Hot sauce has been helping mediocre dishes reach full potential for over 6000 years. It all started in Latin America.
In between human sacrifices, the Mayans likely topped their Annie’s shells and white cheddar with a few squirts of habañero sauce. The Incas, Aji Amarillo for their egg-in-a-holes. And jalapeño for the Aztecs’ Freschetta.
Luckily, some thoughtful capitalists in 1800s northeast United States decided to package them up and mass market them so ordinary citizens like you and I can continue this tradition. We’ve gone through and tasted all six of Trader Joe’s hot sauces and ranked them in order from our least to most favorite. Admittedly, six is not very many hot sauces, but we love Trader Joe’s and felt the need to do the work for you.
#6 CHILI PEPPER SAUCE
The vagueness of this hot sauce’s name hints at its uninspiring flavor. It tastes like Joe just boiled down a pot of spicy chili and bottled it as sauce. This might attract some, but we’d rather just eat a bowl of delicious, honest chili with a better hot sauce on top.
#5 SRIRACHA SAUCE
We can’t speak to this sauce’s true authenticity, but it definitely does not taste like the gold-standard Huy Fong Foods (rooster brand) sriracha. It’s considerably sweeter, less spicy and tastes very strongly of garlic powder. Why not just buy the good stuff?
#4 GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE
This hot sauce suffers from a similar problem to the Chili Pepper sauce, it doesn't feel like a hot sauce. It’s honestly more of a salsa. And that reminds us, from the sriracha-esque branding of this bottle, one might believe that this will have an “Asian” flavoring style. Do not be mislead, this is definitely more of a “Mexican” sauce -- it’s major ingredients are jalapeño, tomatillo and cilantro. Probably would have gotten a higher score if it wasn’t having an identity crisis.
#3 JALAPEÑO HOT SAUCE
Everyone needs a best friend and a go-to hot sauce, right? This is a well balanced, fairly spicy option that gives you the heat you want with the right amount of tang. While it's a fair choice for any occasion, the flavor truly shines during breakfast (unless you’re eating a danish).
#2 HABAÑERO HOT SAUCE
If you're an adrenaline junkie looking for a thrill, this is your guy. But in the realm of super spicy sauces, we like this one because of its warm, slightly smokey flavor. Warning: facials sweats, hiccups and swearing may ensue.
#1 YUZU HOT SAUCE
This gem of a sauce took the cake completely...can't believe we’d never had it before. It’s literally going on everything, from bagels and cream cheese to Samin Nosrat’s roast chicken. Vinegar based with tons of citrus, this sauce not only adds a bit of heat to your food, it provides the acidic finish that's often missing. If you haven't ventured into vinegary hot sauces before, this is your ticket.
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TLDR: Some of Trader Joe's hot sauces are actually pretty good. We don't recommend their Chili Pepper sauce, Sriracha or Green Dragon hot sauce because they're kind of gnarly. We do condone and support the use of the Jalapeño, Habañero and Yuzu hot sauces though. Stay saucy friends.