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18 October 2017

This hot sauce recipe uses serrano peppers that have been fermented, then processed with vinegar, garlic, tequila and lime juice. It is juicy, tart and just the right amount of spicy.

More hot sauce coming at you, my friends. If you can believe it, our garden is STILL producing peppers because of this phenomenal weather we’ve been having. I know cold weather is on the way, but we’ve been a bit lucky here in zone 5 this year and I’m reaping the benefits.

I grew serrano peppers this year and HOLY WOW did they go wild. I only planted a single plant and that plant has produced marvelously. If you’re going to grow peppers, be sure to include a serrano plant. One of the most productive plants in the garden.

The big question, though, when growing serrano peppers is…

What Can I Do With a LOT of Serrano Peppers?

Here’s an idea for you. Make HOT SAUCE.


Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe

This is a fermented hot sauce recipe and it requires an entire pound of serrano peppers, which may not seems like a lot of weight, but it takes quite a few serrano peppers to weigh 1 pound.

To Ferment or Use Fresh Peppers?

If you’re not comfortable with fermenting (you SHOULD be, though), you CAN make this hot sauce with fresh serrano peppers. Just skip steps 1-4 in the recipe. Start by processing the peppers in a food processor, then jump to step 5 and make your serrano hot sauce.

It will still be a good hot sauce, for sure, but you’ll have a fresher, greener flavor that is not quite as developed that you achieve by fermenting.

Check out my page on How to Make Fermented Pepper Mash to learn more about why you should be fermenting chili peppers.

Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe

Fermented hot sauces are mellower and have a deeper flavor, so I’ve been fermenting a LOT of chili peppers this year for hot sauces.

This is actually a hot sauce for Patty, because she tends to lean toward green hot sauces and seasonings. I tend to favor vibrant red and orange sauces, but Patty loves her serrano peppers.

So here you go, Patty! She loves this one. It is slightly garlicky and tart and distinctive with the addition of tequila, something else Patty loves.

Recipe Notes

Quick note – After you strain out the solids to thin out the hot sauce, you can throw the solids away, OR — dehydrate them and use them for seasoning.

Those solids still have plenty of life left in them, and hey, what a great way to make some homemade seasonings for yourself? Sprinkle it over foods or use it as a rub. It would be GREAT on chicken. Give it a little ZING, right?

I hope you enjoy the hot sauce! Let me know how it turns out for you.

Check out my other Hot Sauce Recipes, too.

— Mike H.

Frequently Asked Hot Sauce Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions I get on other sauces:

How long will this sauce keep?

It should keep a few months easily in the fridge, or even longer. It’s all about the acidity. To be technical, target level ph for shelf stable foods is below 4.6 ph, but should probably be lower for home cooks, around 4.0 or so, to account for errors. If you’re concerned, add more vinegar to lower the ph. Sauces made with fermented chili peppers will last even longer.

The best ph meters that I recommend are from Thermoworks. Get yourself a ph meter from Thermoworks today. I am a happy affiliate.

Where’d you get that sauce bottle?

I find them locally sometimes, but I also order through Amazon. Here is a link to some bottles I like (affiliate link, my friends!): Swing Top Glass Bottles, 8.5 Ounce – Set of 4. If you like the smaller bottles that most hot sauce makers use, here’s another link: Hot Sauce Bottles, 5 Oz – 24 Pack.

Can I process this hot sauce for longer storage?

Absolutely. Just be sure to use proper canning/jarring safety procedures.

What should I do with hot sauce?

Aside from drizzling it over anything you please, here’s a post I did about How to Cook with Hot Sauce. As if you need even MORE reasons to eat hot sauce. I hope you find it helpful!

Check out These Related Recipes:

Try Some of My Popular Serrano Recipes

Check out more Hot Sauce Recipes or learn more about How to Make Hot Sauce.

Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe

If you try this recipe, please let us know! Leave a comment, rate it and tag a photo #ChiliPepperMadness on Instagram so we can take a look. I always love to see all of your spicy inspirations. Thanks! — Mike H.

4.92 from 12 votes
Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe
Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Fermenting Time
7 d
Total Time
30 mins
This hot sauce recipe uses serrano peppers that have been fermented, then processed with vinegar, garlic, tequila and lime juice. It is juicy, tart and just the right amount of spicy.
Course: Main Course, Salsa
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fermented, hot sauce, serrano
Servings: 20
Calories: 13 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
  • 1 pound serrano peppers
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 quart unchlorinated water
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 ounces white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • Juice from 1 lime
  1. First, ferment the serrano peppers. Process your fresh peppers in a food processor. If you don’t have a processor, use a mortar and pestle or simply finely chop them. Pack them into a jar, leaving at least 1 inch of head space. The peppers may rise a bit when fermenting.
  2. Next, mix 1 quart unchlorinated water with 3 tablespoons sea salt. Pour just enough brine over the peppers to cover them, pressing them down a bit as you go. Itis important to keep the peppers covered with brine to avoid spoilage. Check this daily.
  3. Screw on the lid and set the jar away from direct sunlight to ferment for at least 1 week. Ideal temperatures are between 55-75 degrees F. The most active fermentation period is between 1-2 weeks, sobe sure to monitor it during this time. “Burp” the jars often by unscrewing the lid a bit to let out some of the accumulating gases. Or, use an airlock or membrane for easier fermenting. See our page, “How to Make Fermented Pepper Mash”, for further instruction.
  4. After 1-2 weeks, the fermenting activity will diminish and the brine will turn cloudy and taste acidic.
  5. Pour the fermented serrano peppers, including brine, into a pot along with garlic, vinegar and tequila. Bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Cool slightly then add to a food processor with the lime juice. Process until smooth.
  7. Strain the mixture to remove the solids. Pour into hot sauce bottles and enjoy.
Nutrition Facts
Spicy Serrano Hot Sauce – Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 13
% Daily Value*
Sodium 1051mg44%
Potassium 70mg2%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Vitamin A 215IU4%
Vitamin C 10.3mg12%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 0.2mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
icy Serrano Hot Sauce Recipe - This hot sauce recipe uses serrano peppers that have been fermented, then processed with vinegar, garlic, tequila and lime juice. It is juicy, tart and just the right amount of spicy. | ChiliPepperMadness.com #HotSauce #Recipe #Serrano #Peppers #SpicyFood


  1. Rebecca Cossio

    5 stars
    Hi there, this sounds delicious, since I won’t be doing the fermenting process, should I blanch the peppers first or would you recommend keeping them fresh?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Rebecca, you don’t have to blanch the peppers, as you will still be cooking the ingredients down for 15 minutes to bring the flavors together, though you can if you want to. Let me know how turns out for you.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi, if I don’t have a mason jar is it ok to ferment the peppers in a clean plastic yogurt container with a lid on it? It’s not as airtight as a screw top jar but all I have.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Chris, I have not fermented in plastic containers. Plastic isn’t ideal as it is permeable to oxygen, so not good for long term. I would use glass or jars made specifically for fermenting.

  3. Hi Mike,

    I had 3 plants that produced Serrano peppers and I looked up a hot sauce recipe and this one jumped right out at me! I started to brine the peppers last Saturday and plan to make the hot sauce this Sunday.
    Looking back just now at your directions I hope I didnt mess up. I only cut the peppers into slices instead of processing them before fermenting. I also added the garlic cloves into the brine mixture while fermenting. I hope it doesnt effect the taste too much.
    Thank you for the recipe!!!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hey, Frank. Slices is totally fine. They’re actually easier to keep below the brine. You just can’t fit quite as many, but all good. Garlic is good, too. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  4. 5 stars
    This looks like an excellent base recipe.
    I have 4 serrano plants in the greenhouse with so many peppers I don’t know what to do with them all. Already pickled a nice big batch but have loads left. Will get the rest picked in the next few days and start fermenting.
    Not too big on tequila personally but my mind is already racing with slight variations.
    Many thanks for the recipe, I’ll let you know how mine turns out and what other flavours I add.

  5. Emily Ferri

    5 stars
    My hubby and I made this recipe with two variations in ingredients! I’ll start with mine and describe some of the problems I ran into – and how we conquered it!
    My recipe:
    I followed the recipe almost to a t, adding a bit of honey (1 tablespoon) and distilled water to the food processor step, and I produced roughly three 5 fl oz bottles. The recipe is definitely spicy, but super flavorful.

    My hubby:
    From the start, he added Thai Basil to the fermenting process, roughly 2 condensed cups of Thai Basil. After the fermenting process ended, he also put a full bulb of garlic in the oven to roast it with oil and pepper for one hour, while roasting the garlic he sauteed about a 1/4 cup of onions and combined all other ingredients into the pot for cooking. Once the garlic was ready to go, we followed steps 5-7 as listed above. He also added about 3 tablespoons of honey to his during processing.

    Both hot sauces came out great! #chilipeppermadness

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Great, Emily! Glad you enjoyed them, and I love your variations. Very nice! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Brian, you can try to strain out some of the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, or you can process the batch with more peppers and ingredients to thicken it up. Or, add the sauce to a pot and simmer it to reduce the liquid, then cool and re-bottle. Let me know if this helps.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Keri, you should be able to if you can seal it properly. It’s best kept in the fridge in bottles that you can cap.

  6. I followed the instructions and made this recipe including fermenting the serranos for 12 days. I did not have reposado tequila but had a white tequila which I used. The end product tastes very bitter. Was it the tequila?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Bu, some peppers can produce a bitterness from fermenting, especially the greener peppers. You can cut some of that if you reprocess the batch with a bit of sugar or honey.

  7. Katherine Gaspar

    5 stars
    Hi Mike,

    I made this last year since I had a bumper crop of serrano peppers. This was the best hot sauce I every had. My family can’t wait till I make some more. I am trying it this year with a combination of peppers, cayenne, banana and serranos. Can’t wait to try it. It is fermenting now. Thanks again for such clear instructions. I have tried fermenting before but here I am at it again!!!

  8. Hi Mike,

    I really want to try this one using a mixture of green and red serrano peppers. Is the recipe as is at the pH level for BWB canning? It makes a lot, and I need to be able to store it at room temperature.

    Take care,

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Mark, it should be, though it is best to measure with a good pH meter to be sure.

  9. Hey! I’m straining my batch right now and I’m super pumped to dehydrate the solids. I was going to use my dehydrator, should I use parchment paper under it? How do you do it?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Robin, you can use parchment paper if you don’t have solid sheets. I use little dehydrator sheets that I purchased. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  10. Hi. I’m slightly confused. Do you use a mash or do you ferment them with the method described? And, if you use the mash, do you cook it thereafter or just mix in the remainder of the ingredients? Thank you.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Maria, yes, you first ferment the peppers. Then, after fermentation, cook them with the other ingredients to stop the ferment and let the new ingredients meld. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  11. DUDE. I’m super stoked to find your website and cannot wait to try this recipe. All the best! Keep it spicy!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Awesome, Jen! Glad you found us! I hope you enjoy the sauce.

  12. 5 stars
    Simply amazing! Allow the sauce to render until your desired viscosity it achieve! 3rd time making and it never fails.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Kris! Glad you’re loving it! I love this hot sauce recipe. Great stuff!

  13. What do you suppose I use instead of tequila if I don’t like that flavor? More vinegar or water?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Tony, you can skip the tequila and use a bit more vinegar if you’d like. Or, try using a light rum.

  14. Steven W Taylor

    5 stars
    Okay This is amazing. I can definitely attest to the goodness of the fermented peppers. Dang this stuff rocks! Thanks so much for it!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Scott, no, there is no need to stir them as long as everything is submerged under the brine.

  15. After I boil the mixture and strain it, Does the resulting hot sauce need to be refrigerated?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Maggie, I like to keep mine in the refrigerator for safe keeping. Some people leave theirs out. Be sure to check the PH. It should be below 4.0 minimum.

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Steve, you can use ph strips, but it’s better to use a ph meter.

  16. Hey Mike,
    I’ve made a couple batches using ghosts and various other peppers and found it to be too thick (almost a paste). Is there a good rule of thumb for a liquid (water/vinegar) to solid ratio?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Steven, not really a rule of thumb, but you can easily add in water to thin it out to your preference. Let me know how that works out for you.

  17. 5 stars
    Amazing recipe, thank you! Just wondering if straining is necessary or can it be left chunky (the pepper mash, that is)?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hey, PCLAR. Yes, you can leave it chunky. No problem at all. Enjoy!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Bonnie, if it’s a whitish film, it’s most likely kahm yeast, which can be scraped away. If there is a mold that smells really bad, then you may have some spoilage. Trust your nose. If it smells really bad, discard it.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Christie, this should make you about a cup or so, though you can yield more if you don’t strain it. Let me know how it turns out for you.

      1. Michael, I like the idea of not straining. Is there a reason you recommend straining?

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Steve, straining is not required. I don’t always strain. It really just depends on your preferred consistency. The flavor will remain the same.

  18. Hi Ryan,

    I’m making your sauce for the first time. I’m in Australia and our limes are a different variety and somewhat larger than the ones available in Mexico and America I was wondering how much lime juice to use as given the size difference could vary substantially. Thanks in advance. Stephanie

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Stephanie, I would use about 2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 ml) and then you can adjust the recipe from there with more if you’d like. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  19. I love the sound of this recipe. I have fermented sliced veggies in the past, but I am not sure how the minced will work to keep under the brine? Everything floats as it ferments. And if it is too fine it will work its way to the top, resulting in mold. How do you get the peppers to stay below the brine?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Angela, I use a small glass weight that keeps everything under the brine. People use different things, like a large onion slice, thick cabbage leaves, even balloons. If you’re concerned, you can use larger pieces of peppers, though you’ll get more activity with smaller chopped peppers. I hope this helps!

  20. Hello there. I love this recipe! I fermented red Serrano with the garlic and a little bit of dill stems. Quick question. After I fermented them I didn’t boil or add the other ingredients. I just put them into the food processor. Can I still use this hot sauce? Also what to do with the extra brine.
    Thank you.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Anna, you don’t need to boil it. It can be used without the boil. You can use the extra brine to start another ferment, or use it to flavor something else, like a salad dressing or soup. Or it can be composted. Take care.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Rene, tap water often is unfiltered or contains chlorine, which can totally ruin a ferment. Unchlorinated water is needed. If using tap water, you can boil it for about 30 minutes, which should help to evaporate the chlorine. Give that a try and let me know how it goes for you.

  21. Wondering how accurate the 1 pound of peppers is.
    Should I be weighing out the mash before fermentation to get the correct amount or just wing it, or is there a approximate pepper count to come to about a pound?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hi, Ryan – 1 pound is accurate. I used 1 pound for the recipe. By weight is the best way, as the peppers can vary in size. Figure it’s about 5 serrano peppers per ounce, so about 80 pods roughly. It may sound like a lot, but when you process them down and brine them, it isn’t as much as you think. You can reduce the number of peppers and adjust the recipe ratios accordingly.

  22. Can I use frozen Serranos? I had so many last year and not enough time to deal with them.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Dawn, yes, you can use frozen serranos. You might need a fermentation starter, though. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  23. I tried this recipe and my hot sauce seems to be very acidic. Is their something I can do to change this or is it supposed to be this way? I used the fermented process.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Susie, there can be a somewhat acidic taste with fermented peppers. I suggest adding in a bit of honey to sweeten it just a bit. Not too much, but enough to balance out any acidic flavor. You can also mix in other ingredients, such as fruit (like pineapple or mango) or other veggies/seasonings. Let me know how it ultimately turns out.

  24. 5 stars
    Great recipe Mike! My wife and I just harvested our Serrano pepper plant and found your recipe online. We fermented them for one week and followed your instructions. All we can say is WOW! Amazing flavor. I strained this batch and dehydrated the seeds and pulp. This made one of the best seasonings we have ever had as far as a spicy one. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Keep up the great work.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      That’s GREAT, Scott! Thanks for letting me know!

  25. Can’t wait to try this recipe since my Serrano plant has about a zillion peppers I didn’t know what to do with. Any difference if the Serranos turn red on the plant?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Peter. Glad I can help. The red serranos tend to be a slight bit sweeter than green, but you can use them interchangeably. Let me know how it turns out for you!

      1. Loved making this and will definitely try it again, but my final product has a bit of a yeasty/beer-y flavor note, after fermenting for about two weeks. Any idea what I should try next time? Thanks for the recipe!

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Peter, sometimes fermented sauces can have some bitter notes, so I would counter those with other ingredients, such as honey or fruit. You can also incorporate some different seasonings to balance that out as well. Let me know if that helps.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Sorry to hear, Aaron. You can always combine this batch with another to reduce the salt levels.

  26. Ahmed Yusuf


    what can i substitute with tequila because of religious reasons.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hi, Ahmed. You can skip the tequila and include a bit more vinegar and lime juice to compensate. Also, a bit of honey or agave nectar would add a touch of sweetness. Please let me know how it turns out for you.

  27. Hi, belated thanks for this recipe and your replies to my questions. My sauce, made with the scotch bonnet mash instead of the Serranos turned out extremely hot (at first, right on the verge of my spice tolerance!), but surprisingly over time I have grown to like it, not sure if I have got used to it, or if it has mellowed out over the last couple of months. Will be making another batch soon!! I did have to add a bit more tequila and lime to my mixture than recommended, maybe because the scotch bonnets are more overpowering than serranos. Anyway, I recommend this recipe.

  28. I have a lot of serranoes in my freezer can I use them instead of fresh ones

    REPLY: Ken, yes, you can absolutely use frozen peppers in this recipe, though if fermenting, you may need to use a culture starter. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

    1. I’ve found that 15oz is the correct amount when preparing with a friend.
      1.5 of that goes into the recipe, the remainder is shared between the cooks.

  29. Hi, at last, I found a recipe using peppermash, lime juice and tequila!! Thanks so much for posting that, I will be trying this one out, although will peppermash made from scotch bonnets I already have in the fridge. As I I already have the mash made, and I made a large batch of it, can you please advise how many litres/ pints of pepper mash I should measure out to keep in ratio with the measurements of the other ingredients listed above?
    Also, how long can I keep peppermash in the fridge, as it will take us a while to get through it all. it is in Kilner type jars, with the 2 part screw top lids (seperate screw ring and centre round piece). Should think about freezing it, if it is going to be kept for more than a few months? Thanks again for an interesting website, I am new to this pepper mash and hot sauce making.

    REPLY: Hey, Justin. I would use about a cup of prepared mash for this recipe. Also, mash will last a long time in the fridge, at least several months and up to a year or longer. Just be sure to keep it covered. If you’re concerned, add in a bit of vinegar to the mix. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  30. How often do you burp the jars. Is once a day sufficient?

    REPLY: Once a day is good, maybe twice/day in the first week or 2, when the ferment is most active. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

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