Serrano Pepper Hot Sauce Recipe

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When you grow your own serrano peppers in the garden, you’re often left with an abundance of pepper pods to use up. In my experience, serranos can produce dozens of peppers per plant! Hot sauces, jellies, and ferments are some of the best ways to put your harvests to use.

My fresh homemade serrano pepper hot sauce recipe is extra spicy and tangy with a touch of sweetness. It’s a versatile sauce that can be used to spice up a variety of dishes.

Serrano pepper hot sauce

For the best tasting sauces and recipes, I always recommend growing your own peppers and harvesting them at the right time. The flavor will vary depending on how ripe the serranos are and the conditions they’re grown in.

Recipe highlights

  • Fresh serrano peppers and tomatillos from the garden come together for a bright and complex flavor.
  • This is a seriously spicy hot sauce that packs quite a bit more heat than our jalapeño hot sauce recipe. It’s great for spice addicts!
  • Customize the sauce by swapping in different peppers for more or less heat. Also, you can scale it up (or down) to make the right amount for your needs.
  • Using an abundance of peppers from the garden at harvest time can be tricky. This is the perfect way to use them up before they spoil (each batch uses around 20 serrano peppers!). The sauce will last in the fridge for many months, and even longer with proper water bath canning.
Serrano pepper hot sauce

How to make serrano hot sauce

This sauce is easy to make and follows the same formula as many of our other recipes. Ingredients are charred over heat and then blended with flavorful spices and white vinegar for acidity.

Begin by charring the serrano peppers, garlic, and onion on a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. This adds depth and flavor to the sauce and takes 5-10 minutes. Be sure to turn the ingredients until they are charred on all sides.

Note: If you do not have a cast iron skillet, a non-stick pan will also work. Or, you can use the flame from a gas stove or grill. If you have a smoker, you could smoke the peppers and onions for an hour or so.

Charring ingredients

Once the ingredients are charred, transfer them to a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until peppers and onions soften up.

Add the chopped ginger, tomatillo, and sugar to the saucepan. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes until the ginger is tender.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Then, add 1 cup of white vinegar along with the salt, lime juice, and smoked paprika to a high-powered blender. Blend for at least 1 minute on high until it reaches a smooth texture.

Serrano peppers and onions in blender

Add additional vinegar if needed until your desired consistency is met. Taste the hot sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt, sugar, and/or lime juice for your desired flavor profile.

Strain the blended sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids. This step is optional, but recommended for a splashy hot sauce. I prefer to include this step when working with ginger which can be fibrous.

Transfer to bottles or mason jars and allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, or preserve with your favorite method of canning.

Serrano pepper hot sauce

Recipe notes and FAQs

How hot is this serrano pepper hot sauce? Serrano peppers clock in at about 15,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This level varies depending on the individual pepper. Using serrano peppers alone, we consider this sauce pretty spicy. It’s spicier than a jalapeño hot sauce but less spicy than a habanero hot sauce.

Are serrano peppers hotter than jalapeños? Serrano peppers are quite a bit hotter than jalapeño peppers. Jalapeño peppers max out at about 8,000 SHUs. You can make this sauce a bit less spicy by using 1/2 jalapeño peppers and 1/2 serranos.

How long does the hot sauce last? When stored in a sterilized jar or bottle and refrigerated, the hot sauce can last for up to 6 months. Be sure to check for any signs of spoilage before consuming (mold or funky smells). You can can this recipe for long-term preservation using your favorite water bath method.

Can I skip charring the ingredients? Charring adds depth and complexity to the flavor of the hot sauce, and I would not recommend skipping this step.

Is it necessary to strain the hot sauce? Straining the hot sauce helps achieve a smoother consistency by removing any solids. However, if you prefer a chunkier texture, you can skip this step or strain the sauce to your desired level of smoothness.

Can I freeze the hot sauce for long-term storage? Yes, you can freeze the hot sauce in an airtight container for longer storage. Be sure to leave some space at the top of the container to allow for expansion, and thaw the sauce in the refrigerator before using.

Why is my hot sauce bitter? The seeds and pith of the peppers can contribute to a bitter taste. Additionally, using peppers that were harvested too early can also make your hot sauce bitter. You can balance out the flavor with more sweetness from fruit or sugar. Use red ripe peppers for the best flavor.

I love experimenting in the kitchen and using fresh homegrown ingredients. If you make this hot sauce, be sure to leave a star rating below and let us know how you liked it.

Other hot sauce recipes

These hot sauce recipes use fresh hot peppers from the garden:

Serrano pepper hot sauce

Serrano Hot Sauce

This serrano pepper hot sauce uses fresh peppers and tomatillos from the garden. It's bright, spicy and flavorful.
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 15 oz


  • 1/2 lb. serrano peppers stemmed (approximately 20)
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil for charring
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  • 1 tomatillo husked and chopped
  • 1 cup white vinegar plus extra to thin the sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika optional, for smoky flavor



  • Bring a cast iron skillet to medium high heat. Add the olive oil and char the serrano peppers, garlic, and onion for about 5-10 minutes, turning the ingredients occasionally to blacken evenly.
  • Once charred, transfer the peppers, garlic, and onion to a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer lightly for 10-15 minutes, until peppers and onions are softened.
  • Add the chopped ginger, tomatillo, and sugar to the saucepan. Continue to simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes until the ginger is tender. Most of the liquid should be evaporated.
  • Remove the saucepan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Then, transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender. Add 1 cup of white vinegar, salt, lime juice, and smoked paprika.
  • Blend the mixture until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a bit more white vinegar to reach your desired consistency.
  • Taste the hot sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt, sugar, or lime juice to balance the flavors.
  • Once satisfied with the taste and consistency, strain the hot sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any solids. This step is optional, but I recommend it for a more splashy sauce.
  • Transfer the strained hot sauce into sterilized bottles or jars. Allow it to cool completely before sealing tightly.
  • Store the hot sauce in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.


  • Feel free to swap out some of the serranos for other peppers, but try to keep the weight about the same. For example, use 1/4 lb serranos and 1/4 lb bell peppers for a less-spicy version of the hot sauce.
  • Do not slice the peppers before charring them – this will cause capsaicin to release into the air, potentially causing breathing discomfort.
  • For less bitterness, remove the seeds from the peppers after charring.

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