When I decided to taste-test pumpkin-flavored hot sauces this fall I figured the undertaking would be an exercise in comedy. The thought of pumpkin and hot peppers combining for the taste of regret was inevitable. This review would provide ample material to rail against the autumnal pumpkin-ness of everything.
I should have known better.
America’s hot sauce game is strong – and it has to be. There are easier ways to make a buck than running a hot sauce company. You have to put out good product, or you won’t be around for long. The market is crowded. The talent is national.
Like I said, I should have known better. Not only were the six hot sauces I sampled palatable, they were damn good.
Each of these would make a great addition to a hot sauce lover’s Thanksgiving table.
Even the panang. The what? Read on…
BLIND BETTY’S ORIGINAL RECIPE
Out of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Blind Betty’s Original Recipe is not even trying to be a “pumpkin hot sauce.” It’s a hot sauce that happens to have pumpkin in it. Blind Betty’s blends Caribbean spices with flavors such as pumpkin, apple, tomato, carrots, onions and, for the heat, habaneros. This one should be a fall staple for all hot sauce lovers.
APINYA PUMPKIN PANANG THAI CHILI SAUCE
Panang is a type of mild Thai curry, and on first bite you just want to spread this stuff all over some chicken and vegetables. Apinya Pumpkin Panang has all the Thai goodness you’d expect: coconut milk, chilies, garlic, fish sauce, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. Would go great with turkey and stuffing.
PEPPER PALACE JACK THE REAPER
Out of Tennessee, Jack the Reaper is for the fall purist – with heaps of actual pumpkin as well as apple cider, apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. The peppers are of the ghost and reaper variety, and you will notice them not when you first taste but when you swallow and your throat combusts into flame.
If you like this one, you might also like: PEPPER PALACE PUMPKIN STOUT It’s like Jack the Reaper, except with a stout beer taste, and milder. If you don’t like stout beer, steer clear. But if you do, you’ll enjoy the pumpkin, stout beer, chipotle, cocoa and coffee flavors.
SGT. PEPPER’S EL CHIPOTLE PICANTE PUMPKIN
Sgt. Pepper’s claims this hot sauce goes well with smoked meats, turkey, sweet potatoes, soups, stews, cream cheese, pumpkin pie and cheesecake. And you know what? I can see it. The chipotle and pumpkin mesh beautifully. This Texas hot sauce is sweet, smoky and relatively mild.
SIZZLIN SAUCES HOWLIN’ HOLLAR HOT SAUCE WITH PUMPKIN
Very hot and very sweet, probably because the main ingredients are organic tomato ketchup and habanero peppers, which are accompanied by pumpkin, honey, white wine and a veritable grocery list of ingredients. Ketchup? White wine? Whatever. Howlin’ Hollar works – as long as you like your hot sauce on the spicy side.
DOG-GONE PUMPKIN SPICE HOT SAUCE
Dog-Gone, which operates out of Florida, donates 100 percent of all after-tax profits to animal shelters. You have to like that. This particular pumpkin hot sauce is powered by ghost peppers and flavored with cinnamon. Which means it smells exactly like a damn pumpkin pie – easily one of the top-5 smells of all time.
Hot sauce makers: Given the sheer number of hot sauces in production today, it would be impossible for me to try all of them. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. If you make hot sauce and you’d like it considered for a Playboy.com review, mail samples to:
Joe Donatelli, Senior Editor
9346 Civic Center Drive, Suite 200
Beverly Hills, CA, 90210
You can check out more of Playboy’s hot sauce coverage here.