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If You Can’t Stand the Heat...

Try some of the hottest salsas and sauces in the East Bay if you dare.


In a classic Simpsons episode, Homer eats a chili pepper that’s so hot, it sends him on a hallucinatory vision quest, with a coyote voiced by Johnny Cash as his spirit guide. I’ve gone everywhere looking for peppers that hot. As part of my search, I tasted a few of the hottest sauces and salsas made in the East Bay.

Infierno salsa

From: Cancún in Berkeley.
Flavor: A thick habañero salsa with big bits of cilantro and onion.
Heat: Dante’s Inferno was much hotter than this one.
Chili pepper rating: 1 out of 5.

Devil’s XXX barbecue sauce

From: Looney’s BBQ in Berkeley.
Flavor: A smoky barbecue sauce with an extra kick from India’s famed ghost pepper.
Heat: It makes for killer Buffalo wings, but it just didn’t do damage on its own.
Chili pepper rating: 2 out of 5.

Catch a Fire hot sauce

From: Walnut Creek Yacht Club.
Flavor: House-made habañero hot sauce with a Caribbean flavor of molasses, brown sugar, and allspice.
Heat: Not scalding, but it gets a bump in these rankings for being the tastiest sauce tested.
Chili pepper rating: 3 out of 5.

Habañero salsa

From: Maria Maria in Danville and Walnut Creek.
Flavor: A simple, if slightly watery, Mexican habañero salsa with a sharp lime tang.
Heat: My fellow editors had to stop me from putting the fire extinguisher in my mouth.
Chili pepper rating: 4 out of 5.

Grim Creeper hot sauce

From: Horney Toads in Concord.
Flavor: This fledgling hot sauce company’s nuclear option has a sweet start with a brutal finish, thanks to the ghost pepper.
Heat: I saw God: He was pointing a flamethrower at me.
Chili pepper rating: 5 out of 5.


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