Fermented vs. Vinegar-Based Hot Sauce - What's The Difference?

Fermented vs. Vinegar-Based Hot Sauce - What's The Difference?

Today we're going to talk about the two main styles or methods of hot sauce production: fermented hot sauce and vinegar-based hot sauce.

While both are spicy, they're quite different from each other. Below is a quick run down of each for ya:

Fermented Hot Sauce

Fermented hot sauce takes time to make, and it's all about the slow burn.
The process involves mixing hot peppers and other ingredients in a brine solution and letting it ferment for a few days or even weeks. During fermentation, naturally occurring bacteria break down the sugars in the peppers, producing lactic acid and giving fermented sauces their unique flavor.

One of the biggest benefits of fermented hot sauce is its depth of flavor. The fermentation process can bring out the sweetness of the peppers while adding complexity to the sauce. Fermented hot sauces are also typically less hot than vinegar-based hot sauces, making them more approachable to those who can't handle too much heat.

Some popular fermented hot sauces you’ve probably tried include sriracha, gochujang, and Tabasco.

Vinegar-Based Hot Sauce

With vinegar-based hot sauces it’s all about the immediate burn and bright, tangy punch.

To make vinegar-based hot sauce, peppers and other ingredients are combined with vinegar, salt, and other acidic elements like lime or lemon juice. The acidity/vinegar preserves the sauce when it reaches a certain pH level (around 3.5).

The biggest advantage of vinegar-based hot sauce is its sharp, fresh flavor. Fermenting peppers changes their flavors pretty significantly, while blending them fresh in vinegar-based sauces maintains a profile more true to the peppers used. Vinegar-based hot sauces also tend to be thinner in consistency than fermented hot sauces, making them easier to drizzle over food.

Some popular vinegar-based hot sauces include Louisiana-style hot sauce, Frank's RedHot, and Cholula.

All of my sauces are vinegar based. I love how the original flavor of the pepper stays front and center, especially when combined with other fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s a winning combo. Maybe one day I’ll add a fermented sauce to the mix, who knows?


Both fermented hot sauce and vinegar-based hot sauce have their unique flavors and characteristics. It all comes down to personal preference, whether you prefer the slow burn of fermented hot sauce or the tangy punch of vinegar-based hot sauce.

Trying different sauces and unique food pairings is all part of the fun. After all, variety is the spice of life.

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1 comment

Man… I’d love to get some fermented from you. Maybe take a poll to see if it is worth it. I do prefer Tabasco to Franks… But I love heat too.

Chris Lauffer

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