Why Texas Pete Hot Sauce Is The Best

And how to use it in everything from chocolate to cocktails

Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce is to North Carolina as bourbon is to Kentucky. Roam around Winston-Salem, its birthplace, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that doesn't have a bottle on every table. It's practically a legend in the South—a liquid condiment home cooks and big-name chefs alike swear by.

The original version of the hot sauce came to fruition in 1929 via Sam Garner, owner of the Dixie Pig BBQ stand. When customers demanded a spicier version, Texas Pete was born. The tangy, spice condiment has a vinegar base and contains a blend of three peppers, but the recipe is a closely guarded top secret.

Here, five Winston-Salem chefs dish on how to use the cult-favorite hot sauce at home—for everything from brownies to cocktails.

① Chocolate

Artisanal chocolatier Black Mountain Chocolate never shies away from innovative flavor profiles; enter the Texas Pete truffles. "Customers experience the richness and brightness of our chocolate, followed by the heat and slight vinegar tones of [the hot sauce]," head pastry chef Tirra Cowan says. If mastering truffles aren't part of your baking repertoire, you can easily spice up a brownie or cookie mix simply by adding an ounce or two of Texas Pete. 

② Breakfast Staples

Most people start their day with coffee. Winston-Salem folks start their day with hot sauce. Just ask Mary Haglund of the much-sought-after breakfast spot Mary's Gourmet Diner. "People use a lot of Texas Pete at my restaurant, because it goes so well with breakfast foods," she says, noting that her clientele loves adding heat to breakfast classics like grits, eggs and hash browns.

③ Fillings and Sauces

With a sinful filling of cheese, smoked chicken and Texas Pete Wing Sauce, the Texas Pete Chicken Flautas at The Porch Kitchen and Cantina, a Tex-Mex hot spot, are a Winston-Salem must-order. "The sharp vinegar tang of the Texas Pete is just the thing to bring out the smoky flavor of the chicken and contrasts with the cheese so that it's not too heavy tasting," owner Claire Calvin says. At home, she suggests amping up pantry staples like mayo with a few dashes of the hot sauce. Or combine mayo, Texas Pete, lemon juice and black pepper for a zesty, slaw-like dressing.  

④ Fried Chicken

Nashville hot chicken is proof fried chicken and hot sauce go hand in hand. At Graylyn, an estate-turned-hotel, chef Greg Rollins marinates chicken in Texas Pete for six hours before it's battered, seasoned and fried. The hot sauce, he says, "gives it an awesome kick." If you're worried about heat, start with baby steps; say, a dipping sauce with ranch dressing, Dijon mustard and a couple teaspoons of Texas Pete.

⑤ Cocktails

At Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, an innovative American restaurant set in a historic house, chef Timothy Grandinetti is known for his hot sauce cocktails. The Kentucky Hot Honey Brown, a riff on an old-fashioned, consists of Grandinetti's favorite ingredients: bacon, bourbon, locally sourced honey, Grand Marnier and Texas Pete—"there is no other hot sauce," he proclaims. At home, try adding a few dashes of the stuff to bourbon-based cocktails, Bloody Marys and, for the ultimate michelada hack, beer.

This month, we've decided to Turn Up the Heat, and nothing's off-limits—not even dessert. We're bringing you all the fiery recipes, spicy dishes and hot new trends you can handle.

Jenn Rice is a food and travel writer constantly traveling for cheese, tacos and kouign-amann pastries. Follow her on Instagram at @jennricewrites.