Possibly the Best Lactofermented Hot Sauce (with Whey)

There are three main reasons we hear from people on why they don’t preserve:

  1. They don’t have time.
  2. It’s scary/ they don’t know how.
  3. It could be expensive.

Possibly the Best Lactofermented Hot Sauce (with Whey) Whey Preserving Recipes Possibly the Best Pepper (Hot) Hot Pepper

I hope we’re doing our part to debunk all 3 items above.  Today’s recipe makes the absolute best hot sauce using fermentation.  You do require a bit of special equipment (a jar and an airlock) but the total cost is around $5 and everything can be reused.  The total active time is less than 5 minutes (elapsed time is about 3-5 days) and the cost of ingredients is less than $2.  And it’s virtually impossible to mess up.

Here’s a few primers that people new to fermentation may want to start with:

We store the whey in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks at a time and use it for fermenting small batches.

Hot peppers aren’t available locally this time of year but I’m a big fan of practicing my technique and recipes in the off-season so that I don’t ruin a bushel of local product during the actual season.  I happened to have a half-cup of Thai Chiles (they are small, long and red) and was on the verge of losing them, so I decided to test a new version of last years hot sauce by experimenting with whey.

The final product is extremely hot and has tremendous flavor that only fermenting can provide.  There’s a sour kick to it that most can relate to when they think of eating kosher pickles.  It’s earthy, sour, acidic and very potent.  This is a similar style to Tabasco (which is fermented in woods barrels) or Franks Red Hot but its way hotter.  If you’re scared of heat, here’s a handy article explaining why you might actually prefer a HOTTER hot sauce than others you’ve tried.  I’ve had a lot of different fermented hot sauces in the last few years and I’m more excited about this one than any other I’ve made in that time.

Ingredients/ Equipment

  • 1 mason jar (not wide mouth) large enough to fit your peppers comfortably
  • 1 airlock (link above; you can find them at wine or beer home-brew places)
  • 0.25-1 cup hot peppers, washed and stemmed (include the seeds)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of whey (the link to the Greek yogurt article above shows how to get this)
  • Water (if you’re using chlorinated tap water, pour it into a bowl and let it rest for an hour or more to evaporate the chlorine)
  • White wine vinegar (needed at end; day 3-5)
  • A spice grinder, blender or other fast immersion blender is handy (I suppose you could pulverize manually if you had to)

Possibly the Best Lactofermented Hot Sauce (with Whey) Whey Preserving Recipes Possibly the Best Pepper (Hot) Hot Pepper


  1. Place hot pepper, whey, salt and enough water to cover in a jar.
  2. Place airlock on mason jar.  Place in a warm-place in your house (around 70 degrees is optimal).
  3. Over the next 3-5 days, gently agitate the jar 1-2 times a day.  The airlock will keep the air out.  You’ll notice the brine will become cloudy.
  4. When the brine is good and cloudy, strain (and reserve) the brine into a bowl.
  5. Blitz the peppers and seeds in the spice grinder.  Adding a little brine may help in this process.
  6. Pour the brine and pepper puree into a jar (I’m a fan of using all of the brine but that’s up to you).
  7. Add white wine vinegar until you are happy.  I would guess we split it almost 1-to-1 with the brine and pepper.  Taste as you add it.
  8. Place a lid on the jar, store in fridge.

The taste will slowly evolve in the fridge – although it’s ready to serve right then and there.  It’s AWESOME!

Note: watch for mold.  If there’s a lot of head space (i.e. ‘air’ between the surface and the airlock), there will still be oxygen in the jar.  If you watch out for it, you can pulverize the sauce before mold occurs. If mold does happen, you can remove it the day it appears (in theory you can do it several days after but the texture will change) but you’ll be adding oxygen back into the mix.  It’s not the end of the world, you’ll just need to watch it closer.

The final sauce has a thicker consistency than the two commercial brands which strain the solids out.  You can strain the solids if you’d like too but be sure to reserve them and use them as paste.  I just happen to love the texture.

This is a very easy recipe that yields results that are better than store-bought at a cheaper price.  I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think!

If you’re a big fan of the hot stuff, you may be interested in our entire series of Hot Pepper Posts where we tasted a whole bunch of different dried hot peppers and shared their heat and profiles (I am still in love with the Morita Pepper).


  1. Airlocks for mason jars! Bloody brilliant. I do want to learn more about fermenting food; I find it fascinating.

    • Smedette,

      if you lke hot stuff, this is a GREAT place to start- use any hot pepper you want. It’s easy, pratcically fool proof and AWESOME!

  2. This is basically what I’ve started doing, though I use more salt instead of whey. I blend the peppers with a 1:1 mix of the brine and apple cider vinegar (total quantity adjusted to taste). I’ve also started adding a clove of garlic or two in with the peppers.

    • Awesome!

      We I have added garlic before and love it too – giant fan of fermenting it!

      I used to use apple cider vinegar for everything then stopped…may be time to dip back into the pantry… :)

    • Could you give me your exact recipe you use please “kale for the revolution!”?

  3. Do you think this would come out like sriracha if I added some garlic? I have a recipe for canned sriracha that I’ve been meaning to try, but it isn’t fermented, so I’m worried the taste won’t be right.

    • Lindsay,

      I would think that the fermentation has alot to do with the flavor. I’ve made hot sauces with just vinegar before and they miss the kind of ‘throatiness’ of tlavour that develops like this.

      You could add garlic for sure and while it may have a similar flavor (be light on the vinegar), it will be a lot runnier. Kaela at localkitchenblog has some great posts on her journey with siracha last year – she canned it and then realised it may not be acidic enough but stored it in her fridge. If Kaela says it’s good, it’s good (I trust her completely!).

  4. Alexandra says:

    How would one do this with Chipotles? just rehydrate them first?

  5. hey Joel, look like you are a fan of lactic acid (and some other component of the lacto-fermented stuff) instead of just the acetic acid from vinegar.

    Thanks for this recipe idea, look like I have something new to try this season and will have an happy husband :)

    Myself, I’m waiting the daisy button to do some lacto-fermented daisy button (caper style), I have done a small batch last year, but want to do more this year.

  6. Hi Joel! As usual I enjoy your blog (but I didn’t comment often)

    Look like you enjoy the taste of lactic acid (and some other component from lacto-fermented stuff) more than just the acetic acid of the vinegar!

    Thanks for this wonderful idea for hot sauce, I will have to try this recipe this season for sure. So far I have also a salsa recipe lacto-fermented to try also.

    Myself I’m waiting the daisy button to do lacto-fermented daisy button (caper style). I have try a small batch last year and will need to do much more this season :)

    PS: sorry if my comment is a duplicate, I’ve got problem when I tryed to post my comment.


  7. Cool recipe! I make cheese kinda often and I always am trying to find ways to use the left over whey. And I love hot sauce.

  8. dumb question maybe. whats the best source for whey? From store bought yogurt?

  9. im dumb, now i see the place in article

  10. Hi! This recipe is amazing–I’ll put it on my list of fermentation projects. My fiancee is going to flip, she loves hot sauce AND lactofermented pickles, and this looks like the best of both worlds.

    Can I ask: what’s the reasoning behind the airlock? I’ve done lots of lactofermentation with just a piece of muslin covering the top of the jar (to keep out bugs & dust) and it’s turned out fine. Does it change the taste or texture to keep the oxygen out? I’m really curious.

  11. Hi Joel. This was a great recipe. I used very ripe, hot cherry peppers and very hot chili peppers from the garden. The colour is a deep red, the taste complex. Earlier in the summer I made a vinegar based, non fermented, hot sauce with the same peppers and vinegars. Both are good, but the fermented sauce has much more complexity.
    One question to you, how do I keep the sauce in a closed jar in the refrigerator with out it carbonating; should I hot water batch the jar to stop fermentation?


    • Hi Derek!

      Thanks so much – love hearing feedback and I’m pretty partial to this. The way just adds a wonderfuly sour touch that I really dig.

      I still have some of this batch in the fridge in a jar and did not run into any fermentation problems – the cold of the fridge will drastically slow the fermentation (almost to a stop). I have fermented herbs in my fridge that are a year old and have no problems.

      The beautiful thing about ferments is that, like yogurt, they are living. Keep it alive and there are many more health benefits than killing it. You will also find the taste will evolve with time and get even better.

      Do let me know if you run into problems with fermentation but I’m confident the cold will do what you need to slow it down. :) J

  12. Stacie Jayne says:

    First timer here with a quick question. Do I store the finished sauce in the fridge with the air lock still on or is it ok to place in a jar with a sealed lid?? Thanks!! Love the site already planning next years garden around some of your posts!!

    • Stacie Jayne,

      Great question!

      You can indeed store it with a regular lid. The lid helps prevent mould during fermentation – once you store it in the fridge you slow (and practically stop) the fermenting process so go for it!

      Let us know what you think – look forward to hearing!

      Thanks for your nice words – humbling and exciting to receive feedback like yours. :)


  13. Question about whey – Sour Cream has the same cloudy water on top is it possible to substitute that in the recipe or should I stick with the yogurt?

  14. A question on length of fermentation time. Do I need to stop the process after a week or can i go longer? I have read about Tabasco brand and Franks brand sauces that have been fermented over a year. Do i need to refrigerate after a week or can I leave in the 70 degree area of my house?

  15. I have the same airlocks – They are working great so far. Note: Do not boil them to clean / sterilize, as they soften up and melt rapidly. $15 lesson learned. I should have listened to the wife – she was correct.

  16. Hi. I want to make this recipe but am wondering if it would still work omitting the vinegar? My son and I are on a special diet, temporarily, where we cannot have vinegar. Thanks laura

    • Hi Laura,

      It will indeed; however the fermentation produces some acidity of its own (I don’t know how much) so you may wish to research that too. :)


  17. So what do you think about using dried peppers? Or maybe a combination of fresh and dried? Very excited to try and have a ton of dried peppers from last year that might be perfect for this!

  18. I took garden fresh red jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, and one red bell and did a lacto ferment. I added apple cider vinegar along with some spices, garlic and onion. Strained that out and now have the sauce in the fridge. It is rather thin. Any suggestions? Also, should I boil? And, I was thinking about making buffalo wings. I want to add more flavor to the sauce. At what stage should I do this?

    - Cheers, Ann

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