Nashville Hot Sauce with Butter

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.

spoon in a white bowl of nashville hot sauce


The hot sauce is more of a paste or spicy oil than a sauce, thick and grainy, it is full of flavor.

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 dinner recipe.

fried chicken with nashville hot sauce on it

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.

bowl of red hot sauce with fried chicken around 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.

spoon in bowl of hot sauce on brown paper

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.

close up of fried chicken with nashville hot sauce

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.

Serve Over

Anything that uses hot sauce can be swapped with this spicy sauce.

spoon dipping into hot 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

What is Nashville hot sauce made of? 

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.

What’s the difference between hot sauce and Nashville hot sauce? 

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.

Is Nashville hot sauce very spicy?

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.

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how to make nashville hot sauce
bowl of nashville hot sauce in a bowl

Nashville Hot Sauce Recipe

4.41 from 337 votes
Nashville Hot Sauce is a regional hot sauce made from cayenne pepper, other spices and brown sugar. Served on fried chicken!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4



  • 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! 



Mixture does seperate. Shake or stir at room temperature or after heating before using.
Do not heat over HIGH heat, the sugars will melt and you’ll end up with candy. 


Calories: 263 kcal, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Protein: 1 g, Fat: 23 g, Saturated Fat: 14 g, Cholesterol: 61 mg, Sodium: 1369 mg, Potassium: 118 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 10 g, Vitamin A: 2515 IU, Vitamin C: 2.9 mg, Calcium: 22 mg, Iron: 0.6 mg
Author: Chef Jessica Anne
Calories: 263
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Keyword: hot sauce recipe, nashville hot sauce
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
nashville hot sauce recipe for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.41 from 337 votes (274 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. For everyone having the main issue of the sauce clumping try adding 2 tablespoons of water, or chicken stock,when you add in the sugar.
    Because water is polar and oil is nonpolar, their molecules are not
    attracted to each other. The molecules of a polar solvent like water are
    attracted to other polar molecules, such as those of sugar. So, you will notice that your sugar will fully integrate into your sauce, instead of causing a clumpy mess, once a water solvent has been added.
    OP should add this step into the sauce making the recipe so others have a better turnout.
    Good sauce, made it last night with the additional step of water.

    1. 5 stars
      Thank you, Jessica, for posting this recipe and thank you, Josh, for your comment on adding water. I, too, ended up with a tasty, but lumpy, mess. Adding the water and using an immersion blender, saved the batch!

  2. Hi Jessica – so glad to find your recipe for Nashville Hot Sauce. I used vegetable oil rather than clarified butter, and the spices appeared to blend thoroughly when heated in the oil and honey. When the mixture was applied to the chicken and it cooled, however, large chunks of the spices seemed to congeal and became almost rock hard. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Noel, thanks for reaching out! It will get a little congealed if it gets cold, as do most oils or butter. It is enjoyed eaten hot or at least warm. There are notes on this in the recipe post itself, it is a common issue with this type of sauce 🙂

  3. I believe i did something wrong? The flavor was amazing but the texture after being smooth became like toffee. Pretty clumpy. Any idea?

    1. Hi Natalia, the sauce does need to be re-whisked or shaken before each use. Did it harden after putting it in the fridge? It needs to be at room temperature.

  4. 5 stars
    Que tal me gustaría saber si se puede combinar mantequilla para darle ese sabor característico y aceite vegetal para estabilizar más la mezcla?

    Translation: How about I would like to know if you can combine butter to give it that characteristic flavor and vegetable oil to further stabilize the mixture?

    1. Hi Christian, You should be able to- but a dab of honey will also help to stabilize it. It doesn’t taste bad all vegetable oil, I just prefer the butter base.

  5. 3 stars
    First batch as directed was a clumped up mess. I threw it away….tried again by melting down the clarified butter, pulled it off the heat, let it cook for a few minutes then added the spices. Worked perfectly. My advice- DONT add the spices while it’s on the burner. 😉

  6. if i want to substitute vegetable oil for the butter, how much oil do i use? same amount like the butter?

  7. What can i use instead of the brown sugar?
    Is Demarara Sugar or White Sugar a good alternative? If not, what is a good alternative?

    1. Demarara sugar is probably the closest. The best would be white sugar with a touch of molasses. The molasses flavor is what you’ll be missing if you go with just white sugar (although not the end of the world).