If you live in the U.S., chances are that when you hear the words “hot sauce,” you think of a thin, vinegar-y red liquid. It usually comes in a little glass bottle that you shake violently until the plate of eggs directly underneath it is sufficiently doused. If you’re fancy, maybe you’ve graduated to a green sauce (made with less mature green chiles, often with a sharper, vegetal flavor and less sweetness), or Huy Fong Sriracha (affectionately known as “rooster sauce”). Still, most of the hot sauces with which we are familiar—Cholula, Crystal, El Yucateco, Frank’s Red Hot, Melinda’s, Tabasco, Tapatio, Texas Pete, Trappey’s and Valentina... did I miss anything?—arose from the same Louisiana-style formula: vinegar + chiles + salt, pureed, then possibly aged/fermented.
To be fair, it’s a great formula: acidity, heat, plus a dash of sodium chloride—and maybe just a little bit of funk—are often all a dish needs to go from dull to delightful. People around the world have known this for ages, and combining chile peppers (the fruit of plants in the genus Capsicum), with a salty element and some sort of acid is a common way to spice things up. But it is by no means the only way. There are countless variations of hot sauce—be it consistency, species of pepper used (some sauces specify a particular pepper, some use generic red chiles, often cayenne), treatment of the peppers (ground, dried, fresh, roasted, fermented), and the use of other herbs and spices.
Here are 23 notable fiery condiments from around the world, sorted by the country or region with which each is most closely associated.