While the South may be known for its heat in the form of high temps, it is also home to some of the world’s most sought-after sauces. Beyond Texas Pete and Tabasco, there’s a new wave of Southern hot sauce—inspired by personal experience, storied locale, and the inventive use of fresh ingredients—taking hold. From the flavor of the Carolinas to the Caribbean and back, these are some of the Southern hot sauces that have us blotting our foreheads, reaching for something cool, and always going back for seconds.
Ring of Fire In Hot Sauces, Dips, and Marinades
In Trinidad and Tobago, just like each family has special dishes passed down from generation to generation, they also have signature pepper sauces. In the case of Mustafa Mannan, his family’s recipe has been around for five generations, and after returning home from trips to visit his grandmother with bottles of sauce that were quickly consumed by friends, he realized there was a market for the Caribbean kick.
Trini Pepper Sauce blends hand picked scotch bonnet peppers imported from Trinidad with garlic, cilantro, and other fresh ingredients to achieve an unmatched flavor profile with what their team calls a “creeping heat.” Check out their website for recipes that employ Trini’s distinct pepper sauce.
This Virginia brand is all about strategically and artistically bottling the flavors of the United States and the world through their unique sauces. Their newest blend, Clark + Hopkins Florida Hot Sauce, is inspired by the fruit fields of Florida, relying on—you guessed it—oranges as a primary flavor profile. Lesser known is the Datil pepper, which has been cultivated in St. Augustine for over a century. The citrus, spice, and ginger make it ideal for lightening up gamey meats or incorporating into a ceviche.
Does it get more Southern than hot sauce? With the addition of sweet peaches, it does—a sentiment held by Red Clay cofounders Molly Fienning and Geoff Rhyne. Rhyne was born and raised among the red clay fields of the Peach State, which drew him to the rich stone fruit as a base for the company’s newest sauce. By combining sun-ripened peaches, sorghum, and heat from fermented, smoked habaneros, their Peach Hot Sauce makes for a condiment that works on everything from seafood to vegetables, and from biscuits to marinades.
Just like the restaurants it’s named for in Asheville’s artsy downtown area, this unique brand brings Caribbean flavor by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
After years of success following their 2008 opening, the brains behind Nine Mile gave their fans a way to take their flavors home in 2021 with the launch of three distinct sauces. Their Sun Is Shining Hot Sauce marries the strong flavors of curry, ginger, and mango with scotch bonnet peppers from Smoking J’s Fiery Foods in Candler, North Carolina, and non-GMO hempseed oil from Kentucky-based Victory Hemp. Sun is Shining, like their other sauces, is vegetarian friendly and an ideal addition to marinades and dressings—or to enjoy by the dip.
Southern Art Co. grew out of a mother and daughter’s mutual love for Southern cooking. When Hannah moved away from Atlanta for college, her mom, Kelly—an immigrant who grew up in a small South Korean town—would mail her daughter sauces and frozen marinated meats for a taste of home. Soon, her friends and family were asking for the same mail-order treatment, and Southern Art Co. was born. In addition to their signature Southern Art Co. Hot Sauce, the lineup now includes an original Korean BBQ sauce and a spicy version to bring some flair to whatever you have over the fire.
- by Erin Byers Murray