More and more people are getting hip to the joys of hot sauce: In 2012, hot sauce production was the eighth fastest-growing industry in America. And there are plenty of reasons we’re diving into the big, bold world of these sauces. One is adventure: You could spend decades exploring the hundreds of formulas out there, ranging from fairly mild to butt-burning hot, and originating from the states to all points on the globe (though the most well-known come from Asia or the Americas).
Another great reason to amp up the heat is the health benefits: Hot sauce is a relatively low-calorie way to boost flavor in your food, which makes it great to have on hand if you’re eating something on the bland side. (Scrambled eggs, we got you.) On top of that, capsaicin, the compound that makes hot peppers and sauces spicy, has been linked to easing sinus problems, lowering blood pressure, and revving up your metabolism—although those benefits should be taken with a grain of salt (or dash of Cholula). Hot sauce is hardly a magical cure-all. Adding puddles of it to every meal won’t make you drop 10 pounds. And you should definitely keep an eye on sodium levels and unpronounceable ingredients, which certain formulas contain in spades. Still, there’s no denying that the stuff is delicious and offers a moderate health boost.
If you’ve been shy about cranking up the heat, chances are you just haven’t met the right bottle yet. Not all sauces are a five-alarm fuego: they range up and down the Scoville scale, which measures the heat levels of peppers, hot sauces, and any food that makes you feel the burn. So if you’re not into scorch-your-tongue hot, don’t fret. Let us be your condiment OKCupid.
Here’s an introduction to the most eligible bottles: There’s the chicken-wing-inclined Frank’s Red Hot, the classic Tabasco, the smoky chipotles in adobo sauce (strictly speaking, not a hot sauce, but the perfect gateway burn), and of course Sriracha, lovingly referred to as Rooster Sauce by its addicted denizens. (Tip: It’s delicious on more than just dumplings). If Sriracha is too sugary and garlicky for you, try its stripped down, more vinegary cousin, Sambal Oelek. Cholula is just begging to be splashed onto tacos. And all of these sauces are ready to meet and mingle with your routine breakfast eggs. Check out the chart below, and you might just find yourself becoming a hothead.