As small-batch brands seek out the purest, rarest, most nutrition-packed peppers on earth, this fiery stuff has become one of the best superfoods you can put on your plate.
Shawn Donnelly 1 / 8
Burn After Eating
Hot sauce is a fit guy’s best friend. Is there any better way to jazz up a skinless chicken breast? Well, as it turns out, yes: with an even healthier hot sauce.
These new pepper blends hitting grocery shelves aren’t exactly Texas Pete. They’re jammed with fresher ingredients and lack preservatives and refined sugars. They also contain capsaicin, which recent studies show helps soothe sore muscles and improve heart health and even aids in preventing cancer development. (Just remember to keep milk handy to splash on your tongue.)
HEAT LEVEL: This Tabasco-style sauce combines 124 varieties of pepper—founder Smokin’ Ed began growing peppers 25 years ago and has one of the most extensive collections in the country. It won’t overpower whatever you put it on, but don’t underestimate it—you’ll still get a nice little burn.
HEAT LEVEL: All natural and preservative-free, this thick sauce means business. It has little taste—other than hotness—thanks to its main ingredient, bhut jolokia (aka ghost pepper), one of the world’s hottest chili peppers. Novices beware: This serious sauce was originally concocted for competition.
HEAT LEVEL: Produced by a Houston-based physician and his son, this is probably the healthiest hot sauce we’ve found, containing only four ingredients: organic carrots, habanero peppers, kosher salt, and organic vinegar. It’s a very versatile sauce, and the doctor also offers versions with lime or sweet potato.
HEAT LEVEL: The hottest of Blair’s 11 death sauces, this is for true chiliheads. You just need a microdrop for a huge kick. It’s got a smoky flavor, with a hint of garlic, followed by a delayed blast of heat. “It’s like your tongue got hit with a hammer,” say the folks at Blair’s.
PAIR IT WITH: A dab goes along way in a bowl of chili or ground beef for meatballs.
HEAT LEVEL: This is a green sauce that goes with just about anything, but especially Mexican food. Along with the peppers, you’ll taste Granny Smith apples, roasted garlic, and tomatillos. Despite containing the notoriously hot Carolina Reaper, it’s surprisingly tolerable.
HEAT LEVEL: Created by a former heavy-metal record executive (and author of the cookbook Mosh Potatoes), this Tabasco-style blend includes habanero peppers, tropical fruit, such as peaches, papayas, pineapples, and mangoes, and a little brown sugar. And, yes, the heat is cranked up to 11.
PAIR IT WITH: Chicken, fish, bagels with cream cheese.
HEAT LEVEL: As the name implies, this popular mix from Horseshoe Brand combines the subtle, flavorful heat of jalapeño with the sweetness of kiwis for a culinary screwball that your taste buds will enjoy. Pro tip: Blend it up with some fresh avocados for some ridiculously easy (and ridiculously tasty) guacamole.
PAIR IT WITH: Horseshoe Brand recommends adding to tacos, chicken, and seafood.