Hot Stuff: Locally Made Hot Sauces
Ding ding, it’s time for the final round of this two-part series on locally made hot stuff (you can read the first piece on sriracha and a couple kimchees here). This installment is all about hot sauces made by SF restaurants and markets, and no, this is by no means a totally exhaustive piece--feel free to add your faves in the comments. We’re listing the sauces in order of heat, so the last one is packing some serious Scoville heat units. Fire in the hole!
Hot sauce lovers should not live by Tabasco and Cholula alone. The kitchen at Local Mission Market is here to make sure your fridge has all kinds of housemade and hot saucy options. They make a Fresno hot sauce and a regular hot sauce (both $6), and both have carrot, garlic, and Champagne vinegar in them. I like these bright sauces because they aren’t very aggressive—they’re ideal accent sauces, especially on eggs. The Fresno hot sauce is a touch fruitier and vinegary, while the regular hot sauce is thicker and duskier flavor wise. Other bonuses: their sweet and spicy sauce is on point if you eat a lot of Asian leftovers like I do (it has a whisper of garlic), and their chipotle in adobo is gonna make you want to grill some meat or whip up some chilaquiles, stat (both $7).
Youk’s Hot Sauce ($7) has been in my home arsenal of hot sauces ever since I first tasted it at Maverick many years ago. Scott Youkilis makes a new batch every year, so the flavor, color, and heat can shift a bit, but it's usually comprised of 90% red jalapeños from Mariquita Farms (so those puppies are organic). The zippy sauce is blended by hand with white distilled vinegar and both canola and olive oil. The most recent batch has a darker hue to it, packing a vinegary tang that begs you to shake it on something fried or meaty, ideally both, but it works on all kinds of dishes (hello, pizza). You can pick up a bottle at a number of locations, and don’t be surprised when you see it on the tables at Plow and Perry’s, and of course at Youkilis's Hog & Rocks.
If you want a smokier sauce to shake on your quesadillas at home, the MF Hot Sauce from Tacolicious’ chef Telmo Faria is totally the ticket. The smoky combo features three chilies: habanero, chipotle, and arbol. The heat is perfectly balanced (don’t let the name scare you) and it’s not too vinegary either; it also has a pleasant weight, like it was designed to cling just-so to your leftover burrito. And perhaps best of all, 100% of the proceeds benefit the Tacolicious School Project program, which means your love of the spicy stuff supports Bay Area local schools. High five. You can pick up a bottle for $5 at all Tacolicious restaurants and their farmers’ market stand.
One of the highlights of dining at Nopalito is tasting the array of chef Gonzalo Guzman’s handmade salsas, each one meant for certain dishes. If you’re looking for a smooth hot sauce that packs a wallop but doesn’t completely obliterate your taste buds, then the punchy piquin is for you ($6.50). The smooth red sauce combines arbol and piquin chilies, and it’s emulsified with tomato, onion, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil, giving it a pleasant, smooth texture, while the vinegar keeps it tangy. The enduring heat on this one will stay with you, trust. You can order the Nopalito line of salsas from Good Eggs, so think about adding the chile morita y tomatillo salsa to your order ($8.50), a perfect dipping salsa (it’s a mild one). When Off the Grid Presidio returns, you can buy the salsas there too, and a little birdie also told me you may be seeing these at Bi-Rite Markets soon.
The Hella Hot sauce at Christian Ciscle’s Lower Haight wing shop is not messing around. This is definitely the hottest mofo of the bunch, like it’s holding a grudge or something. It’s a sneaker heat: one that starts off all nice, letting you really taste the fruitiness of the habanero, and then BAP. I put a couple shakes of this bad boy on my wings and about a minute later my mouth was en fuego and I was grabbing for my beer (and biscuit) to cool the hell off. All you can do is wait. A little goes a loooong way. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Or the label, which says Hella Hot.) The breakdown is about 90% habanero with a little garlic, ginger, and vinegar. $6 to make yourself cry.