CSA Cooking: Fermented Hot Sauce

October 1, 2015(updated on September 6, 2023)
finished hot sauce bottled

I made my first batch of fermented hot sauce in 2012. It was one of my very earliest fermentation projects and while technically the making of it was uneventful, the finished batch was so incredibly spicy that even one drop gave me immediate heart burn. At the time, I figured that homemade hot sauce just was not for me and moved along.

hot sauce ingredients

Then last fall, I was visiting Alana and had a chance to taste her hot sauce. It was bright, funky, spicy,  and made everything it touched just a bit better. I decided that I’d give making my own another try when next I had the chance.

chopped peppers and garlic

Well, that chance finally came earlier this month. My September Philly Foodworks share included a pound of hot peppers and a pound of sweet. Wanting to avoid my previous error and not make a sauce that would incinerate my digestive track, it appeared to be the perfect combination of ingredients.

chopped veg in jar

I took inspiration from a number of sources for my batch. I referenced Alana’s post, took a little inspiration from Well Preserved, and also made sure to see how Amanda over at Phickle does it. (By the way, all three of those bloggers have books coming out soon. Alana’s and Amanda’s books are hitting this month. Joel and Dana’s book will be out in the spring).

finished hot sauce mash above

After reading their various techniques and mixing it up with what I generally know about fermentation, I started my batch. I chose to make a brine (1 quart filtered water and 3 tablespoons fine sea salt) rather than directly salting so that I’d end up with a goodly amount of liquid for my final puree (I like a drippy sauce rather than a chunky one).

fermented hot sauce mash

I combined the peppers (sweet and hot), a full head of garlic (peeled, of course), and a big hunk of ginger in the bowl of my food processor and pulsed until I had a relatively uniform mash. I scraped it into a half gallon jar, added the brine, popped an airlock on top, tucked it into a corner, and forgot about it for a couple weeks.

hot sauce yield

I deemed the sauce finished when it had gone from bright green to olive drab, it was super tangy, and I found myself entirely happy to sip the liquid from a spoon. I divided the sauce into two batches, ran it through the blender, and was done. While different from the sauce that inspired it, it is still bright, tangy, and so, so good.

5 from 1 vote

Fermented Hot Sauce

Servings: 6 to 7 cups


  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 3 tablespoons fine grain sea salt
  • 1 pound hot peppers
  • 1 pound sweet peppers
  • 1 head garlic peeled
  • 4 inches ginger peeled and roughly chopped


  • Combine the filtered water and salt in a quart jar and shake it well to help the salt dissolve.
  • Remove stems and cores from peppers and roughly chop them. Heap them in the bowl of a food processor along with the peeled garlic cloves and ginger and process until you have a uniform mash.
  • Scrape all the pepper, garlic, and ginger mash into a half gallon jar and pour in the brine.
  • Fit the jar with an airlock of your choice and let it bubble away for two to three weeks, until the color fades and you like how the sauce is tasting.
  • Puree until the sauce has a texture you like. Pour into jars or bottles and stash in the fridge.


After the fermentation process is finished, the pH of the sauce is typically low enough that you can heat the finished sauce, funnel it into jars, and process it in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes if you want it to be shelf stable.
This treatment will kill off the probiotic bacteria in the sauce, but if you can’t spare the fridge space for your sauce, it is a way to make it stable and stashable in the pantry.

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38 thoughts on "CSA Cooking: Fermented Hot Sauce"

  • I grew many hot peppers so that I could make hot sauce. I would like to try your fermented hot sauce. Is it possible to half the amount? Thanks so much.

  • Your fermented hot sauce looks fascinating! Since we Europeans usually are not very familiar with some US household names I just have to ask you to specify “hot peppers”. Are we talking jalapenos here, or maybe birdseye chilis? Would you eat whole hot peppers as they come from the supermarket? My favourite chili is Aji Cristal and I would probably try them in this recipe unless I knew different.

    Please comment – thank you.

    – Kari –

    1. I used a combination of jalapeno and Italian long hot peppers in this sauce. Any hot pepper that tastes good to you can be used.

  • I set some hot sauce makings to ferment a couple weeks ago and finished them this afternoon. I did a rough chop of the veggies before brining them so I just had to weight them down (no airlock needed). To finish them up today I used a stick blender to puree them and then pushed it all through a sieve.

    Mine has habaneros, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions and oregano. I like the idea of a gingery one, also. I might try that next week with carrots and thai peppers. Thanks for the idea!

  • Thanks for the recipe, this will be great to use the last peppers from the garden, of which I have a bunch waiting for their destination. But wondering about the filtered water, is that because municipal tap water is often treated? I would use our untreated well water, which is better than most bottled waters you can find. – About the hotness of chili peppers: some of my jalapenos were awfully hot this year and I found that seeding them and leaving them in ice water for a while removes quite a bit of the heat.

    1. The recommendation of the filtered water is because of treated municipal water. If your well water is good and untreated, feel free to use that! And thanks for the tip on tempering the temperature of the peppers!

    1. I feel like fine grain sea salt has some additional mineral content, which I like. However, pickling salt is also fine.

  • I fermented sliced jalapeños a couple of weeks ago and they seem a little slimey. Are they still ok to eat?

  • Thank you, Marisa. I am going to make this great sounding hot sauce. We love the stuff in scrambled eggs and many other foods as well. I have 2 fridges, so will not have to can it.

  • Marisa, I made 2 qts of this recipe, by doubling it, but I think I screwed up the whole thing! I didn’t read about the need for an airlock lid until after I had pureed everything and added the brine. I got on-line an ordered one from a reputable looking site but it probably won’t be here for a few days. Should I just put the pepper mixture in a ziplock gallon size freezer bag until the airlock lid comes? I’ve never fermented anything before and would rather not poison family and friends. Help!

    1. It will probably be okay for a couple of days without the airlock. I’d put a two-piece lid on it and then burp the jar a couple of times a day. There’s a higher risk of mold developing when you ferment something like this without an airlock, but chances are good, it’ll be okay until the one you ordered arrives.

  • Hi Marisa,

    I’ve got a jar going now, but my veg is floating to the top of the jar instead of sinking to the bottom like yours. Should I worry, stir, run-around-and-scream-and-shout?



    1. In the first couple days of fermenting, float is normal. Just give it a stir once or twice a day to keep it from expanding out of the jar.

  • Great, thanks we are trying it again, last time we didn’t have the airlock and it molded 🙁

    Ours separated quite a bit, is that natural? Should I be mixing it up?


  • This sauce is amazing. I want to drink it. We used a mix of aji crystal pepper and some others from the market that the farmer stated were “stupid” hot (versus the “insane” hot ones that I thought would be too much). The fermentation added a tang and also seemed to reduce some of the heat. We let it ferment for 3 weeks at around 75-80 degrees.

  • I’m just wondering if you included some of the seeds from the hot peppers. Omitting them can make the peppers much milder, and this is, after all, hot sauce!

  • Marisa, your recipes are such a source of inspiration for me.

    In trying this hot sauce, I took a page from sauerkraut-pickling and used a cabbage leaf and glass pickle weight to try and control the float. Five days after packing starting the pickle, I decided to pull out the cabbage and found (to my surprise) that the hot sauce is already well-fermented and has a pH of less than 4. My best guess is that the cabbage leaf super-charged the fermenting process (which makes sense considering how fast sauerkraut and kimchi ferment).

    I will likely give it a couple more days to funkify, then blend and water-bath process the sauce over the weekend. This milder green sauce is just the thing to round out the hot-sauce-flight kitchen gifts I have planned for this upcoming holiday (along with a mango-habanero pureed-texture sauce, a Singapore-style chunky red sauce, and a roasted-chili & lime slightly-textured thinner sauce).

    1. I would probably do 10 to 15 minutes. Whether it has the necessary acidity depends on how long it has fermented and at what temperature.

  • I’ve had my batch fermenting for two weeks, but left it alone for the most part. The peppers have been floating on top, with the brine at the bottom. I stirred a few times, but it kept floating and I couldn’t keep the peppers submerged the entire time. Is this okay? Should I have stirred it more?

    1. That’s totally normal. I often put a lid on my batches and give them a good shake, but the peppers still float.

  • 5 stars
    Thanks, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this recipe, and a ton of your other ones. When canning, do you recommend heating the sauce first, ladling the sauce into hot jars, or some combination ? Thanks

    1. I’m so glad this recipe has served you well. When I can it, I bring the sauce to a boil, funnel it into hot jars, and process in a boiling water bath canner.

    1. For some of the sauce, I heated it and processed it in a boiling water bath canner. The rest, I refrigerated. When you put fermented foods in the fridge, it slows down the fermentation process a lot and so the finished product doesn’t need to be regularly gassed.