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Kickass Combos: How to Choose the Best Hot Sauce for Every Dish
Most chiliheads are proud to pour hot sauce all over everything they eat. From wings and pizza to chips, fries, popcorn, and even chocolate—no food goes un-sauced. While many people prefer to reach for their go-to hot sauce for every meal, it’s important to note that there are actually a wide variety of sauces to choose from with variations in spiciness, sweetness, and all around flavor profile. With our help, you will be able to choose the best hot sauce for every dish and elevate your status to “true sauce boss”.
Use Your Senses: Hot sauce flavor profiles.
Sure, you can eat a Ghost Pepper like nobody's business, but some hot sauces can overpower your food. Too much heat and you’ll ruin a perfectly tasty prime rib. Likewise, you’d never put ketchup on your wings so steer clear of tomato-based sauces here, because they’re basically ketchup’s spicy older cousin. Bottom line: You've gotta pair the right food with your hot sauce. Before pouring it on, consider the flavor profile and heat level to make sure you’re complementing your cuisine, not covering it up (unless it’s tripe, in which case pour it on as thick as possible).
Fasten your seat belt—things are about to get spicy. There are five primary flavors that make up any food: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, and umami (although “bitter” isn’t very common in hot sauces, so we can skip that one). All hot sauces include the “spicy” flavor, but unless you’re eating pure pepper powder, there’s usually at least one other prominent flavor. Always start by trying the hot sauce on its own first to identify which tastes are present. While the overpowering flavor might just be “holy-cow-this-is-hot”, there will always be a more subtle flavor profile from the seasonings, spices, and other ingredients in the sauce. Taste past the burn and identify whether your hot sauce is:
Consistency: The Key to Hot Sauce Compatibility
Flavor is a huge part of picking the best hot sauce for any dish, but it isn’t everything. The other important factor to consider when understanding your hot sauce’s ideal mate is sauce consistency. Hot sauces can range anywhere from runny and watery to thick and creamy. The best pairings are typically opposites, so use a thin, vinegar-based hot sauce on a thick food, like a taco, so the sauce can really get in all those nooks and coat every bite with an even blast of flavor. On the other hand, if you’re cooking up a pot of chili, grab that thick hot sauce and swirl it on in.
Fool-Proof Foods for Your Favorite Hot Sauces
Try out your new-found knowledge of hot sauce flavor profiles with some of these classic foods that are just begging for the sauce:
- Burgers. With their classic umami flavor, burgers are best served with a no-frills hot sauce. Skip the adventurous ingredients here and opt for a classic hot sauce for an update on the time-honored favorite.
- Caribbean Cuisine. Pork and fish dishes, especially, pair well with fruity hot sauces where the sweet flavors help mellow out the heat and accentuate the tropical vibes.
- Chicken Wings. Nowadays, almost anything goes when it comes to wings. With so many flavor options, the line between “wing sauce” and “hot sauce” has become hazy. Follow your gut on this one: If you dig a sweet and savory dish, grab a honey- or fruit-based hot sauce. Or, if you’re a fan of the classics, stick with a garlic-based sauce.
- Eggs. Let’s be honest, eggs don’t have a whole lot of flavor on their own so they’re the perfect canvas for your favorite hot sauce. Stick with a savory sauce here—something vinegar- or tomato-based is a safe bet for most egg dishes.
- Mac and Cheese. Elevate this creamy, cheesy dish with a drizzle of hot sauce to contrast the mellow flavors. Stick with a thin, vinegar-based sauce that will mix well with the cheese for a uniform flavor experience.
- Pizza. Sure, savory hot sauces are delicious on a traditional slice of marinara. But you haven’t truly lived until you’ve tried pizza with a drizzle of honey-based hot sauce. Something about the sweet and savory combo will keep you coming back for more.
- Tacos. One of the original hot sauce vessels, no taco (or other Tex-Mex dish, for that matter) would be complete without hot sauce. Just about any tomato- or vinegar-based hot sauce works here, so go nuts.
Diversify Your Hot Sauce Collection and Get Pairing
We don’t want to toot our own horn, but we make some legendary hot sauces. You will slap yourself silly if you don’t ditch your old go-to and go on a taste-testing adventure to discover a whole new world of hot sauce flavors. Give these spicy creations a shot today—your tastebuds will thank you.