Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe: A Quick Guide to Fermenting Peppers

chilli peppers fermenting in a jar 1

If you’re keen to learn how to make fermented hot sauce some of the key questions you might have will be, how long do I need to ferment my chilli peppers for? How do I know if my ferment is healthy? And how do I blend the right flavours for a phenomenal hot sauce? Look no further, we have all of this and more to get you started. 

This article is bursting with tons of research, tips, and tricks intended to guide you in making your first fermented hot sauce. Factors such as temperature and personal taste all play their part here. This article will help you to achieve a potent punch of spice while maintaining a robust, layered flavor.

So let’s jump right in!

Fermenting Chilli Peppers for Hot Sauce

Fermented foods have a great shelf-life and a unique flavor so it’s no surprise that people are experimenting more and more with different recipes. But if you’re new to fermenting, it’s really important that you take the time to learn how to ferment peppers to create a long-lasting, safe, and flavorful hot sauce.

To begin your fermentation, gather the necessary ingredients and equipment. I’ve been fermenting for nearly a decade, it’s a great way to make hot chili sauce and I’ll share my experience as I walk you through this fermenting process.

Ingredients and equipment needed

Red Scotch bonnets in chillichumps hand ready to be fermented into hot sauce

We need some essentials if we’re going to make a hot sauce from peppers. First, we need a big jar to hold the peppers. It’s best if this jar is made of glass. Next, we want fresh chili peppers. Make sure you choose chili peppers to ferment that you like – both for heat level and flavor! If you’re looking for a medium-heat fermented sauce, consider using Cayenne peppers, Serrano peppers, or Jalapeno peppers, both have a great flavor profile. Or if you’re looking for your hot fermented chili sauce to pack a punch, why not try Ghost peppers.

We also need sea salt and filtered water to make the brine. The last thing you will need is a fermenting lid that can let air out but not in. This is called an airlock lid. For this recipe, you’ll also need an onion and some garlic.

Preparing the peppers and onions

Let’s get our chilli peppers ready for fermenting!

  1. Pick fresh peppers for your sauce. Hot peppers, or a mix of hot and sweet peppers are perfect for hot sauce.
  2. Wash your peppers well in cool water.
  3. Take off the stems of the peppers and slice them into small pieces.
  4. Add them to a clean glass jar.

Packing the jar and making the brine

To properly pack the fermenting jar, it is crucial to create a brine solution first. The brine consists of salt dissolved in water and acts as the source of fermentation for the ingredients inside the jar. When doing a brine fermentation calculate the amount of salt as a percentage of the weight of the water (1 liter of water = 1kg). You should aim for between two and four percent concentration of salt to water for optimal results. For example – a three percent concentration would be 3g salt to 97g water. To make things simple, I usually go with 3g salt to 100g water.

Chilli peppers submerged in brine

Once the brine is ready, it is poured into the jar to cover the peppers completely. Care must be taken to ensure no air pockets remain, allowing for an anaerobic environment. This is essential for the fermentation process to thrive. The ingredients are then packed tightly in the jar, ensuring they are fully submerged below the brine. I sometimes use a piece of onion or a cabbage leaf to keep the contents submerged beneath the brine.

Covering with an airlock lid and fermenting

To ferment peppers for hot sauce, it’s important to cover the jar with an airlock lid. This helps create a controlled environment where beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus) can thrive and ferment the peppers.

The airlock allows carbon dioxide to escape while preventing oxygen from entering. Also, with CO₂ being heavier than oxygen, it will displace the oxygen through the airlock, creating a layer of carbon dioxide that protects the fermentation and reduces the risk of spoilage or mould growth. It’s an essential step in ensuring a successful and safe fermentation process for your homemade hot sauce.

Fermenting containers holding red peppers with airlock

So don’t forget to cover your jar with an airlock lid before letting those peppers and brine do their magic!

Determining the Duration of Fermentation

Factors such as the type of peppers used, temperature, and desired flavor profile can all affect how long to ferment your peppers for hot sauce. Read on to learn more about finding the right duration of fermentation for the perfect homemade hot sauce.

Factors that affect fermentation time

The duration of fermentation for hot sauce can be influenced by several factors. One important factor is the temperature at which the peppers are fermenting. Warmer temperatures can speed up the fermentation process, while cooler temperatures may slow it down. The optimal temperature for fermenting is between 66-72 degrees Fahrenheit (19-22 degrees Celsius).

The type and variety of peppers used can also impact fermentation time. Some peppers ferment faster than others due to variations in their sugar content and natural bacteria present on their skins. Hotter chilli peppers tend to have less sugars, and ferment less vigourously.

Additionally, the amount of salt used in the brine can affect fermentation time, as a higher salt concentration may slow down the process. It’s important to monitor the fermentation progress by regularly checking for signs such as bubbles forming in the fermentation.

Signs that the fermentation is complete

Once you’ve been fermenting your peppers for about 4-5 weeks, it’s time to check if they’re ready. You’ll know the fermentation is complete when the peppers have a sour fermented smell, similar to sauerkraut.

Fermented peppers and vegetables in jars on a white tiled surface

When you taste them, they should also have a peppery and pleasantly sour flavor. Most of the fermentation usually happens within the first week or two, so be patient. Just remember that the brine used for fermentation will turn cloudy, which is completely normal.

Storing and Enjoying Fermented Hot Sauce

After fermenting your hot sauce, it’s time to transfer it into bottles for storage. Proper storage and handling are crucial to ensure that your fermented hot sauce stays fresh and delicious.

Let us guide you through the process of bottling, storing, and enjoying your homemade fermented hot sauce!

Bottling the sauce

To bottle the fermented hot sauce, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare clean glass bottles with tight-fitting lids.
  2. Blend the resulting fermentation well.
  3. Strain the fermented hot sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any solids. (optional)
  4. Use a funnel to transfer the sauce into the bottles, leaving some headspace at the top.
  5. If desired, add additional spices or flavorings to customize the sauce. This can also be added during the blending stage.
  6. Seal the bottles tightly with their lids and store them in the refrigerator.
  7. Label each bottle with the date of bottling for reference.
  8. Enjoy your homemade fermented hot sauce within 3-6 months for optimal flavor and quality.

Proper storage and shelf life

After fermenting your peppers to make hot sauce, it’s important to store it properly. Homemade fermented hot sauces can be kept in the refrigerator for several months. They can last 2-3 weeks if you made a quick cook version and up to 3-6 months if you made a fermented version. You can of course prepare the sauce to last longer than this, but that is for another article!

Two jars of hot sauce with seeds stacked on top of each other framed by greenery and a few tomatoes

Canning is another option that makes the hot sauce shelf-stable. Canned fermented hot sauces can stay good for about a year when stored on a pantry shelf. Just remember, some homemade hot sauces may go bad, but generally, they have a shelf life of at least 1 year when refrigerated.

Tips for enjoying the sauce

Here are some tips for enjoying your homemade fermented hot sauce:

  1. Experiment with different flavors: I love this recipe due to its simplicity, but try adding herbs, spices, or even fruits to your hot sauce to create unique and delicious flavor combinations.
  2. Use it as a condiment: Add a spicy kick to your favorite dishes by using the fermented hot sauce as a condiment. It pairs well with tacos, burgers, eggs, and more.
  3. Mix it into sauces and dressings: Enhance the flavor of your sauces and dressings by incorporating some of the fermented hot sauce. It adds depth and heat to any recipe.
  4. Dilute with vinegar or water if too spicy: If your hot sauce turns out too spicy for your liking, you can dilute it with vinegar or water to reduce the heat level.
  5. Store in small bottles for easy access: Transfer your fermented hot sauce into small bottles or jars for convenience. This way, you can easily grab them whenever you need to add some heat to your meals.
  6. Share with friends and family: Homemade fermented hot sauce makes an excellent gift. Share some with your friends and family who appreciate spicy flavors.


In conclusion, fermenting peppers for hot sauce is a process that takes time. Typically, it takes at least 2 weeks to achieve the desired flavor and heat level. However, the fermentation process can last up to several weeks if you prefer a stronger taste.

Remember to monitor the color change of the peppers during fermentation and adjust according to your preference. You can create your own delicious homemade fermented hot sauce with patience and experimentation!

Why not give some of these recipes a try?

Frequently Asked Questions about Fermenting Peppers for Hot Sauce

There are some common questions that come up when it comes to fermenting peppers for hot sauce. These queries often involve the process, duration, ingredients required and safety measures. Let’s tackle some of these frequently asked questions.

What is the ideal fermentation temperature for peppers?

I usually aim for 68°F or 20°C. A little above or below this is fine. Try not ferment at temperatures above 25°C or 77°F as this can produce “off flavours”.

Does fermenting peppers for hot sauce improve the flavour?

Absolutely! The fermentation process can significantly enhance the flavour of the hot sauce as compared to regular vinegar-based hot sauce. I hope you’ll try fermenting for yourself after reading this article. Fermenting peppers is super rewarding – use this recipe as a basis and experiment with different types of peppers, I promise you’ll enjoy your hot sauce adventures. Working with various kinds of peppers or adding other ingredients like bell pepper, green peppers and various spices can give complexity to the finished hot sauce.

When are the chillies ready to be made into sauce?

After 3 weeks of fermentation, the fermented chilli peppers are generally ready to be made into sauce. However, you can let it ferment longer – check out this fermentation I did over three years! As long as your peppers stay below the surface of the brine and the ferment looks healthy you can leave the flavours to develop.

What are the signs of a healthy fermented hot sauce?

A healthy fermented hot sauce will start with a clear brine before turning cloudy. For an indepth video on things to look out for when you make fermented peppers watch ‘Is My Fermentation Healthy?‘.

Can I make hot sauce using frozen chillies?

Yes, it is possible to make hot sauce using frozen chillies. Freezing chillies can help preserve their freshness however freezing can reduce the flavours slightly and it kills off the lactobacillus you need for fermentation. I would always recommend adding the same amount of fresh chillies to the ferment for the best results. You can do the same with dried chillies too – this video provides all the detail you need. When using frozen chillies to make hot sauce, it is advisable to thaw them first to ensure they blend well with the other ingredients.

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