Fermented or Unfermented hot sauce: Which is best?

There’s a lot of hot sauce out there and increasingly you, the hot sauce fans want to experiment with your own recipes. But what kind of sauce do you try? Fermented or unfermented? Cooked or not cooked? And that’s before you even start looking at flavours and ingredients.

As for which is best? Well that comes down to taste but let’s look at the different characteristics of fermented and unfermented hot sauces and see if we can make the decision a little easier.

Fermented hot sauce

Fermenting (or lacto fermentation in this case) is the process of allowing naturally occurring bacteria, usually present on the outside of fruits and vegetables, to break down carbohydrates.

The process releases lactic acid and a handful of other minerals locked up in the ingredients.

As a result, fermented hot sauce takes on a particular flavour. Usually a little more sour, with that distinct almost yeast-like edge that you get with kimchi and other fermented foods.

This adds an interesting dimension but unless you’re careful with your opposing flavours fermented hot sauces can sometimes lack balance. Tabasco, for example, is a fermented and aged hot sauce with very few ingredients and as a result, takes on its distinct sour and salty flavour.

Fermented hot sauces also tend to not be cooked. As the process usually involves leaving the ingredients together for a week or two and then blending. This creates a nice fresh flavour and many believe that the fermentation process releases extra goodness previously locked up in the ingredients. However, this method of preparation can make fermented uncooked hot sauces prone to separating after pouring.


  • Fresh flavour

  • Added health benefits


  • Can lack balance

  • Prone to separating

Unfermented hot sauce

Condimaniac sauces are, at this point in time, unfermented. We do this as we like the added control we have over the flavour. Great hot sauce is about balance and we feel that cooking the sauce allows us to temper the cut of the vinegar with the right amount of sweet, umami or heat.

The additional step of cooking the hot sauce also alters the flavour. Ingredients break down and flavours change depending on what’s in there. Our Smokey Dragon sauce for example uses a base of fresh tomatoes and by cooking them we release all those lovely flavours, making them sweeter and more punchy. Cooking also allows flavours to meld together in a way that they might not if left raw.

Naturally however, cooking can increase the risk of burning the contents of your pot, so make sure you keep a close eye on what you’ve got on the stove!

Cholula and Marie Sharp’s are both examples of unfermented hot sauces.


  • Balanced flavour

  • No need to wait for fermentation


  • Risk of burning

  • Less Zing/freshness

So that’s it! A quick look at some of the characteristics of fermented and unfermented hot sauces. Give them a whirl and let me know what you think.

Blog by Kier



Condimaniac limited, Registered in the United Kingdom Company number: 12042466