5 Healthy Hot Sauces You’ll Want to Put on *Everything*

Photo: Stocksy/ Sophia Hsin
Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, I can't not like hot sauce. Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Pepper sauce can be found in every cabinet in the 716, and before Beyoncé made it popular, I used to carry it in my bag to make school lunches more tolerable. Big slay. But it turns out my beloved sauce isn't as entirely good-for-you as I once thought. In short: It has a whopping 190 milligrams of sodium (per teaspoon!). Big sigh. For context, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day—that's equal to about one teaspoon of table salt. I'll let that sink in. So, how can we cut back on the sodium intake, without turning down the heat? And is hot sauce healthy, in the first place?

Experts In This Article

According to nutritionist Andrea Mathis, RDN, while there might not be much nutritional value to hot sauce, there are certainly hot sauces that are better for you than others. "Even though most hot sauce is very low in calories, there are still are few other factors to consider when choosing the best option and those factors are sodium content and the amount of artificial ingredients," Mathis says. The ultimate hot sauce goals? Choosing one that has a moderate-to low-amount of sodium and is made with natural ingredients, she says. Ahead we delve into a few of our favorite healthy hot sauces to add a little spice to your life.

So, is hot sauce healthy?

According to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and the founder and director of Real Nutrition, although hot sauce may not have a ton of health benefits, it shouldn't be considered unhealthy, at least not in most cases. "Most often hot sauce is used in small amounts so health benefits are not abundant just because of the serving size," Shapiro says. However, even in small quantities, hot sauce can have some perks (aside from bringing bland dishes to life). "With that being said, most hot sauces tend to be low in calories, low in sugar, and can have some vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, from the peppers used in the recipes," Shapiro says.

Plus, it's worth noting that the compound that makes hot sauce, well, so hot, can also have some health benefits. "It also contains capsaicin which has been known to boost metabolism, it also may potentially decrease inflammation and help fight against certain types of cancer," Shapiro says.

Can hot sauce be unhealthy?

In short, no—but in long, it really depends on the sensitivity of your stomach and taste buds. "It's perfectly safe to eat hot sauce daily; cultures and individuals have varying tolerances," she says. However, she recommends sticking to only a few teaspoons a meal whenever possible. That said, the tricky part can be telling the nutritious hot sauce options apart from the not-so-good ones. In short, the dietitian recommends looking out for a few telltale signs indicative of a hot sauce with minimal health benefits: high sodium, sugar, additives, artificial colors or flavorings, to name a few. "Be sure to always read the nutrition labels," Shapiro says.

What's more, there may be signs your body may be trying to tell you that hot sauce isn't exactly agreeing with your digestion. "Depending on the individual you may experience acid reflux, burning of the skin, stomach pain if you consume too much hot sauce, too often," Shapiro says. Plus, folks with IBS-related spicy food sensitivities may also want to go slow on the sauce.

5 healthy hot sauces you'll want to put on everything

1. McIlhenny Co. Tabasco Pepper Sauce

Mathis says this one stands out because of its sheer simplicity. "I love it because you only have to use a little bit to get that perfect spicy flavor, and it only contains approximately 35 milligrams of sodium per serving," Mathis says. "It also contains no artificial ingredients." Our favorite way to use it? Adding a bit of it to sauces, like this light and vibrant spicy lemon pastaSwoon. Another perk of Tabasco? It won't completely overpower your dish. Although spicy and slightly vinegary, the flavor will typically complement anything it's paired with, making the end result even better (and for sure tastier). Plus, the brand makes teeny tiny bottles that are perfect for stashing away in your purse for hot sauce emergencies.

2. True Made Foods Veracha

Angela Lemond RDN, a registered dietitian, absolutely loves this vegetable sriracha. "True Made foods is an up-and-coming company that makes marinades, BBQ sauces and hot sauces without added sugar," Lemond says. They use pureed fruits and veggies to add flavor, making it the perfect sauce for vegetables. Our favorite part? If you take a look at their nutrition label, you'll find that this sauce has sneakily hidden veggies, think butternut squash and carrots. Talk about a two-in-one deal.

3. Trader Joe's Jalapeño Sauce

Trader Joe's Jalapeño Sauce always ranks high on Mathis' list for healthy eats, and although it contains a bit of (natural) sugar, Mathis says it's still good in her book due to its low sodium content and natural ingredients. "This sauce is spicy, creamy, and completely vegan," she says. "It provides a nice heat to any recipe without being overwhelmingly spicy." That said, if you don't love too much heat—or hot sauce in general for that matter—there are plenty of other anti-inflammatory sauces you can use to flavor your food, including non-spicy options like pesto or romesco sauce.

4. Secret Aardvark Habanero Sauce

This hot sauce has a unique blend of Caribbean and Tex-Mex Flavors, and Mathis likes it because it contains only 35 milligrams of sodium per serving. But you may want to proceed with caution if you're extremely sensitive to heat, because even a little bit of this sauce goes a verrry long way. So grab the tissue box, because you'll be shedding tears of (hot sauce) joy upon first bite.

5. Cholula Hot Sauce

In most restaurants you'll find a bottle of Cholula Hot Sauce sitting on the table for your condiment enjoyment. Why? Well, it's a tried and true fan favorite. Fortunately, it also has a dietitian's seal of approval. This is one of Mathis' all-time favorites because it tastes like a spicy picante sauce, which typically contains finely chopped tomatoes, white onions, spices, and jalapeños. (Picante sauces are also usually smoother than their chunkier salsa counterparts.) Plus, Mathis points out that Cholula Hot Sauce contains very few artificial ingredients. However, keep in mind that with 110 milligrams of sodium per serving, it's on the higher-sodium end of this list. But, hey, we certainly won't keep you from adding a splash of hot sauce in coffee every now and then if that floats your boat. (Yes, it's a thing. We've even tried it...and it's not half bad.)

For more spicy content: This is the impact spicy food might have on your skin (and the serum that can potentially help fix it), and why it's probably best to skip spicy food before bed.

An easy chicken tostada recipe to pair with the hot sauce of your choice:

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