Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Homemade Not-Too-Hot Hot Sauce

It’s all relative. This hot sauce has plenty of heat, but the recipe is about flavor first, heat second. Go for the burn with more seeds and another hot pepper or ten.

hot sauce #3

hot sauce 2

Talk about heat. We had a family reunion/graduation celebration just over a week ago in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where it’s hot in more ways than sauce. The climate, definitely, the women, the men, their fashion, their music, their salsa . . .  My second trip in a year and I can’t help feeling a little bland. One tries to become hotter, to fit in, but some things just weren’t meant to be. However, family living in PR for the past two years? They’re becoming hotter by the minute. Hey guys! Yeah you.

A year ago I was introduced to John & Roz’ passion for hot sauce. So much heat, not really my deal, but the flavor was a delicious surprise. I started using hot sauce sparingly for its taste. Just a little heat was enough: a dab with eggs, on fish or chicken tacos; in soup and stew; salad dressing; in certain beverages. In Puerto Rico dinner tables are festooned with hot sauce options. Choose your favorite or use them all. This recipe is potentially a mildish version, plus it’s homemade and can be kid-friendly. Use it with abandon for its flavor and make it hot, or not.

I know. Many of you have been using hot sauce forever – me, the late bloomer again.

Speaking of blooms. Vashon Island Garden Tour is happening in two weeks. Worth it for the island vibe alone, picnicing possibilities, not to mention great gardens. Two-minute video explains all.

When I found this Mark Bittman recipe the timing was perfect. Read his excellent article about chiles, or an excerpt below. Bittman’s deal with this recipe is to let the chile flavor shine instead of so much heat, though you can regulate more or less by leaving more seeds in the mix. And Pati’s Mexican Table website is a great source of information about chiles.

Chile-Tomato Not-Too-Hot Sauce

hot sauce 6

Not too hot is the point of this sauce. When a recipe tester suggested an optional serrano chile if cooks yearned for more spice, Mark Bittman said nope.



  • 6 guajillo or ancho chiles
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup distilled white or apple cider vinegar


  • Boil 3 cups of water. Put chiles in a large skillet over medium heat and toast, turning once, until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chiles to a bowl, pour boiling water over them and soak until soft and pliable, 15 to 30 minutes. Remove stems and as many seeds as you like (the fewer you remove, the hotter the sauce will be). Roughly chop them, and reserve soaking liquid
  • Put oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add chiles, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper.
  • Adjust heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, 10 to 20 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a blender with the vinegar. Purée until completely smooth, adding more vinegar or a splash of the chile-soaking liquid if you want it thinner. Pour into a glass bottle or jar, cool completely and refrigerate up to a week.

hot sauce

YIELD About 2 cups
My Notes: I followed this recipe almost exactly. Almost. I used 3 anchos, 1 jalapeño, 1/2 of a serrano and a red chili. All seeds removed. It’s what I had and I checked for heat as I went. I added 1/3 C of the soaking liquid when blending and a tablespoon more of apple cider vinegar. Yielded 3 cups, one in the freezer. Just the right amount of heat for us and lots of flavor. We love it. I’ve already added a couple of spoonfuls to a ripe avocado to make instant guacamole; plan to embellish almost any bowl of soup with a spoonful; also with roast chicken thighs or breasts. Just before they’re done, remove from oven and put chile-tomato sauce on each piece for the final 10 minutes of roasting. The pan juices will be imbued with the flavors of the hot sauce as well as each piece of chicken. Sprinkle pan juices over chicken and rice or quinoa when serving.
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An excerpt from Bittman’s 6/4/14 NY Times article:
To me, there is no prettier sight than a counter loaded with chiles: long, mild, fresh red or green ones. (In New York, we’d call the former “Korean” and the latter “Anaheim.”) And then a few of the never-ending supply of fresh and incredibly inexpensive poblanos, those gorgeous dark green babies that so perfectly straddle hot and not, as well as anchos, which are the same models, only dried. And finally, a variety of dried chiles, California or New Mexico, guajillo, mulato and pasilla in all colors: red, black, beige or the characteristic burnt black chiles, a result of a process I’d not recommend trying at home; it can bring on a form of instant bronchitis. Buy them already blackened.
There are a couple of steps before you plunge in; one is optional, one essential. The optional one is roasting, or toasting. This makes a difference even with dried chiles, and even if you’re going to be cooking them anyway. Just a few moments over a gentle fire, or in a skillet, or even in a hot oven, will release complex aromas that may otherwise remain hidden. Fresh chiles, of course, benefit mightily from roasting because although it isn’t essential, it’s nice to discard the skins, just as it is with roasted bell peppers. Which brings us to heat. Any chile, even a mild bell pepper, can contain some heat. And that heat is stored variously in the seeds, stems, veins and skin, all of which can be removed. With dried chiles, the process is easy: Just break the thing open, get rid of the seeds and stem and, if the chile is moist enough, tear out the veins. By doing this, you’ve really disarmed the thing and rendered most chiles safe to eat in the quantity that will allow you to enjoy their flavor

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