Why Ferment Hot Sauce- A Complete Guide

Although there are various types of hot sauce available, you must have realized that many of them are fermented. So, what’s the sense of fermenting hot sauce? Fermented hot sauce is valued for various reasons, including the richness of the flavor it provides, its beneficial effect on the digestive tract, and its long shelf life.

For years, the fermented hot sauce has been a cooking staple. Fermentation may sound complicated, but when done correctly, it is pretty simple. Fermentation is the process by which pepper mash for the sauce is decomposed by beneficial bacteria and enzymes. This is commonly accomplished by completely immersing the pepper mash in salt brine, covering it with a sealed lid, and storing the container in a shady area for at least a week.

This article will guide you through the essence of hot sauce fermentation, the time taken by the hot sauce to ferment, and a slight comparison between fermented and non-fermented hot sauces. It also contains why one should choose fermentation over canning and the best responses to the frequently asked questions on hot sauce fermentation.

Fermented vs. unfermented hot sauces

why ferment hot sauce

While the major constituents in fermented and non-fermented hot sauces are nearly identical, there is a significant variation between the two sauces. Fermented food has undergone a natural mechanism in which microorganisms (bacteria) and enzymes transform the carbohydrates in the diet to alcohol and acid in an environment that lacks oxygen (anaerobic).

The fermented hot sauce is prepared by peppers (and optionally fruit) in a brine solution in a sealed container such as a mason jar. Time is critical in the process of fermentation. Thus, the peppers are left to ferment for around a week or longer in the salt brine. This permits beneficial bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria, to turn the peppers’ carbohydrates (or sugars) into acid.

Ensuring the proper pH balance is critical to prevent the growth of harmful germs and maintain the hot sauce. Sriracha and Tabasco are two prominent fermented hot sauces that most individuals are probably familiar with (fermented in oak barrels).

On the contrary, regular hot sauce is made simpler in which peppers are blended with vinegar. It’s ready to eat immediately after you combine the spices. By comparison, fermented hot sauce requires time to process.

The purpose of fermentation in hot sauce

The purpose of fermentation in hot sauce

Fermentation was invented long before the invention of refrigerators as a method of food preservation and extending its shelf life. This way, individuals could hold and consume food to ensure that it would last a long time. Presently, we pasteurize food products to extend their shelf life, which can be detrimental to fermented foods.

The primary reason individuals ferment hot sauce nowadays is to impart new and complex flavors to the sauce, which might include a pleasantly surprising tangy flavor instead of non-fermented hot sauce. Regular hot sauce delivers flavor in a burst, while the fermented hot sauce is more subtle and patterned.

Is the fermented hot sauce a better alternative?

Is the fermented hot sauce a better alternative

A counter-argument to fermented hot sauce is that it would be less spicy than conventional, non-fermented hot sauce. Non-fermented hot sauces often have a higher heat level, which is immediately noticeable in conjunction with other flavors in the hot sauce.

On the contrary, heat is lost throughout the fermentation process, which results in a milder hot sauce. Having said that, if you choose some of the tastiest hot peppers available (such as ghost pepper), you should be capable of achieving a decent degree of heat in the fermented sauce if you make it at home.

Thus, you may achieve taste complexity using fermented hot sauce while maintaining a high level of heat. Apart from its unique flavor, fermented hot sauce has a few significant advantages:

  • Since the food has already been partially broken down, it makes digestion easier.
  • Comprises of “beneficial” bacteria, often known as probiotics, that aid with digestion
  • It has a long shelf life and maintains its effectiveness for an extended period.

If you have a large stockpile of frozen peppers in your refrigerator, you can ferment them to recover some of their flavors.

Why choose fermentation over canning

Why choose fermentation over canning
  • Fermentation produces alive food, but it must be stored in the refrigerator, whereas canning is shelf-stable.
  • Fermented foods contain an incredible amount of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are live organisms that collaborate with human’s microbiome to improve digestion, increase immunity, and aid in weight maintenance.
  • Canning eliminates all beneficial bacteria and also prevents taste development. Fermentation maintains the viability of these beneficial bacteria, and as a consequence, fermented foods improve in flavor over time.

Time required by the hot sauce to ferment

Fermentation of hot sauce takes around 5-7 days. Fermentation is most vigorous during the first 1 to 2 weeks, after which it subsequently declines. The more you ferment it, the more complex the flavor will get. Some individuals ferment their hot sauce even up to months, but a week is sufficient to obtain a reasonably nice ferment on the hot sauce. Fermented hot sauces continue fermenting after they are bottled or jarred, resulting in changes in flavor and color. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Does fermentation affect taste?

Answer: Fermented hot sauces are renowned because their flavor profiles are more nuanced than those made without fermentation. Fermentation has a unique effect on each component in hot sauce, creating a more complex and subtle flavor. Non-fermented hot sauces, on the other hand, prefer to showcase all of the ingredients’ flavors upfront and center, so to say. There is less subtlety or complexity.

  • What effect does fermentation have on heat?

Answer: Fermentation tends to smooth out the spiciness from peppers, resulting in softer yet more flavorful fermented hot sauces. Non-fermented hot sauces are typically spicier than fermented hot sauces, as they have not been through fermentation to soften the peppers.


Fermentation imparts a brilliant acidity and a deep, rich flavor to the hot sauce, developing slowly. Fermented hot sauces are incredibly simple to make. All you have to do is combine hot, ripe peppers with enough garlic and other ingredients to taste, cover them with seawater, and relax. Then blend, jar, and chill. That’s it.

Fermented hot sauce is often used as ordinary, non-fermented hot sauce and adds depth and flavor to dishes. Additionally, it is beneficial to one’s digestion and will stay for an extended period without spoiling. It is essential to keep one or a couple of bottles in your kitchen.