Portland’s food scene is probably best known for food trucks, vegan fare, and fusion cuisine — but maybe it’s time to add something else to that list: hot sauce. Portlanders seem to love it with everything from omelettes to tacos to pizza, and apparently even chocolate.
We caught up with four local hot sauce makers to find out what gives their favorite condiment a special kick and how their heat rates on a one to five 🔥 scale. Here’s what we learned.
Hot sauce boss: Stacy Moritz
Her favorite sauce: Habañero Hot Sauce
“I use it every single day. We just got back from Sri Lanka and I brought it with me,” says Stacy, who founded the company. .
Fire rating: 🔥🔥 “I don’t do anything that burns your face off. We’re all about flavor.”
What’s in it? Habañero peppers, tomatoes, and carrots.
Fun fact: “This isn’t a very fun fact, but we’re the most stolen hot sauce in Portland,” Stacy says. “We’ve lost a lot of restaurants because they have small margins.” Thankfully, some places still keep it in stock – just behind the counter, she says.
Pairs best with: “Eggs and pizza — I don’t eat either one without it.”
Hot sauce boss: Karel Vitek
His favorite sauce: Their one and only Stinging Kombucha Hot Sauce
“It’s the first-ever kombucha hot sauce ever created,” says Karel, who created the hot sauce. Others who’ve “attempted to crack the recipe [found that] it explodes in the bottles because kombucha is alive and constantly hungry and eats sugar, which creates air.”
Fire rating: 🔥🔥 “After it hits you, it will kind of climb, then leave you alone, and then in five to 10 seconds, you don’t have the sensation of spiciness so you can still experience what you’re eating.”
What’s in it? Kombucha, habañero, jalapeño, cayenne, black pepper, chiles, eggplant, and red sauerkraut.
Fun fact: Although the hot sauce is advised to be refrigerated, Karel said he likes to keep his on the kitchen table so that it fizzes. “It doesn’t change the taste, but it gets a little hotter each time because as the kombucha eats sugar, the spicier it becomes,” he said.
Pairs best with: Eggs (Karel’s seven-year-old daughter puts “two tiny drops” on hers), roasted peppers, smoked chicken, rice, and tacos
Hot sauce boss: Molly Hart (a Bridgeliner ambassador)
Her favorite sauce: Los Roast Verde
“It’s really bright and punchy,” she says.
Fire rating: 🔥🔥🔥 “All our hot sauces are meant to be approachable,” she said. “They come with a powerful punch of flavor with just a little bit of heat that keeps you on your toes.”
What’s in it? New Mexico hatch chiles (roasted locally in St. Johns), lime juice, tomatillo, onions, garlic, and spices
Fun fact: “The weird anecdote I hear all the time is people saying ‘I didn’t like hot sauce until I tried yours.’”
Pairs best with: Tacos, breakfast sandwiches, and pizza
Hot sauce boss: Nikki Maria Guerrero
Her favorite sauce: El Tamarindo. “I love that sweet and sour note from the tamarindo,” says Nikki, the owner. “It doesn’t get enough play in American food.”
Fire rating: 🔥🔥🔥
What’s in it? Pickled serrano chiles, tamarindo, ginger, coriander, mustard seed, molasses, and maple syrup.
Fun fact: Nikki says she’s passionate about not using preservatives, fillers, or stabilizers. One happy discovery she made while creating El Tamarindo: tamarind is a natural preservative approved by federal regulators.
Pairs best with: Indian- and Asian-style foods and pupusas.
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