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How To Make Southern Pepper Sauce-Use Those Extra Garden Peppers!

Bottled pepper sauce is beautiful and tasty with its many colors.
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How to make Easy Southern Pepper Sauce for a tasty way to spice up any dish.

Pepper sauce has long been a staple of Southern tables everywhere. Many Southerners have grown up eating pepper sauce, but others throughout the country may have never heard of it. Pepper sauce is basically vinegar, infused with pepper flavors. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing! Collards, turnip greens, and peas are just not the same without it! I’ve eaten pepper sauce on everything from salads to pizza. It is the perfect flavorful kick to spice up any dish.

I always get a lot of extra peppers from my garden especially late in the season. Pepper sauce is a great way to use those extra peppers so they don’t go to waste. I usually make enough to last me all winter and to give away as gifts.

The best part about making pepper sauce is that it’s super easy to do. Here’s how I make mine.

What You’ll Need

  • Peppers (Small varieties work great)
  • Bottles or Jars
  • Funnel
  • Vinegar
  • Salt

First, you’ll need some peppers of course. I like to use tobasco peppers. Tobasco peppers are used in many of the pepper sauce varieties you can buy in stores. Any kind of small pepper will work though. Some popular small peppers to use are Thai chili, serrano, and cayenne. Just use your favorite pepper or ones that you have available/growing and you can’t go wrong.

Next you’ll need some bottles or jars for your pepper sauce. You can use mason jars, empty liquor bottles, or re-use old store bought pickle or pepper bottles and jars. Any kind of glass bottle works just make sure the peppers will fit through the opening of the container. I ended up going with these from Amazon because they have a nice shaker top. Make sure to clean the bottles or jars and let them air dry completely.

Another of my favorite uses for an old jar…

Take the peppers, throw them in a colander and rinse well. Remove any over ripe or insect damaged peppers you see.
Cut all the stems off of the peppers. When I cut my peppers I go slightly past them stem and take the whole top off. This will impart more flavor by allowing the vinegar inside all the peppers but will also add more heat. Adding a slit or piercing the peppers in several places will have the same effect. If you prefer a milder pepper sauce you can just cut off the stems and leave the rest of the pepper whole.

Cut off the tops of the peppers to allow the vinegar inside the peppers and add more flavor.

The vinegar you use is all about personal preference. I like plain ol’ white distilled vinegar. Feel free to experiment with different types of vinegar for different flavor profiles. Apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and white wine vinegar are all good choices.


Whichever you choose, put the vinegar in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. I add about a half teaspoon of salt to the pot for every 2 cups of vinegar.

While the vinegar is heating up, go ahead and pack the peppers into the bottles or jars. Fill them 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. I only used peppers but you can also add aromatics such as garlic and peppercorns in there too. Traditional southern pepper sauce is just peppers, vinegar, and salt.


Once the vinegar is boiling it’s ready to be poured into the bottles over the peppers. Use a funnel that fits into the neck of the bottle or jar to pour the vinegar safely. A flask funnel works great for small openings. Let it cool, put a top on, and you’re done. After a week or so, the vinegar should be fully infused with pepper flavor. The longer it sits, the more flavor it will have.

Due to the acidity in the vinegar the pepper sauce should be shelf stable up to a year. I keep mine in the refrigerator just in case though. After using the pepper sauce you can refill with fresh vinegar several times and reuse the same peppers.

Try it on everything! I love it on pizza, BBQ, salads, and fresh peas.

How do you make your pepper sauce and what are you favorite foods to put it on?

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