And it only takes four ingredients to make.

Cherry season is a wonderful time for making pies, cobblers, clafoutis, and simply snacking on sweet, ripe fruit out of hand, but cherry recipes can go savory too. This easy smoked cherry hot sauce is a deliciously unexpected way to make summer fruit last longer, while also giving a fruity kick to anything you put it on.

I wanted to do a fresh version of the Cherry Bomb Hot Sauce I made last year, when cherries were out of season (it calls for bottled juice). So I’ve been waiting. But now in California, fresh, sweet cherries are at their peak. And after making Smoked Sriracha back in March, I’ve had this idea for a hot sauce that combines smoke and cherries.

The rest is the splattery masterpiece you see here. It tastes like the perfect summer hot sauce to me: vibrant, really bright, a natural to enhance all the lively, fresh flavors going around right now. Mix it into Greek yogurt to make a smoked cherry dip to serve with roasted cauliflower and carrots, or spoon some onto a grilled pork chop or a plain old hot dog.

Makes just under 2 cups

  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted (they should weigh 14 ounces after pitting, about 2 heaped cups)
  • 1 to 3 fresh habanero peppers (1 for mild, 2 for hot, 3 for incendiary)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar

1. Set up a hot smoker with wood chips over medium-high heat. I wanted to use cherry wood chips but had to settle for hickory instead.

2. Add the pitted cherries and whole habanero (or habaneros) and smoke for 12 minutes. Remove the cherries and habanero(s) and cool until they’re easy to handle, about 10 minutes.

3. When cool, cut open the habanero(s) and remove the seeds. If you open and seed them before smoking, the interior flesh absorbs too much smoke.

4. Add the cherries, seeded habanero(s), salt, and vinegar to a blender. Process until very smooth (you want to get it really blended).

5. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer three times, and that’s it. Boom, done. Bottle and store in the fridge for a couple of week.

If you don’t have a stovetop smoker and don’t feel like buying one, you can turn a wok into a smoker:

Either way, be sure to try this smoked clam and cherry tomato pasta recipe too. And see more fruit hot sauce recipe ideas if you’re a sucker for the sweet and heat combo.