Do your taste buds ever get bored? Or maybe you just want to live más? If so, consider this your official invitation to complete the AVLtoday Hot Sauce Challenge.
The AVLtoday team went on a mission to sample every hot sauce in Asheville (read: the 20+ that we were able to track down). Here’s what we tried and how we reacted to each of these potent, peppery little vials.
We be so impressed by the sauces we sampled from local chef and UNC Asheville graduate Colin Wiebe. City Editor Laura needed at least a minute to compose herself after trying the Carolina Reaper and Thai Chili-Garlic — and according to Colin’s website, those had heat levels of 7.8 and 8.7, respectively. If you really want to light up your taste buds, seek out the Tropical Reaper Sauce, which has a 8.8 heat level.
Did you know that our beloved Caribbean fusion restaurant also slings hot sauce? All three bottles — Hempress Rising, Sun is Shining, and Red-i — dazzled us with their lively flavors + thick robust heat. We were particularly impressed by the Hempress, which layers green delight upon delight with its blend of tomatillo, jalapenos, habaneros, and faint hits of thyme.
This is the local hot sauce we received the most emails about, which we think is a pretty high endorsement. The spiciest batch available from this maker is the Running with the Reaper, which contains the Carolina Reaper pepper (known for holding the Guinness World Record for spiciest pepper in the world).
The Mango Blaze — a smooth combo of spicy and tropical sweet which would pair nicely with fish tacos— was City Editor Laura’s favorite. There’s also Original, Green Glow, and Smokejumper available — whatever you pick, you really can’t go wrong.
While not the spiciest around, these fermented sauces make for a quintessential farmers market purchase: they’re alive with bubbly probiotics and all go down quite gently. City Editor Laura loves drizzling the Red or Habanero-flavored hot sauce over eggs, toast, and hash browns. You can also snag the sauce in Green or Chipotle.
This creative suite of sauces, crafted by local musician + comedian Larry Williams, exudes tropical + refreshing energy with flavors like Jalapeno Kiwi, Molten Strawberry, Lemon Pepper, and Original. Multi-City Editor Emily S. especially loves the Lemon Pepper and recommends using it as a marinade for vegetables, fish, or poultry. Pro tip: Larry also makes his own ranch, BBQ sauce, jerk seasoning, and specialty cookies.
If you’re a regular consumer of hot sauce and want something that will shock, go for Ghost Dog. The Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce packs a punch with spritely citrus and the strong, vaguely sweet Scotch bonnet pepper. And if you’re a fan of ginger, go for the Ginger Fatali. Warning though: it brings a slow, menacing burn that may have you sweating (or crying) after a few seconds.
Yeah, you’ve probably guzzled a few (or way more) of this iconic breakfast chain’s biscuits and gravy. But this local franchise offers more than just comfort foods. The biscuit house’s Grilled Jalapeño Hot Sauce tastes like a salsa verde kicked up a few notches. Other flavors include: Sweet Heat, Blueberry Jalapeño, and Cat Scratch.
This artisan small batch hot sauce, made by Rhubarb Chef Davis Taylor, has a subtle, elegant flavor with fruity, almost sour, accents. It would be the ideal sauce to liven up a picnic — or to accompany home cooked Southern meal on a porch in the summertime.
This 24-ingredient sauce is packed with a variety of sweet, salty + savory notes, including sweet potato, peaches, garlic, and habanero peppers. This one is not overwhelmingly spicy, but certainly leaves a nice tingle on your tongue.
This sauce starts off with a lovely charred, sweet flavor — but don’t be fooled, the ghost, habanero, and jalapeño flavors will come for you in a few moments. There’s no website for the sauce currently, but you can text 828-777-5022 to purchase a $6 bottle or a 12-pack case for $64.
Bonus bottles we didn’t get to sample
We didn’t get a chance to try The Grey Eagle’s Cheerwine Habanero sauce or the products from Smoking J’s, but we’ve heard great things. If we can get our hands on these ones, we’ll update this page accordingly.
Know of any other fuego local hot sauces? Let us know who we’re missing.
And finally: if you scrolled all the way down here, congrats. Here’s special behind-the-scenes footage of myself and Multi-City Editor Emily S. losing our minds during the hot sauce tasting.