You are here

The World’s Hottest Food Trend

Can You Stand the Heat?

1 of 7

All photos

As the mercury begins to dip, you can keep things sultry in the kitchen by embracing the burgeoning number of hot sauces now available. Once only common in their respective countries, today you can find spicy condiments from around the globe to put on the shelf next to your Tabasco. All instantly pep up nearly any meal—often for virtually no calories—and their fiery kick hails from capsaicin, a phytochemical that may quell appetite and rev up calorie-burning metabolism.

With flavors ranging from tangy to smoky to volcano, there’s something to match every heat tolerance and dish. Start with these six recipes to add flare to your cooking and heat up even the coldest nights. (Prefer things mild? Reduce the amount of sauce called for in these recipes, as all add taste, not just burn.)

If you can't find a hot sauce in your supermarket, look online.


2 of 7

All photos

Region: Portugal

Also spelled peri-peri, this sauce is a mix of bird’s eye chili, garlic, herbs, and lemon and is used in a vast number of Portuguese dishes. It’s nose-dripping hot, so a little goes a long way.

Fried Egg Sandwich with Piri-Piri Aioli

Serves: 1


1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon piri-piri sauce (or to taste)

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon butter or oil

1 large egg

2 slices rye bread, toasted

1/4 cup arugula

1/4 cup sliced roasted red pepper


In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, piri-piri sauce, and salt.

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add butter or oil, swirling to coat pan, and carefully crack egg into the skillet. For sunny-side up, cook until the white is set and the outer edges start to curl up. If you prefer an over-easy egg, flip it and cook an additional 30 seconds. Place egg on a slice of bread and top with arugula, roasted red pepper, aioli, and second slice of bread.

Also great for: Anything with shrimp or chicken, dips, scrambled eggs, and cooked grains.


3 of 7

All photos

Region: Korea

Fiery sweet and sour with umami flavor, this thick paste is traditionally made from red pepper powder, glutinous rice powder, fermented soybeans, and salt. Find tubs of gochujang in Korean markets.

Kale Slaw with Gochjuang Dressing

Serves: 4


1 bunch kale (about 1 pound)

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon gochjuang paste

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons honey

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (for garnish)


Slice center rib out of kale leaves. Roll a stack of leaves and slice into fine ribbons. Toss all sliced kale with carrot and bell pepper in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oils, gochjuang paste, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and garlic. Drizzle over slaw and toss well. Serve garnished with peanuts.

Also great for: Soups and stews, marinades, and pork stir-fries.


4 of 7

All photos

Region: North Africa

Popular in countries such as Tunisia, harissa is most often ground bird’s eye chili peppers combined with olive oil, cumin, coriander, caraway seeds, and garlic. The result is an earthy and potent sauce with a dark red grainy texture. Look for tubes in shops specializing in African fare.

Harissa Salmon Loaf

Serves: 4


3 (6-ounce) cans pink or sockeye salmon, drained

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup rolled or quick-cook oats

1 large carrot, grated

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste (depending on heat tolerance)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, flake salmon with a fork and stir in remaining ingredients. Place mixture in a 9-by-5-inch greased loaf pan and spread until mixture is of even height in the pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until loaf is set in the center. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Also great for: Stews, grilled beef, couscous, steamed vegetables, and mixed with low-fat mayo for a sandwich spread.


5 of 7

All photos

Region: Mexico

Not as blazing as other hot sauces, cholula is a blend of arbol and piquin chili peppers. It’s available in most supermarkets (and on the tables of many restaurants) and comes in several flavors such as smoky chipotle or chili lime.

Smoky Pork Lentil Stew

Serves: 6


2 teaspoons canola or olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced into 1-inch cubes

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup dried green lentils

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon chipotle-flavored cholula hot sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (for garnish)


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add pork and garlic; stir until pork is browned, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock, tomatoes, lentils, sweet potato, tomato paste, hot sauce, mustard, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils and sweet potato are tender. Stir in thyme and heat 2 minutes. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Also great for: Fried eggs, burritos, and Bloody Marys.


6 of 7

All photos

Region: Southeast Asia

Referred to as Asian ketchup and named after the small Thailand town of Sri Racha, sriracha has taken the culinary world by storm. Red hot, sweet, and tangy, the now ubiquitous sauce is made by blending red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar.

Thai Mango Dip

Serves: 8


2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup coconut milk (reduced fat, if desired)

1 tablespoon sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Juice of 1/2 lime

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger


Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined but still slightly chunky. (If you over-blend, the mixture will be too saucy.) Serve with tortilla chips, cooked shrimp, or sliced fruit.

Also great for: Salad dressings, curries, pizza, and mac and cheese (really!).

Louisiana Hot Sauce

7 of 7

All photos

Region: United States

This iconic Cajun food essential gleans its kick from aged cayenne peppers. With the best brands, you taste that intense pepper flavor first, and then the vinegar and saltiness come into play. Supporters find it less vinegary than Tabasco.

Catfish Étouffée

Serves: 4


2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce (or to taste)

1 pound catfish, sliced into 1-inch cubes

2 green onions (green and white parts), sliced (for garnish)


In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring until flour is brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and continue whisking until sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Stir in bell pepper, celery, onion, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add catfish and simmer until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve garnished with green onion.

Also great for: Tacos, tuna salads, and chili.


Add a comment