Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe made with Dried Peppers (Morita)

I’ve meant to do this experiment for a few years and I’m glad I finally got around to making this hot sauce with fermented dried peppers.   Any dried peppers would do but I specifically chose Morita peppers because they are smoke-dried.  Known as the poor-mans chipotle, Morita’s are simply smoke-dried red jalapeno.  If you don’t have access to them, don’t fret – any dried pepper will work in the fantastically easy recipe.

morita peppers, dried hot peppers, smoke dried hot peppers

Before discussing the recipe, let’s spend a few minutes discussing the process in which vegetables (including tomatoes and hot peppers) are dried.  This section is a little geeky and you can skip the entire thing (just start after the next picture) if you’d rather:

  • Sun-dried.  This is the most traditional and the cheapest for home preservers as it requires no specialized equipment.  Ironically, its one of the most expensive formats when producing large amounts of product (as many big food companies do) as it requires manual intervention, checking and can take a lot of space to spread the product across.  This might seem odd to think about but imagine trying to sun-dry multiple tonnes of vegetables at the same time.
  • Machine-dried.  This often requires a special oven or dehydrator that can dry items.  Although some people use their stoves, most stoves won’t keep heat under 200 degrees and a lot of drying is done between 90-165 degrees.  It’s important to note that when food raises above 120 degrees for a prolonged time, it’s enzymes die.  Food dried in a 200 degree oven may preserve but will not have the healthy enzymes it would have kept if it was dried at a cool temperatures.
  • Smoke Drying.  There are two approaches to this: cold smoking (generally considered 68-86 degrees) and hot smoking (126-176).  Food generally stays about 20 degrees under ambient temperature (at it’s hottest), so hot smoking would generally kill any food; though I’m not certain what the smoke in cold smoking would to the enzymes.
  • Chemically dried; often referred to as ‘pre-drying.’  Most people aren’t aware of this but many sun-dried tomatoes include salt or sulfur dioxide as a ‘pre-drying’ process.  Manufacturers will claim that sulfur dioxide is to preserve color.  It’s bad crap generally associated with smelters and utilities and is known, in high volumes, to contribute to “breathing problems, respiratory illness, changes in the lung’s defences, and worsening respiratory and cardiovascular disease. People with asthma or chronic lung or heart disease are the most sensitive to SO2. It also damages trees and crops. SO2, along with nitrogen oxides, are the main precursors of acid rain. This contributes to the acidification of lakes and streams, accelerated corrosion of buildings and reduced visibility. SO2 also causes formation of microscopic acid aerosols, which have serious health implications as well as contributing to climate change.” (Source: Ontario Ministry of the Environment).

I know that smoke-drying isn’t overly beneficial to my health either; most of the dried goods in our house are also made in our house for this reason.  In the case of the morita peppers, they were store purchased and didn’t note sulfur dioxide as an ingredient.

morita peppers, dried hot peppers, smoke dried hot peppers, hot sauce recipe, how to make your own hot sauce, fermented hot sauce recipe

If you know how you’re peppers were dried (especially the temperature), you’ll be able to be more creative than I was.  If the food was dried under 120 degrees Fahrenheit (measured by the temperature of the food; not the air), you could theoretically ferment them without adding any bacteria (since your food would still be living).

If you’re not sure how the product was dehydrated, you’ll need to add some bacteria (I used whey but you could use brine from live sauerkraut if you wanted) to get the ferment going.

The final result is a dark-red color and the sauce is hot with a great smoke profile, similar to the sauce you get when you purchase chipolte in adobo sauce.  It’s hotter than I expected it to be but don’t let that scare you; the sauce is thin and a small amount will easily spread flavor through an entire dish.  If you’re worried about it being too hot you could strain the solids out (most of the solids are the seeds ,which contain a lot of heat) and/or add vinegar which most commercial hot sauces do.  The consistency is thicker than the liquid sauces and probably similar to salsa.  I really like it straight up.

morita peppers, dried hot peppers, smoke dried hot peppers, hot sauce recipe, how to make your own hot sauce, fermented hot sauce recipe

Salt is added to most ferments for several reasons; in many cases it’s to help water leech from the vegetable it’s fermenting (it can also help slow fermentation as well as prohibit some bacteria but it is possible to ferment without it).  Because most of the water has been pulled from the hot peppers, salt’s not really needed here.

Lastly, using water that is free of chlorine or chloromine is needed.  Chlorine can be boiled off while choloromine isn’t so you’ll  have to use purified water if your water supply adds it.

Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe – Ingredients


  • A handful (or more) of dried peppers.  I used about 1.5 cups of them.
  • 2 tablespoons of whey (you can strain it off yogurt that have live bacteria culture).
  • Warm water to cover the peppers (don’t use boiling water – you can kill the whey).
  • 1 quart (liter) wide-mouthed mason jar, 1 0.5-1 cup conventional mason jar.
  • Cheesecloth, a rag or reusable coffee filter.


Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe – Directions

  1. Place the peppers in a clean jar (the larger one).
  2. Cover in water, add the whey.
  3. Clean the small jar (in and out), place on top of hot peppers.
  4. Cover with cheesecloth, cloth or coffee filter (to keep flies out).  Place in a warm spot in your kitchen out of direct sunlight.
  5. Check each day.  If mould forms, do your best to scoop it off (mould is a reality of many ferments).
  6. Taste the brine each day.  It will start slightly sour and become hotter and slightly more sour.  There’s no magic timing and you will likely see small fermentation bubbles.  I stopped mine after 5 days as the mould was becoming a pain to clean.
  7. On the last day, do the following:
    1. Assuming you have mould (if you don’t, skip this): strain the brine through a fine filter and into a bowl (you’ll need it).  rinse remaining solids to remove mould and add tinsed solids back to the brine.
    2. Use a hand mixer, food processor or blender to combine the solids and the brine into a consistent sauce.
    3. Add vinegar if you wish.

That’s all there is to it!

Here’s a few other links that may be of interest:

We’d love to hear your results if you try it!  Has anyone else had experiences fermenting dried foods?  We’d love to hear that too!

Leave a Reply

  1. It’s really interesting to see all the drying methods in comparison. When you guys dry veg/whatever at home, do you normally sun-dry, or use a dehydrator? I’ve been thinking that I need to corral the California sun and make it work for me, and have been kicking around the idea of making a solar dehydrator for a couple years…

    • Hi Elleen!

      Thanks for the comment and question!

      We often use a dehydrator; being in a colder climate (Toronto), we dehydrate year-round (tough to do outside in winter) and working out of the home means I’m not around to move product out of the rain if weather changes. I’m also skeptical of te air quality in our city (though it’s likely no better in our house). However, like you, I want to make a solar dehydrator!

      The dehydrator just allows us to control many variables efficiently. 🙂


    • Awesome Lindsay! Let me know how it goes! I was pretty excited with those results too. 🙂 It was great to meet you, even quickly, by the way. 🙂 Joel

  2. I’ve done something quite similar to this. First I made a normal fermented habanero hot sauce. I pureed it down and with the left over that wouldn’t fit in my shaker containers I threw in a handful of smoked habaneros and jalapenos. I let them sit and soften for about a week and then pureed the sauce again. Turned out incredibly. Excellent smokey flavour and a decent amount of heat. I’m trying to grow some Bhut Jolokia peppers now to add to my next sauce. It definitely won’t be for the faint of heart.

    • Sounds great Andrew!

      We made a chili salt with Ghost peppers (and chocolate peppers) this year that wasn’t for the faint-hearted either but was a lot of fun. I love the sounds of your sauce; would definitely dive into that. 🙂 Joel

  3. I am curious about adding salt to this mixture. I usually ferment with a brine. The whey was enough? I am rather new to fermenting peppers, and I find this fascinating.

  4. I’ve made this a few times already and it is now my husband’s favorite hot sauce. I’m starting to get requests from his friends so this batch will be much larger!

  5. This sounds great Andrew. I’ve been making and canning hot sauces for a few years but never considered fermentation. I’m an ex-home brewer so I think I found a use for some of my equipment. Can’t wait to get started!!

    I grind my Morita peppers after I bring them home from the store.They are pulverized so you don’t even see the seeds.

    Has anyone tried starting a batch using ground peppers? Any idea how much water to use? I’m thinking to make it the consistency between catsup and hot sauce. Thin enough to allow movement of Bacteria but thick enough that I could add a little vinegar at the end to further lower PH.