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.


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90 thoughts on “Hot Sauce: My Top 4

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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…


    1. 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!

    1. 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…

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

    1. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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!

    1. 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!

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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…

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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!

  15. 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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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” :)

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

  27. 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.

  28. 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…

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

    1. 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?!

  31. 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


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