Southern Pepper Sauce Recipe

This pepper sauce recipe is a Southern family favorite. Perfect to serve with cornbread, greens or black eyed peas, this pepper sauce recipe is one you’ll turn to again and again.

Pepper Sauce Recipe | ©

Good ole Southern Pepper Sauce is a favorite condiment to serve with any number of dishes in the south – from black eyed peas to pinto beans, collard or turnip greens and some even like a little bit of it with their BBQ. A jar of this spicy sauce could just about always be found on the supper table, making it a staple item to make each year.

Actually, at the end of each summer, Daddy would gather a bunch of peppers from his garden to make a good number of jars to use, keep in the pantry and to share with friends.

Here’s how he made his pepper sauce. This recipe is for one pint jar.

Southern Pepper Sauce Recipe

Total Time 20 minutes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
This pepper sauce recipe is a Southern family favorite. Perfect to serve with cornbread, greens or peas, this pepper sauce recipe is one you'll turn to again and again.
4.58 from 14 votes
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  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil optional for extra hot pepper sauce
  • about 30 small peppers


  1. Clean jar, lid, and band and rinse well. Keep warm.
  2. Mix together sugar, salt, vinegar, and optional olive oil in a stainless steel saucepan.
  3. Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil.
  4. Fill jar with peppers and pour hot vinegar mixture over the peppers. Leave about 1 inch of headspace from the top of the jar
  5. Remove air bubbles in the jar by tilting jar slightly to allow bubbles to escape as pepper press against opposite side of the jar.
  6. Wipe jar rim to clean. Place lid on top of jar and tighten ring.
  7. Allow jars to seal by setting on countertop to cool with about 1 inch in between each.
  8. Test seal after about 12 hours by pressing finger to the center of the lid. If sealed, it will not pop back. If not sealed, refrigerate and use.
  9. Store in dark, cool cabinet or pantry for up to a year.

All images and text © Robyn Stone for Add a Pinch


81 comments on “Southern Pepper Sauce Recipe”

  1. Pingback: Weekly Gluten-Free Roundup – August 14, 2011 « Celiac Kitchen Witch

  2. Robyn – The pictures of your pepper sauce are some of the most gorgeous, delicious-looking things I have seen!!!!!!! I just wish I liked peppers!!!! I guess I could make them just for their looks!!!!!

    • Actually, you don’t have to like peppers to like this..I grew up on Pepper Sauce and I don’t particularly care of peppers at all, but it’s the flavor of the sauce that is incredible!

  3. What do you think about pureeing it and making a “sauce”?

    • I’ve not tried doing it that way. I think it would be really, really hot with the seeds still in the peppers, so you may want to deseed them first. Let me know how it turns out. I’d love to know.

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  5. My mother and grandmother always made pepper sauce using old condiment bottles — usually ketchup or Tabasco. You can’t properly enjoy turnip greens without some pepper sauce. Love your blog.

  6. What kind of peppers are used in this recipe?

  7. What kind of vinegar did you use in the recipe?

  8. Have you ever used sweet bannanna peppers to make this sauce? If so how did it turn out and would you recommend using these peppers for it. I have some great sweet bananna pepper plants and dont know what to do with all of them.

  9. Pingback: Black Eyed Peas Recipe - Cooking | Add a Pinch | Robyn Stone

  10. Silly question, but do you use the peppers when using it with a meal or just the vinegar mixture?

  11. My love for peppers began when I was a young boy in Texas. I now live in South Carolina after a career in the military. I grow peppers of many varieties, use my own seeds and add a few new varieties every year as I find them. I germinate the seeds indoors around February and transplant them into large pots moving them outdoors after last frost about April. I bring them back indoors the end of October. So I have fresh peppers growing most of the year. I eat and cook with all I can and pickle the excess peppers for the winter months. I find some varieties too hot to eat painlessly, but they do make a good pepper sause for seasoning or they can be used in small quanity to spice up a meal. Every pepper does have its distinct flavor and heat. I love my chile and cowboy beans a little hotter than most so I spice up my portion with a tad more heat. I mix the different sauses and peppers to create individual jars flavored to the personal taste and heat of my family members members. Peppers make a great hobby and are fun to grow and eat.

  12. This is my first year for canning peppers.
    I chopped them with various varieties;

    What is your opinion of chopping vs. whole canning?

    • It is a matter of personal preference. Daddy always made his pepper sauce with the whole pepper and would then eat a pepper on occasion with pintos and cornbread or something like that. My aunt would make hers with the peppers sliced and it was still delicious!

  13. I am looking forward to trying out this recipe but have never done any type of canning. After filling the jars, do you not have to put them back into a water bath?

  14. I did not have enough peppers to fill my jar. Will it still work?


  16. “About 30 small peppers”

    …or one Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper).


  17. Just discovered your website. Excellent, and so is the recipe for the peppered vinegar sauce.

    With the exception of the “super hots” (Fatalii, ghost pepper, Thai), my chile garden is starting to wind down and will use a variety of the last of the pods (cayenne, serrano, habanero) to make this vinegar.

  18. Can I use carolina reapers in this recipe?

    • I would use A LOT less than 30 peppers… Reapers clock in at 1.4 million Scoville units, whereas jalapenos barely push 10,000.

  19. What kind of vinegar is best used for this recipe? Thank you!

  20. Why is a mixture of vinegar and water used, why boil the mixture?

  21. My aunt just use vinegar and peppers.

  22. Do you mash them when done or just use the juice?

    • Hi Scott,
      We just pour the juice from the pepper sauce over peas and such, but we also eat the peppers! So delicious! I hope you enjoy them if you get a chance to try them.

      • Thanks Robyn, there tobasco peppers, we’ll crack open the jar on Thanksgiving. And a happy Thanksgiving to you!

      • Hey Robyn, you know anything about ginger root? Esay way yo get the skin off without losing the whole veg? Beside the spoon? My son wants to make ginger tea. Help!

  23. Hi Robyn,I plan to use your recipe to make a “pepper suce” with small chile peppers. Your recipe also sounds good for larger peppers to eat, like jalapeno. Do you recommend putting small slits in the larger peppers? thanks

  24. What type o peppers do you use?

  25. I can attest that this is what I was looking for. I made a quart with Serrano peppers and this is literally the hottest thing I have ever tasted or close to it. I added the olive oil. A teaspoon will make a bowl of soup spicy. I made the mistake and put a tablespoon in some the first time and was unbearable. I have had pepper sauces before and at relatives and have made it with cold vinegar, but none of those compared to this.

    • Hi Sam!
      I’m glad to hear this is what you were looking for in a pepper sauce recipe! I’m sure it is quite spicy with the Serrano peppers…but I bet it tastes good when you use a little at a time. Try it with different kinds of hot peppers – that’s what we like to do each year with our peppers from our garden. Oh so good over freshly cooked peas and so much more!
      I hope you continue to enjoy the recipe! Thanks so much!

  26. I’ve used this recipe for years, and it is undoubtedly the best I’ve had, including ANY store bought. Very simple.

  27. One thing I’ve always wondered, can you use apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar in this recipe? I’m actually in the grocery store parking lot, because I’m out of white vinegar, getting ready to go in and buy some… Seriously.

  28. I’m planning to make your pepper sauce and the answer maybe listed in your older comments but what does the teaspoon of olive oil do that makes it hotter?

    • Hi Michael,
      It definitely does make it hotter – I was always told that – so I’ve passed it along. 😉
      I’m not sure if it is because it changes the makeup of the liquid and makes the peppers release more of their heat…or what happens…I am not positive of the exact reason it does it.
      Sorry I can’t give you the technical answer, but from experience I know it sure does!
      Thanks so much!

      • Capsaicin molecules, the ‘heat’ in the peppers, are hydrophobic, meaning they will not bond with the water molecules in your mixture (like oil and water). Adding the olive oil, I’m guessing, allows the added oil to bind, and ‘extract’ more of the capsaicin from the peppers.

      • Thank you so much, Scott! This is great information!

    • I am 70 years old and have always made pepper sauce like this. The only thing olive oil does is keep the vinegar from rusting your lid. Remember jar lids are tin

  29. Hi Robyn, I just made these and can’t wait to e
    Eat them. I use to make pepper sauce in ornamental jars that don’t need to seal and we would add vinegar to it when it would run low. Since this is sealed does it have to be refrigerated after it is opened? Thank you!

  30. How many jars will this recipe make approximately, using jalapeños?

  31. How long do I have to wait after canning to use the sauce?

  32. I’ve read that after you bottle the pepper sauce, you should chill it for three weeks to let the heat intensify, whicH I assume means setting it in the freezer. Have you done this? Do you recommend it?

    • It does make sense that the longer the pepper sauce rests the more the liquid with have the pepper flavor. I’ve not heard of chilling it like that, however.

    • u can use it within 24 hours of making it the longer it sits the hotter it will get. but why would u want to freeze it? that makes no sense at all lol u can always refrigerate it. but if u freeze it then it will not be able to get infused with flavors until u thaw it out

  33. Second question – what’s the purpose of the sugar? Does it act as a preservative, or is it there for flavor or some other reason? Specifically, could I either leave out the sugar, or replace it with stevia powder?

    • I’ve not used stevia in this recipe and am not able to answer from personal experience how it works.

      • Well, the question was why do you use the sugar in the first place? Do you use it to add sweetness, or as a preservative, or what?

      • Hi Jan,
        Happy Thanksgiving! We use the sugar in the pepper sauce as a preservative. I hope you enjoy it.

  34. A recipe from my daddy that was handed down from his grandmother (late 1800s era) was to use cayenne peppers and apple cider vinegar. Good stuff. We made it every year when I was growing up and I still do. We used it on turnip greens, pintos and other beans.

  35. Pammy P,
    Does your recipe also use the sugar and salt? I want to use apple cider vinegar, as well.

  36. Yes I did make this now the wait maybe a week looks and sounds great will let you know!!!

  37. barney bolten
    I have opened the peppers and like them very much made one quart one third is gone will make another quart today. Can I ad more vinegar as it gets low or are the peppers one time use the two quarts will not last till next garden Thank You

  38. I used this recipe 2 years ago and put the peppers and sauce in secretive jars with a narrow neck (for pouring). The jars came with corks so I corked them and put them on a shelf. The other day I went to get one of them and they all had built pressure and pushed some liquid out and about 3″of the peppers were exposed to air. My question is, are the jars that did that still safe to consume the juice?

  39. Good recipe made them several times

  40. The ingredient measurements in the recipe were very accurate. The recipe is for 1 pint jar. I made 7 with the Olive Oil because that is supposed to be hotter. Then I also made 6 more jars without Olive Oil, so those would not be quite as hot.

    So if you make this recipe for more than 1 pint, then just multiply your ingredients accordingly.

    I had never sliced jalapeños, but decided to slice them for this recipe.

    WARNING: Jalapeño peppers cause Jalapeño Hands! It burns your hands pretty bad.

    I washed my hands with soap and water. Still the burn was there. Tried pouring milk over my hands, was still burning. Tried soaking hands in ice water, that helped. Then poured Lemon Juice over my hands, still burning. Will just have to let it wear off!

    So you may consider using gloves when handling hot peppers. I have learned my lesson!!!

    • Ha! Bonnie, I learned this lesson the hard way too! My hands burned for 3 days stright after making a very large batch of jalapeno poppers for a super bowl party. Sweet Lord , ill never try that again .

  41. Very good. Does not take long to make.

  42. Excellent and easy. Can’t get better than that.

  43. Can you re-use peppers & just add more of the liquid? My brother lives in Maui & sent me a couple bottles of their chili pepper water. Then made my own. Drinking shot glass of it every morning for the health benefits, plus have cast iron stomach. Now jars are empty…

  44. I love this. I only make one jar at a time cause usually I can get the peppers. This recipe has terrific flavor and I use the olive oil for ‘hotness’.

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