Differences in Hot Sauce Brands 2018 (Their best uses + Ranked mild to hottest)

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon

Topics in this Post:

  • 10 BEST hot sauces, ranked!
  • The difference in hot sauce flavors
  • Which hot sauce for which recipe
  • RANKED: Hottest to Mildest
  • How to ‘extinguish’ the heat when you made it too hot!

Frequently Asked Questions (answered!)

  • Is hot sauce the same as Sriracha?
  • What is it in hot sauce that makes it hot? (the peppers used)
  • How to SUBSTITUTE hot sauce?

Catch all this in a show-and-tell video here.

Hot sauce is a terrific low-calorie condiment and an easy way to add a little pizzaz to a dish! (Don’t go bonkers with it though, it IS high in salt and too much will leave you bloated… I wish I wasn’t speaking from experience…)

A growing body of research also suggests that eating hot spices can help reduce body fat.

There’s two opinions here: #1 Some scientists also believe hot foods increase satiation and satisfaction so we eat less and others #2 believe hot foods create a fat-burning environment.

So, drip it on!

BUT (and this is HUGE)

Not all hot sauces are the same and most CANNOT be interchanged.

On the Meal Mentor app, I use four different kinds with the recipes:

  1. Franks Hot Sauce
  2. Sambal Oelek
  3. Sriracha
  4. Cholula


Whether you’re making a meal from my Meal Mentor app, or you’re just looking for general advice for your creations or a recipe you used somewhere else, here are a few broad strokes guidelines:


This Mexican hot sauce (Cholula “original”) has a little bit of heat but it’s not explosive like Tabasco (Louisiana-style American hot sauce that will leave your mouth on fire for days)

Cholula Original’s flavor is also mild, meaning there aren’t any strong flavor notes like lime, or smoke, or pineapple (which I’ll dig into below) that might clash with your meal.

I find the neutral taste of Cholula goes with pretty much any food from tacos (obviously) to steamed kale, to drizzled on tomato soup or hummus.

When in doubt, I reach for Cholula.

ONE CAVEAT: I don’t love Cholula with Asian meals, but I have used it to make my Pad Thai several times. (I prefer it over Sriracha in that recipe).

Cholula also makes other “flavors” like chili-garlic (Scott’s all-around favorite. I like it with steamed kale, black beans, white beans, corn on the cobb, and/or on plain rice).

Cholula’s “chipotle” is FABULOUS, aromatic and has a “FULL BODIED” flavor buuut the smokiness is bold flavor is not terribly universal in my opinion and you can overdo it. It’s a tiny bit spicier, but still pretty muted in terms of heat. (I LOVE it on sweet potatoes, enchiladas, and chili).

NOTE: I often use chipotle hot sauce as a substitute in recipes calling for “chipotles in adobo sauce” in the Meal Mentor app.

FYI, Tabasco also makes a smoked chipotle. It tastes completely different from Cholula’s (and is much MUCH harder to find at stores in my experience) but is also very good and surprisingly mild (unlike “regular” Tabasco which is explosive to me).

Quick note: Tapatio is a fierce Mexican competitor to Cholula, and it is delicious but much MUCH hotter.


Your GO-TO when you want buffalo-wing flavored things. Use it exclusively when making my Cauliflower Hot Wings. 

A word of caution. If a recipe uses Frank’s you do not want to use another hot sauce, even if it a hot sauce you love. It’ll be too hot, too salty, or too flavor overload.


If you can’t stand Frank’s or want something VERY mild instead, try using barbecue sauce.


FUN FACT: I had never heard of Sriracha until my very first date with Scott (in 2004). He’d taken me to a burrito/quesadilla spot and this was on the table. As I was eyeing it (rather suspiciously) and about to dump a mound on my plate for dipping, he casually explained it was not ketchup. ;)

The first 100 times I tasted Sriracha I thought it was really (really!) hot. Now it isn’t as hot to me. If you’re new, start with a drop.

NOTE: Sriracha is sweetened, unlike the other hot sauces. It’s not ketchup or barbecue sauce “sweet” but does have that nice “sweet with heat” flavoring. A little goes a long, long way.

We write our initials with Sriracha, which is strangely the perfect amount.

I don’t think any other hot sauce tastes like Sriracha and I do find the “off brands” like Trader Joe’s version aren’t as good, but whatever you like, can afford, or have access to, is what you should use.

I also ADORE the 30-minute Sriracha documentary on Netflix--link to recipe.


Also know as chili garlic sauce. If you’ve eaten at an Asian restaurant (particularly Thai or Vietnamese) and spied a little glass container with a liquidy red paste inside (and served with a small spoon), it was this chili garlic sauce OR the chili garlic sauce mixed with oil or vinegar or a combination.

This “hot sauce” is definitely hot, though still milder than Louisiana-style hot sauce such as Tabasco. Start with a little. It can also be overpowering.

It’s pretty easy to make yourself too. Recipe for homemade sambal oelek.

I like Sriracha for drizzling on the top for extra oompf and using Sambal Oelek for actually cooking, particularly stir-frys. Red chili flakes with a splash of rice vinegar work as an OK replacement.


There are a few other types of hot sauces on the market that I don’t use in my recipes (especially in the Meal Mentor app) but they exist so I’ll talk about them now :)

Caribbean-style hot sauce.

These hot sauces are usually made from Scotch Bonnett peppers and SEEM cute and innocent because they’re paired with mango or pineapple, so you think “light and sweet” NOT AT ALL.

I find even the “mild” ones are explosive, equal or hotter than Louisianna-style hot sauce (such as Tabasco).

I spent a year living in the Caribbean and never built up my tolerance. If you live near a specialty hot sauce store, you might find a few of these hot sauces there, but overall they are pretty uncommon. If you’re curious, order El Yucateco Chili Habanero.


Tabasco and Cholula both make a “green” hot sauce. (Yes, it’s actually green). It’s made from green jalapenos which are milder than the ripe jalapenos which are red.

The two brands taste different to me, but their difference isn’t as notable as the difference between their competing chipotle hot sauces. I prefer the Tabasco green one and used it as a salad dressing with lemon juice for the better part of three years.

Neither is very hot but also doesn’t go with much because it is more vinegar-y and tangy.

I’d classify both as mild, but salty-vinegar-tasting. However, the green dragon hot sauce at Trader Joe’s is nuclear. Delicious, but nuclear. Please don’t confuse that!


In my opinion:

  1. (mildest) Tabasco jalapeno (green hot sauce)
  2. Chipotle green hot sauce
  3. Franks Hot Sauce
  4. Cholula chipotle
  5. Tabasco chipotle
  6. Cholula original
  7. Cholula chili garlic
  8. Trader Joe’s “Sriracha” knockoff
  9. (getting hotter)Sriracha
  10. Tapatio
  11. Valentina
  12. Trader Joe’s green dragon
  13. (hot hot hot) Caribbean-style hot sauce
  14. Aardvark
  15. (FIRE ALARM) Texas Pete
  16. Tabasco
  17. Louisanna Hot Sauce (generally)


6 HACKS to extinguish the heat:

  • Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Lemon and lime is complementary with most flavors so this is my go-to.
  • Include pineapple and/or tomato sauce. (Acids help mild the heavy).
  • Potatoes - shredded potatoes can temper the heat explosion, so can carrots. I’ve mixed mashed potatoes into things and also used hummus to mellow.
  • Nut Butter - almond butter and peanut butter can mellow out heat and go with most flavors. Even a tiny bit goes a long way. Nut allergy? Try Tahiti!
  • Sweetener - a pinch of sugar, a few drops of honey (or agave) or even a squirt of ketchup can often do the trick.
  • Creaminess - non-dairy milk and yogurts (plus blended silken tofu) can mellow and often are a nice garnish.

Is hot sauce the same as Sriracha?

Sriracha is a Type of hot sauce, the way balsamic vinegar is a type of vinegar (but there are other vinegars like white vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.)

What is it in hot sauce that makes it hot?

The heat in hot sauce comes from the chemical compound capsicum (and other lesser compounds called capsaicinoids). These compounds cause a molecular reaction when they come in contact with your mucous membranes and cause the burning sensation! There are especially large quantities of capsicum in the tissue that holds the seeds and internal membranes of peppers.

How to SUBSTITUTE hot sauce?

Barbecue sauce works instead of hot sauce in nearly all recipes. It’s my #1 recommendation to members who want to make a meal plan dish more kid-friendly.

Remember you can also start with less and add it to taste!

See the list below/above for mild brand recommendations

10 BEST hot sauces, ranked!

By me anyway :)

Favorite to least favored:

  1. Chipotlecholula
  2. Cholula original
  3. Cholula chili-garlic
  4. Frank’s hot sauce
  5. Tabasco chipotle
  6. Tapatio
  7. Sriracha
  8. Tabasco jalapeno (green one)
  9. Valentina
  10. Tabasco original

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