Cumin-Paprika Hot Sauce.

Inspired by the gorgeous cayenne chili peppers available from Full Belly Farm in California, through Good Eggs, I was inspired to do a string of hot sauce posts. Imagine freshly made hot sauce with no additives or preservatives, no excessive heating, and best of all, made by you!! Of course, I want you to try my chili sauces, so I won't give away all my secrets. But most importantly, I want you to eat well and deliciously, whether it comes from my kitchen or yours. 

First step? Remember, all peppers aren't created equal. They not only vary in heat intensity, but they vary in flavor. Then, consider whether you're using dried or fresh chili peppers to make your hot sauce. Dried chilis lend themselves to deep, rich, pastes, while fresh chili peppers are divine as bright and thin sauces. Another consideration is whether to use oil or water as the base - I could go either way, but I usually choose olive oil or grapeseed oil for dried chili peppers, and water for fresh chili peppers. As it's the winter and our selection of fresh chili peppers is limited, let's turn our focus onto dried chili peppers. 

I love the depth and darkness of dried red chili peppers. This recipe focuses on cayenne, the chili pepper I know everyone has heard of. It's personality depends on where it's grown, but I found these to be medium heat, with a mild fruity flavor, and the gentlest smokiness. The peppers inspired me to let them do the talking, so I used just a couple of spices and minimal other ingredients. 

What should you think about when making a hot sauce? There are several components to a hot sauce: the pepper, the base, the acid, salt, and additional flavor. Beginning with the pepper: are you going to roast or saute it, or leave it fresh? Are you aiming for a smooth or chunky sauce - are you pulling out a mortar & pestle, food processor, or blender? The base: are you aiming for a thick, luscious sauce that will require oil to pull it together? Or a thin condiment to put on everything, where you'll need only water? The acid: There are so many directions to go here. You can pretty choose any type of vinegar - I say, avoid the distilled white vinegar, and go with white wine, champagne, apple cider, or sherry vinegar. You can also choose lemons, limes, or citrus. The salt: don't forget a pinch. If something feels off, chances are you forgot this key element. The flavor: Go wild. Spices. Garlic. Ginger. Surprise me. I want to hear about it. 


50 dried cayenne chili peppers

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika (use 1/2 smoked & 1/2 sweet if can't find)

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil


food processor OR mortar & pestle


Chop stems off of chili peppers. Toss into food processor and give it a spin, getting roughly chopped pieces. Saute with olive oil on low-medium heat, stirring often for 5 minutes, until rich aromas of chili coming out of the saucepan. The chili peppers should not be blackening or burning, but remain a deep, rich, red. Add cumin, paprika, and stir for 1 minute. Add honey and sherry vinegar, and stir for 1 minute over low heat. Place back in food processor or mortar & pestle, and grind until you get a thick paste. 

Makes about 3-4 oz of hot sauce, which in this house lasts all of 2 days ;)