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7 Hot Sauces That Improve Virtually Any Meal

Explore the ever expanding roster of craft hot sauces with these recommendations.

In my household, sriracha makes an appearance at every meal, no questions asked. Like brushing my teeth or turning on my car, the act of taking out a bottle of hot sauce from the refrigerator and squeezing a dollop on top of my rice or noodles is so common that I can't imagine not doing it. Not only does hot sauce amplify my meal from one that is good to one that is incredibly satisfying, it also has several health benefits that it would be foolish not to take advantage of.

Admittedly, for years I stuck with the most common sriracha—a 17-oz. plastic squeeze bottle made by Huy Fong Foods, with the quintessential rooster on the front—simply because it was the first brand I was introduced to upon arriving in America. In the past few years, though, I've branched out and tried other brands of hot sauces. All have unique flavor profiles, from mild to smoky to bite-your-tongue-and-cheek hot, and having them on hand means I'll always enjoy a variety of ways to make a common dish even better. Here's selection of the best brands I've found.

Chin Su Chili Sauce

Made specifically in Vietnam, Chin Su sauce found its way across the world to my palate when my sister-in-law introduced me to it several years ago, having brought it over from Vietnam herself. It's hard to describe its flavor profile, but easy to notice its exotic flavor. With a slight hint of spice and notes of lime, Chin Su is known as the "Vietnamese hot sauce," one that's internationally renowned for its nice blend of medium spices that are perfect on top of a bowl of rice for dinner. It's the kind of sauce that you can use every day and know that the heat won't kill you. Beyong its availability on Amazon, Chin Su sauces are typically found at Asian supermarkets.


2 Angry Cats

The label of two angry black cats blowing fire at one another was enough to stop me in my tracks while shopping. Upon sampling the sauce, I realized that the product is as unique as its label. With a small selection of hot sauces that range in spice intensity, 2 Angry Cats has something for everyone. From the mild Sweet Cherry Bomb Sauce with its combination of cherry bomb peppers, apple cider vinegar, and peaches, to the extra-hot Phantom Sauce that comes with a whopping duo of ghost peppers and Anaheim peppers, these sauces do not disappoint. You can order a bottle on the company's website or, if you're in the Portland, Oregon area, grab it at a local farmers' market.


Hot Mama Salsa

At first glance, I had mistakenly assumed that Hot Mama Salsa specializes only in salsas. Turns out, the brand encompasses a lineup of hot sauces, salsas, and chili oils that began in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) in 1990. Using family recipes and fresh, local ingredients, Hot Mama Salsa is a proud local brand whose popularity has expanded beyond the local farmers market.


I tried Hot Mama Salsa for the first time at a market several years ago when a colorful label of a woman's smiling face appeared in my peripheral vision. Upon tasting, the sauce felt fresh in my mouth, the kind of light, smoky heat that sits well on the tongue; it led me to try the brand's other "hot" items, and I've been a fan ever since. Because this is a Portland-based brand, you can mostly only find it at a local farmer's market or several nearby grocery stores and restaurants, plus a market in Sausalito, California. If all else fails, ask your West Coast friends to ship you some.

Tiger Sauce

Tiger Sauce is owned by Reily Food Company, a conglomerate of brands with several well-known names in the southeast region. It began in 1902, when William B. Reily, a Black grocery store owner from Louisiana, wanted to expand his business. He started with coffee and tea, and eventually the company expanded to more brands and varieties of products, including Swans Down Cake Flour, Patria Coffee, Blue Plate Mayonnaise, Carroll Shelby's Texas Chili Kits, and more.


What's unique about Reily Food Company is the fact that it's a fifth-generation family-owned company with strong ties to the South, and it's not going anywhere. These days, you can find Tiger Sauce online or at your local Safeway, Albertsons, or Kroger-brand grocery store.

Marie Sharp’s

In 1981, Marie Sharp was a woman in her mid-forties from Belize. Armed with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, she decided to experiment with making hot sauces in her kitchen. Soon, word spread around her community and her sauces became famous. Four decades later, her brand would become synonymous with elevating women and communities in Belize while offering a variety of delicious habanero sauces (my favorite is the Original Hot Pepper Sauce), along with jams, jellies, and other merchandise.


Marie Sharp's Habanero Sauce is a unique blend of carrots and habanero peppers, and the brand takes great pride its process. The result is a deep, rich aroma filled with abundant and enticing flavors, perfect for a burrito. You can buy a Marie Sharp sauce online or at several grocery chains, including Walmart.


Started by friends Fernando Duarte and Robbie Brozin in 1987, Nando's has since grown into a company dedicated to bringing forth the flavor and taste of peri peri (also called piri piri), known as African Bird's Eye Chili. Peri peri is a very hot pepper unique to Mozambique and South Africa. When Duarte and Brozin first tasted the pepper in the late '80s, they knew that they'd struck gold.


What's unique about Nando's is not just the way the signature sauce is made, but the way the business seemingly creates a strong culture of family and community; Nandocas, as employees are called, routinely rate the chain as a good place to work. You can find Nando's sauce online or at one of its restaurants in several states across the United States and Canada.

Maya Kaimal

Image credit: Maya Kaimal's Instagram

Maya Kaimal Foods was founded by Maya Kaimal herself, an award-winning Southeast Asian cookbook author who once worked as a photo editor for several food magazines. That experience reinvigorated her childhood love of Indian food and watching her father cook. In 2003, she left her career in publishing and, along with her husband, formed a line of Indian-inspired sauces out of their Brooklyn apartment.


Maya Kaimal Foods' biggest contribution is not only its impressive line of sauces, condiments, dal, rice, and chana, but also the care the brand takes in curating the best ingredients around. What I love most about the red chili sauce is its unique Kashmiri chilies with hints of tamarind (something I loved as a kid growing up in Vietnam) and garam masala spices. It's on the mild side, but the unique ingredient combinations kick things up just as much as extra heat does. Maya Kaimal's sauces are best served on a bed of deliciously steamed jasmine rice. You can buy the sauce online or at your local Walmart, Whole Foods, and Target.