I discovered beautiful red Fresno chillies at a Namdhari’s Fresh outlet near my house, recently, and life hasn’t been the same ever since. I haven’t stopped admiring these beauties, and have bought them over and over again. The best part? These chillies have inspired me to start making sauces at home. I have made several batches of different types already and, in the process, discovered the yummiest of home-made red chilli sauce!
The beginnings of my home-made sauce story
Growing up, I used to love adding tomato ketchup to just about everything. Roti, adai, dosa, pulav, sandwiches, parathas, bhel, pizza, chips – just about everything would undergo a generous dousing of tomato ketchup, store-bought. One of those weird phases that teenagers go through. Dad loved ketchup too – he still does – and, in between the two of us, we would manage to empty a considerable number of bottles every month. Then, one day, my mom got alarmed by just how many bottles of ketchup we were going through, just how much sodium, sugar, preservatives and what not we were downloading into our systems. So, the hunt started for a good home-made tomato ketchup recipe, which she ended up finding on some cookery show on TV, I think. Amma began making vats of ketchup at home using real ingredients – pretty good stuff, you know? It was an eye-opener of sorts for the entire family. We continued making ketchup and different types of sauces through the course of my school life, but then gave up due to the sheer convenience of store-bought versions. I grew out of my ‘ketchup monster’ phase, and then we began buying the few bottles we would consume. However, I remained, always, in awe of the process of making sauce at home. When I spotted these chillies at Namdhari’s, I just had to go ahead and pick them up and do something with them, and sauce it had to be!
Home-made sauce vs. store-bought versions
I believe it is possible to make at least a few basic sauces at home very easily. Most of them don’t need many ingredients or call for complicated cooking techniques. They do require effort, yes, more effort than that required to pop a bottle of ready-made sauce into your supermarket cart or ordering one online. That said, they are still not all that difficult to prepare. It is incredibly satiating to make home-made sauces too, to use real ingredients to fill up those bottles, to know exactly what is going into them. The only downside is that these sauces need to be used up within a short timeframe, considering they are made without any preservatives. Having experienced the high of home-made red chilli sauce, I can only say you need to try out this amazing, enriching, enlightening experience for yourself.
I have used white vinegar in the hot sauce I made, but no artificial colours or preservatives other than that. I have used way less salt and sugar than most store-bought bottles contain, and it still tastes absolutely, mind-blowingly delicious. The gorgeous red colour of the sauce is all natural – from the chillies!
The chillies cost me just INR 32 per box of 250 grams, and that was enough to make one batch of sauce, with the rest of the ingredients coming from my pantry. I didn’t calculate the exact cost for each of the batches of sauce I made, but I do know that it was soooo much less than what a similar quantity would have cost me had I picked it up off a departmental store shelf.
What are Fresno chillies?
Fresno chillies look similar to fresh jalapenos, but have thinner walls. They are moderately spicy chillies, which possess a slight fruity taste. This makes Fresno chillies perfect for making hot sauce. When pickled, these chillies go beautifully in pizza, sandwiches and burgers.
I have used red Fresno chillies to make this hot sauce, but you can easily substitute them with jalapenos or Serrano peppers.
How to make hot sauce at home
Here is how I went about making the hot sauce or red chilli sauce at home.
Ingredients (yields about 1 cup):
- 250 grams red Fresno chillies, about 1 heaped cup when chopped roughly
- 1 medium-sized onion, roughly
- 6-8 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon oil
- Salt to taste, about 1/2 tablespoon
- Sugar to taste, 2 tablespoons
- 1/8 cup white vinegar or to taste
1. Wash the Fresno chillies well under running water. Pat dry, using a cotton cloth. Remove the green tops from the Fresno chillies. Chop them up roughly, seeds, membrane, et al. Keep aside.
2. Peel the onion. Slice length-wise. Keep aside.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and chop roughly. Keep aside.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chopped garlic, onion and chillies. Add a little salt. Mix well.
5. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Now, add in the sugar and salt to taste. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 more minutes or till the ingredients turn soft. You don’t have to cook the ingredients to a mush – just make sure they are cooked through. Switch off gas and allow the ingredients to cool down fully.
7. When the ingredients have completely cooled down, transfer to a mixer jar. Add in the vinegar. Grind to a smooth paste. Your Home-Made Red Chilli Sauce is done!
8. Allow the sauce to cool fully after the grinding, then transfer to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Store refrigerated.
1. I have used red Fresno chillies to make this sauce. These are moderately hot chillies, so the sauce is moderately hot. You may use a hotter version of chilli – or a milder one – if you so prefer.
2. You may use refined oil or olive oil to prepare this sauce. I used refined sunflower oil.
3. Adjust the quantity of salt, sugar and vinegar as per personal taste preferences.
4. The flavours of the sauce intensify the next day after making it. It tastes better the next day.
5. Keep the sauce refrigerated when not in use. When refrigerated and used hygienically, this sauce stays well for a week to 10 days. Since this sauce is made without any preservatives, it is best used within 7-10 days. The ingredient quantities above yield a limited quantity of sauce, which can easily be consumed within the said time frame.
6. A glass bottle is best to store this Home-Made Red Chilli Sauce.
7. I didn’t remove the seeds or the membranes from the Fresno chillies before using them to make the sauce. If you want a milder version of the sauce, you can go ahead and remove them.
8. Vinegar works best in this sauce, giving it a nice flavour. I wouldn’t suggest replacing the vinegar with lemon juice. I have used store-bought white vinegar here.
9. You can filter the sauce using a not-very-fine sieve, and remove the seeds or any big bits that might be left out. I haven’t done that.
10. This Home-Made Red Chilli Sauce is thickish and easily spreadable, but extremely flavourful. You may thin it out using a little water before using it, but this might make the flavours less intense. I use it as is.
11. This hot sauce is similar in taste to Sriracha sauce or store-bought red chilli sauce. You can use it in sandwiches or fried rice, as a dip for momos, spring rolls or samosas, in Thai salads and Chinese stir-fries, as a spread for fusion dosas or rolls, as a marinade for vegetables, tofu or paneer.
12. Make sure this sauce is prepared in a well-ventilated kitchen. The fumes from the chillies were manageable to handle for me, largely because I had my kitchen balcony and windows wide open.
13. The Fresno chillies I used were only moderately hot, so I was able to handle them without gloves. If you are not used to handling hot chillies, I would highly recommend wearing kitchen gloves.
I’m super excited to have gotten this right! Very soon, I will tell you about the very interesting ways in which I used this home-made red chilli sauce.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!