Hot Sauce And Ice Cream Are The Unexpected Pairing To Try This Summer

Summer is the best time for cool treats. It's the season for lemonade, slushies, and ice cream. Fresh summer fruits, vegetables, and herbs abound, and palates are piqued. Ice cream toppings can get inventive, with such options including peaches, fresh strawberry jam, and hot sauce. Wait, what? Ice cream and hot sauce? Okay, it's not a go-to, but it is intriguing. Depending on the combinations involved, hot sauce and ice cream together can yield a delicious flavor profile. The sweetness of the ice cream balances the saltiness of the hot sauce, and the combination of cool and hot offers an unexpected mouthfeel.

We may be inclined to pair hot sauce with ice cream for a couple of reasons, and they are actually based in science. Reason one is our love affair with the savory-sweet combination. Our taste buds have receptors for both sweet and salty, and it has been found that a particular receptor for sweet is enhanced when sodium is present in food. So the same reason you like salt sprinkled on your watermelon might be the same reason hot sauce on ice cream is a win. The other reason hot sauce pairs well with ice cream is because milk has a protein that mellows the capsaicin in hot peppers. 

Why it works aside, foodies have been incorporating hot peppers into sweet dishes for some time. Chocolate bars with hot peppers, hot jalapeño pepper jelly, and spicy Mexican hot chocolate all come to mind.

Ways to pair hot sauce and ice cream

Summer is the best time for fresh peppers, so you may want to try your hand at making your own hot sauce. Or, of course, you can pick a bottle up from the store. To try hot sauce as a dessert topping, start by trickling it over vanilla ice cream. The drizzling method can be a soft landing if you're at all apprehensive (use as little or as much as you want), and vanilla is a perfect vehicle for receiving hot sauce with different flavor profiles. Try a fruit-based sauce with mango, pineapple, or peach. Add chocolate sauce for even more complex flavor.

Another way to pair hot sauce with ice cream is to actually make hot sauce ice cream, as demonstrated by TikToker Johnny Kyunghwo. This gochujang ice cream is made by incorporating the Korean chili paste directly into the ice cream base. This can be done with any hot sauce of your choice, but picking a sauce with fruity undertones or sweet peppers works best to balance out the creaminess of the dairy. 

You can also try customizing pepper flavors by creating an infused chili oil to pour over ice cream. Begin with canola oil, which is a light, mostly flavorless oil that will take on the chili flavors and won't overpower the ice cream. You can also stray a bit from liquid hot sauce and elect to use a thicker-based paste such as (the now ubiquitous) chili crisp, ancho paste (a decidedly milder pepper blend), or Calabrian chili paste. The hotter the better for some people, and you won't even need a glass of milk.