Hot Sauce: My Top 4

We all know that chilli is addictive; the more you eat the more you become tolerant to the fire and want increasing amounts on everything. I have this ‘problem’. I want chilli pickle, chilli oil and every type of imported dried chilli I can get my hands on. I even bought a naga chilli plant (at Brockley Market), so that I can grow plenty of the hottest chillies in the world while simultaneously being too scared to eat them. When it comes to hot sauce though, it’s been a real personal mission. A great hot sauce can liven up just about any meal, be it jerk chicken with rice and peas (a must) or simply cheese on toast.

Everyone has at least one hot sauce in their cupboard, right? I think it’s a shame that so often that bottle is nothing more than a lonely Tabasco, a weeny thing that suggests fierce heat but doesn’t particularly deliver, despite having a pleasant peaty flavour. It has its place, which is often at the back of the cupboard where it sits unloved for years sporting an orange crust betwixt bottle and fiddly green cap.

The best hot sauces make you pause before dinner and think, ‘I wonder if I could get away with a blob of X on this?’  and they make you push the boundaries of your tolerance; we’ve all enthusiastically scooped up a massive blob – ‘I can take it!’ – only to be reduced to a snivelling wreck. A good hot sauce will make you crave, crave, crave. I’ve tried a LOT of varieties in recent years and these are the ones I think find the right balance between their position on the Scoville Scale and flavour. A hot sauce shouldn’t simply be very hot, you see (I’ve tried ‘Death Sauce‘ and found it unbearable); it should have depth, sweetness, acidity, salt and it should capture the flavour of the chilli in question. It’s a big ask. Here are my favourites, in no particular order:

1. ‘No Joke’ [see £3.25 + pp for 170ml. You’ll need to e-mail if you want to order some, for the moment – new website coming soon. Follow the creator, Susanna on Twitter at @nojokepepper]. 

‘No Joke’ hot sauce (‘created in Trinidad, hand-made in Cumbria’), the newest addition to my cupboard, winged its way to me via food writer Adam Coghlan (his girlfriend’s mum makes it). I’ve tried a lot of scotch bonnet-based sauces in my time and this is one of the best. It has a jammy consistency, with a pure scotch bonnet flavour offset by the sweet, sour and spicy notes of papaya, lime and ginger. The heat pulls no punches but is balanced by the sugar and spicing. A truly tropical-tasting hot sauce.

2. Holy Fuck Sauce by The Rib Man [£5 for 250ml from]

Londoners have been going crazy for this sauce, and rightly so. It comes from the kitchen of Mark Gevaux (The Rib Man) and was apparently named ‘Holy Fuck’ because that’s what people say when they first taste it. He uses scotch bonnet and a smaller amount of bhut jolokia or naga, the world’s hottest chilli. It does, of course, pack serious burn but somehow – possibly through some kind of sorcery – Mark has managed to capture the rich, fruity perfume of the chillies. There is no other hot sauce with a comparable flavour; it’s truly addictive. A lot of sweetness balances out the heat and I wonder if he uses ketchup in the mix. It has the most incredible thick texture, too. I’m not sure I can ever be without a bottle.

3. Tan Rosie Garlic and Pepper Sauce [£4.00 for 250ml, available from]

I came across this one thanks to a tip-off on Twitter. It’s made to a family recipe by Tan Rosie foods (based in Birmingham) who advertise it as a ‘true taste of the Caribbean’. Phewee! Yeah, this is a hot one all right. Despite the heat which, for me, hangs just on the right side of searing, the flavour of scotch bonnets is so incredibly pure. It does border slightly on frustrating, because I always want more of the flavour with a little less of the heat but I can’t help going back for more. I’d choose ‘No Joke’ over Tan Rosie if it came down to it, but a great one to have in the cupboard nonetheless; it’s livened up many a mediocre jerk chicken, although the jerk pictured below was fantastic (from Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre – my favourite until it got taken over by new management recently. So sad).

4. Frank’s Original and Frank’s Extra Hot [you can buy 148ml bottles of Frank’s in major branches of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and through Ocado for £1.49 a bottle and at Waitrose for £1.59 a bottle]. 

I came across this American brand of hot sauce when I first made hot wings back in the summer. The classic buffalo wings recipe uses equal quantities of Frank’s and melted butter (although these days I’m inclined to skew that ratio a little); one batch and I was hooked. My favourite to date was this pile of hickory-smoked, Frank’s and butter slathered beauties (below). Phwoar. Frank’s is a mild sauce (even the extra hot, which is below Tabasco on the Scoville Scale) but it has a lovely flavour, made as it from a mixture of aged cayenne peppers.

I also love it sprinkled over my poached eggs in the morning. It’s mild enough for 8am in my book.

Those are my favourites, but I want to hear yours. Does Sriracha warm your cockles? What about Encona? Are you a hard core Death Sauce fanatic? I’d like to find some new varieties to try so please do let me know in the comments.


Category: Hot Sauce, Sauces, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 90 comments »

90 Responses to “Hot Sauce: My Top 4”

  1. Andy K

    Sriracha is indeed amazing but only with Asian dishes I reckon.

    My top tip is this one, from the Cool Chile Co. They have a stall at Borough market and do mail order. Great on pizzas and cheesey/meaty things.

  2. Helen

    Ace, thanks for the suggestion! I’ll check it out.

  3. Cian

    I love Marie Sharps sauces from belize which you can get online. Red habanero with carrot and green habenero with prickly pear aren’t super hot but taste amazing

  4. Helen

    Great, thanks Cian. I’ve never heard of them actually.

  5. Pub Diaries

    Cholula for a Michelada… Mr Naga as a paste but have been known to dip my finger in when no one looking

  6. Paul

    I spotted this disturbing sauce the other day… Not very inspired to try it from the name:

    Holy Fuck though is amazing, you are right there is nothing else like it. First time I tried it I took a massive bite of my rib butty and my ears shut down from the heat. It just is phenomenal… but the depth of flavour keeps bringing you back. Current fave is holy fuck rarebit, LUSH!

  7. Helen

    Ooh yes Cholula is pretty nice I agree (I think. I mean, I had it once or twice if memory serves!). Will check out Mr. Naga. He sound spicy!

  8. Helen

    Ooh yeah holy fuck rarebit! Funnily enough I had a cheese toastie yesterday with a good slick of HF in it. Yummers. I agree about the AB. I mean, they want people to actually EAT it, right?!

  9. Alicia (Foodycat)

    My absolute favourite chilli sauce is my home made one! Smokey, hot, sweet and delicious.

  10. Helen

    Ha ha, that’s not allowed ;) Okay it is but still, we can’t buy it!

  11. Will

    helem, You are spot on about Marks Holy F*** sauce and the capturing of the perfume/flavours… That is what makes it stand out from the rest. As much as it burns… it tastes great!

  12. Will

    Helen, You are spot on about Marks Holy F*** sauce and the capturing of the perfume/flavours… That is what makes it stand out from the rest. As much as it burns… it tastes great!

  13. Helen

    It’s amazing, isn’t it?! How does he do it!! He needs to keep that recipe LOCKED. DOWN.

  14. Leila

    Great post Helen. I love Holy F*ck (I’ve got a steadily diminishing bottle in my cupboard but recently convinced/pestered Mark on twitter to give me another bottle which I can’t wait to pick up!)

    Agree that Tabasco looks hotter than it actually is but that’s what I prefer for eggs.

    Have you ever tried the Sriracha with added garlic? Much better than the original…

  15. Helen

    Thanks! No I’ve not tried the Sriracha with added garlic. My local Asian supermarket has a good range though I think so I’ll check it out. Thanks!

  16. Becs @ Lay the table

    Sriracha is amazeballs but I also really love Mr Singh’s but that packs a serious intestine-grumbling (perhaps for me anyway) level of spiciness. It is true though, chilli sauce is like crack. You always want more.

  17. Helen

    ooh Mr. Singh’s – never heard of that one either! Ace.

  18. Amine

    Great article! No joke is the best sauce I’ve ever tried, it’s fantastic because it goes with everything and its full of flavour. I like to add it into soups and in a sandwich or on a pizza its amazing!

  19. Helen

    I’ve never tasted a hot sauce with such a tropical flavour – I’m loving the papaya in there. I thought it was pineapple at first!

  20. Emily

    No Joke now comes in three heats, mild, medium and hot! All fantastic!

  21. Gary @ The Greedy Fork

    I’m trying to be a bit more adventurous with chillies, but I’m not a great fan of lots of heat. This has inspired me to check a few sauces out.

    How on earth have they got away with calling it “Holy Fuck”? lol

  22. sakura

    My favourite is ABC Sambal Asli. It’s similar to Sriracha but nicer. You can get it in Chinese supermarket. But I may have to go and get the Holy Fuck sauce!

  23. Helen

    Ah yes, forgot to say that.

  24. Helen

    Ha ha! Well you know, it’s just a word.

  25. Helen

    Ooh great thanks, I’ll look for it locally.

  26. Dan

    I’m a big fan of Baron West Indian Hot Sauce, my bottle of which was a present from the Caribbean but I know you can get it in this country because I’ve seen it at jerk chicken stalls.

    I do like a big dollop of Reggae Reggae BBQ sauce on my eggs in the morning.

  27. Helen

    Great, thanks for the suggestions Dan! Not heard of Baron before.

  28. Miss Cay

    I’m a massive fan of sriracha – it’s absolutely divine on pretty much everything, especially bacon sandwiches. I was pretty much weaned on Encona Hot Pepper sauce (my Dad puts it in pretty much everything). Really delicious stuff. The Cool Chile Company’s products and hot sauces are excellent too.

  29. Helen

    There’s a lorra love for Sriracha here!

  30. thelittleloaf

    I’m bookmarking this post for my boyfriend…I seem to often say that on your site, but I do love your recipes and recommendations too!

  31. Sunfug

    Encona is awesome. It saved me when I was at boarding school in North London – every meal time we dowsed our ‘food’ with it and I have a Pavlov-like response to it to this day. As my mate Mohammad says that sh*t’s like the Ethnic ketchup. Sriracha is great but for me it’s got to be the US-made Huy Fong. Reading your post made me realise how many different types of hot sauce there are out there and how differently we might use them, for instance I’d use Sriracha as an ingredient but not Encona, Tabasco in cocktails but not Franks (too salty) etc.

  32. Helen

    awww thanks! I hope he likes it.

  33. Helen

    Yeah, exactly! There’s a different hot sauce for every occasion, basically. I think I need a cupboard just for hot sauce!

  34. Yasmin

    I second Mr Naga. Hits the spot and full of flavour.
    Can be found at the asian supermarket on Brick Lane. Or probably pretty much in any self respecting asian supermarket.

  35. Helen

    Brilliant. Mr. Naga goes on the must-try list immediately.

  36. Dave Evans

    Here are a few favourites, most of these are somewhat stupid, heatwise but all taste really really nice. There is a shop in St Nicks market in Bristol dedicated to hotsauces where I think you can get a lot of the US made stuff.

    – Pretty much any of the Blairs death sauces are worth a look.
    – Captain Thoms White Zombie (mild) and West African Voodoo Juice (mental)
    – Cajohns Bourbon Infused Chipotle-Habanero is excellent as a bbq hot sauce
    – Heartbreaking dawns 1498 Trinidad Scorpion, 1871 Ghost and 1542 Chocolate Hab sauces arent as hot as the peppers used would suggest but they do a phenomenal job of bringing out the flavours of the actual peppers used in the sauce.

    If you can get hold of seeds to grow chocolate habs, I would highly recommend them because you can make dynamite chocolate brownies with them.

  37. Helen

    Brilliant, Dave. Thanks so much for all the info! I am now on a mission to get seeds for those chocolate habs and I’m going to look up every one of those sauces. I feel an early Xmas present to myself coming on.

  38. Franz

    I’m gonna have to add some of these to my hot sauce shelf, thanks for the tips!

    I highly recommend “Pain is Good – Batch #114 Jamaican Hot Sauce” you can get it on the web, I’ve only seen it in a shop once.

    It’s a habanero based sauce. Seriously tasty, and pretty “heaty” :)

  39. Nelson

    I bought a few from Chilli Pepper Pete and have been working my way through em. This one is my favourite so far:

    Well fruity.

  40. Matt

    Going to order some No Joke.

    And as a fan of holy fuck and franks, I emplore you seek out a jar of Mr Naga’s Hot Pepper Pickle.

    It’s my favourite.

    In my opinion best severed on little slices of Extra Mature Cheddar.

  41. Helen

    Ha ha! I absolutely love the name of that sauce. I’m going to buy it just for that reason!

  42. Helen

    Brill, thanks for the link. I’ve heard of this Peter dude before so I must get around to checking out his sauces. Fruity is the future!

  43. Helen

    Implore no more, Matt! Implore. No. More. I am all over that.

  44. Manne

    Great stuff. Here’s a favourite of mine. Old Nick Scotch Bonnet Sauce. Amazingly hot, yet full of flavour. And the guy who makes it is lovely.

  45. Helen

    Ace! Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  46. Ellie

    Love the article Helen! I received my order of NoJoke all the way from Cumbria last week and already halfway through the jar! Great stuff! Its addictive!

  47. Helen

    Excellent. Really glad to hear you’re loving it just as much.

  48. Farida

    I just brought the no joke sauces as Xmas presents for friends, as it comes in a pack of three different flavours and it’s so colourful it makes an excellent gift.

  49. Farida

    I just brought the no joke sauces as Xmas presents for friends, it comes in a pack of three different flavours and it’s so colourful it makes an excellent gift.

  50. Helen

    You have lucky friends, Farida!

  51. Jessica

    Ooo might have to get some Frank’s this weekend. My Tabasco obsession has got to the point where I throw it on most things (especially scrambled eggs, mmmm) and now can hardly taste it! Senses dulled for sure. Perhaps switching to a different kind of hot sauce will help…

  52. Helen

    If you love Tabasco, you’ll definitely love Frank’s.

  53. Jess

    What, Caribbean Spice taken over? No! Disaster! :( Where did the owners go??

    Cholula for me most of the time… but I need several in my collection really. Must have about 15 bottles already… most of them are just mad random ones from the states though. You need different flavours and textures for every occasion I reck, but Cholula is amazing, mainly for the sauce delivery I think. Shake a bit over you know? Lovely stuff.

  54. Helen

    I don’t know what happened! It’s a disaster. My favourite jerk place, cruelly snatched from me. I wasn’t even prepared!! I agree on the diff textures and flavours for diff occasions too – a must!

  55. Dan

    I’ve been recommended a jerk place around Thornton Heath. I should see the man who recommended it again tonight, I will try and remain sober enough to remember the directions this time.

  56. Sally

    No Joke is a great Christmas present for anyone who loves their food spicy.
    Hot stocking filler!

  57. Helen

    Ace, thanks Dan. You must remember – do it for the jerk!

  58. Helen

    Spot on Sally!

  59. Meatball Micky

    Here I am making chocolate pots for this evening’s dinner and you go and distract me with talk of hot sauce… I’m salivating already. I put the stuff on everything. Well not everything. I don’t put it on my cat’s food for example. Scrambled eggs with pepper sauce, a shot of rum and an espresso – great way to start the day.

    Time to get back to the chocolate pots…

  60. Helen

    Ha ha! You always make me laugh, MM. A shot of rum to start the day? I like your style.

  61. s

    god, amazing new discoveries for me ‘no joke’ and ‘holy fuck’. i also love the Nando’s hot sauces you get at the grocery store. and sriracha i cannot live without. i also love this habanero hot sauce, dont know if you can find it in the UK it is *ace*. x s

  62. Helen

    Brilliant, so glad you’ve found some new varieties to try! They’re both cracking. Thanks so much for the link, I’ll check it out x

  63. Su-Lin

    I need to try the Holy Fuck sauce and Mr Singhs. I like a bit of extra hot Maggi chilli sauce with my chips too. Actually it’s not very hot and just a bit sweet – a good ketchup substitute.

  64. Helen

    Mr. Singhs most definitely on my list too. I’ve seen Maggi sauce around I think so I’ll pick some up. I often mix hot sauce with ketchup to add to burgers so I’ll check it out – sounds like it’s right up my strasse.

  65. Shu Han

    being singaporean, I would say sambal belachan chilli is my must have hot sauce, though i really haven’t seen good ones on sale here. i make my own in batches and freeze them in little packets to keep me going (: this is a nice roundup though, I have a chilli-crazy friend who will love this!

  66. Helen

    I’ve always wanted to try making a sambal sauce. Wasn’t that the stuff that cause a fuss in central London a few years back? Someone was making it and the smell was so pungent someone raised the alarm thinking it was a chemical attack!

  67. Sasha

    Here is my pedestrian two cents, there are in my cupboard at all times:
    -Encona for non Asian rice dishes (especially things like plov)
    -Tabasco for sandwiches
    -Frank’s and Frank’s Lime for pasta and pizza
    -Nando’s Garlic (does nobody else use/ drink this by the bottle?) for any kind of meat mmmmmmmmmm
    -Lao Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil (the jar with the sad looking man on the label) for stirring into scrambled eggs or stirring into noodles or stirring into soup
    The bf puts chilli sauce on everything, I’m a bit more discerning and give things a chance before drowning them in spice

  68. Helen

    Great, good to know I’m not the only one with various hot sauce in my cupboard!! Don’t think we can get Frank’s lime over here.

  69. Sasha

    I’m sure you can find it – our Tesco carries it I think, but there’s always Amazon
    I’m actually quite obsessed with this stuff – a Mexican person would probably have a heart attack if I said that this is nice in guacamole…

  70. Helen

    Ha ha, yes they probably would. Perhaps I just haven’t noticed it then. Thanks!

  71. Emma

    I’m an utter ‘chilli-head’ and always have several bottles of sauce in the house – I hadn’t heard of nos. 1 & 3 in your list so will have to try them! Holy F*** sauce is one of my favourites, and I adore Franks on chicken wings – it really is the best for that! My true favourite though is from St John & Dolly Smith ( – their tomato & scotch bonnet sauce has an amazing fruity flavour as well as serious fire!

  72. Helen

    Brilliant! If you’re into scotch bonnet then you’ll love No Joke. Thanks for the link too, I’ll give it a whirl.

  73. joey

    My husband and I also have your “problem” with bottles and jars of hot sauce both in our pantry and fridge. We love them! For milder sauces we also have Franks and the chipotle variant of Tabasco. Can never be without sriracha or sambal. Love sriracha on any kind of fried rice and also as a base for marinating chicken thigh fillets…yum! Also like the Japanese chili oil for veg stir fries. And although not a hot sauce, Indian mango/chili pickle compels me to invent excuses to have it…and if you are in my kitchen at midnight you may just catch me having a spoonful!

  74. Helen

    I love that there are so many comments from fello addicts! It does make me feel a lot more normal. Love the idea of using Sriracha as a base for a marinade so I’ll try that out.

  75. Sharon

    Great post – my mum is from Trinidad but has yet to find a good bought pepper sauce, so I think I’ll get the No Joke sauce for her to try. It looks the closest to my aunt’s homemade one that I’ve seen so should be good!

  76. Helen

    Great! Let me know what you think of it.

  77. Shu Han

    haha omg are you serious about the chemical attack false alarm?? I wouldn’t be surprised though, I only dare make it with the windows well open and when my roommate’s out of the house. though i love that smell. i won’t mind breathing that the whole day. anyway, sambal recipe if you like, though you might want to give your neighbours warning first.

  78. Helen

    Yeah definitely! Was about 4 or 5 years ago now I think. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll check it out. Might be one to do over Christmas while the neighbours are away…

  79. northbysudouest

    I am an English chef who moved from the UK to live and work in the South West of France 3 years ago. There are many things the french can do, but spice or heat of any kind within food, they can not. There is a slight reluctance infact to embrace any real ‘world traditions’ of food in this neck of the woods it seems and it leaves us craving chilli, harissa and any other ‘blow your head off’ type sauce at least once a month! My wife was licking her lips as she read this article like some kind of wolf in a grandma suit.

    Liking the blog, keep it up (if only to keep her chilli habit topped up)
    You might like to have a gander at mine too?? Adventures of a scouse chef in the south west of France…


  80. Helen

    Hello! Thanks so much for your comment, it’s lovely to hear from readers in other parts of the world and it’s very interesting to hear about the lack of hot sauce in France. My partner’s family live there and they’ve said similar things. The French aren’t great at embracing other cuisines, that’s for sure! I’ll take a look at your blog too. Cheers!

  81. Catering Supplies

    It seems Levi Roots has had an impact all over the world, I was in Africa Masi Mara for my honeymoon recently and they had some amazing home made sauces like nothing I had ever tasted before some hot some not but all very very nice. Great Blog.

  82. northbysudouest

    Thanks! Funnily enough we gave some french friends what we considered to be a mild pumpkin soup for tea yesterday. One was actually in tears! Oh dear… Will keep reading! Have a grand blogging year! Cheers nbso

  83. Helen

    Ha ha! That’s hilarious. I guess some people just don’t eat chilli that often!

  84. Helen


  85. Tv Food and Drink

    I am a hot sauce sucker. I have to be careful when I’m cooking for more than just myself because others claim I tend to over do it. My personal Hollywood preference is Day of the Day – six fireball flavors and a skull on every label! Thanks for the post. Happy New Year!! – GG

  86. Helen

    Six fire balls and a skull! Ha ha! Yeah, not surprised you have to tone it down for others. Thanks for the comment and Happy New Year!

  87. Mark

    Love the Mr Naga for an Indian style chilli but there’s only one brand of chili sauce for me. Once you’ve tried this there’s no going back. Start with the green one its great with fish and a good all rounder. All are pretty hot really but very tasty not too much vinegar. Beware you will become addicted!

    Buy from

  88. Helen

    Oh no! A new addiction on the horizon! Thanks for the link…I will check it out asap.

  89. Kurt Reid

    Just tried a home made donner kebab hot sauce concocted from Maggis Masala Chilli Sauce ( from our local Asda, £1.70 a bottle ) Franks Hot Sauce- to cool it down a bit! lime juice, rice vinegar and fresh coriander ; roasting!- couldn’t finish my home-made kebabs! Currently re-lining my tongue with some chocolate-covered strawberries which my daughter had made earlier, ( great chilli cooler by the way- something to do with the fat in the chocolate I believe )
    So I’d nominate Maggi Masala Chilli Sauce- hot, rounded and with just a hint of sweetness.

  90. Helen

    That’s hilarious that you couldn’t finish it! Ha ha. Thanks for the tip.

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