic foods – Buffalo Wings.

Buffalo wings - overhead view
Adding Frank’s hot sauce to these baked Buffalo Wings turned them into tongue tinglers. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We know why Anchor Bar in Buffalo added Frank’s to its Buffalo Wings recipe in 1964. It’s the same reason that we added the centenarian hot sauce to our baked Buffalo Wings recipe decades later.

Frank’s contains just enough vinegar to deliver its unique cayenne based flavor. While it’s far from the hottest sauce on this list, adding high quantities of the hot sauce to chicken wings delivers plenty of heat.

Fun Fact
The Frank’s folks have clearly embraced the Buffalo Wings connection. The company now has a Buffalo Wings hot sauce (with both oil and butter flavor) on its hot sauce roster.

5. Louisiana’s Pure Crystal Hot Sauce

Crystal
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Medium Hot

It’s no secret that Crystal hot sauce, whose full name is Louisiana’s Pure Crystal Hot Sauce, is from Louisiana. But this hot sauce isn’t just from Louisiana – its roots are in the state’s greatest city, New Orleans.

German immigrant Alvin Baumer moved to the Big Easy in 1923 with the goal of producing sno-ball syrup. Legend has it that he found the three-ingredient “Crystal Pure” hot sauce recipe in a drawer and, as they say, the rest is history.

FYI – Crystal’s three ingredients are aged red cayenne chiles, distilled vinegar and salt.

Hot Sauce Dilemma at Brennans in New Orleans
Mindi had a tough choice to make during our breakfast at Brennan’s in New Orleans. Spoiler Alert – she chose both hot sauces. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

To call Crystal hot sauce a New Orleans food favorite is an understatement. Bottles of Crystal top tables throughout the city. They’re at po boy shops and at iconic restaurants like Brennan’s. It’s worth noting that the current Baumer’s are related to the Brennan’s – Alvin “Pepper”Baumer III’s grandmother Dottie Brennan was an original owner of Commander’s Palace.

We keep a bottle of Crystal in our pantry. It’s slightly thicker than Tabasco with plenty of piquancy but, unlike it’s more acidic competitor, it has a delightfully fruity finish that lingers in the back of our throats. We also like the way it tastes in both gumbo and jambalaya as well as on scrambled eggs.

Fun Fact
Family-owned Baumer Foods produces more than 4.5 million gallons of Crystal Hot Sauce every year. Now that’s a lot of cayenne peppers!

6. Tapatío

Tapatio Hot Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Solidly Hot

Don’t be confused by Tapatío’s country of origin. While Tapatío hot sauce was created in Vernon, California, its creator has Mexican heritage. Any confusion will be gone once you taste this hot sauce which, to us, tastes like Mexico in a bottle.

However, you may be confused by the peppers used to make Tapatío hot sauce. The label lists them as ‘red peppers’. Options include cayenne peppers, pequin peppers, chile de arbol peppers and tabasco peppers.

Breakfast and Condiments at PublicUS in Las Vegas
Tapatío hot sauce brought the heat when we ate this breakfast burrito in downtown Las Vegas. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Named after the Mexican word used to describe people born in Guadalajara, Tapatío hot sauce is a staple at Mexican restaurants all over the United States. It was a niche product until recent decades when American grocery stores starting selling bottles. That’s when the hot sauce’s popularity started to soar.

While we typically add Tapatío to Mexican dishes, we’re open to adding the hot sauce to more mainstream dishes. The flavor of the sauce, maybe due it’s range of dry and fresh chilies, has a deep umami-rich flavor.

Fun Fact
Vernon, California is just 135 miles from the Mexico city of Tijuana.

7. Original Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce

Louisiana Hot Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Mild

Louisiana hot sauce makes us pucker but not because of heat. This particular hot sauce packs a salty vinegar wallop that can’t be ignored.

To be clear, Louisiana hot sauce does have some heat but that heat is relatively mild compared to most hot sauces in this guide. The heat comes from aged cayenne peppers. The only other ingredients are distilled vinegar and salt, which explains the pucker.

Cincinnati Chili and Hot Sauce
We crossed state borders when we doused this plate of Cincinnati Chili with a smoky chipotle version of Louisiana hot sauce. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The Original Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce’s roots are in New Iberia, twenty miles south of Lafayette, and date back to 1928. That’s when Bruce Foods started fermenting red peppers and making hot sauce. Though the company was purchased by a Georgia company, Summit Hill Foods, in 2015, Louisiana hot sauce is still manufactured the same way in the same place.

While it’s a no-brainer to pair Louisiana hot sauce with Cajun dishes, the hot sauce tastes good with other foods too. We like sprinkling it over Cincinnati Hot Chili though we’re careful not to add too much. The bottle says that “one drop does it” but we typically add a few drops.

Fun Fact
The original Louisiana hot sauce is no longer the only flavor produced in New Iberia. Other flavors include Cajun Heat, Garlic Lovers, Hotter than Hot, Smoked Chipotle, Southwest Jalapeño, Sweet Heat with Honey and Tangy Taco.

8. Cholula

Cholula Hot Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – Mexico
Heat Level – Hot

You’ve surely seen Cholula hot sauce at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant – it seems to be at every Mexican restaurant in America. It’s the one with the pretty label and wooden topper.

But Cholula is more than hot sauce in a unique bottle. It’s proof that two chiles can be better than one – at least when those two chiles are arbol and piquin peppers. It’s also one of the hottest hot sauces in this guide.

Pour Cholula Hot Sauce into a bowl of guacamole
Adding Cholula to guacamole is always a good idea. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Cholula is a key ingredient in traditional sangrita. The vinegar-forward hot sauce also tastes great on tacos, burritos and other Mexican dishes. At home, we add it to guacamole.

Fun Fact
Despite its name, Cholula’s Mexican roots aren’t in the ancient Pueblo city Cholula. Instead, the hot sauce’s origin city is Chapala in Jalisco.

9. Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp

Chili Crisp Jar
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – China
Heat Level – Mildly Hot

Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp isn’t the only chili crisp on the market but it the one that started the craze for this style of Asian hot sauce from Guizhou, China. You should be able to find jars in your local Asian market like we did or you can order jars from Amazon.

Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp should look familiar – it’s the jar with the picture of the stone-faced Asian godmother. We get her angst. The jar makes us angry too since we know that it will eventually be empty.

Spoonful of Chili Crisp with Avocado Egg Toast
Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp takes Avocado Egg Toast to the next level. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Unlike other hot sauces in this guide, chili crisp is an infused oil with chili peppers, fermented soy beans, garlic and onions. It’s hot but not too hot. It’s salty and has an intense umami savoriness that makes almost everything taste better. We especially like Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp in rice bowls, mixed with rice noodles and slathered over Avocado Egg Toast.

Pro Tip
Be careful when working with or eating Lao Gan Ma’s Chili Crisp since the red oil stains everything.

10. El Yucateco Chile Habanero

El Yucateco Habanero Green Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – Mexico
Heat Level – Hotter Than Heck

El Yucateco Green Habanero hot sauce is the real deal. Priamo Gamboa first started making habanero hot sauces in Merida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state, back in 1968 and this is where El Yucateco continues to operate.

In case you missed the memo, habanero peppers are really hot. According to the Scoville scale, habanero peppers are easily 60 times hotter than jalapeño peppers. However, to put things into perspective, habanero peppers pale in comparison to ghost peppers.

El Yucateco Green Habanero Sauce on a Spoon
A little bit of El Yucateco Green Habanero hot sauce goes a long way. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Just when we were starting to think that most hot sauces were interchangeable, El Yucateco Green Habanero hot sauce proved otherwise. Taste testing the verdant condiment on little silver spoons sent our taste buds into pleasant, piquant shock.

Habanero peppers add both pronounced heat and smokey flavor to El Yucateco’s green hot sauce in a way that’s different from milder hot sauces. Whether you add it to traditional Mexican dishes or eggs, the key to remember is that a little bit goes a long way.

Fun Fact
El Yucateco sells a rainbow of habanero hot sauces that includes red, green, orange, brown and black.

11. Paladin Piri-Piri

Piri-Piri Sauce
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – Portugal
Heat Level – Hot, Hotter and Hottest

Most common in Africa and Portugal, piri-piri sauce is proof that hot sauce isn’t limited to the Americas and Asia. It’s also the hot sauce served at Nando’s, a global fast food chain that’s slowly making its way into the US.

Paladin produces hot sauces in Portugal that range all the way from ‘regular’ hot to ‘ouch ouch’ hot. All of the Paladin’s hot sauces feature piri-piri peppers, with some adding ingredients like bay leaves, garlic, habanero peppers, lemon and pineapple to the mix.

Arroz de Marisco and Piri Piri at O Gaveto in Porto
Piri-piri sauce is easy to find in Portugal. Hooray! | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We first encountered piri-piri sauce in Cape Town where we added the flavorful hot sauce to grilled chicken and seafood. Today, we do the same in Lisbon.

We’ve not yet made spicy piri-piri sauce ourselves. Instead, we happily buy bottles of Paladin Piri-Piri hot sauce at the grocery store so that we can add it to dishes like Arroz de Pato and Frango Assado at home.

Fun Fact
Piri-Piri peppers are also called Peri-Peri peppers.

12. Mike’s Hot Honey

Mikes Hot Honey
| Image: ©2foodtrippers

Country of Origin – USA
Heat Level – Mild

Our final hot sauce, Mike’s Hot Honey, is the most controversial hot sauce on this list.

Some people don’t consider hot honeys to be hot sauces. We don’t agree with them. Then there’s the issue that Mike’s Hot Honey isn’t particularly hot. We’re okay with that.

This is our list and we like the story behind Mike’s Hot Honey as much as we like adding the sticky condiment to slices of pizza in Lisbon. We also like that it has just three ingredients – honey, chili peppers and vinegar.

Pepperoni Slice at Paulie Gees Soul City Slice Shop in Philadelphia
Mike’s Hot Honey perked up this Paulie Gee’s pizza slice we ate in Philadelphia. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Mike Kurtz created his popular hot honey while he was working at Paulie Gee’s, one of the best NYC pizza shops, more than a decade ago. After the pizzeria’s customers went crazy over the condiment, Kurtz started selling bottles of Mike’s Hot Honey to them in 2010. Today, he distributes his hot/sweet elixir nationally including on Amazon.

Fun Fact
Our bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey doesn’t specify the type of chili used in the recipe but we’re guessing that they’re jalapeño peppers.

Additional American Hot Sauces

Hot Sauce at Cup Cafe in Tucson
We encountered these bottles of Arizona Gunslinger in Tucson. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Consider the following additional brands in your personal exploration of the best American hot sauces:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Hot Sauce?

Hot sauce is a condiment that brings the heat to the party thanks to one key ingredient – chili peppers.

What is the most popular Hot Sauce in America?

Frank’s RedHot is currently the most popular hot sauce in America. The versatile hot sauce isn’t just a tasty condiment. It’s also the main ingredient in Buffalo Wings sauce.

What are the 10 top Hot Sauces?

The 10 best hot sauces include Valentina, Tabasco, Huy Fong Sriracha, Frank’s RedHot, Crystal, Tapatio, Louisiana, Cholul, Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp and El Yucateco.

What is America’s best Hot Sauce?

So many great hot sauces are available in America. You need to taste them all to find your personal favorite.

Hungry For More In America?

American Candy - Social IMG
Candies
Best Chips in America - Social IMG'
Chips
Best American Snacks - Social IMG
Snacks
About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.

Disclosures

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Funding
We purchased and tasted all hot sauces featured in this article.

Original Publication Date: June 26, 2023

Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free guide to eating like a local when you travel.

2foodtrippers Headshot

Don't Miss A Bite!

Subscribe to our newsletter and get our free guide to eating like a local when you travel. 

Get our free guide to eating like a local when you travel.