The habanero pepper is one of the oldest known pepper variants known to man. While it wasn’t the first one to be used in hot sauce applications, it has grown in popularity because of its smoky and fruity taste that persists underneath its very high heat levels. Unlike other peppers that are on the higher end of the Scoville scale, the habanero still has a distinct fruity flavor of its own which blends well with other fruits leading to the creation of many fruit-based habanero sauces.
Habanero Sauce Trivia
- The habanero pepper is the spiciest pepper available on store shelves. There may be other peppers that are hotter than the habanero but they require special handling and have no place in supermarket shelves.
- Habanero sauces are about 100 times hotter than most jalapeno-based hot sauces.
- While there are other peppers have more heat than the habanero, the habanero pepper is by far the pepper of choice when it comes to super-hot sauces.
- Due to the almost fruity flavor profile of the habanero pepper, most habanero sauces have an added fruity component to them like mangoes, peaches, or papayas.
Habanero Sauce Buying Guide
Habanero sauce has become very popular in the past few years with more and more varieties becoming available on store shelves daily. The thing you have to look out for when purchasing habanero sauce is to make sure that the product itself is made from habaneros and not just flavored with habaneros.
Habanero Sauce Production & Farming in Texas
Aside from the giant hot sauce names, habanero sauce is very popular with small artisan producers. Since Texas has the perfect climate for growing habanero peppers, you can find a lot of great habanero sauce producers in and around the state. You can’t visit a farmers’ market without seeing a producer selling small-batch habanero sauces.
A good thing about supporting locally made habanero sauces is that most of the time, the seller is the same person that made the sauce so you can ask about the flavor profile and the heat levels. Why is this a good thing you ask? Well, for one, you will get to know more about the taste of your sauce instead of just relying on the marketing copy on the label. On top of that, you can try the habanero sauce on the spot before buying it.
One more thing that is attractive about small-batch habanero sauces is that the taste is more “authentic”. Chili peppers, especially habaneros, have a unique flavor profile that may vary with every crop, and this reflects in every bottle of small-batch hot sauce. For large commercial habanero sauce producers, they have to maintain a certain “generic” taste to make sure that the product taste is consistent across tens of thousands of bottles.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
For commercially produced habanero sauces, it is not unusual to find many artificial and “natural” flavorings added to make sure that the taste is consistent throughout large boxes.
Aside from the taste additives, a question that comes to mind is the sourcing of the peppers themselves. While smaller habanero sauce producers grow their own peppers organically and with a small ecological footprint, larger commercial habanero sauce producers will probably use a lot of chemicals and pesticides on their crops to make sure that they have enough raw materials to keep up with their massive production volumes.
As for preservatives, you don’t really have to worry about any being added to habanero sauce because the chili pepper and the vinegar used will act as natural preservatives to the sauce. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any used though, just be sure and to check the label for any ingredients that don’t look like anything you will use in your own kitchen.
A majority of hand-made habanero sauces are bottled in glass bottles to preserve the taste of the product. Some larger producers will use plastic bottles for their product to make it easier to squeeze out, but these will be those habanero sauces that are more viscous than the traditional liquid hot sauce.
Enjoying Habanero Sauces
As a condiment, habanero sauce is a perfect addition to any grilled or fried food, just be careful not to overdo it as it is really spicy. Another great use for habanero sauce is to add it to barbecue sauces to give it that extra heat. Just had a teaspoon or two to your favorite barbecue sauce recipe to kick up the heat a notch.
Habanero sauce can also be added to marinades, just be careful to protect your hands while massaging the meat with any marinade that contains habanero sauce.
You can store properly canned habanero sauce at room temperature for years without any noticeable change in flavor since the high vinegar and salt content will act as natural preservatives. Once opened, they’re still pretty shelf stable, but if it has any fruit component, try to keep it in the fridge because it might spoil if left in room temperature for extended periods.
Make your own Mango-Habanero Sauce:
If you want to try and make your own habanero sauce then this is a good place to start. Just make sure that you have adequate eye and hand protection when handling habaneros.
Habanero Peppers, 3 pieces (if you want to lessen the heat, remove the stems and the seeds)
Flesh of half a mango (or from the whole fruit if you want a fruitier tasting hot sauce)
White vinegar, 3 tablespoons
Garlic Clove, 1 piece
Honey, 100 grams
Salt, 1 teaspoon
In a blender, blend together all of the ingredients until smooth.
Pour mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add about ¼ cup of water to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered.
Allow to cool and transfer to bottles or jars. Refrigerate.
Notes: Due to the high sweetness of the mangoes, this sauce is pretty deceptive. The first taste will be the sweetness of the mangoes and the habaneros with the kick following a few seconds later, so be careful!