14 Unexpected Ways To Pair Hot Sauce And Vegetables

Once you hop on the hot sauce express, it's hard to get off. The condiment is a popular staple all over the world, with different cultures using unique peppers and complementary ingredients to create their own versions. When it's boiled down to basics, hot sauce is typically a combination of hot peppers and vinegar. Sometimes it's fermented, sometimes it's mixed with aromatics, and sometimes it's so hot it can burn your taste buds into oblivion. 

The surprising pairing that isn't typically found in the world of hot sauce lovers is the use of the spicy condiment on vegetables. As vegetarian cooking explodes in popularity, it's time we all learned a thing or two about unexpected ways to pair hot sauce and vegetables. It's not that wild of a notion if you think about it. Hot sauce is made with vegetables, after all, and what goes better with veggies than more veggies? Grab a bottle of hot sauce, and your favorite vegetarian recipes, and let's get cooking.

Dip raw veggies in hot sauce

There's a reason that hot wings are served with raw celery and carrot sticks. These au natural veggies have a sweet, refreshing crunch to them that contrasts those fatty, deep-fried, fire-coated chicken wings. But there is another reason too. Carrots and celery pair beautifully with both the cooling ranch or blue cheese dip, as well as the fire-hot flavors of hot sauce. Whether you've opted for spicy barbeque, buffalo, or mango habanero, your veggies can take the heat.

Other crudités like cucumbers, red peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli florets taste incredible when dipped straight into hot sauce. For those who struggle to get in their daily servings of vegetables, start dunking. Spice got you panting? Try mixing your hot sauce with ranch dressing to create a cooler, yet equally flavorful dipping sauce for any raw veggie that comes your way. Opt to make your own hot sauce at home or choose from the countless options in the condiment section of your local grocery store. Loading up on veggies never tasted so good.

Braise boy choy in a spicy sauce

When you think of leafy greens, a sizzling pan doesn't typically come to mind. But culinary creatives and home cooks know that there's nothing better than braised dark leafy greens. The unique crunch of a water-filled stem, along with those delicate leaves that absorb so much flavor is a win-win. Roast, grill, or pan-fry them to alter the texture and create a juicy, nutrient-dense side dish. Baby bok choy in particular is fantastic when braised and scalded in a pan. A head can be cut in half the long way, washed, and then placed cut-side down on a hot oiled pan. Add some sauce and you've got the most aesthetically pleasing and scrumptious dish in just minutes. When it comes to flavoring your bok choy, we like to crank up the heat.

Make a sauce with tamari, maple syrup, hot chili sauce, minced ginger, and garlic. If you can handle the heat, feel free to add quite a bit of the chili sauce, as the refreshing crunch of the stems will help to dilute it. First, cook the greens with a little water to steam, and the lid on. Then add your sauce and let it reduce as the bok choy begins to crisp up. Spoon some of the sauce over the cut head as it cooks, and when it's golden brown on the bottom and the sauce is nice and sticky, remove it from the heat and enjoy.

Whip up hot hummus

Every vegan, vegetarian, or vegetable lover knows that hummus is a lifesaver when it comes to enjoying meatless eating. It's hearty enough to beef up a humble pita slice or carrot stick and comes in a variety of flavors, and textures. Next time you whip up a batch of hummus for some good old veggie dippin', consider cranking up the heat by adding hot sauce to the mix.

Luckily, hot sauce and chickpeas go together like peanut butter and jelly, so you don't have to worry about ruining your creamy bean creation. Simply blend the sauce right in, or drizzle it on top so the dipper can choose how much of the spicy condiment they want to scoop up with their veggie and hummus. Harrisa is a safe bet when it comes to pairing a fiery condiment with traditional hummus, and we think you'll find this spicy Moroccan staple does much more than add heat. It's loaded with spices and aromatics that won't take over your dip, but will certainly enhance it. Your veggies don't know what's coming.  

Spice up your veggie tacos

Those who have discovered the world of vegetarian tacos know that they've opened the door to Narnia. The options are endless, the flavors are incredible, the textures phenomenal, and you feel fully satisfied once you've licked your fingers clean. Although sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms are commonly featured in vegetarian tacos, that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself. The most important step in any taco-making excursion is zeroing in on the spices. A quick go-to marinade for roasted veggies is tamari, maple syrup, chili powder, lime juice, minced fresh garlic or garlic powder, and hot sauce. For that heat component, we recommend using Mexican-style hot sauce which is unique since it's rarely fermented, uses less vinegar than traditional hot sauce, and can be thinner.

But why stop there? Mix Mexican-style hot sauce with vegan mayo to create a spicy, tangy, aioli to make those veggies shine. If that isn't your thing, consider just loading your taco up with plain hot sauce after you've added all of your fresh toppings like sour cream, sliced tomatoes, and avocado.

Upgrade marinated eggplant with hot chili sauce

Eggplant is a popular all-purpose player when it comes to vegetarian cooking. This is because the nightshade is meaty, unique in texture, and extremely versatile. It can complete an Asian stir fry, get fried and stacked with mozzarella and marinara, or be mashed into a Middle Eastern dipping sauce. However you slice it, eggplant pairs beautifully with hot sauce because it absorbs flavor well, is mild, and has sweet undertones.

Consider creating a simple at-home teriyaki sauce to marinate your eggplant in. Once it's finished cooking, whether in the oven, on the grill, or in a pan, plate it and drizzle with an Asian hot chili sauce. Not only will this add a layer of heat and depth to balance the sweet flavors of the teriyaki, but it will also add a welcome pop of color to the dish. Top with toasted sesame seeds, and leave a small dish or bottle of hot sauce out for additional heat for those who can handle it.

Roast spicy winter squash

Roasted butternut squash is loaded with creamy textures and natural sugars and that sweetness is an ideal complement to heat. And although it's tricky to slice in half, the struggle is well worth the outcome which will be apparent the second you can smell it roasting in the oven. Buy a small squash as they tend to be sweeter, and try to grab one that is locally grown or freshly picked for an enhanced flavor profile and nutrient density as they are often more recently harvested. Next, scrub it clean and slice it in half the long way. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and place it cut-side-up on a parchment-lined oven pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and start grabbing your ingredients for seasoning.

For a simple spice-baked butternut squash recipe, try using olive oil, cumin, chili, salt, rosemary, and hot sauce. For a more experimental cook who still values the hot and sweet combination, use coconut oil, ginger, honey, and hot sauce together with cracked pepper and sea salt. Use as much hot sauce as you can tolerate, and bake for at least one hour. Stab the squash with a fork, and when it goes in easily without much-added pressure, it's ready to eat.

Heat up your stir fry

While stir fry seems like a "let's get rid of all the soon-to-be expired vegetables from the refrigerator" kind of meal, when done right it can be incredibly satisfying. The beauty of a vegetable stir fry is that it can taste so different depending on the vegetables you use, and the sauce and seasonings you choose to incorporate.

For instance, snow peas, baby corn, bamboo shoots, carrots, and broccoli in a garlic soy sauce couldn't be more different than tomatoes, basil, and zucchini with a lemon parsley sauce. Across the board when it comes to stir fry there is one thing that's for certain, the addition of hot sauce can bring it up to the next level. Select your hot sauce carefully depending on the theme of your stir fry. There are plenty of different international hot sauces, and they are all quite unique in flavor. Try habanero hot sauce on your South American stir fry, Phall on your Indian dish, buffalo sauce on your cauliflower creation, and sriracha on... well, pretty much anything.

Drizzle over falafel

Who doesn't love biting into a crispy, deep-fried ball of smashed chickpeas, aromatics, herbs, and spices? The best part is, to enhance the experience of eating falafel we simply dip them in more blended chickpeas. When enjoying a stuffed falafel pita, it's important to include all of those veggie fixings. Diced cucumber, sliced tomato, pickled red onions, and of course creamy and refreshing tzatziki sauce, all packed into a grilled pita pocket. Don't forget the hummus and creamy tahini to pull it all together. This sandwich combines the perfect elements of refreshing and crisp, with crispy and dense. And the only thing missing? A little heat.

Both shatta and harrisa could be used in your pocket of veggies and beans, but if you're working with what you have in your refrigerator a little sriracha or even Frank's Red Hot can add a spicy punch. In contrast with the cool yogurt-based tzatziki, your taste buds will be sure to be satiated and excited. Not only does hot sauce add complexity, but it also awakens your palate.

Top your TLT

Vegetarians and those watching their cholesterol may have given up the classic BLT for a TLT. This sandwich which is typically made with bacon-flavored marinated tempeh slices, along with vegan mayonnaise and the usual lettuce and tomato. Sometimes avocado is added to make up for that missing fattiness of bacon, but overall a TLT, if made right, can be a pretty close second to the real thing. Because a TLT can tend to come up short in the greasy, crispy, salty categories it's a good idea to give it an extra punch and flair that the classic BLT doesn't have. Enter, hot sauce.

When it comes to choosing a spicy condiment for your TLT, consider checking out the best grocery store hot sauce brands. Try a few and zero in on your favorite. Choose at least one that's versatile and consider keeping a few specialty brands on hand as well. Truff is a great option for jazzing up a decedent vegetarian sandwich because the hot sauce contains truffle oil which adds layers of umami richness, while sriracha goes with just about anything. Try mixing and matching until you've found the ultimate hot sauce to enhance your TLT.

Spread onto a veggie wrap

For anyone who's settled for a vegetable wrap from a deli or at an office lunch because it's the only vegetarian option, then you know the struggle. A memorable, mouth-watering, saucy, and power-packed veggie wrap is just hard to come by, it's plain and simple. And it really does tend to be just that, plain and simple. We aren't sure when people decided it was okay to throw lettuce, tomato, carrot shreds, and spouts together in a wrap without sauce or seasoning and call it a day. That's like eating a salad without dressing. Luckily, there is one simple way to elevate even that sad little veggie pinwheel that your boss brought you for the lunchtime meeting. Simply douse it in hot sauce.

It's likely you can find some in almost any communal refrigerator or restaurant, but hot sauce lovers have been known to bring a little bottle of tabasco with them wherever they go. If you're making a veggie wrap at home, mix hot sauce with vegan mayo or ranch dressing to make the ultimate creamy spicy sauce.

Make spicy slaw

There's nothing like loading up a flimsy paper plate with grilled corn on the cob, barbecue, potato salad, and a heaping pile of coleslaw to top it all off. A well-balanced slaw should be refreshing, tangy, sweet, and a little spicy. The heat usually comes from horseradish, mustard, or both and can be quite subtle. Whether your go-to summer recipe includes a creamy mayonnaise or tangy vinegar base, one thing is for sure, it could use an extra kick.

Who says coleslaw has to be the sidekick? Turn up the fire and give it its own opportunity to shine amongst those other backyard summertime classics. This is one of the ultimate ways to boost the flavor of your coleslaw, and it's as simple as adding a few squirts of your favorite hot sauce to your homemade coleslaw dressing recipe.

Barbeque masters know that coleslaw is more than just a crunchy side dish. It can double as a topping and can elevate any burger, hot dog, or sandwich it comes in contact with. Therefore, by adding hot sauce to your coleslaw you're not only spicing up that marinated cabbage but also everything it comes in contact with.

Grill hot cauliflower or cabbage steak

Although the term "steak" might feel deceitful when it comes to cauliflower or cabbage, the truth is that the preparation and cooking process can be quite similar, and sometimes even the appearance can have a close resemblance. While we all know that cruciferous vegetables don't taste anything like beef, it's fun to experiment, learn, and stretch our culinary abilities to the max. For those who love to push boundaries, experiment in the kitchen, and appreciate a good spicy marinade, then it's time to get cooking.

Really, you should be cooking cabbage steaks more often. They're a healthy alternative to red meat and absorb flavor like nobody's business. The key to creating a good marinade for veggie steaks is to add an acidic, sweet, salty, and of course, spicy element. Whatever the theme of your marinade, add a heavy dose of hot sauce. It will help your vegetable to stand out and make an impression. If you're not so sure you can take the heat, drizzle a little on after it's been cooked.

For those who don't know where to start, follow our recipe for Israeli Cauliflower Steak and swap red pepper flakes for your favorite hot sauce. Be sure to add a drizzle more for garnish.

Add a kick to Southern fried mushroom sandwich

Biting into a crispy hot fried chicken sandwich, pressed between toasted buns, loaded with pickles is an unforgettable experience. But we all know the sauce it was makes it truly magnificent. It's creamy, spicy, tangy, and sweet all at once. And although your eyes might be watering by the last bite you'll likely go back in for more. As it turns out, oyster mushrooms make a fantastic vegetarian swap for chicken when it comes to the breaded and deep-fried favorite. It pulls apart just like chicken, retains its juiciness, and even resembles the appearance.

Bread and deep fry those mushrooms to a golden-brown perfection but don't forget about that secret sauce. Mix mayonnaise or vegan mayo with barbecue sauce, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and of course hot sauce. Choose a southern-style hot sauce like tabasco, and load it on thick. A more subtle alternative for those who don't appreciate a creamy sauce is to mix hot sauce with honey or maple syrup and drizzle it over your freshly fried mushrooms before adding all the fixings.

Throw together a fire-breathing grain bowl

Grain bowls are all the rage, which makes sense because they are simple to make, and can be incredibly healthy depending on their ingredients. They are an easy go-to meal-prep option because, with different sauces and configurations, even the redundancy of overlapping ingredients can go unnoticed. To make each grain bowl unique, it's important to choose the right sauce. And by right sauce, we mean the right hot sauce.

While most bowls can handle a classic like tabasco, Franks Red, or sriracha, it may pay to choose a grain bowl theme and match your hot sauce accordingly. If you're loading up on black beans, rice, peppers, tomatoes, and onions then it might make sense to pick a Mexican hot sauce like chili rojo. If you're putting together a basic breakfast bowl with potatoes, quinoa, eggs, pickled onions, and kale we recommend a good old dousing of buffalo sauce.