We Can Phickle That! Hot Pepper Sauce

Hot peppers

SO many hot peppers: Ghost peppers, Trindad scorpion peppers, cherry bombs, habaneros. It was amazing.

Last night I taught a super fun class for my favorite local crusaders for fair food, the appropriately named Fair Food Farmstand.  We made pickles fit for a bahn mi, and tasty, spicy pepper sauce.  The bounty of peppers made available by Fair Food was absolutely incredible!  In fact, I know they didn’t put them all out, so if you’re in the neighborhood of Reading Terminal Market, you should stop by and get you some.  We’re talking everything from jalapeños and cherry bombs to Trinadad Scorpions and Ghost peppers.  No joke!

I may have to sojourn that way again this weekend despite the fact that my garden (and trips to Fair Food) have yielded about about 2 gallons of hot sauce now, this homemade, aged stuff is so good, I basically chug it.

hot sauce fermenting

If you want to puree first, you’re going to need one of these.

Now, there is some debate in the fermentation community about the best way to make hot sauce.  I have tried all the ways I’ve heard of, and then I developed my own process, because I didn’t really love any of them.  The most common way I’ve seen is to make a puree of peppers, stir regularly for a week or so, then put into an airlock jar and let it age/continue to ferment.  When it’s done, strain it and you’ve got sauce!  If you’d like to do it that way (which to me is too labor intensive and, generally a phickle faux pas, requires special (if super cheap) equipment, check out these instructions on making an aged hot sauce.  It works well (I skipped the vinegar at the end a couple times and stored in the fridge), but I think my way is easier, and the results are mindblowingly good.

hot peppers fermenting

Packed pickled peppers and garlic

As I’ve mentioned for other foods before (ginger and garlic, for instance), hot peppers are an ingredient that you probably want to buy either organic or from a trusted, local source.  I bought some imported peppers, in search of variety, and they didn’t ferment.  This happened three times, with three varieties of peppers, until I finally realized it wasn’t user error, and that the peppers, too, could be irradiated.  Lesson learned, though, from now on, I’m fully a farmer’s market or garden lady when it comes to peppers!

Cracked packed pickled peppers

Cracked packed pickled peppers

You can use any kind of hot peppers to make this recipe, but I prefer to either use peppers hotter than I can normally eat, or to mix in a couple super hots to whatever I’m making.  I also tend to ferment different peppers separately (I don’t mix my fresnos and my habaneros), because I can always do mixed, test batches later, and if I’m not crazy about the way one tastes when done, or if it’s hotter or not as hot as expected, it won’t blow the whole batch.  That’s totally personal preference, though.  Feel free to mix away.

hot pepper sauces

The final products and one just getting started. Clockwise from back left: serrano, habanero, ring of fire cayenne, cherry bomb and fresno, a mix of goodies.


Yield will depend on how much brine you include in the final product, but generally, 1 pint-3/4 of a quart

If you are unfamiliar with the basic concepts of fermented pickling, please read my pickles FAQ before getting started.


  • Quart Jar
  • Food processor or high power blender (Vitamix would be ideal, but, sadly, I don’t have one so I use my Cuisinart which does a great job!)
  • Vinyl or rubber gloves


  • 3.5 packed cups whole hot peppers of your choosing (fresnos, cayenne, habanero and jalapeños work particularly well, but you can use anything), stems and green caps removed
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • (optional) additional seasonings, cloves, star anise, mustard seeds, brown sugar, etc
  • Brine (1 T salt dissolved in 2 cups room temp water)


  1. If using seasonings, place in bottom of jar.
  2. Pack peppers and garlic into jar, as tightly as possible.
  3. Pour brine over and ensure that pepper are submerged under brine, using your preferred method to submerge vegetables and cover the jar. You want to use as little brine as possible here, so be sure that your peppers are well packed in.  It’s okay if they crack here and there while you’re packing them in.
  4. Allow to ferment for at least two weeks and up to 8 (or really, a year if you’d like).  If you want to stop there are just eat this hot peppers as pickles, go for it!  At 3 months, my serranos where still perfectly crispy.
  5. Once fermentation is complete, drain and reserve brine and place peppers and garlic in a food processor, removing any whole spices first. Process for 2-3 minutes, or until very liquidy.
  6. Add brine a tablespoon at a time until it reaches desired consistency. For a liquid, tabasco-style sauce, add it all. I like a sriracha consistency, so I usually add back between a quarter and a half cup of brine.
  7. Run the puree through a food mill or fine mesh strainer.  I work with a pretty awesome OXO fine mesh strainer (you can use metal here) and a spatula, stirring and pressing until my pepper dregs are quite dry.
  8. This is one ferment that keeps almost indefinitely.  I have sauces that are over a year old in my fridge, and they still taste great!

Like spicy things? How about some Hot Pepper Flakes or Kimchi?


  1. says

    This looks delicious! Every summer, I make a large quantity of Túóng Ót Toi style fermented hot sauce, and then lament come December when it runs out.

    In fact, I had been in the middle of writing my own blog post about it when I saw this.

  2. says

    Last summer, when I was just starting to dip my toes into fermenting, I packed a bunch of chilis a friend grew into a jar with some brine. (I can’t remember if I added garlic or not.) It sat on the counter for a few weeks, then got moved into the fridge. I finally pulled it out and pureed it in July or August. Added some vinegar and it’s like Tabasco. I had no idea it was that easy!

    • Amanda says

      Totally. Hot sauce is one of my all-time favorites. My only quibble is the length of fermentation time (I really do like a 3 month sauce better than a 3 week sauce). I usually do a simultaneous batch of vinegar sauce (can be eaten the next day) and fermented (can be eaten months later) when I first have enough peppers to get started. I used to have a slight preference for the fast sauce, but then I started skipping the “add vinegar” step in the fermentation process, and aging them longer, and the fermented version won my heart! No question!

      • Rich says

        I know this is an old post but I thought I’d offer a tip here. If you use a pro-biotic capsule or two, mixed into the brine in the jar, you get that 3 month flavor in 3 weeks or less. in a warm cupboard it can be done in a week. I just add it when I’m packing in the peppers to kick start everything (kefir or old recent brine from a batch of pickles works great too!)


        • Amanda says

          Hi Rich – I don’t use starters in my ferments unless absolutely necessary for a few reasons. There is actually research done on fermented vegetables that shows that the end product of vegetable ferments made with starters is of lower quality (taste and texture) than vegetable ferments made with out. I can’t recall the title of the study that I’ve read on this topic, but it was done by the WHO and is cited (amongst other similar studies) in The Art of Fermentation.

          I’ve done a lot of experimentation with starters (capsules, whey, brine from finished ferments, Caldwell’s) and my own personal experience bears the WHO study out 100%. Slimier texture and less complex taste are frequent by-products of using a starter for vegetable fermentation.

          The other main reason not to use starters is the lack of microbial diversity in which they result. When you add a probiotic tablet, you are only getting the pre-selected strains of bacteria, possibly, in some cases definitely, to the detriment of the natural (much more diverse) strains that would play out their natural cycles during the fermentation process. I personally prefer wild fermentation with the microbes that were evolved to do the work.

          Personally, time isn’t my main concern when I’m fermenting (there’s vinegar pickling for that!), but for those who want a quicker fermentation, starters are certainly an option.

          I’m so glad you found a way that works for you!

          • matt says

            i have a lot of peppers that have dried can i use the same fermenting ptocess with them.

          • Amanda says

            Hi Matt,

            That will depend on how they’ve been dried. There may still be dormant populations of lactic acid bacteria on the skins, but if they were heated, or dried very long ago, they may already have died. You can definitely try with a small batch and see how it goes. If you add fresh herbs or other seasonings (whole spices like mustard seed, onions, etc) you’ll be likelier to have a good result!

  3. says

    I’m doing a red and a green version. My red one, jalapeños and bell peppers, has a film of something white collecting on the top of the water. Weirdest looking stuff…doesn’t look slimy or moldy.

    What is it? Is everything still ok? It’s been a week today.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Lori,

      Without seeing it, I can’t really tell you what it is, but my best guess would be that it’s kahm, a harmless yeast that can sometimes build up during fermentation. Although it’s harmless from a health perspective, it can impart a flavor that some people find off-putting so you may want to skim as much off as you can when you have the chance.

      I hope that helps!


  4. says

    Thanks Amanda.

    Would it be safe to open it, skim it and then put the airlock back on for the rest of the ferment?

    It is the weirdest looking stuff. I’ll take a picture and blog it tomorrow and you can see.


    • Amanda says

      Hi Lori,

      I don’t work with airlocks a whole lot, but what I’ve read is that you generally don’t want to remove one during fermentation. I think you’ll probably be fine to leave the excess yeast in there (if that’s what it is) unless you’re planning on fermenting for months and months. Removing the yeast has a downside, but so does not removing it, so I would go with your gut and keep an eye on it.

      Let me know what you decide and how it turns out, if you have the chance.

  5. Brian says

    Hi… In my first attempt at hot sauce, I’ve got some white stuff going on at the bottom of the jar. I’m guessing it’s yeast? Is that a normal thing? Should I try not to include it in the final product?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Brian,

      Yes, it’s probably yeast and bacteria (although I can’t be sure without seeing it, I get the same stuff in my sauce). For the stuff that settles to the bottom, I don’t worry about it a whole lot. If it’s on the surface, it could be kahm which can definitely impart an off flavor, so I do try to skim that. I hope that helps!


  6. Waqas says

    Some silly questions but when you pack the chillies in (or purée them), do you seal the can or use a breathable cloth until fermentation is complete.

    Also say you use a chilli base that’s has been blended with herbs and spice in a vitamix and then ferment the mixture. You don’t need to then strain again do you, you can use as is?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Waqas,

      Not silly at all. This is anaerobic fermentation. You don’t want air getting in there because it will give you surface mold. Submerging via the ghetto jar method (linked in the post) or some other way that you normally use is the best method here. You can also use an airlock to achieve the same effect. I am not a fan of doing it pureed from the start because it takes much more attention (stirring to avoid surface mold). You don’t need to strain it if you do it that way, but you will probably still want to run it through a food mill or fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp. That’s up to you, though!

  7. Cally says

    I have a white, milky substance growing in the brine, but not on the surface. It’s just sort of floating around in there, not settling to the bottom. Could this also be a yeast of some kind?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Cally,

      Unfortunately without seeing it, I can’t give you an opinion. You could try googling for images that are similar. Sometimes that’s a good way to diagnose!
      Sorry I can’t help!


  8. rickdale says

    a note about salt: depending on type(kosher, sea, pickling, ect.) a tablespoon of salt can vary in weight a lot. better to weigh the salt. 1.5 oz. of salt per quart of water makes a 4% brine, which is good for most fermented stuff. also, don’t use iodized salt,iodine will stop or hinder the good bacteria from fermenting properly.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Rickdale,

      I actually prefer to measure salt. It’s easier, and many years ago, I weighed every salt I could get my hands on. I believe that ended up being about 15 varieties of salt. For the size of batch I do, the difference between a tablespoon of kosher salt, rock salt and fine salt was negligible. The only sizable difference was between flake and fine salt (and I never ferment with flake salt) I always prefer to work without equipment when I can, and I’ve found that I can work without a scale in this case quite well. I hear your point, but it’s really not my style.
      Glad you’ve found the way that works best for you, though!

      As for iodized salt, that’s just not true. Sea salt also contains iodine in varying degrees. I’ve fermented with every type of salt under the sun (including the cheapest, most iodized) and I’ve never had a failed batch. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Amanda says

      Room temp is always best for fermented pickling! Thanks for reading! Let me know how yours turn out.


  9. says

    Silly question maybe. Can you use whole frozen peppers for this? I have frozen Jalepenos from last season plus some fresh cayenne’s from this season. However, its not enough for a full batch. Could I freeze the cayennes and in a couple weeks when I have another round harvested defrost them all and make a batch? I am not sure if this would impact the fermentation process or not.

    • Amanda says

      Hi! I have a very frustrating answer for you: maybe. If you’re using at least half fresh peppers along with the frozen ones, you should be fine. Some strains of lactic acid bacteria can survive the freezer for up to a month from the literature I’ve read. Others will not survive, so it’s a little bit of a crapshoot. However if you’re using lots of fresh ones in there, they should provide enough oomph to get fermentation going!

  10. Thomas says

    Hi ! Thanks for the great tips.

    I did several batches of habanero sauce that ended up to be more or less succesfull. My last was ok using a plastic bad filled with water to push the solids down. I sterilized with the spray i used for homebrewing.

    I’m in Norway and it’s impossible to find fermenting jars with weights etc. Same for kosher salt.
    My best fermentation happened with Maldon flake salt from England. Wanted to use Guérande salt from France but it’s not cleaned so results might be random

    My question would be, when you had vinegar how do you keep the sauce homogeneous? Tabasco stays stable, and they say they don’t use emulgator. My sauce settles and separates very quickly. Not a problem to shake, but just curious. Thanks.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Thomas,

      Sounds like you found a great way to make it work! You can really use any kind of salt. I think the extra minerals in good sea salt are good to have, because fermentation actually makes them more available to your body. I’ve used all kinds, from very wet sea salts to iodized table salt and never had a failure yet!

      If you’re looking for other ideas for weights (although you seem to have it covered) a rock (boiled first, of course) pie weights or marbles in a linen tea bag or cheesecloth, really anything food safe that will fit in the jar/container will do the trick.

      As for your last question, I’m not sure I totally understand, but I’ll give it a go! Feel free to clarify if I got you wrong! I have to be honest, I rarely add vinegar to keep it shelf stable, I’ve done that with maybe a few batches because I prefer the probiotics to shelf stability, but I haven’t noticed any particular setting. I do tend to do thicker sauces (less add back of fermenting liquid) so maybe that’s the difference? I’m not sure other than that. Sorry I can’t give you a better answer, but as you say, giving it a shake is just fine if it works for you.

      May I also say how jealous I am of the English skills of Norwegians.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Thomas says

        Hehe, I am French, and don’t say it’s even more surprising, I wish I could write more academically.

        My question about the vinegar was about how come Tabasco stays homogenous (meaning it satys “red” despite them adding vinegar) and mine stays layered, solids to the bottom, when not shaken.

        I am also trying to get a Tabasco consistence, meaning coming out drop by drop, my sauce is slightly too liquid to my taste.

        I’ll try without vinegar next time, but then I’ll have to balance the taste with bell peppers to get some liquids, 100% habanero is very strong, even for me, and gives little juice. I don’t have access to a broad range of peppers and don’t have room to grow them anymore. I did a Baccatum fresh sauce years ago, I called it the Molotov Cocktail, I made an Ugandan guy taste it, he almost turned white… 😀

        • says

          Most hot sauces use Xanthum Gum (a derivative of corn) to stabilize the sauce. Personally, this is an ingredient I want to avoid as an unnecessary food additive. As far as I can tell, Tobasco does not use Xanthum Gum. You can get Xanthum Gum for home use if you wanted to use it to adhere the sauce together.

          Very likely this means that Tobasco Sauce is made using industrial equipment that can heat the peppers so quickly that enzymes are destroyed and the pectin is not broken down between cells so therefore doesn’t separate. In your standard home application you are “cold breaking” the pepper and thus the pectin is being broken down by enzymes. This is the same reason that homemade tomato sauce separates in storage.

          • Amanda says

            Hell yeah! Thanks for the great response. I have no knowledge of either of those processes, but it’s a great jumping off point for research. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Jen Leithead says

    Hi! I have a quick question – I have a LOT of peppers, and would like to start them fermenting like this and use them a little at a time. Will it work to expand the batch to fit in a gallon jar instead of just a quart? I also don’t currently have quart jars in my house, though that is easily remedied…

  12. Nemat Heydary says

    This site is a huge help in getting me started with fermenting some of my superhot peppers I’ve grown this year.

    I started fermenting last week with salt and water. I put the mash into a mason jar and put cheese cloth on top and screwed it down. I haven’t seen any bubbles or signs of fermentation. My house is kept at 72 degrees. Should it be moved to a dark shelf?


    • Amanda says

      Hi Nemat,

      First, thanks SO much for the kind words! I really appreciate it!
      As for your peppers, I will tell you that they just aren’t the most vigorous fermenters, so I sometimes keep them in a sealed jar for a couple days just to make sure that there’s some action in there. The fact that you used a starter (or 2 starters!) is what’s confusing me. Live whey will kick start basically anything that has sugar (natural sugars included) in it, so I would except to see bubbles even on something that normally wouldn’t be very naturally bubbly.

      I’m hoping that you’re just not seeing the carbonating effect because it’s faint. Is the mash separating? are the solids floating to the top? If so, I would assume that it’s fermenting, just with small bubbles. When it comes time to taste, start with a small taste. Sounds like you’re used to making kraut, so be looking for that certain “fermented” flavor and a bit of acidity. I have totally done pepper ferments that didn’t get super bubbly and turned out great, but generally you do need some CO2 action early in fermentation as proof that it happened at all.

      Keep me posted!


  13. Hotpepper says

    Loved your walkthrough on fermenting peppers!

    I got a box of hots and super hots on thehotpepper.com and couldn’t eat a few of them (primos, scorpions, etc) as they were well into the millions of SHUs. I didn’t want them to go bad and had to do something with them. Anyway, in the mix were some pequins and some other smaller peppers. I only have 1 size of mason jars, so I crammed all my ingredients at the bottom, then crammed the peppers in. I then took a shot glass and stuck it open side down into the jar and moved it around a bit so it didn’t have air sitting inside it like a diving bell. It isn’t quite big enough to cover the diameter of the jar opening but it is big enough to keep everything packed tightly and under the brine and the smaller peppers from floating up. I then screwed the cover on tightly, but loose enough for it to push open when pressure builds. Just figured I’d share the shot glass idea in case others didn’t have different sized jars! :)

  14. Jill says

    Hi! I’m currently fermenting thickly sliced peppers using your recipe above (had to slice for them to fit into the jar…), and my brine is slightly cloudy. Just wondering if the cloudiness is normal, or something to be concerned with.

    When I smell it, I mainly just smell garlic (I put in the whole cloves). No terribly off-putting odors.

    Thanks for any advice you may have!

  15. says

    We’re so glad we stumble on your site while searching for ways to ferment our chile pepper crop. We love the health benefits of fermented foods and have experimented with some of the basic fermenting techniques. The information on your site comes from true experience and will help us raise our fermenting skills to a new level. We’ve signed up for your emails and will be sharing your valuable and interesting content on our networks. Thanks so much!

    • Amanda says

      Thank you so much, Raymond! I greatly appreciate your kind words and I was happy to see you show up in my social media feeds today! Best of luck with your continued journey!

  16. Alison Heeres says

    I work on an organic farm and we have tons of hot peppers. I want to make Aji Limon hot sauce and would like to add mangos for a sweet and sour hot sauce. Will this affect the fermentation? Can I add them at the beginning or should I add them when I process the peppers and food mill.

    Thanks so much. Love your site. Love your attitude.


    • Amanda says

      Hi Alison,

      Thanks so much for the kind words!
      Yes, adding sweetness to vegetable ferments is quite tricky. Since bacteria are specifically consuming the sugars in the ferment, the end product won’t be sweet. Depending on how long you ferment, how much salt you use, temp, etc, you could end up with something mushy, something boozy or something slimy. If you’re only fermenting for a few days, you’ll probably still might have some residual sweetness, but the problems I mention above could still occur.

      I definitely do sweet vegetables ferments sometimes. It’s nothing to be afraid of! Just know that there are potential obstacles, and that if you really want a sweet end product, it might be better not to ferment it. Or if you do want to ferment it, to stabilize it and stop fermentation by adding distilled, white vinegar when you’re happy with the flavor. This will potentially kill of your good bugs, just FYI, but it will allow you to add a sweeter element that doesn’t get de-sugarified by said good bugs.

      I would recommend trying it with a small batch, or waiting until you’re happy with it as a hot ferment and then serving it with the addition of the mango.

      I hope that helps!

  17. Becky Hand says

    I had to pick our green Tabasco peppers today since we may have a frost tonight. I pureed some and added salt. How long does it take for a liquid to form? They seemed quite dry, so I added some water. Was that the right thing to do? From what I read, you don’t want any air in contact with the mash. Any help is very much appreciated!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Becky,

      Sounds like you’re doing everything right. The trick with making peppers with a mash is that there’s no way to weight them, so you either have to use an airtight vessel or stir regularly until bottling to keep any surface molds or yeasts from forming. If you have an airlock, you can do that. If you don’t, just grab a chopstick or a spoon and remember to give it a stir once or twice a day until bottling (or refrigerating).
      It may take several days for the mash to separate, and if you’re stirring regularly it won’t. Look for air bubbles along the sides of the jar (in the mash) if you do see those, you’re in good shape. You should see them within a couple of days.

      I hope that helps!


  18. Shane says

    Hey so do you not need to mash or blend the peppers before hand to ferment? Also if I put too much salt in there will it cause the fermentation to not even happen? I blended up a ton of peppers, but I think I put waaaay to much salt in there, and I think I over processed them. i heard too much heat and salt will kill the bacteria needed? Think im gonna start all over ebcause its been over a week and I see no fermentation happenening.

    • Tom Larimer says

      You don’t have to blend the peppers first. Just pack the whole washed peppers into your jar as tight as you can. I use 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of canning and pickling salt per quart of water. Some people use more, some less. More salt slows fermentation.
      Once the ferment is done, then you can blend it all.
      Remember that you can put garlic and other spices in the jar with the peppers.

  19. Tom Larimer says

    I came up with this solution for perfect fermenting. I use wide mouth Ball jars. To keep anything fermenting from being exposed to oxygen, I then take Ball small mouth plastic screw on lids and drill several small holes in the lid. These fit almost perfectly into the wide mouth jars. Insert them TOP down into the wide mouth mason jar over your new ferment that you have filled with brine. Then pour brine onto small lid with holes in it and screw regular cap onto mason jar. Do not tighten too much, let gas escape. Every day or so, check that there is brine covering the small cap and pour more brine in when needed. Also the small Ball plastic lids are free of any harmful things.

    • Josh Homer says

      Thanks for the very good pointer. This is what I did to save my pepper sauce and it works great. It allowed me to top up the jars and still keep the peppers submerged. I ended up just going through the fridge though and all three lids I found fit perfect and I just replaced them with normal canning lids and rings.

  20. Emarvydo says

    I am new to making hot sauces. I have a recipe for hot sauce that calls for fresh thai chili peppers that are cooked on the stove with bell pepers, garlic, tomato, etc. but cannot find fresh thai chili peppers anywhere. I do have some canned peppers, however. Do you think they will work if I am not pickling the rest of the ingredients?

    • Amanda says


      If you’re cooking all of the ingredients on the stove, you would probably be adding vinegar rather than fermenting them. If you’re in to canning as a preservation method, definitely check out my friend Marisa’s acclaimed canning blog, Food In Jars.

      If you do want to ferment them, you would have to use fresh, uncooked ingredients since the bacteria will be killed in the cooking process.

      I hope that helps!

  21. Brandon says

    Thanks for the great post. I’ve made hot sauces through the cooking + pickling method before, and they turned out great, but I thought I might give the fermenting method a try this time around to use up some superhot peppers I picked up recently. Having no experience with fermenting, I’ve been scouring the web looking for recipes and tips, and your post is one of the clearest and most informative.

    My question was whether you ever added onions to the mix. I know that a lot of the stovetop hot sauce recipes call for onions (often even carrots) to add some sweetness to the mix, but I’ve noticed that most of the fermentation recipes I’ve seen only call for the peppers and some garlic. I was just wondering if this was by design, if the onions complicated the fermentation process. Thanks!

    • Amanda says

      Thanks so much, Brandon! You can absolutely add onion. Onion ferments very well and makes for a very tasty fermented hot sauce, too! I hope you enjoy your final product! Feel free to report back on the results!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Ann,

      No, if you want to add vinegar (as described and linked to in the text) they can be made shelf stable at room temperature. The trade-off is that they will no longer be probiotic.

  22. Cory says

    Thanks for your site and advice. I may have screwed up something however. I made three jars and used airlock lids instead of your ghetto jar method. The instructions that came with the lids told me to leave about an inch open from the top of the brine and peppers to the top of the jar, and then screw the lid on. I am seeing the liquid in two of the jars starting to become cloudy. I am wondering if I should have had added enough brine to the top of the jars, and if so, can I open it and add it now, or is it too late? Hopefully you can see the pic that I took in the link below. Thanks for your help!
    I did this on Sunday, so it has only been 3 full days, and it is already that cloudy in the two jars.

  23. John Reynolds says

    I just finished two half gallon jars of ghost peppers, carrot onion and garlic. I didn’t realize until I was finished that I had mistakenly only used 1tsp of salt per cup of water. Do I dump and make new solution, or do you feel this will be ok? Thanks in advance. Love you posts!!

  24. Rebecca H. says

    I was so excited to find this and the dregs post before hot pepper season this year. I just made a batch of habanero and a batch of jalapeno hot sauce last night after fermenting 9 weeks, and the dregs are in the dehydrator. I think they turned out great. I have 5 more jars of various hot peppers still fermenting, but they are questionable. I used your ghetto jar method, and I found that my brine needed to be topped up every couple of days, throughout the entire process. Does this happen to you? At first I thought it was bubbling out or absorbed into the peppers (I put them in whole without cracking), so I topped up with more brine. About halfway through the process when I knew fermentation had slowed, and it was still happening even with a jar of sliced peppers, I decided it was from evaporation. So I started topping up with fresh water. Getting tired of babysitting, I shoved the shot glass down into several of the jars and put a cap on them. Even while capped, the brine level dropped below the top of the chilies in a few days. So I started topping up with brine again, thinking maybe the brine is being soaked into the walls of the peppers? I composted one entire jar when we went on vacation for a long weekend and came back to find the brine had dropped enough that the whole top layer of peppers were sticking out of the brine. In a couple of the other jars I’ve thrown out a pepper or two that I found sticking out and discolored (but not fuzzy). I am hoping that the rest of the jar is still fine. I am still mystified about the missing brine, so if you have any insight into this, let me know. Thanks for all your great posts and recipes!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Rebecca,

      That’s a mystery! Evaporation definitely happens if your home is very warm and you have a very long ferment going. If I make summer sauerkraut, I have to start checking at about 3 weeks. Two days I’ve definitely never heard of, so I’m not sure what to tell you about that.

      Btw, if your peppers stick out for a short while, it’s nothing to worry about unless they are mushy or do have mold. Even then, it’s just a matter of them not tasting quite as good as you’d like.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help on the evaporation issue!

  25. Josh Homer says

    Hi Amanda!

    Great site you have here. I was struggling to figure out what to do with all my extra peppers before I stumbled on your site.

    I had already sliced my peppers and tried a couple ways to keep them submerged in the brine with poor success. In the future I have the answers but I didn’t want to loose this batch. I have been closing the lids and shaking on a daily basis as well as checking for mold. One jar started to show some mold one day but none since.

    My question is: when would I draw the line of it being too moldy? Could I just pull off the moldy stuff from the top and be ok? What are the dangers of having too much mold? From what I have read it is mainly texture and flavor for the finished product and does not present a health concern.

    Any insight you have would be appreciated.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Josh,

      Oooh! Lucky you. Nothing quite like fermented hot pepper sauce! The answer to your mold question is a little complicated, so please bear with me. The first question is whether it’s really mold. Is it white or beige? Flat with maybe bubbles and some lines? If so, that’s Kahm (see here for some photos of Kahm) and it’s harmless, but shaking or skimming is a good idea because it can impart some unpleasant odors.

      If it really is mold (fuzzy, green, blue, etc), then you have a choice to make. I spoke with a wonderful microbiologist, Fred Breidt of the USDA, earlier this year and basically what he told me is that mold isn’t an issue unless you can tell it’s an issue and that it’s always a matter of degrees. The first thing you ALWAYS want to be aware of if you have a lot of mold is pH. If the pH has fallen or never went below 4.4, then do not eat the batch. If the pH has continued to lower into the 3s, you’re okay to eat it as long as eating it appeals to you. To some degree, before you break out the pH strips, you can use common sense. I’ve eaten my share of pickles with surface activity, but I recently composted a batch that were massively moldy (long story). They were not appealing to me, I could smell the moldy aroma and I had no interest in eating them.

      Best rules of thumb: skim yeast or mold as soon as you see them and they won’t spread quite so much. Discard any batches that smell strongly of rotten eggs or swiss cheese. When in doubt, test the pH. Never eat anything that doesn’t smell appealing to you.

      I hope that helps!

    • Josh Homer says

      Thanks for all the great information. It was mold on a few of the pepper pieces that I could not keep submerged. It was not bad and I do not think it will effect the product.

      That Kahm on the other hand is scary looking stuff. Glad it is not bent on Phickle domination;)

  26. Jen Leithead says

    Hi! I tried this recipe this summer with quite a variety of peppers. I started them in September and just recently processed them. The result is quite good, very spicy, with quite a flavor. It’s a bit sour for my and my husband’s taste, however, and we both think a bit of sugar would add a lot to the flavor. Since it’s naturally fermented, however, I’m rather hesitant to simply add it in. What are your thoughts on this? I’m not overly concerned with the probiotic effects – it’s wonderful, but honestly we’ll use it in such small quantities I’m not sure it matters much, so I’m ok with adding vinegar if needed to stop the fermentation entirely. What do you think? Have you heard from others about this? Thanks so much for the recipe and the help! Jen

  27. Daniel says

    Hello I just came across your post, I am growing around 20 varieties of habaneros this season and was wondering if there is a way to incorporate fruit into the hot sauce. If so when would I incorporate it, during fermentation or when I decide to blend it up after ferminatation?

    Also I have a 5 gallon Oak barrel back from the days when I used to make wine, any chance I could make a large batch hot sauce in there? If you know any books or other sites that talk about making aged/fermented hot sauces please let me know.

    Thank you.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Daniel,

      First, wow! I am so excited for you. I adore habanero hot sauces and it sounds like you’re going to have a lot of wonderful variety! As for fruit, there are a few things you can do.

      In every case, you should add it after fermentation. Pepper ferments can get a bit yeasty (lots of excess sediment in the vessel, occasional thick, viscous brine). It’s not abnormal and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong, but it can look off or impart off flavors. If you add fruit at the start of fermentation, you’ll increase the odds of that happening and potentially even shift the fermentation from bacterial to yeast (wine-ish hot sauce may not be your goal :-).

      If you do want to add fruit, add it just before blending (post-fermentation) and then put it directly in the fridge. You will still get some fermentation in the fridge, though, so if you want to make sure that doesn’t happen, and you don’t care about the probiotic benefits, pour the whole puree into a sauce pan and boil for 5 minutes before straining and refrigerating. That will result in some changes to the flavor profile as well, but I think it’s still very tasty!

      I hope that helps!

      • Daniel says

        Thank you for the reply, I didn’t think about the wine affecting the flavor but I can see how that would affect the fermentation. At this point I have more then I can handle I have over 120 plants. So if my hot sauce succeeds then I may try to sell it so fingers crossed. I love mixing fruit with hot sauces as I feel that it helps to balance the heat to flavor profile. Ill let you know how it goes in the upcoming months.

  28. Padraic says


    I’m totally new to fermenting things. I have a background in the retail wine business, though, and my question is about flavor. Say I make a sauce with sweet peppers and add garlic and other stuff. I can jar it and age it for a few weeks, or ferment it. What might, in the most general sense, be the flavor profile difference? I’m new, so if this question is missing parts, please elaborate. Much thanks!

  29. Teddy says

    Thank you for your wonderful informative blog. I raise habanero peppers and make different sauces usually via cooking and bottling, and I’d like to try fermenting some. My question is by fermenting just the habaneros will the end result be a sauce with to much heat?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Teddy,

      Thanks so much! Whether or not it will be too hot is going to depend on you and how long you age the sauce. The heat mellows over time, but for serious mellowing, you’ll want serious time. Don’t expect the kind of tamed peppers that you get from a vinegar sauce, because fermentation will take a much longer time to chill. I have a full habanero sauce in my fridge that is almost a year old at this point, and it’s still incredibly hot, but I have hardcore pepper head friends who can squirt it on everyone and only cry a little.

      If you can’t eat a habanero alone, I would personally recommend cutting it with a more chill pepper, but ultimately, it comes down to your pepper love.

      I hope you enjoy it!

  30. Leah says

    Wow! What a great site! I have a couple questions about this process. I will be using an airlock. You write to “Allow to ferment for at least two weeks and up to 8 (or really, a year if you’d like).” Do you mean to allow for a few weeks and then in the refrigerator, or can I leave it out for up to a year? I understand to put it in the refrigerator after I ‘sauce it’.
    My other question is, do I leave the airlock on once I put it in the refrigerator, whether a ferment is sauced or still left in its whole state to continue to ferment? (I will not be using vinegar.) In advance, my appreciation for you taking the time to answer my questions.
    All the best to you and all you love, Leah

    • Amanda says

      Hi Leah,

      Thank you! Hot sauce is one of those things that I frequently let ferment (at room temp) for a long, long time, so a year is not uncommon in my house. Two years isn’t that uncommon either! If this is your first go, I would probably just do a shorter one to make sure you love it before delaying gratification for that long. The aged ones are amazing, though!

      If you’re done processing the sauce, definitely remove the airlock before you stick it in the fridge. When mine is “done” fermenting, I put it into squeeze bottles or small bottles are easy to pour from.

      It will continue to age and ferment in the fridge, but in my experience, that’s pretty much a great thing. Aged sauces get pretty amazing.

      I hope that answers your questions!

      Thanks for reading.

  31. angelo corriea says

    I am fermenting red cherry peppers in 5% brine with seasonings, and topped with vines leaves and a weight, all in a fermentation croc. It’s only 3 days on and the top ones seem soft and mushy. I was afraid of that ! The fermentation is by no means complete.

    Is it possible with time they will return to being crunchy.

    Does anybody have success with fermenting these ? If so, what method and recipe ?

    • Amanda says

      Peppers tend to have lots of names, so I’m not sure if I’ve fermented the ones you’re speaking of. Are they also called Hungarian Cherry Bombs? If so, I have. But I’ve fermented a lot of peppers of a lot of different varieties, so I think I can help you. Some peppers, especially those with thicker flesh, will get soft over time. (Check out my post on “Floppy Pepper Pickles

      Softness isn’t something to worry about in and of itself, because it can really just be a feature of the particular vegetable. 3 days is pretty quick for softness, though. My one question would be how you know they’re soft. Once you pack your vessel, you kind of want to leave them be. Opening, closing and poking around are only desirable when absolutely necessary, and it shouldn’t really be in this case. The air exposure could be the issue.

      They won’t return to being crunchy, but if you’re using this to make sauce, that doesn’t actually matter.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to respond with more detail if not.

  32. Danny says

    So I’m an uber beginner, but I tried this in a sealed mason jar and it just got PUTRID. I’m assuming that is because it was anaerobic fermentation? I could be 100% wrong I’m not sure. Is that what the lids with the air thing on top is for so that sir flow can happen? Would this have also worked with just regular old cheese cloth?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Danny,

      So vegetable fermentation is anaerobic fermentation. The things that need air, like vinegar and kombucha are the exceptions to the rule. The putrid thing would more likely come from irradiated peppers, because in a sealed jar, they would ferment (and your jar lid should have been very puffed up and bubbled a ton when you removed it). It really sounds like there was no fermentation, and the only reason for that that I’m aware of, especially if you followed this process, would be peppers that were irradiated. If that’s definitely not the case, I’m not sure why fermentation would have stalled or failed to initiate.

      The airlock is to let CO2 escape while keeping air from getting in. It’s not necessary, but it can be helpful in some cases.

      I wouldn’t recommend cheesecloth for anaerobic fermentation. You’re pretty likely to end up with surface mold, or at least a healthy dose of surface yeast that can smell and look unpleasant.

      I hope that helps!


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