Fermented Passion Fruit and Habanero Hot Sauce

Every year I make a fermented guava hot sauce that’s to die for. There’s just something so magical about how chile peppers, fruit, salt, and a bit of time come together to create a hot sauce that’s wonderfully unique and complex. It’s slightly different every time I make it. And while that outcome might be frustrating for some, I love it. This year, I decided to try making a fermented hot sauce with passion fruit. The passion fruit vine that I planted last summer is going absolutely wild, so I felt ok about the potential failure of this experiment. Much to my delight, however, this hot sauce came out great. It’s very hot because it’s made with habanero peppers. But the flavor is superb.

Can I adjust the heat level of this hot sauce?

You sure can! I like to use a combination of hot chiles and sweet banana peppers for my fermented hot sauces. Their flavors blend beautifully, and the banana peppers mellow things out a bit while creating a more complex final result than if I were to use one type of pepper. (If you can’t get ahold of fresh banana peppers, bell peppers will do the trick!)

For this recipe, I used 6oz habanero peppers and 10oz sweet banana peppers. I enjoy a bit of spice, but nothing too intense, so I decided to err on the side of caution since habaneros pack quite a bit of heat. Despite the ratio being heavier on the banana peppers, this sauce is very hot. While I adore the flavor, I can’t eat much of it at once. And that’s fine with me, because fermented foods last for ages in the fridge! But if you’d like to mellow yours out, simply adjust that ratio. 2oz habaneros and 14oz banana peppers should yield a much milder result. 4oz habaneros and 12oz banana peppers should give you something in the mid spice range. There are no hard and fast rules here, so you do you.

Fermentation Basics

Fermentation (specifically lacto-fermentation) is the use of beneficial bacterias to preserve food. Basically, you’re extending the longevity of your food by creating an environment in which healthy bacterias can thrive. A lot of people assume that making fermented foods is expert level cooking. Not so! You need very few tools and ingredients. Fermenting sauerkraut, for instance, only requires shredded cabbage, salt, and a jar! The salt kills the bad bacteria, allowing the remaining good bacteria to transform the food’s natural sugars into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment, which helps to preserve the food over time – and also creates unique flavors.

I can’t delve too much deeper into the science of fermentation, because to be perfectly honest, I’m not an expert. But I will say that the process results in some truly interesting tastes and textures. It’s also really fun (and highly encouraged) to taste and smell your fermenting goods at different stages of the process. Doing so will help you understand how the flavors develop and figure out when they’re ready! There’s no set amount of time for which you should let things ferment – only guidelines. You’ll be the one eating them, so feel free to finish them off once you’re happy with the taste.

Safety and Sanitation

Since you’re literally breeding bacteria here, you want to make sure that you’re doing it safely so you don’t make yourself and others sick. First and foremost, you’ll want to do is clean everything thoroughly before getting started. There are a couple of ways you can do this. The safest is with boiling water. Alternately, you can clean things with dish soap so long as it’s not antibacterial. Remember, we want bacteria to thrive in this jar.

As I mentioned earlier, you can ferment using minimal tools. That said, I love these air lock fermentation lids, as they reduce the risk of mold while also alleviating the pent up gas and pressure that builds during the process. 

If you opt not to use an air lock lid, you have a couple of options. Cheesecloth over the mouth of your jar, bound by a rubber band, should do the trick. You can also just screw the jar’s lid on, but be aware that carbonation will build as your sauce ferments, so you’ll need to “burp” your jar daily. In English, that means you’ll need to briefly remove and replace the lid every day so your jars don’t build up too much pressure and explode.

Apart from that, just be on the lookout for mold! Basically, if you see anything black and fuzzy start to grow in your jar, it’s best to toss it and start over. Better safe than sorry. I know this may sound scary, but trust me – it’s very easy to avoid any of these pitfalls. I’ve personally never exploded any jars, and I’ve really only had mold pop up a couple of times toward the beginning of my fermentation journey.

Ok, so how do I make this hot sauce?

You’ll be pleased to learn that this hot sauce is really easy to make. Simply stem the peppers, halve and strain the passion fruit, and peel the garlic. Then throw it all in a blender with salt and blend until smooth. Store it in a jar for a few weeks (3 is my personal go to), trying (and burping, if necessary) it every so often. When you’re happy with the flavor, stir in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and move it to the fridge! Easy peasy, just the way I like it.

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Fermented Passion Fruit and Habanero Hot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 6 oz Habaneros
  • 10 oz Sweet banana peppers
  • 3 Passion fruits (strained)
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  • Stem the peppers and peel the garlic. Then place in a blender along with the strained passion fruit and sea salt. Blend until smooth.
  • Transfer blended hot sauce to a clean glass jar with either an air lock, a cheesecloth, or a regular jar lid. Put it somewhere cool and dark and let sit for a few weeks (I usually let mine go for 3, but you can go longer if you'd like).
  • Check on your hot sauce regularly. If it starts to bubble, don't be alarmed – that's a good sign and means that there's some fermentation action happening. If the sauce starts to develop air pockets from the carbonation, push them down with a spoon. If you used a regular jar lid, you'll want to open it daily (or every couple of days) to release some air. This is known as burping.
  • Make sure to also try your hot sauce every so often. Once you're happy with the flavor, mix in 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, then add a lid and move to the fridge.

So yes, this recipe takes 3 or so weeks to make. But aren’t you delighted by how easy the process is?! If you give it a try, let me know in the comments or on Instagram! I always love hearing from you. And if you’re looking for a fermented hot sauce recipe with a little less heat, give my fermented guava hot sauce a try.

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