Why Do Hot Sauces Separate? And How To Prevent It?

Do you love hot sauce but hate when it separates? It’s one of the most frustrating things about the condiment, especially with homemade hot sauces. But what causes hot sauce to separate in the first place? And more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening? Read on for tips on keeping your hot sauce nice and smooth.

Why do hot sauces separate?

Hot sauce is an emulsion of three main ingredients: chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. That’s the full ingredient list of many Louisiana-style hot sauces, like Tabasco Original Red or Crystal Hot Sauce.

Of course, there are other ingredients in some hot sauces, too, including olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and more. Over time, these ingredients can separate and settle at the bottom of the bottle. This is perfectly normal and doesn’t mean that your hot sauce has gone bad. All of these ingredients add into why hot sauce separates.

Oil and vinegar want to separate

This is because oil is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water, while vinegar is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water. They naturally want to separate in a hot sauce. Even if a hot sauce doesn’t list oil among its ingredients, some of the ingredients may contain natural oils. And hot peppers contain the compound capsaicin which provides the pepper’s heat. Capsaicin has oil-like properties and causes some separation.

Larger food particles in your hot sauce want to separate

You might not be able to see them, but there are larger food particles suspended in your hot sauce. These can include pieces of fruit or vegetables, as well as bits of the chili peppers themselves. Over time, these larger pieces settle out of the sauce and collect at the bottom.

Prolonged shelf time leads to hot sauce separation

Just like with any other food, the longer a hot sauce sits on a shelf, the more likely it is to separate. This is because the ingredients have had more time to settle and separate. If you’ve had a bottle of hot sauce for an extended period, you may notice that it has separated more than when you first bought it.

Homemade hot sauces often don’t contain commercial emulsifiers

Commercial hot sauces often contain emulsifiers, which help to keep the ingredients suspended in the sauce. These can include xanthan gum, cellulose gum, and more. If you’re making your own hot sauce at home, you may not be using these commercial emulsifiers. This means that your hot sauce is more likely to separate.

How can you prevent hot sauce from separating?

If you want to keep your hot sauce from separating, there are a few things you can do.

Shake it up

This is the easiest way to prevent separation. Just give your hot sauce bottle a good shake before using it. This will help to mix the ingredients back together and make sure they’re evenly distributed.

Store it in the fridge

Storing your hot sauce in the fridge can help to slow down the separation process. This is because the cooler temperature will cause the ingredients to solidify, which makes it harder for them to separate. Though, you may notice that when it does separate it’s initially harder to remix since the cooler temperature causes the ingredients to solidify when separated.

Use an emulsifier

Commercially sold hot sauces often contain many emulsifiers, including soy lecithin and xanthan gum. If you’re making your own hot sauce, you can add an emulsifier to help keep the ingredients from separating. Both soy lecithin and xanthan gum are available for purchase. Xanthan gum, in fact, you can find at most grocery stores. Just a small amount can go a long way in preventing separation.

There are also natural emulsifiers that can help prevent separation. These include egg yolks and mustard. Just a small amount of either of these will help to keep your hot sauce from separating.

Blend your hot sauce

If you don’t mind a little extra prep time, you can blend your hot sauce before using it. This will help to break up any larger pieces of ingredients and make sure they’re evenly distributed.

Add some acidity

Adding a bit of acidity to your hot sauce can also help to prevent separation. This is because acid helps to break down the ingredients and keeps them from clumping together. You can add a bit of lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar to your hot sauce to help prevent separation.

What do you do if your hot sauce has already separated?

If your hot sauce has already separated, there’s no need to worry. Just give it a good shake or stir before using it. You can also blend it if you want to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 3, 2022 to include new content.
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Phillip Minyard

Any suggestion of how much Xanthan gum to add to a pint of hot sauce as an emulsifier?