Hot sauce — those two words alone can get some folks’ mouths watering, while they make others cringe. Some never leave home without a bottle of the stuff somewhere on their person; others fear even brief exposure to a pickled jalapeño on their nachos.
So what is it about spicy food that causes such divisiveness? Like all foods, some love it and some hate it. And even among the ranks of spicy food lovers, some can only tolerate a dash or two of Tabasco while others head over to their local wing joint weekly for their XXXX-Mindkiller Special.
For those of you in the latter group, like these guys, this list is for you. We tracked down the absolute spiciest hot sauces out there, ranked them according to Scoville units (the way spiciness is measured), and provided you with ways to order them directly to your door. But be careful: these sauces are spicy (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 undetectible will have a rating of 10,000 Scoville Units.)
For a bit of perspective, let’s take a look at the hot sauce standard-bearer: Tabasco. The original version of the popular hot sauce contains at most about 5,000 Scoville units, about as many as you’d find in your average jalapeño. On the other end of the spectrum, Guinness World Records proclaims that the world’s hottest chile pepper is the Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T," which clocks in at a whopping 1,463,700 Scoville units, nearly 300 times hotter than a jalapeño.
For the chile lovers out there, however, there’s no such thing as too spicy, and hot sauce producers keep finding more and more ways to pack as much capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot sauce, into their products. Just to give you an idea as to how spicy hot sauces have gotten recently, the original super-spicy hot sauce, Dave’s Insanity Sauce, which came onto the scene about 20 years ago and sparked a hot sauce boom, clocks in at about 180,000 Scoville units — it didn’t even scratch the surface of our top 10 list!
So why do hot sauces keep getting hotter and hotter? To answer that question, we went to Scott Roberts, a St. Louis-based blogger and self-proclaimed "chile-head," who’s been on a quest to track down the world’s hottest sauces for about 10 years.
"The extreme chile-heads are clamoring for more and more and more heat," he told us. "Throughout the 2000s there was a 'hot sauce race,' when everybody was trying to make the hottest product. They started to use chile extracts to boost the heat, and the advent of super-hot chile peppers has allowed the sauce makers to make their sauces hotter and hotter. It brings real notoriety if you make one of the hottest sauces on Earth, and even more if you can eat it!"
So fasten your seatbelt, folks. This is going to be a spicy ride. And if you think you know of a hotter sauce than those listed, let us know in the comments.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.