Mar 3, 2024 - Food and Drink

The Twin Cities' best "under-the-radar" hot sauces: You recommended them; we tried them

Three people with white skin pose for a photograph sit around a restaurant table holding up chips covered in red sauce.

The Twin Cities team tasting hot sauces. For you. For journalism. Photo: Torey Van Oot/Axios

We put out the call for Axios readers' favorite under-the-radar hot sauces in the Twin Cities and, lordy, did you deliver.

Torey, Nick and I got together at Malcolm Yards in Minneapolis to taste test a few of your picks. We bought some tortilla chips and a palate cleanser: some pickled ginger. (Uffda, we needed it.)

How it works: We picked a handful of the sauces to rate using our "five-flame" rating system.

  • The rating is our review of the sauce's spice level, not quality. The more flames, the hotter it is.

The taste test entries

Saint City Chili, Gigi's Ghost: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • "It starts out kind of sweet, and then it brings the heat into that sweet," our poet, Nick, says of the pineapple-based sauce.

Mr. Fuzz's, Nuclear Nectar: πŸ”₯

  • "Vegetal," was Torey's description for it. (I had to look that word up in the dictionary.) If you're not into super-spicy sauces, this might be your best bet: fresh, green, with a pickled quality.

Miss Jenny's Hot Sauce, 7-Pot Scorn: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • Your brain sees its thickness and thinks pizza sauce. Then, the engines kick in.

Sembo's Sauce, Mushroom Umami: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • "A little funky," says Torey, who suggests it on veggie tacos. I think this one brings out the best in a fried egg.

Lovejoy's, Burn Yo Face: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • Like bloody mary mix in a sauce β€” which makes sense, because Lovejoy's makes that, too. Smoky black-pepper taste. Late-arriving kick.

Nuanced Hot Sauce, The Original: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • "It has balance with some brightness to it," Torey says, with a good "habanero-ey-ness." Definitely a word.

Firebox Barbecue, Mama's Heat: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

  • We closed our taste test with Vang's pepper paste. Like me, Nick and Torey found it hot β€” and complex. "It's almost herbal," Torey says. (Vang called that "minty-ness.")

The fine print: We couldn't test all of the two dozen different Twin Cities sauces readers recommended, so we picked those seven based mainly on availability and access.

You also recommended…

Restaurant recommendations

We also heard from people sharing their favorite restaurants with hot condiments.

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