This Nashville Hot Sauce is the perfect thing to slather, dip, or brush over crispy fried chicken, chicken wings, or juicy baked chicken. It’s an irresistible blend of spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors that takes just 5 minutes to make!
All the flavors of Nashville hot chicken, but without the fried chicken.
From watery eyes to uncontrollable saliva, I am a big fan of burning my mouth with hot sauce and spicy chili peppers, and now we can enjoy all the flavors of Nashville hot chicken anytime and with all our favorites like crispy chicken sandwiches, French fries, roasted veggies, and grilled shrimp.
If you prefer your hot sauce more on the mild side, less “burn your face off”, simply add less cayenne pepper (more on that later).
What is Nashville Hot Sauce?
Nashville hot sauce is a condiment originating in Nashville, Tennesse, and is most famously used to prepare Nashville hot chicken, a local specialty made by coating fried chicken in, yep, you guessed it, Nashville hot sauce.
Traditionally, the sauce is made using the hot frying oil used to cook the chicken (rather than butter). The seasoning and spices infuse with the oil, creating a deeply flavored sauce that is both spicy and subtly sweet. When mixed with the frying oil from the chicken, the sauce takes on a more oily texture. On the other hand, butter adds richness and results in a slightly thicker sauce.
Find the printable recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.
- Butter (or vegetable oil, ghee, or lard): Traditionally, Nashville hot sauce is made with the oil that is used to fry chicken. It is made in the same way as this recipe. The oil is mixed with the seasonings and spices and then drizzled or brushed over the fried chicken. Butter eliminates the need for frying oil, meaning it can be made anytime. Butter also adds delicious flavor and texture to the sauce and is convenient, but feel free to use vegetable oil if that’s what you prefer. Alternatives to butter and oil include ghee (clarified butter) and lard.
- Garlic Powder and Onion Powder: For a little savory flavor.
- Smoked Paprika: Used for both flavor and color.
- Cayenne Powder: The primary source of heat and spice! Add more or less depending on how spicy you like your sauce. If you want a super spicy sauce, add a little ghost pepper powder.
- Brown Sugar and Honey: The sweetness from the brown sugar and honey helps balance the heat from the cayenne pepper. The honey is optional.
- White Vinegar: Just a small amount to balance the sweetness and spiciness.
How to Make Nashville Hot Sauce
1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pot or pan set over medium heat (if you prefer to use vegetable oil, simply warm it).
2. Whisk the garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne powder, and salt into the melted butter until combined. Once incorporated, whisk the brown sugar, honey (if using), and white vinegar into the sauce.
3. Gently heat the sauce over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously to prevent the butter from burning. Remove from heat and continue to whisk for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until well incorporated.
4. Use as desired or save for later.
Nashville Hot Sauce vs. Buffalo Sauce
There are several key differences between Nashville hot sauce and Buffalo Sauce.
Nashville Hot Sauce, originating in Nashville, Tennessee, is most often used to make Nashville hot chicken. Known for its intense heat, its primary ingredient, cayenne pepper, imparts a significant spiciness, balanced by the sweetness of brown sugar and the rich, earthy notes of garlic and paprika. This sauce has a thicker, paste-like texture due to the spices and the use of cooking oil (often the same oil used for frying chicken), which adds a rich, almost creamy consistency.
Buffalo Sauce, originating from Buffalo, New York, is most often used to make Buffalo Wings. It’s made with a base of hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot), vinegar, and melted butter or margarine, creating a tangy, spicy, and slightly buttery sauce. Thinner and more liquid than Nashville Hot Sauce, it gives a smooth, glossy coating that easily adheres to chicken wings.
How to Use Nashville Hot Sauce
The most popular use for Nashville hot sauce is on Nashville hot chicken, where, after frying, the sauce is brushed (or dipped) onto the chicken for a spicy coating. But it’s perfect with any other chicken recipe including fried chicken wings, air fryer chicken wings, grilled or baked chicken, crispy baked chicken legs, and chicken sandwiches.
Other than chicken, enjoy it with mac n cheese, drizzled over pizza, or slathered over sandwiches and burgers. Mix it with a little mayo and enjoy as a dipping sauce for french fries, fish sticks, or chicken tenders.
Allow the sauce to cool before transferring to a sealed airtight container and storing in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Gently reheat in a small pot over medium heat or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months in a sealed freezer-safe container.
More Sauce Recipes
- The BEST Buffalo Sauce Recipe
- Chimichurri Recipe
- Gyoza Dipping Sauce
- Garlic Butter Sauce
- Tartar Sauce Recipe
- Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
If you try making this Nashville Hot Sauce Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
Nashville Hot Sauce Recipe
- Melt the butter in a small pot set over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne powder, and salt and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.
- Whisk in the brown sugar, honey, and white vinegar, let it come to a gentle simmer, then remove from heat immediately. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes, off heat, ensuring that everything is well incorporated.
- Use immediately. To save for later use, allow it to cool completely before storing it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Reheating: The sauce will thicken after refrigeration. To reheat, spoon out as much as you need into a microwave-safe bowl, then microwave for 15-20 seconds or until the sauce is liquid again.
- Adjust the heat of the sauce by adding more or less cayenne pepper. If you want a super spicy sauce, add a little ghost pepper powder.
- For a thinner sauce, use 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter. As written, the sauce will be thicker and more sludge-like.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)