Hall of Flame

Toronto’s best hot sauces, ranked from pleasingly piquant to hallucinatory

Toronto’s hot sauce scene is getting crowded, with dozens of producers entering into a full-blown arms race to see who can pack the most fire into a single bottle—and, of course, come up with the most badass brand name. We damn near burned off our taste buds to choose the best ones, ranked here from pleasingly piquant to Hadron Collider hot. A tip from the experts: if your tongue is on fire, milk is your best friend.

From pleasant to piquant

1. Union Chicken’s Piri-Piri Sauce

Union Chicken’s crazily addictive blend of African bird’s eye chilies and red jalapeños has only a faint whiff of heat, so it’s hard to resist slathering it on everything from chicken to scrambled eggs to pizza. unionchicken.com

2. Inthisorn Foods Ltd.’s Green Chili Sauce

The Inthisorn family fled civil unrest in Laos, and now they’re making this family recipe, and other Laotian sauces, in the heart of Leaside. Their version of jeow som—a traditional Laotian sour sauce—is a viscous blend of green chilies and cilantro, with an umami punch from fish sauce. inthisornfoods.com

3. The Drake Commissary’s Peach + Jalapeño

This Drake Commissary hot sauce packs as much flavour—herbaceousness from coriander seeds and sweetness from roasted Ontario peaches—as it does heat. It’s made from five-day-lacto-fermented jalapeños and grill-charred poblanos. thedrake.ca/drakecommissary

4. Tropic Thunders’ Fiery Phoenix

Amancio dos Santos and Sarinya Sombati of Tropic Thunders gave out bottles of homemade hot sauce at their 2016 wedding. Guests loved it so much, they demanded more. Flecked with charred banana pepper, this thick sauce gets its burn from three-week-fermented habaneros, tempered by jackfruit and jaggery. tropicthunders168.com

5. White Lily Diner’s House Hot Sauce

The house-made hot sauce at Riverside’s White Lily Diner is powered by a pair of European pepper varietals: Espelette and hot Portugal, with an added hit of smoke from morita and chipotle chilies, which add unexpected robustness. whitelilydiner.ca

From piquant to hot

6. Vishanti’s Fire N’ Ice

Vishanti’s Pepper Sauce’s take on Trinidadian green seasoning—basically the Caribbean version of chimichurri—is jam-packed with cilantro and set ablaze with Scotch bonnets. vishantis.com

7. Damien’s Hotel Oscar Tango

Many hot sauces bank on their saltiness or their sweetness to woo hesitant heat-seekers. But Damien’s just goes for it: there’s no salt or added sugar in a bottle of this habanero-and-mango blend. Just a straight-up clean heat with a garlicky finish. damiens.ca

8. Rossy’s Diablo’s Fuego

Panamanian chef and food stylist Rossy Earle has been perfecting her chunky Diablo’s Fuego sauce for 15 years. It’s laced with culantro—like cilantro, but stronger—with a five-pepper blend of habanero, cayenne, chili, hot banana and red peppers, plus Ontario garlic and sunflower oil. supicucu.com

9. Mado’s Spicy Condiment

For years, the popularity of Mado’s homemade Dominican-style papaya-pumpkin hot sauce was limited in its availability. It’s much easier to get now, thanks to a hot-sauce head who purchased the recipe and upped the production, which hums with sweet Scotch bonnet heat. mados.ca

10. Nerpy’s Red Hot Pepper Sauce

Nerpy’s tangy elixir gets its ruby hue from Azerbaijani pomegranates and beets. The initial sweet tang of the sauce is followed by a slow burn that comes from Scotch bonnet peppers with a hit of Appleton rum, and a hint of smoky paprika. nerpys.com

From hot to blistering

11. Pepper North’s Solar Flare

Pepper North’s smoked-pineapple Solar Flare sauce is made with chipotles, red bell peppers and orange habaneros (to ensure the colour keeps to the solar theme), and the smoky sweetness is followed by an acidic slap from a blend of vinegar, lime and oranges. peppernorth.com

12. Burner’s Lime Fire

Burner Pepper Sauce’s citrus-packed blend of Ontario garlic, fresh lime juice and green habanero peppers goes well with Mexican food. Burner’s cultish fans get their fix delivered—free of charge for the downtown set—by a fleet of bicycling sauce peddlers. burnerpeppersauce.com

13. Foodbenders’ Murder

Considering Foodbenders’ sauce is made with just straight-up habanero peppers, it packs a surprising jolt of heat that electrifies the whole mouth. The sizzle dissipates quickly as the layered sweetness of carrot and maple syrup allay the accosted tongue. foodbenders.com

14. Adam’s No Refund Hot Sauce

Born as a wing sauce, this stuff caused a flood of customers at Adam Brown’s CityPlace pub, the Fox and Fiddle, to send back their chicken wings for being “too spicy.” In honour of those spice-intolerant hordes comes this tongue-searing No Refund blend that combines rehydrated ghost peppers with chipotle and Scotch bonnets. toohottoobad.com

15. Dan’s Rip’n 10th Degree Burn

“Keep out of reach of children,” reads the label on this molten tongue-wrecker from Richmond Hill’s Dan’s Rip’n Hot Sauce. The heat comes from a blend of Carolina reaper, ghost, scorpion and Thai chili peppers, and it has a tangy kick from its tomato base. It’s perfect for (seriously) zhuzhing up a Caesar. dansripin.com

From blistering to hallucinatory

16. DaiLo’s House Hot Sauce

DaiLo chef Nick Liu once laced a plate of chocolate strawberries with this punchy Scotch bonnet hot sauce in an attempt to thwart a fridge thief. One more berry disappeared, then nary a treat went missing, thanks to the potency of the fermented Ontario-grown peppers, which attack the back of the throat. dailoto.com

17. Chetty’s Extreme Carolina Reaper

Chetty’s no-nonsense hot sauce puts the emphasis on heat. The easy-flowing bottle is a by-the-book pepper-based heat booster made from locally grown Carolina reaper peppers. Mustard adds depth and a nostril-clearing burn to each bottle. chettys.com

18. Salem’s Lott’s Do Fear the Reaper

The tongue-melting heat from Salem’s Lott’s atomic-orange-coloured sauce comes from a blend of Carolina reaper and Scotch bonnet peppers. The only reprieve: some sweetness in the form of brown sugar, pineapple, carrots and shallots that are blended until silky smooth. salemslotthotsauces.com

19. Union Standard Company’s Santa Muerte

Union Standard Company’s lava-like Santa Muerte sauce took three years of experimentation to perfect. The final recipe: a pure blend of locally grown Carolina reaper, Trinidad Moruga scorpion, ghost and red savina peppers that’s barrel-fermented for six months. @unionstandardcompany

20. Kitchen Guerrilla’s Hot Pepper Utopia

Kitchen Guerrilla’s Roshan Kanagarajah combines 17 peppers, including Carolina reaper, Scotch bonnet and king naga, to make this singular scorcher. He only produces around 1,500 bottles of Hot Pepper Utopia each year, depending on which hyper-spicy peppers he and his wife plant at their Rouge Valley home. kitchenguerrilla.com

This story originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe, for just $29.95 a year, click here.