For those who are fans of spicy food, hot sauce is an indispensable condiment. But beyond the mild kick of traditional hot sauces like Tabasco and Cholula lies a huge ecosystem of intensely spicy hot sauces and their fiercely devoted fans, known as chileheads. If you fall into that group, this list is for you, because these hot sauces are the spiciest on earth.
Heat seekers have spiciness down to a science: the Scoville scale, to be exact. Scoville Units are measured through a complicated dilution process; for example, a pepper whose extract needs to be diluted 10,000 times before capsaicin is undetectable will have a rating of 10,000 Scoville Units. Tabasco clocks in at a respectable 2,500 Scoville Units, Sriracha is 2,200, a jalapeño pepper is at 5,000 on average (exact heat levels can vary from chile to chile), habanero peppers have around 200,000 Scoville Units, the legendary ghost chile clocks in at around 1 million units, and the hottest pepper on earth, the Carolina Reaper, can reach mind-numbing levels of 2,200,000 units.
If you thought that no hot sauce can be spicier than the hottest pepper, guess again. By extracting resins and oils, hot sauce developers have been able to ratchet up spiciness in hot sauces to weapons-grade levels (literally: standard U.S.-grade pepper spray ranges from 2 million to 5 million Scoville Units, delivered directly into your eyes). Pure capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy foods taste spicy, tips the scales at 16 million Scovilles, 3,200 times the intensity of a jalapeño.
So read on to learn about the spiciest hot sauces you can buy (we’ve included links if you’re crazy enough to want to actually try any of these yourself). While a couple of these are pure capsaicin extracts, the majority are real sauces, formulated with care by people who are probably slightly insane. So fasten your seatbelts, because this is going to be a spicy ride.