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Fermented Foods,  Preserve Your Harvest,  Recipes

Sweet & Spicy Pepper Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe

Listen up. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of classic hot sauce or other spicy foods, and never mind if you have dabbled with fermentation or not… you have to give this a shot! Because this is not your ordinary hot sauce recipe. Fermented hot sauce is pretty much a game-changer. You may have heard me say before: I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy things. However, I truly love this stuff – and I think you might too! 

Read along to learn how to make fermented hot sauce. The lacto-fermentation process completely changes the sharp, hot, often overpowering flavor profile of chili peppers – and transforms them into something far more mild, complex, flavorful, tangy and tasty than any other preparation of peppers! You will be pleasantly surprised. I call this our “sweet and spicy” fermented hot sauce because it is made with a combination of both hot chilis and sweet peppers. Therefore, you can easily tailor it to your taste buds with the types of peppers you choose to ferment. 

In addition to being delicious, fermented hot sauce lasts for up to a year in the refrigerator, making it an excellent way to naturally preserve peppers. In contrast, traditional hot sauce recipes rely on vinegar as a preservative –  making up the bulk of the sauce even! By fermenting it instead, it allows the peppers and other ingredients to shine, rather than being drowned out in vinegar. Not to mention, the benefit of probiotics!

Ready to get bubbling? 


The following ingredient list fills a one-quart mason jar for fermenting, and makes about 16 ounces of finished hot sauce at the end.. Scale up or down as needed, keeping the proportions similar. We routinely double the recipe and make a half-gallon!

  • Peppers of choice – approximately 1 pound. We use about half (or just over) hot chilies such as Corne de Chevre, Serranos, Jalapenos, Aji Limo, Gochugaru, and Chayenne, along with half sweet or mild peppers such as banana peppers or bell peppers. 
  • Fresh cilantro – 1/3 to 1/2 cup, loosely packed 
  • One small onion, or 1/2 medium to large onion. We prefer to use sweet yellow onions for our fermented hot sauce, though white or red can also be used. 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice – which you won’t need until the end of the fermentation process, a week later.
  • Sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt – not iodized table salt!
  • Filtered water – chlorinated water may interfere with the fermentation process

A wooden bowl is partially full of chili peppers of various shape and color. Amongst the peppers, there are three cloves of garlic, one small yellow onion, two limes, one of which is slice in half, and a bunch of fresh cilantro.

NOTE: We have made many fun variations of this fermented hot sauce recipe, using other vegetables in addition to peppers. Feel free to experiment! For example, we have added carrots or tomatillos from the garden. Simply stick with the same ratio (1 pound of veggies/peppers) per the other listed ingredients. For example, half a pound of hot peppers plus half a pound of chopped carrots. I suggest cutting tomatillos in half or quarters.


  • A container for fermenting, such as a pint, quart, or even half-gallon mason jar
  • Fermentation air-lock lid and weight. We use an all-in-one Kraut Source fermentation device. Another option is to use a ceramic or glass ferment weight plus a separate airlock lid
  • Fine strainer (or cheese cloth) & bowl, used after fermentation
  • Blender, used after fermentation
  • Glass bottles or jars for storage of the finished fermented hot sauce


Step 1: Prepare Peppers & Onions

Wash your peppers of choice. When preparing them, keep in mind that the goal is to fit as much vegetable matter into the jar as possible, so I suggest to cut the peppers into pieces or rings (depending on the size/shape of your peppers) instead of leaving them whole. I also highly suggest wearing gloves while working with hot chili peppers!  We remove most of the seeds and membrane, but aren’t meticulous about it. Next, peel and dice the onion into small pieces as well. 

Step 2: Pack Jar

In the bottom of a clean fermentation vessel of choice, add a small handful of cilantro – about ¼ cup loose. Wash it first, but it does not need to be cut up or de-stemmed. Save a similar small handful of cilantro to layer into the jar later. 

Next, add 2 to 3 lightly crushed peeled cloves of garlic to the jar, followed by the diced onion. Lightly press the contents down to pack.  The jar should only be about a quarter full or less at this time. The remaining space is for peppers!

Now start adding cut pepper pieces to the jar, lightly packing them down as you go – reducing empty air space. I generally mix hot and sweet peppers together in layers. Once the jar is one-half to two-thirds full, add that last little bit of cilantro. Continue layering and packing peppers until the jar is completely full. Again, it is best to have the jar as full of veggies as possible, so do your best to fill it all the way to the top, about an inch below the rim.

A two part image collage, the first image shows the bottom of a quart mason jar, it is lined with fresh cilantro and three cloves of garlic. The second image shows the inside of a quart mason jar which is now partway full of chili peppers sliced into rings. You cans see red, yellow, and green pepper slices.

Step 3: Make & Add Brine

On the stove top, combine 2 cups of filtered water with 1 tablespoon of sea salt in a pot. This is going to be your simple fermentation brine! The salt is what encourages a safe fermentation process and beneficial bacteria, while inhibiting the growth of harmful pathogens.

Gently heat the water until the salt dissolves, but avoid overheating it. The brine needs to be room temperature to barely lukewarm by the time it is added to the fermentation vessel. You could also do this step prior to the veggie prep, allowing extra time for it to cool. 

Once the brine has cooled to the desired temperature, pour it into the fermenting vessel until the peppers are completely covered. Gently tap and wiggle the jar or push down on the peppers to release air pockets. Top off with more brine if needed. 

A saltwater brine is being poured into a quart mason jar that is packed full of peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic. The jar has been packed in layers, from the bottom to the top is cilantro, onion, sliced peppers, cilantro, and more sliced peppers. The colors are vibrant.

Step 4:  Cover with an Airlock Lid

When fermenting foods, it is important to keep the veggies (peppers, in this case) submerged below the brine. This helps prevent the development of mold. Safely tucked below their liquid salt blanket, the vegetables and beneficial bacteria have the opportunity to ferment away. They will release gasses as they do, which need to be able to escape from the jar. Ideally, those gases are allowed to escape without disrupting the fermentation process or introducing new air.

This is where your weight and airlock come in! Cover the fermentation vessel with your weight and airlock lid system of choice. The stainless steel Kraut Source ferment device that we use has a spring and plate that serve as a weight and keep the peppers submerged, along with a moat system on the top of the lid that creates an airlock. Other fermentation weight options include these glass weights made for wide-mouth jars, ceramic versions, or even boiled stones! Then, an alternative airlock lid is added on top.

A hand is holding a Kraut Source device lid, it is made of stainless steel and is used to ferment foods. The lid is being held at an angle and is destined to sit atop the quart mason jar full of peppers, cilantro, onion, and garlic in the background.

Step 5: Ferment

Now it is time to let the peppers and lactobacillus do their thing in there! Set the fermentation vessel in a temperate location to ferment for 7 to 14 days. The shorter the ferment, the less “developed” and complex the flavor profile will be. However, the longer the ferment – the more chance there is to develop kahm yeast (explained below) and get a little funky, especially in warmer conditions.

The ideal fermentation temperature for peppers is about 70 to 75 °F. Other ferments do okay with temperatures slightly warmer, up to the 80 to 85 degree range, but peppers are more finicky. Therefore, do your best to find a location in the preferred range. Dark or light – doesn’t matter! Ours usually lives on the kitchen counter.

In too warm of conditions, peppers are prone to developing something called kahm yeast. Though not harmful, kahm yeast can create an off-putting odor and flavor. It will appear as a thick white layer of sediment on the bottom of the jar, on the peppers themselves, or floating on the surface. A small amount of white sediment or film in totally normal in any ferment! In contrast, too cold of temperatures can lead to improper fermentation and mold development. 

As the peppers ferment, the brine will change from clear to cloudy, the peppers colors will become more muted, things will compact under your weight, and will likely produce bubbles. Some fermentation vessels bubble so much that they overflow from the container! Therefore, we always set ours on a plate to catch any runoff. Also note that ferments usually smell a bit funky, but don’t worry – they taste better than they smell! I promise.

Note: If you are using a Kraut Source lid, keep an eye on the little moat of water on top! It may dry out as the ferment goes on, and thus should be re-filled with water as necessary.

The jar of peppers, cilantro, onion, and garlic is sitting with the Kraut Source lid on top of it, ready to ferment. There are various chili peppers, lime, garlic, and cilantro laid about the foot of the jar, highlighting the ingredients which are inside of the jar which will turn into fermented hot sauce.
Day one of fermentation.
The jar full of chili peppers, cilantro, onions, and garlic is shown sitting on a white plate. The Kraut Source lid is still on top of the jar, showing that it is still fermenting. The ingredients inside have shrunk slightly, only filling the jar two thirds of the way now, and the clear salt water brine has now turned cloudy. All of these things are typical of fermenting foods. The background is a brick fireplace flanked on the left by houseplants such as monstera, fiddle leaf fig, and alocasia.
Day 3 of fermentation. Note the normal color difference in the peppers, cilantro, and brine compared to day one.

Step 6: Blend Fermented Hot Sauce

After 7-14 days have passed, it is time to turn those fermented veggie chunks into sauce! To do so, place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Yes, over a bowl – not the sink! Next, open and remove the lid and weight from your ferment vessel and dump the contents of the container into the strainer. Keep the collected brine that is in the bowl below!

Transfer the fermented peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro into a blender. Next, add one tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lime juice, along with ¼ cup of the reserved ferment brine. Blend, and check the consistency. Continue to add small amounts of the brine, little by little and blending as you go, until the fermented hot sauce has reached your desired thickness. Some like it thin, some like it thick! That is totally up to you. Give it a little taste-test too, and add another squeeze of lime if you’d like.

A stainless steel strainer full of fermented peppers, garlic, and onions is hovering over a white below below. The bowl holds the drained cloudy yellow brine from the fermentation process, which a portion will be blended back with the peppers to create the final fermented hot sauce.

Step 7: Bottle & Enjoy

Once blended, transfer the finished fermented hot sauce into a storage container. Ideally, something that is glass and has an airtight lid. We like to store ours in fun swing top bottles, or simply in mason jars. It will last for up to a year in the refrigerator, which is where it should be stored. Shake to mix before use, because some separation is normal.

Now you get to enjoy your very own tangy, sweet and spicy fermented hot sauce! We enjoy drizzling this sauce over, eggs, frittata, veggies with rice and beans, fiesta-style stuffed squash, lentils… the list goes on. Aaron likes to eat it with chips like salsa, or even add a dash to his soup!

a hand holds a slender 16 ounce glass bottle full of bright orange red hot sauce, with a weathered wood wall in the background. The bottle has the words "hot sauce" written in silver marker on it.

In all, I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you need any tips on growing your own peppers and chilis, learn more here. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share this post, and if you do make it – report back with a review!

If you’re looking for more ways to use and preserve peppers, or simple and delicious fermented foods, check these out:

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4.47 from 56 votes

Sweet & Spicy Pepper Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe

Even if you aren't usually a fan of hot sauce, I think you may change your mind after trying this fermented hot sauce recipe! The lacto-fermentation process transforms the sharp, hot, often overpowering flavor profile of chili peppers – into something far more mild, complex, flavorful, tangy and tasty than any other preparation of peppers! This is called a “sweet and spicy” fermented hot sauce because it is made with a combination of both hot chilis and sweet peppers. Therefore, you can easily tailor it to your taste buds with the types of peppers you choose to ferment.
Prep Time45 minutes
Fermentation Time10 days
Course: Preserved Food, Sauce, Side Dish
Keyword: Fermented, Fermented Hot Sauce, Preserving Peppers
Servings: 1 quart


  • Fermentation vessel, such as a glass jar.
  • Ferment weight and airlock lid
  • Strainer
  • Blender
  • Bottles or jars, for storage


  • 1 lb peppers of choice, both hot chili peppers and some sweeter peppers recommended
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1 whole small onion, or 1/2 medium to large onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt (no table salt)
  • 2 cups filtered water, to combine with salt for brine


  • Wash and chop peppers and onions. Wear gloves is suggested. Remove most of pepper seeds.
  • In the bottom of a clean quart jar, add a small handful (1/4 cup loose) of fresh cilantro and 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic.
  • Next add the diced onion, and some peppers on top. Lightly press to compact and reduce air space as you go.
  • When the jar is halfway to 2/3 full, add the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro and then continue filling the jar with peppers, until completely packed full (within top inch of the jar).
  • On the stovetop, combine 2 cups filtered water with 1 tbsp sea salt. Lightly heat until salt dissolves, but avoid over heating.
  • Allow brine to cool to room temperature or lukewarm, and then pour over the peppers in the jar until the jar is full and they are fully submerged. Tap and wiggle jar to remove air pockets.
  • Cover with fermentation weight and airlock lid, to keep veggies submerged below the brine during fermentation.
  • Set jar in a temperate location (70-75°F) to ferment for 7-14 days.  
  • After 7-14 days, open jar and pour contents through a strainer that is positioned over a bowl to catch the liquid. KEEP the strained brine liquid.
  • Add all solid contents (peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro) to a blender. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice, and 1/4 cup of the reserved brine liquid. Blend.
  • Assess the consistency of the fermented hot sauce. Continue to add reserved brine little by little, blending as you go, until the desired consistency of sauce is reached.
  • Store finished fermented hot sauce in an air-tight bottle or jar in the refrigerator. Shake before use. It should stay good for up to one year in the refrigerator.

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Brandi, glad you enjoyed it! You can use roasted peppers but just roast them by themselves with no oil, plus you will also need to use fresh chilis as well because the ferment needs the good bacteria from fresh veggies to properly ferment. I would try and use at least half the amount of fresh versus just a little under half the amount of roasted. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Michael, you may choose to can fermented hot sauce but you will kill all of the probiotics and good bacteria that comes with the fermentation process. If you don’t have space in your fridge for storage and want to can the fermented hot sauce, I would let the hot sauce ferment for at least two weeks to reduce the pH of the sauce, making it more acidic which is what you want for canning. I believe the recommended process is to heat the fermented sauce in a pan until a slight boil, add to your canning jars, before water bath canning for at least 15 minutes. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Sheila, yes you can use frozen peppers but you will want to be sure to add some fresh ingredients as well to help the good bacteria get a kick start and grow more quickly for a more speedy ferment. Hope that helps and enjoy!

  • Barbara Schutt

    I would really like to try this! We have made 5 gal buckets of kraut just using salt and the cabbage breaks down with it’s own moisture/brine. Tasty!

  • Michael Grubic

    This will be my 1st attempt at hot sauce. My wife hates cilantro. Have you found a good substitute?
    Also, how will the fermentation process be effected if the temperature is in the 60’s?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Michael, the fermentation may just take a little longer if the temperature is in the 60’s. Just be sure that your veggies stay below the brine level so there is not risk of mold. We have made fermented hot sauce with only chili peppers and garlic and it was very delicious as well so I would just omit the cilantro instead of substituting for something else. Hope you enjoy the hot sauce and good luck!

  • Kiri-Ann

    5 stars
    Thanks for this recipe, I enjoy it so much that ever since I found it, I’ve kept a constant supply on hand! Really great instructions.

    I’ve just finished fermenting my latest batch, and the brine has turned out pretty viscous, which hasn’t happened before. I gather from a web search this isn’t harmful and is down to a particular kind of bacteria, but I was wondering if you’d experienced this before and had any tips on avoiding or reducing it?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Kiri-Ann, glad to hear you like the hot sauce so much! Sometimes your brie can become more viscous if the vegetables your fermenting have more sugar inside them. Maybe you added more sweet peppers than usual or they were just extra sweet? Keeping your ferments at a steady temperature that isn’t too hot or too cold will help as well. We find that kahm yeast is fairly common when fermenting peppers, especially if it gets too warm. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Jessica W

    5 stars
    I made this and blended it on Monday. My husband said it was great and our two young adult sons agreed. Mine came out more green than orangey red…I think because I used jalapeño and yellow bell peppers.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Woody, it’s mostly just choice, the longer it sits the more fermented it will become and more complex flavors will develop. Though usually 7 days is sufficient to successfully ferment the hot sauce.

    • Jody

      It really depends on desired taste. It just gets more tangy with time (is the only way I know how to describe). I always let mine go 4 weeks.

  • Sharon

    5 stars
    I love this recipe and have made it a couple times. This time one of my jars has some white mold at the top. Do I need to scrap the whole jar ?? It smells the same as the ‘good’ jar.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Sharon, one could probably scoop out the mold with some of the top most portion of hot sauce that was in contact with it and be fine.

    • brenda sanchez

      Hello! The white setiment your talking about, how can you tell the difference from it and mold? Just checking because one of my jars has setiment on the bottom and a layer of white “skin” on top… thanks for your help! Love this stuff!!! Lol

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Brenda, any mold will take place towards the top of the brine as it needs oxygen to grow. Is this jar still actively fermenting or is it already in the refrigerator? If it developed the white skin after it had been placed in the fridge, it is likely not mold. If they are still at room temperature and fermenting, is the white “skin” on the top raised or bumpy as mold will usually grow this way. If the temperature in your house has been in the high 70’s or warmer, there is a greater chance of kahm yeast developing which is what you may be seeing. Google kahm yeast and compare the images to what you are seeing in your jar. Let us know what you decide and glad you enjoy the hot sauce!

  • kristin gonzales

    I’m new to this & purchased Kilner fermentation jar to use for my abundance of peppers we’ve harvested. Is there a reason a salt/water combo is used vs vinegar? Thank you

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Kristin, this is a fermentation recipe which doesn’t use vinegar because vinegar inhibits the growth of beneficial bacteria- which grow and naturally lower the pH of the hot sauce which preserves it in a similar but more natural/healthy manner than vinegar. Most hot sauce recipes that use vinegar need to use a lot of vinegar whereas fermented hot sauce allows for the other ingredients to shine through more. Hope that helps and good luck!

      • Christel S

        4 stars
        Have you added fruit to it before, like mango in place of sweet peppers? I’m thinking mango chili lime would be delicious..

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Christel, we haven’t experimented with adding fruit to the fermented hot sauce yet but it sounds tasty. Let us know how it turns out!

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