Island Fire: The Caribbean's Best Hot Sauces

Sauces range from sweet and spicy to hot as the Caribbean sun

People in the Caribbean are almost as competitive about which island has the hottest hot sauce as they are about who makes the best rum. Not only does locally made "pepper sauce" pair well with island cuisine like grilled fish and callaloo soup, many of the hottest peppers in the world are grown in the Caribbean, including the legendary scotch bonnet and the moruga scorpion pepper, the latter considered by some to be the hottest on the planet. "The Scotch Bonnet is an awesome pepper, but underutilized in the U.S.," says hot sauce expert Al "Buddah" Goldenberg, author of the I Love It Spicy blog. That's changing, however: CaJohn, one of the top hot-sauce makers in the U.S., recently introduced a new line of Scotch Bonnet sauces, for example.

Hot sauce found in stores in the U.S. is typically reddish in color, but Caribbean pepper sauces are more commonly (although not universally) yellow owing to their mustard base. Some brands, like Erica's and...MORE Matouk's, can be found on multiple islands and even in your local supermarket. Others are sold on just one island or even -- in the case of the Caribbean's many homemade sauces -- a single shop or stand. For travel writer Metanoya Webb, the best is "the secret hot sauce you almost always find at the hole-in-the-wall Caribbean restaurants in a glass dish, no lid, patiently waiting for you to sample it."

Frequent Caribbean travelers like publicist Lisa Schwartz tell tales of their hottest Caribbean pepper sauce encounters. "I got my first taste of the power of true local Caribbean hot sauces at the Aruba Marriott, where they offered the papaya habanero Hot Delight sauce as an accompaniment to their fish tacos," says Schwartz. "After that, no amount of Cholula or Sriracha could come close to satisfying my need for heat. I became fascinated with trying the local hot sauces on every Caribbean island I visited, and realized they are all very unique in their flavor profiles. Now, I have a collection that I use at home to put on sandwiches or tacos, eat with crab cakes or fish, bbq chicken…you can even find me putting some on a slice of pizza. Basically, nothing is off limits."

Here are some of our favorite Caribbean pepper sauces and where to find them the next time your looking for some true island spice.

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  • 01 of 12

    Pickapeppa, Jamaica

    Pickapeppa hot sauce
    ••• Pickapeppa hot sauce from Jamaica. © Rusty Clark/CC by 2.0

    If you like your hot sauce a bit on the sweet side, try Pickapeppa's Hot Mango Sauce from Jamaica, with just a hint of heat. Or, turn up the temperature with the Spicy Mango Sauce.

     

  • 02 of 12

    Brimstone Flavors, St. Kitts

    Scotch Bonnet Peppers
    ••• Scotch Bonnet Peppers. © Kurtis Garbutt/CC by 2.0

    Brimstone Flavors is a sauce so potent the St. Kitts locals will try and scare you out of it. The yellow scotch bonnet is described as "hell fire for your food"; the Caribbean Red is a habanero sauce with an extra kick. 

  • 03 of 12

    Cracker P's, Abacos, Bahamas

    Cracker P's hot sauce from Abaco
    ••• Cracker P's hot sauce from Abaco. © Cracker P's

     

    This famous shore bar and Abaco, Bahamas port of call makes its own secret-recipe hot sauce, used as a marinade on the fresh fish served in the Cracker P's restaurant but also for sale as a cherished souvenir of many an Out Island adventure. Come for the full-moon parties, leave with the sauce!

  • 04 of 12

    Hot Delight, Aruba

    Red habanero peppers
    ••• Red habanero peppers. © Chris Baranski/CC by 2.0

    Hot Delight, a habanero-based sauce that comes in a papaya variety, is available all around Aruba, including at the Aruba Marriott, where it is served with the resort’s fish tacos and is available as an accompaniment at the La Vista buffet. 

     

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  • 05 of 12

    Bee Sting, Costa Rica

    Bee Sting hot sauces
    ••• Bee Sting hot sauces from Costa Rica. © Half Moon Bay Trading Co/

    Imported from Costa Rica and made with honey purloined from local killer bees, Half Moon Bay Trading Company's Bee Sting is a great glaze for food with its mix of habaneros, black pepper, lemon and garlic.

  • 06 of 12

    Marie Sharp's, Belize

    Marie Sharp's hot sauce from Belize
    ••• Marie Sharp's hot sauce from Belize. © Claire Rowland/CC by 2.0

    World famous Marie Sharp's from Belize is an authentic habanero sauce from a real person -- yes, there really is a Marie Sharp, and she's been growing her own peppers and making her own sauces (now in 11 varieties) since 1980.

  • 07 of 12

    PeppaJoy, Turks and Caicos

    PeppaJoy hot sauce from Turks and Caicos
    ••• PeppaJoy hot sauce from Turks and Caicos. © Bob Curley

    This guava/scotch bonnet pepper blend is hand-made by Delano "Hot Sauce" Handfield on a farm near Da Conch Shack on Provo, Turks and Caicos. Conch and PeppaJoy, a match made in heaven!

  • 08 of 12

    Big Black Dick, Grand Cayman

    Named for a legendary slave-turned-ship-captain known for his rum-making and prominent, um, stature, Big Black Dick pepper sauce is an irresistible Grand Cayman souvenir. The dark brown has thyme and onion to offset the burn of the scotch bonnet peppers.

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  • 09 of 12

    Zedalini's Gourmet Hot Sauce, Jamaica

    Zedalini’s Gourmet Hot Sauce is a favorite among locals in Jamaica; the guava variety is a sweet-and-spicy scotch bonnet blend, while the Tambrin variety has a strong tamarind flavor. 

  • 10 of 12

    Lottie's, Barbados

    Lottie's traditional sauce is known for its signature yellow color -- it's a mustard base made with scotch bonnet peppers, onion and garlic. You might even find some in your local supermarket as well as most restaurants in Barbados.

     

  • 11 of 12

    Windmill, Barbados

    Bajans love Windmill -- you'll find it nearly everywhere food is served -- and this mustard-based pepper sauce is hotter than you might expect thanks to its scotch bonnet base. It has been made in Barbados by the Miller family since 1965.

  • 12 of 12

    Susie's, Antigua

     For more than half a century, Antigua residents and visitors have been spicing up their fish, chicken and other dishes with Susie's Hot Sauce, which today is available in more than a half-dozen varieties including the mustard-based original. Look for the curvaceous souvenir bottles -- talk about hot and sexy!