Illustration: Angelica Alzona

This was truly a five alarm Co-Op, with dozens of recommendations, hundreds of stars, and nearly a dozen standout hot sauces to choose from. Check out what our readers had to say about the finalists below, then be sure to cool off before you submit your vote.


El Yucateco

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El Yucateco’s Habanero hot sauce is the best. It is actually “hot,” unlike a lot of others, has a great consistency (i.e., not too watery), and is easy to find in nearly every grocery store. - taita32

I agree with all of El Yucateco’s sauces, but especially the Habanero Black Label Reserve! You can tell it has been aged in casks for some time, and has a nice, earthy flavor. And it’s only $2.74/bottle. I also really like that they don’t use vinegar in their sauces, which give them a more natural pepper flavor! They used (?) to have a great Chilpotle sauce, but haven’t seen it in ages. - Wideglide

This is the only answer. One of the only sauces that is legitimately hot without adding any of that traditional hot sauce flavor. I can’t stand the flavor of Sriracha or Tobasco, but I keep a bottle of the red El Yucateco in my glovebox just in case of a restaurant shortage/emergency. - TheRealBillyHoyle

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Cholula

Cholula Hot Sauce
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Its not as hot as I would consider a “Hot Sauce” (its only 1,000 Scoville units) but it is a delicious addition to tacos and is my favorite quick way to improve otherwise bland food. It is loaded with flavor and has zero calories and only 110mg salt so is a very healthy option. - justAustin

You’ve got my vote. I can’t decide if I like the Chipotle flavor best, but only because I just tried the Chili Garlic for the first time... I can see myself keeping each on hand and using them for different dishes. - Quique Munners

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Tapatio

Tapatio
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Tapatio is the king, because it is adds hotness without killing the flavor, but also it is $4 for 32 oz. I know there are hotter and more specialized, but the price and balance makes Tapatio the best everyday hot sauce. - Display Name

Tapatio is pretty good, especially for the price. However, for red pepper sauces, I deduct a point for each ingredient beyond the first 3. I just want peppers, salt and vinegar (vis-a-vis Louisiana hot sauce). Tapatio has xantham gum and sodium benzoate. (For the record, this 3-ingredient rule does not apply to chunkier/fancier habenero-type hot sauces. Those have more complex flavors that require more ingredients but, as a consequence, have more limited applications.) - SpicyMeataballa

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Sriracha

Sriracha
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Sriracha is the best hot sauce. I actually like a lot of different ones for different purposes (tabasco or cholula on eggs, frank’s wing sauce, etc.), but Sriracha is the best. It’s thicker, spicier, made from peppers and not just a vinegar/salt mix like a lot of others. If I could only have one hot sauce, this would be it. - Smooth Horse


Valentina Salsa Picante

Valentina Salsa Picante
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Valentina Salsa Picante is a fantastic, almost Buffalo wing-style sauce. Creamy texture and delicious on pizza. I could eat this by itself. - TurnOnMyMike

I would definitely vote for this because it has a richer flavor and texture than other sauces. If you’re only looking at spice, you’re only looking at half the picture. Tabasco/Louisiana, etc is water, Cholula lacks the kick, Tapatio tastes cheap, etc. Valentina has it all, flavor balance with a texture. - and1chun

And if you like the flavor with a little more bite get the Black Label. - El_Godinez

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Crystal

Crystal 
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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My go-to hot sauce is a simple one from Louisiana called Crystal. More flavorful and spicy than packing a lotta heat, I pour it in my buttermilk marinade for my fried chicken, and on the cooked chicken (even if it’s not fried), and of course on fried catfish. it’s available at Amazon and Walmart and pretty much everywhere else. - Blogger X

Crystal is definitely the best basic, Louisiana hot sauce.

The brand’s a story is pretty good too. It’s still a pretty small family owned company. And their factory was taken out by Katrina. There were a few years there where the sauce was barely available while they relocated and got a new factory open. - Ryuthrowsstuff 

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Yellowbird

Yellowbird
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Yellowbird Habanero is the right answer, but really any of their products are amazing. - Lynchbc1

damn I love Yellowbird, I just have the jalapeno version but its great - clamjamman

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Frank’s Red Hot

Frank’s Red Hot
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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If you have ever eaten a buffalo wing, this is what it’s supposed to taste like. Frank is the husband of the inventor of the buffalo wing. It has flavor and heat that can be scaled simply by adding more sauce. Mix this with melted butter and shake your wings in a covered tub of it after they get out of the fryer. - JERRBOBB

Franks is the best all-purpose, all-around hot sauce. Others may be better, or have specific applications where they are better, but if I have only one bottle in my refrigerator it is Franks.

And you cannot make real Buffalo wings without it. - Fernando 


Secret Aardvark

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Ordered a bottle because of the Zach’s paen.

After a sample on home made carnitas tacos: It’s good. It’s not Marie Sharp’s (my long time fave), but it has a very nice kick , and the sauce does not otherwise overpower the taste of the carnitas.

A very very solid #2, in my book, and a great addition to my kitchen. - bealzabubbba 

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Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce

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Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce...best hot sauce out there. It has great spice while also having a deeper flavor than most hot sauces, which comes from the use of carrots and onion - besides just the typical pepper, vinegar and spice combination. - Who Do You Voodoo

I think you meant Marie Sharp’s Fiery-hot habanero hot sauce. The regular version is kind of tame. But I endorse your brand wholeheartedly. - 67-C0up3

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Louisiana Hot Sauce

Louisiana Hot Sauce
Graphic: Shep McAllister

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Louisiana hot sauce. It’s in the same style as Cholula, but slightly hotter (which, alone, gives it a higher score than Cholula in my book). But what really seals the deal is that it’s a fraction of the price as Cholula. 12oz Cholula at my local grocery store is $7.99; Louisiana is $2.19. Cheaper, better — you can’t go wrong. - SpicyMeataballa