I Tried 6 Popular Hot Sauces From Canada's Grocery Stores & 1 Of Them Is A Stand-Out Winner
Not all hot sauces are created equal. 🌶️🌶️🌶️
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
I grew up with my grandma's homemade wiri wiri and Scotch bonnet hot sauces (or "pepper sauces," as we say in the Caribbean), and they were always as tasty as they were spicy. With that high bar set, I wanted to try out some of the most popular grocery store hot sauce brands to see what they're like.
I opted for Flying Goose Sriracha, Frank's RedHot Original, Grace Hot Pepper Sauce, Tabasco Original Red Sauce, Cholula Original Hot Sauce and Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp, all of which I found at Loblaws and Walmart.
There are loads of sauces out there that try and blow your brains out with punishing heat, and I'm simply not about that life; I prefer a nice kick and accent to my meal, not a sauce that'll completely take it over. So with that in mind, I'll be rating each hot sauce based on taste and spice level, but note that a low spice level rating isn't necessarily a bad thing!
In order to rate them, for each sauce I tried a dab on my finger and a few drops on a spoon and then put some on a bite of instant noodles, which is the best food for hot sauce, in my opinion.
Here's what I thought of six popular hot sauces available in Canada.
Flying Goose Sriracha - Thailand
Flying Goose Sriracha.
Ingredients: 61% red Thai chillies, sugar syrup, salt, garlic and acids
I'd never had this brand of sriracha before, and I won't be purchasing it again anytime soon.
"Made from carefully selected and sun-ripened chillies, our Original Sriracha Sauce is considered one of the world’s favourite brands of Thai Sriracha hot chilli sauces," the brand says on the bottle.
There is no heat at all in this hot sauce, and I'm not a fan of the flavour. To me, it tastes quite sweet, and while I don't mind a little sweet/spicy combo, there's no spice so it's all just weirdly bland.
I'm not a fan of food waste so I can see myself perhaps adding this to stews, sauces and curries... but I'm not sure what it will actually add!
Spice level: 1/5
Price: $6.49 (for 730 mL)
Frank's RedHot Original - USA
Frank's RedHot Original hot sauce.
Ingredients: Aged Cayenne Red Peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt and garlic powder.
Frank's is an interesting hot sauce to me in that I find it to be very middle of the road. I like the cayenne pepper flavour, but with the spice being more on the mild side, I occasionally find I want a bit more out of it.
Like, it tastes good, but it's not great, if that makes sense. If it's there, I'll happily add a dash or two to my food, but it wouldn't be the hot sauce I'd reach for if there were other options.
To be fair though, Frank's on chicken wings absolutely slaps, but that's the only concession I'll give it.
Spice level: 2/5
Price: $3.99 (for 354 mL)
Grace Hot Pepper Sauce - Jamaica
Grace Hot Pepper Sauce.
Ingredients: Hot peppers, water, cane vinegar, salt, xanthan gum.
Grace is a very popular brand made with "an authentic Caribbean recipe using the very best of Jamaican red peppers."
I found it to be quite vinegary in a pleasant way, but to be honest, as someone with a Caribbean background, I didn't get the Caribbean taste I was expecting. I guess I was anticipating more of a Scotch bonnet flavour, but to me, this felt quite similar to Tabasco.
That being said, this would be delicious on some eggs or as a way to jazz up an avocado toast!
Spice level: 1/5
Price: $1.49 (for 85 mL)
Tabasco Original Red Sauce - USA
Tabasco Original Red Sauce.
Ingredients: Aged red peppers, salt and distilled vinegar.
It's been a minute since I've had Tabasco, and my first dab of it reminded me why it's a classic. It has a straightforward, no-nonsense taste of pepper and vinegar, and after doing some research, I found out that it's in fact only made with three ingredients: peppers, vinegar and salt.
It's got a great front-of-the-tongue sharpness, and it made me crave some fresh oysters, which taste so, so good with a bit of Tabasco and lemon.
Spice level: 1/5
Price: $3.99 (for 57 mL)
Cholula Original Hot Sauce - Mexico
Cholula Original Hot Sauce.
Ingredients: Water, peppers (Arbol and Piquin), salt, vinegar, garlic powder, spices and Xanthan Gum.
I'd never tried Cholula, and I was pleasantly surprised by this tasty little number.
"Cholula Original Hot Sauce features carefully-selected arbol and piquin peppers and a blend of signature spices that deliver unique flavour and piquancy with just the right amount of fiery heat," says their site, and I'd have to agree.
It's tastier than the more vinegar-forward sauces I tried, and I noticed in the ingredients it has apple vinegar and "spices" listed, which seem to bring a more well-rounded flavour. I can definitely see myself adding this as a seasoning ingredient to recipes as well as using it as a traditional hot sauce.
Spice level: 2/5
Price: $6.99 (for 150 mL)
Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp - China
Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp.
Ingredients: Soybean oil, chilli, onion, soybeans, monosodium glutamate, Sichuan pepper powder, sugar, salt, sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite.
I’m aware that this is more of a spicy condiment than a true hot sauce, but the overall purpose of the product is the same: to bring heat and flavour.
This product is so delicious and pleasantly spicy. Because it's oil-based, the spice seems to stick to the inside of your mouth a bit and warm everything up, which is delightful. It reaches the level of "Oh, that's hot," without actually burning your mouth, which is the ideal level of heat for me.
The crunchy bits add some fun texture along with the heat and flavour, so it's more of an all-around sensory experience.
This was delicious on top of my ramen, and it's likely going to be the product I reach for when I need to mask the bland flavour of a recipe I've butchered and give it a little extra oomph.
Spice level: 4/5
Price: $3.49 (for 210 g)
Overall, I found most of the popular grocery store hot sauces to be quite tame in terms of spice, but I know there are plenty of options out there for more adventurous folks. Maybe that'll be what I try next!
These prices are confirmed at the time of publishing, but they can change at any time. Taxes and fees may not be included.
This article has been updated since it was originally published on September 22, 2023.
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