Recently made famous by KFC Nashville Hot Chicken, Nashville Hot Sauce is the sauce used on the regional dish that has been around way longer than KFC has been selling it.
The hot sauce is more of a paste or spicy oil than a sauce, thick and grainy, it is full of flavor.
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What is Nashville Hot Sauce?
Nashville Hot Sauce is a regional hot sauce made from cayenne pepper, other spices and brown sugar. Served on fried chicken to make Nashville Hot Chicken.
Have you ever been to Nashville? Hubby and I love it! We stay down on lower Broadway and hop from bar to bar listening to the stellar live music all day long.
Add a few good ole southern iced teas, moonshine, BBQ and Nashville Hot Chicken and you have yourself a nice little weekend.
In fact, it has been nearly a year since we have been which means we are due for a trip. But since we have two little running around, I’ll have to settle on making myself a Nashville reminiscent meal.
What is Nashville Hot Sauce Made With?
Nashville Hot Sauce can be made with vegetable oil, butter base or straight up lard.
Although a vegetable oil base won’t harden as easy and lard is much more stable, I personally like a butter base. You can use a smidge of honey or agave nectar to stabilize the sauce. It just requires the sauce to be warmed up slightly before using, because butter solidifies when chilled.
Use clarified butter, butter without milk solids, works best. If you don’t have time to whip up your own batch of clarified butter, grab a jar of ghee at the grocery store.
Ghee is pantry stable clarified butter that doesn’t require refrigeration. You can find it in the International aisle near Indian foods. This also means you won’t have to store it in the fridge and you won’t need to let it come to room temperature every time you use it.
Nashville Hot Sauce Ingredients
The main ingredients of this hottest food trend can more than likely be found in your pantry or spice cabinet. If not, you can easily find them at a local grocery store.
- Butter – If you can, clarified butter is preferred. But definitely make sure to use unsalted butter. That way you can control the amount of salt that goes into the sauce.
- Cayenne pepper- This is the key ingredient to this hot sauce recipe. The amount of cayenne pepper is really up to you- use the suggested amount the first time you make it, then do a taste test to check the heat level. You can always add more if you want more of a spicy kick.
- Brown sugar – To balance out the heat, we need a little bit of sugar. Brown sugar not only adds a touch of sweetness, but also a bold flavor too.
- Salt and pepper – I like to use coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can add them to taste, whatever satisfies your taste buds.
- Garlic powder – Rather than fresh garlic that makes this hot sauce chunky, we just use garlic powder. If you don’t mind the texture, you can use minced garlic.
- Smoked paprika – I love the smoky flavor that smoked paprika adds to this sauce, but you can use regular paprika if you’d like.
- Honey – For another dose of sweetness, we add a bit of honey. If you’re not a fan, you can omit the honey or substitute it with agave nectar.
What Type Of Butter Is Best?
All butter sold in the United States must contain a minimum of 80% milkfat, the white, frothy stuff that comes up when it is heated.
Grades, ranging from the best grade AA to grade B, are based on flavor, body, color and salt and water content. European butter will have more fat content and also more flavor with a darker yellow hue. Cultured butter has active cultures and will give it more of a tang, like buttermilk or yogurt.
How to Serve Nashville Hot Sauce
Traditional Nashville Fried Chicken is served on white bread with pickles. However, I wanted something a little more hearty and sweet to compliment my Nashville Hot Sauce, so I opted for buttermilk biscuits.
Who doesn’t love biscuits?
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is probably the most popular, but nearly everywhere has their own version. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear it in the comments!
Jeff says: “So good thank you. I added a tablespoon of honey as well to get more of a glaze and it helped with stabilizing the spices in the butter. I served home fried chicken smothered in nashville hot sauce on ciabatta rolls.
Reminds me of a American version of hot chilli oil for Chinese dumplings. My new favorite way to eat chicken. Might try it on dumplings too.”
But according to Nashville historians, Nashville Hot Chicken didn’t originate there. Although it had been around for decades, it was Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack that brought it to popularity.
And, of course, KFC has now brought it to the masses. I would be hard pressed to find a true hot chicken eater to say it even comes close to comparing to the read deal though.
Also served with dill pickles, I used my honey habanero pickles. You can use it as a dip for french fries, pour it over grilled chicken pieces, coat fried chicken wings in it, use it on sweet potatoes, add it to potato salad or any other way you can think of to make the perfect meal.
Anything that uses hot sauce can be swapped with this spicy sauce.
Storage & Freezing
Storage: If fresh with butter, store in the fridge for up to 1 month. If using ghee or clarified butter, it is shelf stable without refrigeration.
SHAKE WELL BETWEEN EACH USE. The ingredients will settle and need to be redistributed.
Freezing: You can also freeze your Nashville Hot Sauce! Simply put it in an airtight container or plastic bag with as little air as possible. Freeze it for 3-4 months. Make a double batch!
Frequently Asked Questions
Each recipe might be slightly different, but this one calls for unsalted butter, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and honey. A lot of recipes also call for chili powder.
Both Nashville and regular hot sauce have a base of butter with heat from cayenne pepper. However, Nashville hot sauce is a bit on the sweeter side with the addition of honey.
The great thing about homemade hot sauces is that you can make them as spicy or mild as you’d like to. If you’d like yours to be more mild, simply add less cayenne pepper.
More Spicy Food
- Chile Relleno Bites
- Jalapeno Popper Chicken
- Homemade Buffalo Sauce
- Fiery Hawaiian Calzones
- Spicy Thai Noodles
- Spicy Chipotle Mayo
- Peri Peri Sauce
More Favorites from Savory Experiments
Nashville Hot Sauce Recipe
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , clarified prefered
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper , more or less to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon honey , optional
- Combine the butter, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and honey in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir over low heat until combined. Mixture will not be smooth.
- Make sure to come back and let us know how you liked this recipe. We love comments and ratings!
Do you normally use this as a dipping sauce or do you apply to the chicken and cook it?
Hi! I use it for both. As a dipping sauce and also after cooking chicken and tossing in it.
Does this sauce have to be refrigerated?
Not if you use vegetable oil. If you use butter, yes.
The sauce taste really good. I use it on EVERYTHING! It is a bit thick and turns into a solid hunk of seasoning when it sets or is refrigerated. I think I’ll try oil next time instead of ghee. And I like it hot so I will quadruple the cayenne. Maybe mixing a little of some type of hot sauce or something to liquify it just a tad bit. It’s easy and I will always keep some on standby. I’m ok with the grit but I would like to be able pour it or dip it after I reheat it…
Thanks for the great recipe….
Yes, it will solidify in while chilled because of the butter. So glad you love it and it works well for you!!!
I have never been able to make fried chicken. But now I poach chicken thighs and then bread them and fry them. Today I used your Nashville hot sauce recipe! Omg, that is so good! I used ghee, since we had it in the house. Worked great! Definitely 5 star worthy recipe.
So glad you loved it and thank you for coming to leave a comment 🙂
I’ve tried other Nashville hot chicken recipes before, but this was, by far, the best. Had leftover chicken that needed a kick, and this was perfect!
I love spicy food. Up here most places it’s a joke. Popeye’s spicy chicken taste like regular fried chicken, KFCs NHC is much better decent flavor but it’s still disappointing more on par with a mild salsas’ heat. Started looking around and that lead me here. And I cant believe I never thought to do this. Havent made this yet but will this weekend, and I’ll be back to let you know how it went!
I think the clumping some reviewers mention is due to the sugar and maybe overheating. I pretty much wound up with one giant clump of spices and sugar. I didn’t use the full amount of cayenne – used about 1/3 of what recipe called for. Plenty hot for me. Recipe has potential. Good flavor. Will try again adding sugar just before use.
Thanks for the feedback, Deb! It certainly isn’t a sauce that is supposed to be perfectly smooth. It has some grit and graininess to it.
Being from Nashville Honey alone is fine with no extra sweet added such as sugar ????
Tried your NASHVILLE hot,
Pretty good hot sauce tastes
Ifyou want real nashville
Hot chIcken next time in naShville, theres only one place to go.
the original nhc.
Princes hot chicken.
Boltons original recipe.
Ewing Ave. off dickerson rd.
I grew up on princess
Hi! Your hOt sauce looks great!
Please note that “music Row” is a business district Nearly tWo miles from the tourist area where you and your hubby bar hop in nashville, which is called lower broadway. <3
Thanks for the input!
Now you’re a nashville pro! 🙂
Flavor is good but My sauce turned out LUMPY that affected the texture of the Food. Quite different compared to the Nashville kfc chicken. Your pic shows a much smoother consistency.
Hi Will, thanks for stopping back through! I’ve never had KFCs version of Nashville Hot Sauce, so I’m not quite sure what the consistency is like. Nashville Hot Sauce in Nashville is in fact, a thick, lumpy type of sauce. Not thin, very thick. You can almost feel the grains of the spices. I’ll have to stop by a KFC to try theirs and compare.
This looks wonderful!
I am such a huge fan of nashville hot sauce so this is right up my alley! THanks for an awesome recipe so I can replicate a favorite at home. yummy.
So good thank you. I added a tablespoon of honey as well to get more of a glaze and it helped with stabalizing the spicesin the butter. I served home fried chicken smothered in nashville hot sauce on ciabatta rolls.
Reminds me of a American version of hot chilli oil for Chinese dumplings. My new favorite way to eat chicken. Might try it on dumplings too
Hi Jeff! Honey is a great addition and thank YOU so much for taking time to come back and let us know.
I love chili oil for dumplings too, that is a great idea. Now I’m hungry for chicken and dumplings (Get it? My attempt at a joke 🙂 )
While it tastes exactly like what I’ve before in Nashville (loved Hattie B’s) it never really combined. It was a glob of spices sitting below flavored butter. I’ll have to see how well it combines with a chicken recipe.
It is certainly thick and needs to be stirred RIGHT before using. It will settle when it sits.
Also be mindful of the type of butter you use, a good clarified European butter works best.
And if you want a more traditional, you can substitute oil for butter, it will give the more traditional texture.
Hope you enjoy!
I love your recipes. When I press the print button underneath the photo it doesn’t show a printer friendly version of your recipe. Can you help me out?
Sure! I am about to email you. It might be because you have popups blocked, it might block the popup to approve the print format.
Can this be canned via the water bath method and stored?
It sure can!
Nashville Hot Sauce is one of my all-time favorites, I never thought about making it at home before but I love this recipe!
I HAVE to try this recipe. I love any sauce with butter and a little kick!
I can’t speak to whether or not this tastes like authentic Nashville hot sauce, but I wanted to try it, and to me, the butter flavor was overwhelming. I couldn’t eat the chicken, because it literally tasted like it was covered in melted butter with cayenne pepper. The mixture separates into melted butter at the top and a glob of spices on the bottom. Maybe that’s what Nashville hot sauce is, but I’ll just use Tabasco sauce next time.
Hi Chris, Nashville Hot Sauce is pretty globby and thick by nature. It is either made with butter or vegetable oil and the type of butter you use can make a world of difference. You do need to stir it well before using and generally not use as much or as a dipping sauce like you would with Frank’s or another hot sauce. It isn’t for everyone. Thank you for the feedback!