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recipe: Fermented chilli sauce

Updated: Mar 8

This bright and punchy chilli sauce is fermented to start with, which brings out a richer, deeper flavour of the chilli, garlic and ginger so that the sauce doesn't just taste of hot. It's a firm favourite in our household so we tend to make several bottles at a time.

Jar containing freshly made garlic, ginger and chilli sauce

To make 1 litre of sauce, you will need a 1.5 litre Kilner jar, and the rough quantities of ingredients shown below.


1. Fill the jar with the ingredients chopped into chunks and press them down.

You need a mix of:

  • Red peppers (Romano is best - they give a vibrant red colour to the finished sauce, add a little sweetness, and stop it being too hot). You can fit 3 to 4 of these in.

  • Fresh or frozen red chillies, include some orange ones if you have them. I use 3 scotch bonnets for flavour and heat, and 8 supermarket red chillis (but make sure the supermarket ones have some heat, they can be a bit insipid sometimes). Last time I threw in 4 orange “Slow Burn” chillis as well.

  • About half a head of garlic, cloves crushed and peeled.

  • A good handful of peeled ginger, chopped.

Change the proportions if you like it hotter, garlickier, or gingerier (those are both definitely real words).


I always remove the seeds because I think it looks nicer. Leaving the chilli seeds in will also make it hotter, so it depends on what level of heat you like.


2. Now fill the jar with cool (not hot!) 5% brine (ie 5g sea salt to 100g water) so that all the ingredients are covered, and put on top a small saucer with a weight, or failing that a plastic bag filled with water, to keep everything submerged under the brine.

Kilner jar containing fermenting ingredients for chilli sauce

3. Close the jar and put it somewhere warm to start to ferment. You will need to burp the jar every day or two to expel the gas generated by the fermentation process. You can stand the jar in the bath (or somewhere similarly wipe-clean) if you are worried it might explode; note that this has never happened to me and shouldn't happen so long as you burp it regularly. Within two days you should see gas bubbles rise when you release the lid of the jar.


After about two weeks, the fermentation will slow down and it's ready for the next stage. The brine will also go cloudy, but this is normal. If at any point it doesn’t smell like a nice fermentation, or goes furry, or turns a worrying colour, throw it away and start again.


4. Drain the brine but keep some for thinning the sauce later.


Whizz up the ingredients in a food processor until it is as smooth as you like your sauce to be. Knowing how hot Scotch Bonnets are I would make sure the bits are very small. Add a couple of gloops of vinegar and enough of the brine to make a thick sauce.


5. To ensure that the fermentation has absolutely stopped and it is safe to bottle, pop the sauce into a saucepan with 30% to 50% of its weight in white sugar (white ensures that the colour remains vibrant) and boil gently for 5-20 minutes depending on how jammy you like it to be. If the sauce is runny, bottle it; if it is thick, put it into jars. This sauce should keep fine in the fridge for a couple of months (assuming that you don't eat it all first).


Oh, and make sure you lick the spoon!



If you try out this recipe, do let us know in the comments how you get on, and also which chillies you used!



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