Southern Pepper Sauce

Souther Pepper Sauce

Pepper sauce, or “peppa sauce” to use the Southern parlance, is a dead-simple Southern staple. The recipe couldn’t be easier: peppers and vinegar in a bottle. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. Pepper sauce can elevate a bland bowl of collard greens to something truly special.

For us Pacific-coasters pepper sauce is a much lesser known thing. Tabasco® sauce—a whole different animal—is about the closest we get here. But venture South and you’d be hard pressed to find a table, at home or in a restaurant, that wasn’t topped with a bottle.

A Million Uses

A splash or two of this can bring a bland dish to life. I can’t eat collard greens or black-eyed peas without it. Most Southerners wouldn’t either. Try it in soup, or as the acidic component in a vinaigrette or caesar dressing, or mix it into your favorite pan sauce at the end. Because of its simplicity the uses are endless.

Making the ‘Peppa Sauce

To make, it’s as simple as heating enough vinegar to fill your glass bottle (an old rum bottle is traditional), stuffing that bottle with peppers and filling with white wine vinegar. Garlic is frequently added, as are black peppercorns. That’s how I prefer it.


Pepper sauce; after 3 months of aging

Pepper sauce; after 3 months of aging

Tabasco peppers can sometimes be harder to find, but any small(er) peppers will do. Red ripe peppers are the best, but green work too. As long as you can get them through the neck of your bottle, you’re golden. Feel free to experiment by adding other whole, dried spices of your choosing or swapping the white wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar.

For an Asian-inspired twist you might try rice wine vinegar, Thai chili peppers, garlic and star anise.

Now here’s the best part: when your bottle is nearing empty, just top it off with more vinegar. No need to heat the vinegar. The peppers will lose their potency over time, however, I’ve been working with a bottle for more than a year and have yet to replace them.

I’m fairly certain that those of you who make this will be making it for the rest of your lives. 

Pepper Sauce
  1. 1 glass bottle with cap or cork
  2. 1 handful of tabasco or your choice of peppers
  3. White wine vinegar, or vinegar of your choosing
  4. 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
  5. 4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
  1. In a non-reactive pot bring enough vinegar to fill your bottle to a simmer, being careful to not boil.
  2. While vinegar is heating, set aside enough peppers to fill the bottle. You may remove the stems if you prefer, but it's not necessary.
  3. Using a knife, make a small slit in each of the peppers. This slit allows the vinegar to more easily penetrate the peppers and soak up it's goodness.
  4. Stuff all of the peppers into the empty glass bottle. If using the garlic and peppercorns, smash the garlic cloves and add those along with the peppercorns.
  5. Fill the bottle with the heated vinegar
  1. Because of its acidic nature it is not necessary to refrigerate. Garlic and black peppercorns are natural additions. Feel free to experiment with adding other dried spices, or just keep it simple.
  2. When the vinegar gets low top it off with more. Pepper sauce will last indefinitely.
Our Daily Brine

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97 Responses to “Southern Pepper Sauce”

  1. Anne March 12, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Yum… thanks for the recipe. Will be using homegrown Hawaiian chili peppers.

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

      That sounds excellent, Anne.

    • Wheelchair Bob September 14, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

      You can use a bottle of Trappeys hot chili pepper sauce to get it all started. I used to use the 4.5 Oz bottle on the dining room table, now I just fill a Qt. mason jar snugly packed with various chilies like Tabasco, Thai hot and pequin and fill to the top with simmered rice wine vinegar. The rice wine vinegar or Mirin is a bit milder than regular distilled white vinegar and adds depth and sophistication to your final flavor. It doesn’t just hit your palate and burn away on your tongue. Nor is it excessively hot or have a long life span on your tongue. You can get fruity , citrusy, garlicky and creamy all in one jar. And I use about an 8 to 1 ratio of peppers to crushed cloves of fresh garlic. When the peppers are ready to retire after several vinegar changes, I just eat them straight out of the jar or on my favorite comfort food, Chicago Dogs!!!! Even the garlic has mellowed and is also quite tasty too.

      • Kyle Hildebrant September 16, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

        Mmm… Chicago dogs. One of my absolute favorite things in life.

  2. Wendy Brunson May 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    I remember my sister asking someone how to make this years ago. The reply was “It’s really hard. You put peppers and vinegar in a jar.” Thanks for confirming that it’s just that simple AND adding a couple of great suggestions!

  3. Wendy Brunson May 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    P.S. My mama says “peppa”. :)

    • Kyle Hildebrant May 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

      Glad to be able to confirm it’s simplicity. And your momma sounds like my kinda’ lady. Thanks for the feedback!

  4. Denise June 27, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    yep, “peppa” sauce is a staple down here in southwest georgia! i made several bottles last summer with my husband’s abundant pepper crop but it’s not hot! wonder what might cause that? especially since the raw peppers would lift the hair off your head. my grandmother used to make pepper sauce using tiny ornamental peppers that were blazing hot. any thoughts you have will be appreciated.

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 1, 2014 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Denise. Peppers are often inconsistent in heat. This is one of the reasons chefs always stress tasting your peppers before you add them. But as to why that heat would subside in the vinegar, I have no idea. That doesn’t seem feasible. Vinegar will tame the heat a bit, and if you cooked it, that can also tame the heat a little, but going from very hot to not seems unlikely. Sorry, no idea.

      • Wheelchair Bob September 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

        After several vinegar changes over about a year the peppers lose most of their fire, So I just use the peppers to add to hot dogs or just eat them out of the jar and replace them with fresh peppers and fresh hot (but not boiling) rice wine vinegar and start over. The chilies are delicious straight out of the jar or on a good ole sausage dog. I have three bottles of pepper sauce I rotate so that I always have a supply of eatin peppers as well as enough sauce to season a 10 gallon pot of greens or peanuts. There’s no red in the peanuts, but the flavor is great!!!! and I can re-use the jar to start a new batch immediately!!!!! There is nothing like having a bottle of hot pepper sauce on the dining room table all the time. Just be careful because it will strip the finish off of an Oak tabletop in no time at all……..Don’t ask me how I know, but the table did get refinished and coated with polyurethane…

  5. Pam July 24, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I was so excited to find your recipe :) I’m from Florida and we LIVED on this stuff. I put in on beans and greens and spinach. Now that I’m pregnant, meat disgusts me so I’ve been trying to plan things that are higher in proteins, but I’ve been so bummed not to be able to find this sauce. We live in Virginia now and they don’t know what they’re missing :) Unfortunately I couldn’t find any tobacco peppers, but I still went for it and made some with red finger peppers. I will be bringing some tobascos home as soon as I find them or the next time I visit Florida :)

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      I’m happy to hear that, Pam. It’s pretty hard for me to have any sort of beans, hot or cold, without it. Any small pepper will do. It’s all a matter of heat and flavor preference. Tabasco peppers are pretty hard to get ahold of here on the West coast too.

    • Wheelchair Bob September 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Pam, Thai hot chili’s also work very nicely and taste just the same as Tabasco. My tabasco plants failed this year or I would send you a big ole bunch and enough seed to keep you growing your own forever. I grow my own peppers for sauce every year.

  6. Pat Adams July 27, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    So simple! Can you add other veggies yo this?

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 28, 2014 at 11:24 am #

      It is! You could, I don’t know to what benefit that would be. You’d simply pickle you veg and would probably not impart a lot of flavor. I guess it would really depend upon what you are adding.

      • StoneMaven January 30, 2015 at 9:55 am #

        If you add cauliflower pieces and raw carrot coins to this you get hot pickled veggies to eat out of the sauce. We had a local Tex-Mex place that served them to us as an appetizer and we fell in love. Sadly, it closed and I had to make my own. I do up a half-gallon jar of hot jalapeno peppers and veg every season and leave it in the fridge to snack on. For some reason, the veggies seem to pull the heat out of the peppers and get hotter that the jalapenos.

  7. Noel August 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    I’m from GA and my mama always added little slivers of carrot to hers. Don’t know if that made it so good or if it was just cause it was mama’s cooking. Hope that helps, Pat. Thanks, Kyle, for a great read and recipe.

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 8, 2014 at 10:31 am #

      Noel, that makes sense. Carrots and peppers are a natural combination in pickles. I’d be interested in tasting the sauce difference and seeing if they actually impart any of their flavor. They’re certainly good eaten when pickled that way. THanks for taking the time to share.

  8. Pat C Adams August 8, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    Thanks for that tip! I have 3 containers of Peppa Sauce already….2 in little decorative bottles I bought at Michaels….we only have two pepper plants!

  9. Kyle Moseley August 8, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I started a quest today and picked 2 1/2 gallons of peppers from the garden. Imagine my surprise to find Mr. Hildebrant’s suggestion at the top of my search. Thanks for bringing me back to simple pepper sauce because I was working way too hard. Of course I do have high hopes for my jalapeño slices in a modified bread and butter quick pickle brine.

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 8, 2014 at 10:29 am #

      Kyle! great to hear from you. I hope all is well. Glad to hear that I came up first. As for peppers, 2 1/2 gallons is quite a hall. Nice work. I’ve tried, but I have little success growing peppers here in the NW. I’ve got two small bushes, but rarely get more than a handful of peppers. As for jalapeños, I’ve been making lacto-fermented jalapeños like crazy lately. There’s done in a week. Here’s what I would suggest: a 5% brine. Easiest way to calculate is by weighing. So put a jar on a kitchen scale. Weigh out 1kg of water, zero the scale, then add 5% of that weight in salt (5% of 1,000 is 50g). I like to add coriander seeds, as they go perfectly with jalapeños. Put jalapeños and coriander seeds in jar, then cover with your brine. You will have naturally fermented (pickled) jalapeños in a matter of days. You should try it. I bet you like them much better than the vinegar pickled variety. Hope to see you around here more often.

      • Linda Lewis September 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

        Love this too! Thanks for the tips.

      • StoneMaven January 30, 2015 at 9:59 am #

        I’d LOVE to see this recipe!

  10. willie forehand August 9, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    ju st made my first batch of pepper vinegar thanks for telling me the instructions ,all we now is collards and mess of turnips

  11. Nancy August 24, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Hi or, as we say here in the south, Hey,
    My pepper plants – Dragon and Tabasco – are really slow producing this year, this morning only three little peppers. What is the best way to preserve them while waiting for more to ripen? Can I prepare my vinegar and add peppers as they ripen? In the past I have had plenty of peppers to make the sauce in batches but this year the garden is playing by its own rules ;) The Jalapeno and Cayenne peppers are doing great though and I have been dehydrating them for crushing and powdering. Glad that I found your site!

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 24, 2014 at 10:20 am #

      Hey, Nancy. I can totally add them as they ripen. The vinegar essentially pickles the peppers, so they will last a long time (a year or more) in the vinegar. Just add them as you go. I’m in the Northwest and I just cannot seem to get peppers to grow.

    • Wheelchair Bob September 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

      Just toss em into the vinegar and keep adding peppers till you fill the jar with a snug pack. I re-use 1 qt mayonnaise and dill pickle slice jars to make my sauce in.

  12. Owen August 24, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Hi Kyle,
    Great site!
    Any concerns with peppers sticking out of the vinegar at the top of the bottle?

    Also, moar posts plz!

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 24, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks, Owen. I appreciate that. No concerns with them breaking the surface. In most ferments this would be an issue, but because peppers are so acidic and they are in an acidic bath (the vinegar), it’s pretty difficult for any spoilage bacteria or mold to grow on them. As for more posts, I just posted a primer for cooking sous vide this morning. Lot’s more queued up! Thanks for commenting.

      • Michael Williamson August 25, 2014 at 8:15 am #

        I made some peppa vinegar last night, but didn’t see this recipe until this morning. I did NOT heat the vinegar, or slice the peppers. Do either of these steps do anything more than speed up the process of the vinegar taking on the pepper’s flavor?


        • Kyle Hildebrant August 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

          Michael, You’re fine. No harm there. It will likely take longer for the flavor of your sauce to develop. Slicing the peppers will allow them to distribute more flavor into the vinegar quicker and more fully. Heating speeds up this process too.

      • Owen August 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

        Went with rice wine vinegar, Thai chilis, garlic, and coriander!

  13. DDtidwell August 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    I am convinced that southerners are smarter cooks. It took me forever to find this site. I add a little sugar and umh….it is so good. Are we(southern cooks) the only ones who eat turnip greens and hot sauce. My husband puts mayonnaise on his with cornbread. Dpn’t knock it until you try it. He also makes turnip green sandwiches with mayonnaise. The mayonnaise, ofcourse, adds calories!

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Well, I can’t argue with you there. I love good, true, Southern food. Turnip greens are great. As are beet green and so many other greens that many often discard. And as for mayonnaise, even I, as a Northwesterner, know that Duke’s is the gold standard.

  14. Michael Williamson August 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Thanks Kyle!

  15. Brian August 29, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    I’m from NC and my dad has several bottles of hot vinegar that are old enough to vote. I make mine with small red and greens i grow myself, in apple cider and salt. No heating, just stuff and pickle.

    • Kyle Hildebrant August 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      Nice. Heating not totally necessary, but it does speed up the process of infusion.

      • Brian August 30, 2014 at 7:56 am #

        Really? See i always thought heating the vinegar messed up the acid levels.

        I forgot to mention: I prefer to put my sauce in old soy sauce bottles, since they already have that nice stopper in the top. Keeps the peppers in, lets the vinegar flow.

        • Brian August 30, 2014 at 9:14 am #

          One last southern thing: during summer at the dinner table we usually have a bowl of fresh sliced cucumbers. In white vinegar, a little salt and pepper. They’re not pickled, just maybe an hour or two in the mix.

          • Kyle Hildebrant September 23, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

            Can’t go wrong with cucumbers and vinegar either.

  16. JonPope August 30, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Hey Kyle. I remember those bottles on every table when I worked in Lake Charles LA 30 years ago. Great stuff. Just made my first batch using my over-abundance of Serrano and Guatemalan peppers from our CASE shares. Half liter of vinegar plus the peppers just fit into my 700 ml rum bottle. However the neck of the bottle was too narrow for the Serrano so I quartered them lengthwise. Also, an hour after bottling the green ones are fading in color, though the red ones look great. Can’t wait to try it out though, smells great!

  17. Nancy August 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Thanks for the recipe Kyle! My husband got a tabasco pepper plant for his garden by mistake and you talk about producing! We had no idea what to use them for. Found neat vinegar bottles at the Dollar Tree. The peppa sauce comes out a little fast, but I used pliers and squeezed the straws in the cap and that helps. We will be sharing with all our friends. Oh yeah…they make my hands burn…my next buy will be food prep gloves at a kitchen store! :)

    • Nancy September 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      Hey Nancy,
      I bought six of those neat vinegar bottles at my local Dollar Tree store and found, as you, that the sauce came out a little fast. Great idea to pinch the “straws in the cap”. They really are neat bottles. Currently using one for a delicious balsamic vinegar salad dressing! As for gloves, I purchased a humongous supply of Nitrile gloves (100 ct per box) at Amazon. I use them to cut peppers (oh my goodness, try removing contact lenses if you haven’t been protected- NO, don’t …you WILL never ever NOT use gloves again! The boxes have 100 count and I bought a huge case of them. The gloves are perfect for many kitchen chores, cutting up chicken, ground beef, etc. I am waiting for my Tabasco peppers to turn red. Have made jars of pepper sauce using Jalapeno Pepper, Dragon Pepper and Cayenne Pepper (separately) – interested if any taste difference using different peppers. Planted collards a couple of weeks ago…can’t wait to experience southern goodness!

  18. Eugene September 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi Kyle,
    Pepper vinegar was something that ALWAYS stayed on my grandma’s table. When I was a kid, cayenne peppers was the prevalent hot pepper here in southwest Georgia. I can still see those peppers in the decorative bottle on the table. Funny how something like that leaves an indelible impression on you.
    You say an old rum bottle is traditional, but rum comes in all sizes and shapes of bottles, right? Got to ask you, is the picture you used of the bottle featuring the pepper vinegar the same rum bottle that you mentioned in the blog? If so, where might I score a bottle like that one? Is it an antique? Thanks so much, your blog is excellent and I will try the garlic and peppercorns. Never heard of adding other ingredients besides the peppers and vinegar.

    • Kyle Hildebrant September 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      Eugene — (Looks like you got the comment to work). Honestly, any old bottle is traditional. As for the one in the photo, it’s not vintage. I cannot recall the liquor, but I think it’s a Scotch bottle. There’s tons of cork-topper bottles like that for modern spirits. As other have mentioned, those bottles with the metal spouts are particularly nice too, as it makes dispensing an easier task.

      • Eugene September 19, 2014 at 8:26 am #

        Kyle – One more question if I may. In the recipe given, you state a handful of peppers but never specify the amount of vinegar. I know the amounts do not have to be exact, but to start out with, roughly how much vinegar would you recommend per amount of hot pepper? In the picture shown it looks like about
        2 parts vinegar to 1 part pepper. To get the heat level that you prefer, it’s something you kind of have to experiment with, right? Thanks.

        • Kyle Hildebrant September 23, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

          It’s all relative to the size of your bottle. Fill you bottle with as many peppers as you have/desire. Then fill the rest with vinegar. That’s really it. Trust me, I’m a stickler for ratios and measurement, but with pepper sauce it simply doesn’t matter. The heat level will vary so much from pepper to pepper. That’s just how peppers are. I’d taste the pepper, then use your best judgement as to how many you use.

  19. Wheelchair Bob September 19, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I fill the bottle as full as it will get with peppers and add as much vinegar as it will take. I moderate the heat by what vinegar I use and how long I allow it to remain in the bottle. The longer it stays the hotter it will be. The less potent the vinegar the longer you cann leave it before it is too hot to enjoy for your pallet. You will have to experiment, but I use rice wine vinegar cut with about 25% water and that seems to leach out the peppers a little less powerfully and what does get into the vinegar isn’t so hot that I can’t enjoy it on other foods besides greens and leaf veggies.
    Wheelchair Bob

  20. Mike Strickland September 19, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    My family has been making this sauce for generations. No telling how far back since we’ve been here since 1679 and in the South a good portion of that time.

    I use a slight variation on the technique. I do cut the peppers and leave the seeds in (hotter that way), but I pack them into the jars first, as many as I can pack in! (Cutting them lets you pack them in tighter!) Then add vinegar so that I have the right amount. I pore the vinegar from the jars into the sauce pan and heat it with peppercorns and some kosher salt. Roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of each in a pint jar. Then pore it over the peppers in the jars.

    I just put up a batch a few minutes ago. I used Scotch Bonnets, so it should taste great!

    The nice thing about this is that you can make just one jar at a time if you only have a few peppers. If you’re in a hurry, you don’t even have to heat the vinegar!

    • Wheelchair Bob September 19, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Mike, That’s a scary mix your making there. Did you cut the scotch bonnets too? I cannot imagine how hot that sauce is gonna be. How long do you leave the sauce in before you change it out. I don’t leave mine in for more than about a month or it gets too hot to enjoy. Plus I like to keep rinsing the heat out of the peppers so I can eat them straight out of the jar once they are well pickled and have given up a good bit of their heat to the multiple batches of pepper sauce they have made. After a few rinses I bet those bonnets would be tasty to eat too! Just gottta get the heat turned down a few notches before I can eat them straight out of the jar. The peppers straight out of the jar are really rather tasty once you get the heat under control a bit. I usually have several bottles of pepper sauce for the table and keep rotating them with fresh vinegar so they all get to the point that I can snack on the peppers in about 5 or 6 months. Right now I have 2 bottles of Trappey’s and 3 bottles of Texas Petes going that are all on the first rinse with the factory supplied vinegar. Once that vinegar is gone I will refill the jars with rice vinegar and let them sit for about a week then start using them on the table. My wife thinks I am nuts, just eating the peppers straight from the jar, but since I tamed the heat a good bit they are tasty and flavorful additions to just about anything you are eating. I do love me some hot pickled peppers!!!!

      Wheelchair Bob

  21. Mike Strickland September 19, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Well, I AM a bit of a pepper-head!

    The nice thing about the concentrated heat of this sauce is that it’s easy to adjust the heat versus vinegar flavor at the table. If you use the sauce straight, you get more heat and less vinegar flavor. For more vinegar flavor, add some vinegar at the table.

    Like you, I also like to eat the peppers right out of the jar. I’ve eaten scotch bonnets straight on the first vinegar infusion, but it was a bit uncomfortable!

  22. Wheelchair Bob September 19, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Youre a better man than I. I would have to rinse out those scotch bonnets a few times before I was ready to attempt to eat them out of the jar. I did however discover that Sport peppers like they put on chicagoe hot dogs are great out of the jar. Some are a little hotter than others, but the same principle of rinsing out the heat also applies. I have 2 jars of them that I am working with in addition to all the other little jars of rooster spurs!!! They can be amazingly hot straight out of the jar too.

  23. Diane September 21, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    My mother used the mason jars but the lids always corroded. We did replace them. Is there any thing you would suggest.

    • Kyle Hildebrant September 28, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

      If you do want to use mason jars, you can buy plastic lids for them at most grocery stores. The high acidity of this will corrode the metal ones, as you’ve noted. A vessel with a narrower mouth may prove easier to pour.

  24. Wheelchair Bob September 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    We always use a bottle with a stopper or use cheese cloth and a rubber band to keep out the critters. The mix is so acidic that once it is soaked wel,l not much of anything can ever get root and grow in the jar. We almost never refrigerate the sauce because it slows the pickling down more than we would like. Hope this info helps because Peppa sauce is good fer what ails ya! What you cant eat, just slather on and it will soak in through your skin and joints!!!! (JK, don’t put it on yer skinsilly)

    Wheelchair Bob

  25. Mike Strickland September 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Actually, Bob, they sell an ointment with capsaicin in it to rub on your joints for pain! I’ll bet you could use peppa sauce the same way!

    I have a sinus spray called “Sinus Buster” that is made with capsaicin. It really opens up your sinuses!!

  26. Mike Strickland September 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Kyle, the brine fermented peppers sound great. I’ll have to try that.

    I have made lots of Kim Chee using the same technique. The Koreans also ferment lots of different vegetables that way.

    • Kyle Hildebrant September 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      You should. It’s super easy. I’m actually working on a post for that right now. I should have it up this weekend.

  27. Wes H. September 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    So I used cayennes grown in my garden. Green, yellow and red. made a nice look. They’ve been soaking in apple vinegar for 1 week. The garlic cloves I put in the bottle are turning yellow and blue. What’s up with that?

    I made another bottle using mostly green cayenne peppers and a few yellow cayennes. Garlic cloves are not turning except where I cut some of the larger cloves in half. Those are turning brown where I cut them so I don’t do that anymore. Also, McCormick spice sells a Pepper Medley that is a mixture of black, white and pink peppercorns as well as coriander. Adds a fabulous taste.

    • Kyle Hildebrant September 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Wes, that’s a very common reaction, and cutting or type of pepper will have little effect. The acetic acid in the vinegar does this. Harold McGee talks about this in an article for the NY Times:

      “…And a strong green color develops in Laba garlic only with acetic acid, the main acid in vinegar (also found in sourdough), because it’s especially effective at breaching internal membranes and mixing the cell chemicals that react together to create the green pigment. The pigment itself turns out to be a close chemical relative of chlorophyll, which gives all green leaves their color…”

  28. Will October 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Great job! I love it! Been making it for years here in Southern Mississippi! I have a question more about the bottle you use… Where did you find that bad boy?! I’d love to know where to get my hands on one of 2 of those!


  29. Gregg October 11, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    I have two questions: You said that it can be topped off with more vinegar when the sauce gets low. When you do this, do you top it off with heated vinegar, or just the room temperature vinegar? My second, 2 part, question: I’m using tobasco peppers from my garden. Do you ever eat them from the bottle and, if so, after how long of soaking in the vinegar?

    • Kyle Hildebrant October 11, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      Gregg, It’s not necessarily to heat the vinegar. That step is really only to “kick start” the absorption of the chili into the vinegar. I do eat them out of the bottle, but it’s really a preference thing. Just taste as you go and you can determine how long you like them to soak before eating. They will soften a bit and lose a little heat, but they don’t change too drastically.

  30. Wheelchair Bob October 11, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I refill the vinegar when it starts to get a little low and I usually wait till the peppers have has a few soaks in straight vinegar before I eat them. That will help reduce the OMG heat from the Tabasco Peppers and make them more enjoyable. Did you slit the peppers when you put them into the jar? If you slit the peppers they will get less hot a bit faster.


  31. Mike Strickland October 11, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    To add to what Kyle and Wheelchair Bob have said, I usually start eating the peppers as soon as I open the jar! Just taste a bit to see if you like the heat level.

  32. Gregg October 11, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I did slit the peppers and I cut the stems off. I corked the bottle immediately after adding the simmered white wine vinegar and I plan to let it sit for about a week, before using it. Does that sound good? My wife and I love hot stuff. :-P
    BTW, thank you for all the replies! I love cooking, so making my own sauce just adds to that.

  33. Wheelchair Bob October 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Slitting the peppers will allow the vinegar to penetrate the flesh from the inside and that along with frequent vinegar changes will take away the excess hot pretty quick. Depending on how much you and the wife really like HOT stuff you can start tasting the peppers after the first or second vinegar change and see how many more exchanges you need to make to get the hot down to what is palatable for you and your wife. I use hot vinegar or just put the entire jar in the microwave for one minute on high. That gets my vinegar hot, but not boiling. Good luck!!!


  34. Jerry O'Dell October 15, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Kyle thx for all the tips Tabascos are plentiful this year up here in Crozet Va peppa of the year though goes to my Peruvian Hot Lemon Drop once they turn yellow it’s a hot lemony delight just add vinegar no garlic…oh my

  35. Juney J October 21, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    I just left my kitchen without looking at a recipe I added some home grown Serrano peppers to an old spaghetti sauce bottle with white vinegar. I grew other spices in my yard and plan to get more pepper, rosemary sage and thyme to add. What’s your thoughts on adding the rosemary and thyme to the hot vinegar then blending garlic and onion with the peppers using the vinegar thyme and rosemary infused liquid?

  36. Robert Beckett October 21, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    If it was me making the recipe you have I would use a garlic press and puree the onion. Add them to the pepper infused liquid and let it rest a while before use. I think that adding them during the infusion process will give a nice garlic flavor and the onion will have a better chance of nearly dissolving when you get ready to use your recipe. If you want to add them into the decanter I would leave the onion in slivers and mince the garlic or at least cut them in half. That will allow you to have some esthetic qualities, but the garlic and onion will take a while to infuse because the vinegar will have to pickle it first. Just my humble opinion, but I have made a bunch of different recipes and they have all worked pretty good so far. I pickled a quart of jalapeno’s that was cut into rings and added the garlic and onion from the very start. Just layer them into the mix so they are not all together in one layer and you should be pretty happy with the result.

    Wheelchair Bob

    • June J November 7, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      Bob I blended the garlic with onions with everything else and it was awesome.

  37. chris October 30, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Kyle, i stumbled upon your page while looking for something to do with my tabasco peppers. Great idea! I made a bottle, and can also be used to peel paint! ;)

  38. Susan November 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Just picked a mess of Tabascos – I also store mine in vinegar. I don’t use the pepper sauce as much as I use the peppers. Cut slits in a roast (beef, pork, any meat) and slide the Tabascos into the slit. Do the same with garlic slices and onion. Then roast the meat (or smoke it) and be prepared for a wonderfully flavored piece of meat with an equally flavorful gravy.

  39. June J November 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    So I add white vinegar in a pot enough to fill several small bottles as a had a great harvest of serrano peppers in the vinegar I infused rosemary and sage from my garden. Then in the blender yellow mustard with onions, fresh thyme leaves lots of fresh garlic 1/4 cup olive oil the peppers and hot vinegar well blended. Pour in bottles and insert a sprig of rosemary in each bottle. So delish and no mustard taste.

  40. Dennis Carlos November 5, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Growing up there was always a bottle of peppered vinegar in the pantry so now there is always a bottle in my pantry. My mom used Chili peppers but I use Datl peppers for mine. Gives it a slightly sweet taste while having plenty of heat. I’m making up a bottle now and I was looking for some new ideas for using the old peppers besides just eating them. Any suggestions?

  41. Mike Strickland November 5, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    If they still have some heat left in them, you could just add more vinegar, along with maybe some fresh peppers.

    You can chop them up and use them in Mexican Salsa, or in making up some Guacamole.

    Chop them up and add them to cornbread.

    Add them to turnip greens.

    Chol them and add to pickle relish to make a spicy relish.

  42. Curious Corey November 11, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    So, what is the protocol for when the peppers are no longer covered by the vinegar? My bottle was pretty packed with peppers and its not taking much vinegar use to expose them.

    • Kyle Hildebrant November 11, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      I don’t think it matters too terribly. Don’t overthink it. Top it off when you can.

  43. Terri November 24, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    My grandmother (Eastern NC) never put garlic in her pepper vinegar; and she made it with apple cider vinegar. It was my understanding that garlic can go bad if it is not refrigerated after cutting/crushing. Is this not true? Can you put crushed garlic in the jar and continue adding vinegar and using it without fear of botulism?

    • Kyle Hildebrant November 24, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      Terri. I like apple cider vinegar quite a bit. As for garlic, no, it will not go bad. It’s essentially pickled and preserved by the high acid content (pH) of the vinegar. It may turn blue (I spoke to this up a few comments), but that’s not an indication of it going bad. As you note, garlic is one of the major harborers of botulism-causing spores. This is why so many of the cases of botulism are from people putting garlic in oil to make flavored oils.

      Clostridium botulinum will not grow in acidic conditions (pH less than 4.6), and therefore the toxin will not be formed in acidic foods (however, a low pH will not degrade any pre-formed toxin).

      Distilled white vinegar usually measures around pH 2.4, with a strength of 5%. Commericial Apple cider vinegar will have a pH of about 4.25 to 4.5. The lower the pH, the more acid the vinegar is.

      Cider vinegar is right on the edge of the acidity threshold. If you are pickling garlic in ONLY cider vinegar (as in nothing else like the peppers), you may wish to test the pH to ensure that it is below 4.6. Most commercial cider vinegars should be safely below this. But in the case here, we are also adding more acidity through the peppers. This should take the pH and overall acidity far below the threshold for botulism growth.

      More information on botulism.

  44. TLW November 25, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Just made this recipe for Thanksgiving collards (some people in my family do not like too hot.) How long should the pepper vinegar set before fully ready?

  45. wheelchair Bob November 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Mines good and hot after 7 days

  46. Mike Strickland November 26, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    Bob is right. It seems that a good portion of the heat is infused after a week or so. However, if it hasn’t been that long, it’s still gonna be good! If anyone wants more heat or flavor just have chop up some of the pepper into their greens.

    Looking forward to Thanksgiving!! My son has taken on the mantle of cooking the turkey on his Big Green Egg and also prepares the turnip greens! Can’t wait!

  47. Marcella December 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Thanks for the recipe, I remember eating on my greens as a child, now I can have my own

  48. Mike Strickland December 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Our neighbor gave me a handful of Carolina Reaper and Chocolate 7 Pot peppers (#1 and #3 hottest peppers in the world!) and I made some peppa source with them! We had some with our turnip greens at Thanksgiving.


    He has lots more that he has frozen. I want to try some of the fermented pepper sauce with them!

  49. Wain Ashley January 7, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    I wanted to try something different. The Chinese use a oil based hot sauce so I thought, why not? Put some type of small hot yellow peppers that I’d grown into a small jar with olive oil. I retired so the wife and I took an extended trip back to Louisiana where we both were raised. When we returned to FL about 3 months later upon entering the house there was a different but not unpleasant order that greeted us. The concoction that I’d made and completely forgot about and left on top of the stove had fermented and exploded. There were peppers on the ceiling, the windows, the walls, the floors, and a sticky residue to boot. So much for experimentation. I’ll stick to what I know. Hot white vinegar over hot peppers of your choosing. I also add a little salt to my hot pepper sauce. Live and learn. PS: For you hot pepper lovers, I was in Cambodia about 10 years ago and the sides of the roads in the rural areas were lined with a 4-5 foot ribbon of drying red peppers as far as the eye could see.

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 1, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

      That’s funny. I can’t say I’ve not dealt with an fermentation explosion once or twice. Just make sure gas can escape and you’re golden.

  50. Wheelchair Bob January 30, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Kyle, I just got a recipe for a really interesting fermented pepper sauce that is simple to do and virtually 100% foolproof with basic kitchen food handling techniques. Though I do strongly recommend using latex or nitrile gloves 100% of the time when handling and processing your peppers they still must be washed and dried thoroughly to remove dust, dirt, pollen and surface bacteria. Essentially the drill goes wash and dry the peppers. Place a small slit in the side of each pepper and remove the seeds if trying to tame an overly hot pepper. Place the peppers into a suitable glass container with a sealable lid and tamp them down firmly. As you fill the jar when you complete a layer add a small amount of kosher large flake salt and continue until the jar is tightly packed with about 1 inch of head room. Set the lid on top of the jar after filling with clean clear non-chlorinated tap water and allow the jar to begin fermenting in a warm place in your pantry without drafts. I always place the jar in a bowl or other container to catch any water forced out during the fermentation process. After the peppers reach the desired level of crunchy hot goodness (7 days to three weeks) remove the water, rinse the peppers well and replace into the jar with fresh 5% apple cider vinegar to preserve them literally forever. The fermentation step is supposed to preserve the bright colors and the crunch should you decide to eat them straight out of the jar or as a topping on a sandwich or dip. I have a batch of Serrano’s and Anaheim’s in fermenting now and will let you know if the additional steps are worth the extra time and effort invested to make it in the first place. Being here in Florida the growing season is almost year round and there is a continuous supply of fresh peppers into our community due to the large south American and Mexican population in our area. The local independent grocer does a really good job of keeping a good selection of peppers always available to his community. Hope this recipe helps you and others to deal with a glut of ripe peppers all at once!!!

    Wheelchair Bob

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

      Bob, I actually ferment peppers all the time. I do quite a bit of fermenting. For a hotsauce, I typically make a mash and ferment the mash. In fact, I just did so last week. I also love to ferment jalapeno slices with coriander seeds. If you’re on Instagram, you can see various fermented sauce projects of mine, here, here, and here. Tabasco sauce is fermented several years in oak barrels. Fermentation builds depth not possible with a typical vinegar infusion, like the recipe here. I’ve been meaning to post some fermented sauce recipes. Maybe once springs rolls around and peppers start showing up again.

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