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.

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

spoon in a white bowl of nashville hot sauce


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.

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.

nashville hot sauce recipe for pinterest

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bowl of nashville hot sauce in a bowl

Nashville Hot Sauce Recipe

4.41 from 331 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: Jessica Formicola
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!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Wow, what a sauce! Got a real bang to it but not too intolerable. Served for a BBQ the other day with grilled chicken, shrimp and some steak even. Would be nice on pork, I think, like ribs. Going to try it in a burger as well.

  2. 5 stars
    I love a good homemade hot sauce and this one is finger-lickin’ good. The sweetness from the honey really does it for me!

  3. 5 stars
    I have always been a little intimidated by the thought of making my own Nashville hot sauce, but this recipe is really easy to follow and gives me all the confidence I need.

  4. 5 stars
    This hot sauce was so easy to make and turned out great! It was amazing served with biscuits just like you suggested!

  5. 5 stars
    This was such a unique and unexpected sauce! Quick, easy and has the right amount of kick; easily, a new favorite recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    This hot sauce is so flavorful and packs the perfect amount of heat! I’ll never be able to go back to the storebought stuff after making this!

  7. 5 stars
    This is one marvelous, flavor packed sauce. Love the chicken biscuits you made using it. Will definitely be giving this a try.

    1. I would cook the chicken, shred it and then add the sauce. These spices are a little grainy and I would think they could scald/burn.

  8. 3 stars
    Followed the recipe to a tea if you wanted hot chicken toffee apples that’s what I got. No idea where I went wrong it certainly didnt look like the one in the photo. Still tasted good but had to give up before it broke a tooth! Any advice how to get it smooth would be greatly welcome,

    1. Hi Cheryl, I think maybe you cooked it took long and too hot? It will never be fully smooth- we talk about it being a little grainy in the post. But it certianly shouldn’t have gotten hard- that is a hard rock candy stage, so likely too hot for too long.I’m really sorry this failed you!

  9. 5 stars
    Okay, I really need to try this recipe. Looks amazing and I love adding hot sauce to pretty much everything!

  10. 5 stars
    We had this recipe for dinner last night and they were amazing! Already can’t wait to make them again!

  11. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness this stuff is delicious!! We dunked some wings in it and it was FABULOUS! Thanks for a great spicy recipe. I loved how thick it was.

  12. 5 stars
    I’ve had this on my list of things to make. Thank you so much for this recipe, we can’t wait to try it! Looks amzing!

  13. 5 stars
    This was a fantastic sauce! The flavor is wonderful. I used it to make fried chicken sandwiches. I added mayonnaise to mine and it was perfect. I did notice, however, that all the seasonings settled at the bottom. I heated my butter first then added the seasonings and honey (I was too excited to try the recipe and didn’t even read the part about mixing it all and then heating). I’ll mix them all then heat next time. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Amber, glad you liked it. This recipe does need to be stirred before serving. It is the only downfall, but at least a simple step. Glad you liked it!

  14. 5 stars
    How do you reuse this recipe. We have a resturaunt opening and LOVE this recipe, however we can’t keep it from clumping soon after it’s made!

    1. Hi Faith- using more honey can help stabilize it, but unfortunately, it is the one flaw of the recipe. Heating it slightly and re-stirring are the only options.