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Dr Leah Romay DDS

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My boyfriend is a huge fan of hot sauce. Me, not so much, but I wanted to make some homemade sauce because there have been a ton of gorgeous hot peppers at the farmer’s market and I knew he would love it. I turned to Bon Appétit for my inspiration on this recipe and they have a pretty hilarious video over on YouTube, which is at the bottom of this post. 

How to make fermented hot sauce
How to make fermented hot sauce

Fermentation Equipment

Fermentation is actually really simple and overall pretty hard to mess up. It’s a technique that’s been used for centuries and you have to imagine that back then, people didn’t have fancy equipment, so you don’t need any fancy equipment either! 

My armamentarium is simply this: 

  • 1 liter mason jar or fermentation crock (Lehman’s has many options), cleaned in dishwasher or sterilized
  • regular lid or fermentation lid (silicone valve, airlock)
  • 4 oz mason jar or glass weights (such as this, or this)
  • the peppers, water, salt and spices 

That’s it! Oh, and time. It’s going to take about 2 weeks!

Seriously Hot Peppers

How to ferment hot peppers

The principle is the same as fermenting anything else – simply submerge the peppers in a brine, allow the natural bacteria and yeast to do their job, and give it some time. That’s it! It’s simple, but the end result is insanely good.

So, following the inspiration from Bon Appétit, I added in garlic, black peppercorns, Aleppo pepper, dried hibiscus and cardamom seeds into the mix. Based upon the flavor profile at the end, I feel that the garlic is instrumental in giving the sauce a very unique and rich flavor. I definitely would not leave it out. You can add in any other spices you prefer, I don’t think you can go wrong here. 

Once you have all the peppers submerged in brine, it’s time to lid it and wait. Put a 4 oz mason jar on top of the peppers and fill it with some brine so it pushes down on the peppers to keep them submerged. Or put on a few glass weights. Just make sure everything is submerged or else mold may form on peppers that are sticking into the air. Loosely screw on a regular mason jar lid so that gases can vent, or put on your desired airlock type of lid. I also recommend sitting the jar in a tray or bowl to catch any brine that may bubble up and out of the jar. In a day or two, you will see lots of bubbles forming – it’s alive! The good bacteria and yeasts are fermenting the peppers and releasing their gases. This is why you need to have a lid that can vent because there will be a lot of pressure buildup in the jar. 

Waiting two weeks may feel like forever, but it’s definitely worth it. The time will allow the flavors to meld and get funky. Once the time is up, strain off the brine and put all the peppers in a blender. Add in 1 cup of the brine and blend it for about 1 minute. If you want the sauce thinner, add more brine. If you want the sauce smoother, strain it through a sieve. 

Blending up the peppers releases a ton of fiery gases into the air. It’s so potent that it will make you cough. I’m not even kidding! The first time I made a hotter version of this sauce, I was blending it up and when I took the lid off the blender, I started coughing immediately. Suddenly, the whole kitchen was filled with the strong stink of hot sauce. After a few minutes, I got used to it and I wasn’t coughing anymore. But then Andrey walked into the kitchen and started coughing immediately! It just hit him like a wall. After this experience, we smartened up and now blend the peppers outside with a fan to blow away the fumes. If you make a sauce with crazy hot peppers, I highly recommend that you blend the peppers outside and you may want to wear googles to keep the fumes out of your eyes. 

Once the sauce is blended, put it in a little hot sauce bottle and keep the rest in a jar in your fridge. The small hot sauce bottle can be left out at room temperature or kept in the fridge, that is up to you. 

If you are feeling nervous about fermentation, you should watch the YouTube video at the bottom of this post. I promise you, it’s so easy!

How to make fermented hot sauce

How to make different types of hot sauce flavors

You can make your sauce as mild or hot as you like. Here are some pepper combination ideas. One of Andrey’s patients gave him naga viper and scorpion peppers, so that’s how we came across those pictured above! I think you will need a farmer friend who is a hot pepper enthusiast to get your hands of some of those crazy peppers. 

Extra mild: 

  • 1/3 paprika, 1/3 cherry bombs and 1/3 ancho 


  • 1/3 jalapeno, 1/3 cherry bomb and 1/3 thai chili
  • other peppers to use: poblano, serrano, chipotle


  • 1/4 jalapeno and 3/4 habanero
  • 1/4 poblano and 3/4 cayenne


  • all habanero with 3-4 extremely hot peppers like naga viper, scorpion, ghost, or Carolina Reaper

they just sound scary, yikes!

How to make fermented hot sauce


There you have it – DIY hot pepper sauce that is going to blow any store bought sauce out of the park! I particularly like the fermented sauce because it does not rely on vinegar as a preservative. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like overly vinegary-flavored hot sauces. So this recipe eliminates that flavor and replaces it with some good funk instead. It’s good. Trust me. 


P.S. This sauce would be an excellent homemade gift. How cool!




Dr. Romay

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Fermented Hot Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

You can make this as spicy as you like depending on the peppers you use. Fermentation brings out the flavors in the ingredients, creating a rich and robust flavor that is unlike any hot sauce you can buy at the store. And it’s good for your gut with all the fermented bacteria friends in there! Please read the notes at the end of the recipe before starting

Author: Leah Romay


  • 1000 g total of hot peppers (your choice)
    • Mild – 1/3 jalapeno, 1/3 cherry bomb, 1/3 thai chili
    • Hot – 1/4 jalapeno, 3/4 habanero
    • Deadly – mostly habanero + a few Ghost, Viper, Carolina Reaper, or Naga
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes (or regular pepper flakes)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 3.5 tsp sea salt (not table salt or pickling salt)
  • 2 T dried hibiscus flowers (optional)
  • 4 cardamom pods, hulled (optional)
  • Filtered water (do not use tap water that contains chlorine)
  • 1 L mason jar or fermentation crock
  • small jar or weight
  • lid of choice


  1. Please read the notes at the end of the recipe before starting.
  2. Sterilize your mason jar or wash in the dishwasher.
  3. Clean the peppers well, cut off all the tops, and cut in half length-wise (wear gloves or you’ll be sorry!!!)
  4. In the jar, add garlic, black pepper, salt, sugar, Aleppo pepper, hibiscus, and cardamom. 
  5. Add approximately 1 cup of filtered water to the mason jar and swirl everything around until the sugar and salt has dissolved. 
  6. Pack the peppers into the jar, leaving about 2″ headspace at the top of the jar. Fill the jar with filtered water until the peppers are submerged. 
  7. Put on the mason jar lid tightly and invert jar a few times to mix the spices around so they are dispersed. Remove the lid and press down on the peppers to remove any large air bubbles that could be trapped between the peppers. Put the weight on top and make sure every pepper is submerged.
  8. Put on your lid of choice or simply loosen the regular mason jar lid 1 turn. Place the jar on a waterproof tray or in a bowl. Put it in a place that does not get direct sunlight and will sit undisturbed for 2 weeks.
  9. Check on your peppers every day and release any pressure as necessary. After the first few days, you will see bubbles starting to form and some of the liquid may overflow out of your jar. That is to be expected. 
  10. Continue to monitor the peppers for 2 weeks. After that time is up, you are ready to proceed to the final step. 
  11. Drain the peppers from the brine, reserving the brine. Place the peppers in blender and add 1 cup of the brine. Blend on low speed and increase to high, blending for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Add more brine if it is too thick until it suits your preference. 
  12. Optional: strain the hot sauce through a sieve for a smoother texture. Bottle the sauce in small hot sauce bottles (reuse a bottle from a previous bottle of hot sauce or you can purchase here). Keep any extra sauce in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. The small hot sauce bottle can be refrigerated or left on the counter at room temperature. 
  13. The brine can be used to flavor dishes or can be discarded.

Important Notes:

  • Wear gloves or else your hands will burn for hours.
  • You can choose whatever peppers you like (pepper hotness scale) Here are some suggestions of pepper ratios:
    • Mild – 1/3 jalapeno, 1/3 cherry bomb, 1/3 thai chili
    • Hot – 1/4 jalapeno, 3/4 habanero
    • Deadly – mostly habanero + a few Ghost, Viper, Carolina Reaper, or Naga
  • It is optional to remove the seeds from the peppers. I leave them in because it’s easier and less work.
  • The only essential ingredients are the peppers, salt, sugar and water. You can omit the other flavorings. Though the garlic really adds depth of flavor. 
  • No vinegar is needed in this recipe because the fermentation creates a tangy flavor for us. 
  • You do not need fancy equipment to ferment. Remember, fermentation is an age-old practice so the equipment is basic and it’s hard to mess up! But if you want, there are many special lids out there. I have a simple silicone lid that will vent pressure. You could also use an airlock lid. There are many options.
  • The key to successful fermentation is keeping all the peppers submerged under the brine. If peppers stick up out of the brine into the air, they can get moldy. To keep them submerged, you need a weight on top. I put a small 4 oz mason jar on top of the peppers. Fill the jar with some of the brine to give it weight and it will hold the peppers under the water. Periodically check on the peppers to make sure no mold is growing.
  • Mold is fuzzy and bad. Yeast is slimy/filmy and part of the process. If you see this film, it is fine.
  • After a few days, you will notice that the brine becomes cloudy, this is to be expected.
  • Take precaution when blending the peppers. If you used super hot peppers, you should use your blender outside because the spicy gas it releases is POTENT! Wear gloves! Maybe even wear goggles if you are making a deadly hot sauce. Some of the peppers are the same capsaicin quantity as pepper spray, so if the gases get to your eyes, it’s going to burn pretty bad. 
  • Straining will make a smoother sauce, but is not necessary.

Dr. Leah Romay is a dentist passionate about health and wellness and believes that health is possible for everyone. She’s been in the kitchen cooking from scratch for most of her life and greatly enjoys creating healthy and delicious recipes. In addition to practicing dentistry full time, she spends her free time developing recipes, reading scientific studies, and helping others live their healthiest lives through evidence-based lifestyle and diet. Read more about Dr. Romay and her story here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I had some moldin the weighted jar, but none in the pepper brine itself. Can I still use them?

    1. Hi Gloria, if it was only in the weighted jar, it probably is fine since the brine and peppers don’t have any. I would recommend keeping the final hot sauce in the fridge after you blend it to be on the safe side! Hope it turns out delicious!

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