Surprises. Some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: Surprises don’t belong in your hot sauce.

You may think that hot sauce is all tomato, vinegar, onion, and spices. But guess what? The artificial and downright disgusting ingredients added to some mainstream hot sauces are no surprise. In fact, they’re listed right on the label.

So, think before you eat. Do you really want to put that in your mouth?

Sodium Bisulfite: Not Meant to Be Eaten. Really.

If an ingredient is FDA-approved for only “limited use in food,” we’re probably not going to put it in our sauce. If one of its other main uses is as a toilet bowl cleaner, then that’s a hard no. Antifungal foot creams? Double nope.

Sodium Bisulfite is used as a preservative in some foods. It’s also used in making paper and leather, in dye and chemical production, and in metal finishing. It’s used to control pH in swimming pools and aquariums. The list goes on. It can severely irritate the nose, throat, and lungs and cause asthma-like reactions. Oh, and do I hear possible genetic mutations? Yuck.

Food Coloring: Are You Cancer-Curious?

Look at Secret Aardvark’s seven hot sauce flavors, and you’ll see a near-rainbow of color. Know why? Because peppers are different colors.

We bet you thought all hot sauces relied on the natural colors of their food ingredients. Well, that’s simply not so.

Check out labels, and you’ll find some sauce makers who amp up the color with chemical food dyes. Blue #1, Red #3 and #40, Yellow #5 and #6 are among the unnatural ingredients perfect for making hot sauce “more appealing to the consumer.” These petroleum-derived chemicals are banned in some countries, though the FDA still considers certain ones to be safe here. Regardless, known side effects may include hyperactivity, inflammation, leaky gut, impaired cellular and vital organ function…and even cancerous tumors.


We’ll opt for getting our color from real, whole food, thanks.

Food Powders: A Cheap Substitute

Reconstituted food: it’s excellent for astronauts. You might even have some in your bugout bag right now. Gold stars for being prepared!

Now, of course, we all have a little garlic powder in the pantry. And okay, powdered food ingredients aren’t super harmful. They’re just lame. And they made our list because, beyond outer space and the apocalypse, there’s only one use for them in commercial food production: cutting corners.

Big companies must protect their profits, and consumers pay by getting a more processed and less natural product. Powdered ingredients are the hallmark of sauces created in a lab rather than a kitchen.

Frankly, we’d rather just chop up a damn carrot or onion and put it right into our bottle. 

And don’t get us started on the peppers. Hot sauce IS peppers. So, using powdered peppers (versus fresh pepper mash bursting with flavor and nutrition) is Just. Not. Okay.

You can often tell if a sauce is using powdered peppers because the first ingredient on the label will be water. That probably means they may be using some of that water to reconstitute the powdered ingredients.

The Secret’s Out

Well, now the secret’s out. There’s a little more to be wary of with hot sauce than just the burn.

Here’s one more thing that’s no secret: Secret Aardvark’s ingredients. In fact, we were featured last October in Eat This, Not That! as one of “6 Hot Sauces with the Highest Quality Ingredients.”

Here’s to all the sauces that are keeping it real!

Want to make a sriracha sauce without the extra chemicals? Here’s an all-natural DIY sriracha hot sauce recipe that contains just six natural ingredients (most of them you probably already have at home). Check out this simple sriracha recipe from Chili Pepper Madness.

Your DNA will thank you later.