The Caribbean is famous for its hot and spicy cuisine. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the regions signature hot sauces. From homemade pepper bottles set on picnic benches at toes-in-the-sand beachside restaurants to brand name favorites set on restaurant tables next to the salt, these often-blistering blends are a must-have at meals. The secret ingredient? Caribbean-native Scotch bonnet peppers. Members of the Capsicum chinense species, the heat rating of these peppers ranges from 80,000 to 400,000 on the Scoville unit scale, right up there with habaneros. The good news is that hot sauces are for sale throughout the Caribbean, make great gifts for those back home and many companies have mail order service. Here are seven top Caribbean hot sauces to sample:
1. Llewellyn’s Mango Pepper Sauce.
The sweet with the heat is what makes Llewellyn Clarke’s yellow hot pepper-, mango-, ginger- and garlic-based sauce so popular. Clarke, born in Manchester, England, who has cheffed at famous restaurants like the Ivy in London, now lives in Rawlins Village with his wife and two sons. Rawlins is what Clarke calls the ‘breadbasket’ of Nevis, for its abundant local fruit and fresh produce. Clarke’s line of hot sauces includes a guava pepper sauce, banana flavored hot sauce and his famous red pepper sauce, which was used in a 2014 FedEx campaign where the product was shipped from Nevis to China. “My favorite way to use this sauce is as a marinade along with madras curry powder to season and then pan fry fresh snapper,” says Clarke. His hot sauces are sold at local supermarkets and served at Sunshine’s Bar and Grill and the Four Seasons Resort. www.llewellynspeppersauce.com
2. Original Pickapeppa Sauce.
Manufactured by the same family in Jamaica since 1921, Pickapeppa Sauce is often referred to as ‘Jamaican Ketchup’. It’s a tasty mix of Jamaican West Indies peppers, tomatoes, onions, raisins, cane vinegar, orange peel and spices. “Pickapeppa Sauce is barrel-aged for a minimum of one year in the cool blue mountains of Jamaica,” says Cheryl Grevemberg, vice president of sales and marketing for Pickapeppa/Warbac Sales Co., LLC. “It is all natural and contains no additives nor preservatives, is gluten free, low in sodium and is suitable for vegetarians. Pickapeppa flavors like no other. My favorite way to enjoy this sauce is poured over a block of cream cheese, topped with bacon and served on a cracker.” On hamburgers, Jamaican jerk chicken and over eggs are other popular ways to use Pickapeppa Sauce. www.pickapeppa.com
3. Blind Betty’s Original Recipe.
From the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John comes this full-flavored hot sauce made with pumpkin, apple, carrot, tomatoes, onion and just the right amount of habanero pepper. “It’s a versatile sauce that’s good on steaks and chicken and in soups, stir-fries and even Bloody Mary’s, where it adds a flavor of its own and some heat,” says sauce maker, Jillayne Kemp. Kemp’s website offers recipes that incorporate the sauce including Blind Betty Salsa, Blinding Buffalo Wings and Chicken Roti. Blindbetty.com
4. Baron West Indian Hot Sauce.
Made from a blend of scotch bonnet peppers and mustard, this sauce has an inimitable piquant flavor designed to be enjoyed by all those of all ages. One fun fact about this hot sauce is that it has global appeal. It’s currently sold in 28 countries including the USA, Canada, UK, Japan and Indian Ocean territories to name a few. Secondly, the product is an award winner. It’s received three 1st Place Fiery Food Challenge Awards, Scovie Awards and a Superior Taste Award Medal from the International Taste & Quality Institute in Brussels, Belgium. “It compliments any food group from breakfast items like omelets, bakes and saltfish to supper items such as burgers and fries,” says Ronald Ramjattan, executive director of Baron Foods, Ltd., in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. www.baronfoodsltd.com
5. Hot Caribbean Pepper Sauce.
Heat might seem the hallmark of Caribbean pepper sauces, yet it’s all about the flavor, says Bernard Cornibert, chief executive officer for Winfresh (UK) Limited, with offices in Castries, St. Lucia. “Our Hot Caribbean Pepper Sauce’s bright orange color comes from a natural mix of the colors of the fresh peppers. The peppers that go into this sauce are harvested at peak ripeness, mashed, specially formulated, and aged for maximum flavor.” Cornibert recommends the sauce’s use with lean meats, fish, BBQ, soups, salads and even fresh ripe or semi-ripe fruits. “Take whatever fruit is in season, mango, golden apple, etc., mix in a bowl with vinegar, a pinch of salt and a dash of Hot Caribbean Pepper Sauce to make what’s called a ‘chow’. www.winfresh.net
6. Caribbean Fire Hot Sauce.
Crafted by Chef Wil Heemskerk, who previously owned Wil’s Tropical Grill and now operates the Flaming Flamingo food products company on Bonaire, this fiery favorite is purely flavorful. That is, you can really taste all the ingredients: tomato, garlic, habanero chilies, honey and vinegar. It’s also versatile, good on everything including breakfast eggs. This was the first sauce Heemskerk created when he and wife, Sue, had the idea to make and sell hot and BBQ sauces. At first, it was nameless. “We thought it would be fun to have a sauce-naming contest,” says Sue Heemskerk. The winner was Caribbean Fire, ‘dive into the heat’. Bonaire is a dive destination, so the name and quote fit perfectly.” www.facebook.com/FlamingFlamingoBonaire/
7. Viking Dam Hot and Hot Sauces.
These are the two award winners produced by Viking Traders Ltd., in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, a second generation run family-owned company. “The Dam Hot is made from Habanero/West India Red Peppers and goes on every dish,” says Nick Zephirin. “The Yellow Hot Sauce has a light mustard flavor and is great on fish, chicken and other meats. It is one of the most popular products we manufacture.” These hot sauces and other Viking products are available throughout the Caribbean, the USA, Canada, UK and Germany. www.vikingstlucia.com