Hot sauce sales have increased by 150% since 2000, more than all other condiments combined. A market that once saw little variation is now a billion dollar industry, helping Americans add a spectrum of multicultural flavors to their regular meals. Hot sauce has produced a flurry of fanfare in recent years, acquiring a cult following of courageous palates that are willing to travel across the country to find and collect different varieties. There is a little something for everyone, with hot sauces ranging in flavor from the white hot Carolina Reaper to the milder jalapeno. And with such a diverse assortment still growing every day, there is no denying that the hot sauce business is heating up.

formulating hot sauce

How is Hot Sauce Made?

The hot sauce manufacturing process starts with choosing peppers based on the manufacturer’s preferred flavor, spiciness and ability to source. Once selected, these peppers are then salted before sitting in batches to ferment for months without air exposure. The added salt acts as a preservative to protect from microbial growth as the peppers ripen over time. The resulting mash is strained, the salt content is diluted to about 6% by adding water, and the pH is adjusted to about 3.0 by adding vinegar. Once individual flavorings and seasonings have been added, the product is jarred or bottled for consumers.

Effects of Gums on Hot Sauce Texture

When gums like xanthan are added to a hot sauce formulation, they not only increase stability, but they also positively impact the texture of the sauce. Below are some of the texture attributes that we've identified as being key drivers to a successful hot sauce formulation:



Examples (Low/High)

Viscosity (Mechanical)

Visible thickness upon swirling 3 times in the sample cup

water vs sweetened condensed milk

Adhesiveness (Mechanical)

Degree to which the product sticks to fingers water

dessert gel vs peanut butter

Visual Separation/Visual Liquid

The amount of visual liquid perceived on the top or around the sample; amount of visual liquid separation

mayonnaise vs fruit on the bottom yogurt

Mechanical adhesiveness is an especially important texture attribute in hot sauce formulations because higher adhesiveness means more sauce sticks to foods like chicken wings instead of sliding off and accumulating on the plate.

Common food gums chart

Factors to Consider When Formulating with Gums

Manufacturers turn to gums to stabilize and texturize thinner pepper mash that will eventually be turned into hot sauce. Because of the amount of water required for diluting the salt in the pepper mash solution, the addition of food hydrocolloids is critical for reaching the desired final viscosity.

As a food manufacturer, you understand the many factors that must be taken into consideration when formulating a hot sauce using food gums:

  • pH--aside from xanthan, few other gums can tolerate the low pH environment of hot sauce
  • Presence of other ingredients--namely salt and vinegar in the case of hot sauce, can adversely impact the hydration of gums
  • Processing methods--other factors like heating temperatures and mixing times and speeds will often directly impact the final texture

Incorporating Gums without Forming Lumps

One of the most common questions we are asked about hot sauce manufacturing involves ways to effectively disperse xanthan gum without lumping or “fish eyes.” The clumps that can form when adding powdered gums are difficult, if not impossible, to re-incorporate into the final product. Therefore, these lumps are often removed and discarded, resulting in wasted ingredient and quality defects like subpar texture and stability.

There are options for altering production procedures that will help reduce lumps and facilitating the smooth incorporation of Xanthan, however, these methods are often time consuming and tedious.

No matter the type, gums are more effective when they are added to a tank of mixing water first and allowed to fully hydrate. They are not considered “self-sufficient” until they are at least 50% hydrated so allowing them 5-10 minutes to reach this level will work wonders for the amount of gum you will need and its efficacy. Once other ingredients are added, the acidity and salinity stops the viscosity building-process. For this reason, rushing can lead to the unnecessary addition of excess gum.

For the full run-down on gum incorporation, long and short, check out our best practices for gum hydration.

The chemistry involved during the early stages of production heavily determines the final product’s quality and consistency. By taking advantage of some of the formulation factors discussed earlier like pH and processing, you can easily optimize the levels of food gums necessary to achieve the desired texture for your hot sauce while reducing waste.

Use Agglomerated Gums for Easier Incorporation

We have been working with sauce manufacturers for decades and helped many customers address concerns related to lumping and dispersion. Often the solution is an agglomerated xanthan gum like our Pre-Hydrated® Ticaxan® Rapid-3 or FASTir® Xanthan EC which are designed disperse more evenly and with fewer lumps than ordinary xanthan powder.

To talk with a Gum Guru® on our technical service team about your specific texture and stability needs, call our technical support hotline at (800) 899-3953/+1(410) 273-7300 or click to chat online


Download: White Paper--Case Study: Agglomerated Xanthan Gum in a Fat-Free Salad Dressing

Video: Agglomerated Xanthan Offers Efficiency Solutions

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