The Summits of Spice: Hot Sauce Festivals, Ranked

Entertainment Food & Drink

We live in a beautiful world, full of options, where no two hot sauces are exactly alike. There is the fermented, cayenne funk of Tabasco. The vinegary, sweet burn of Sriracha. The deep, rich bite of chili oil. It’s our duty as humans to try them all, putting them on everything from eggs to noodles to PB&J.

Being seasoned hot sauce gift curators, we’re ready to assist you in your quest for the right spice. We have assembled a ranking of hot sauce festivals using our internationally recognized rating system of skeptical peppers to give you an idea of the importance of each festival. So go forth and start tasting.

(One out of four skeptical peppers)

Louisiana Hot Sauce Festival (Lafayette, LA) April 16–17
Louisiana is spice HQ, boasting big name brands like Tabasco, Crystal, and, of course, Louisiana Hot Sauce. But what about the little guys? Can they stand the heat? This festival aims to find out…it’s for the INDIE hot sauces. You know, the ones you haven’t heard of yet. Are they wearing skinny jeans and collecting vinyl?

Oxnard Salsa Festival (Oxnard, CA) July 30–31
Honestly, we only put this one on the list to ignite a debate about whether salsa can be classified as a “hot sauce.”

(Two out of four skeptical peppers)

Cajun Hot Sauce Festival (New Iberia, LA) April 8–10
This is Louisiana Hot Sauce Festival’s bigger, older brother. The Cajun Hot Sauce Festival is in the same state, but with a different angle, showing special favor for Tabasco, which is made just down the street in Avery Island.

(Three out of four skeptical peppers)

Portland Hot Sauce Expo (Portland, OR) August 6–7
Sure, this Portland festival just completed its first year, but it was no embarrassing rookie. There was a Chihuahua beauty pageant, a Bloody Mary mix-off and a ghost pepper eating competition. Plus lots of craft beer.

Fiery Foods Festival (Albuquerque, NM) March 4–6
Can you imagine walking onstage in a tux, unfolding a prepared speech and smiling with tears in your eyes as you accept a gleaming, golden trophy that smells like Cholula? If so, this is the place for you. A hot sauce champ is crowned every year at this festival’s gala, called The Scovies.

(Four out of four skeptical peppers)

New York City Hot Sauce Expo (New York, NY) April 23–24
When Frank Sinatra crooned, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” on ‘New York, New York,’ do you think he was referencing the Big Apple’s hot sauce business? We do. If you come to this Expo, don’t miss the Hot Sauce Hall of Fame.

Photo courtesy of

Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival (Austin, TX) August 21
This is why hot sauce lovers wake up in the morning. This is why they eat food that brings them to tears. This is why they tend to their peppers in the garden, making sure they are planted in a sunny, well-drained spot, receiving at least six hours of light per day and two inches of water per week. The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival has been Mecca for the sauce squad for 26 years. Each year, there are over 15,000 attendees trying to singe their tongues on more than 350 different sauces.

Tips for the tasting
At Man Crates, we don’t expect anyone to go off into the world of hot sauce without proper prep. After all, we believe assembling a complete collection of gifts for men without hot sauce is like eating chilaquiles dry. Ew. So here are some hot sauce gifts for the spice king in your life.

Hot Sauce Making Kit
You’ll know you’re in the upper echelon of sauce-dom once you stumble upon peppers that sound fake. Carolina Reaper—is that a C-grade horror movie villain? Trinidad Moruga Scorpion—possibly a rare animal only spotted in Caribbean nations? Nope, both real and both available in this do-it-all kit.

If you’re looking for a little guidance, we’ve compiled a few different recipes inside the crate to help you reach peak spice. Here’s one:

Tropical Torture Recipe

1 cup fresh mango
3 habanero peppers (seeded)
2 TB lime juice
2 TB honey
1 TB passion fruit (optional)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 garlic
1-2 ts of salt
1-5 Carolina Reaper peppers

Blend all the ingredients (besides those fiery Carolina Reapers) in a food processor until smooth. Pick your heat level, and add the extreme peppers until your desired level is reached. Blend again, bottle, and let rest for 24 hours. Then, go nuts.

Sriracha Crate
One sauce to rule them all. Fact: Sriracha is California’s greatest export, narrowly beating out avocados and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Premium Hot and Spicy Crate
Think of this crate as Tour de Spice. From this bounty, you can can grow it, eat it, sprinkle it or drink it (not recommended).