With the way things in the world are these days, everyone is trying to celebrate the small things. I can’t blame them. There’s a festival for everything — cranberries, bacon, craft beer, comics — and now hot sauce!

Did you know that the hot sauce industry is booming in New Jersey? It’s just like the craft beer industry, but instead of going to your local brewery to grab a drink, these hot sauces are found in quaint mom-and-pop stores all across the state or online. Pepper heads from all across the state eat up these sauces and peppers.

There are so many different sauce companies in New Jersey. From White House Station to New Providence, Fanwood to Woodland Park, New Jersey is the new go-to place for delicious hot sauces.


A few months ago I was introduced to the hot sauce scene by my good friend and Deminski & Doyle super fan CastIron_Kyle. We were chatting about cooking when he had me try a few different hot sauces he had with him. They were delicious! The flavor, the spice, the varieties of peppers, I was absolutely hooked. That being said, I still can’t do the crazy, super-hot sauces.

To many pepper heads, sure, the heat is great, but it’s the flavor that matters most.

Bloody Mary cocktail with chili pepper, ice and celery.

Just like craft breweries, every sauce company is different. What makes them unique is their ingredients and the way they make their sauce. I went to my first hot sauce festival in Boston back in April and was lucky enough to chat with a few New Jersey-based hot sauce companies. One person was telling me that just because two companies have the same flavored sauce, they’ll taste vastly different. It all depends on how long the peppers ferment, how many peppers they use, heck, even if they’re Jersey peppers vs peppers from somewhere else.

Bob Giaquinto / Townsquare Media
Bob Giaquinto / Townsquare Media

There are four hot sauce companies that I absolutely love from New Jersey. They’re not sponsors or any of that stuff — I just really like their sauces.

Defcon Sauces

Defcon Sauces was started by John Dilley and his wife Maggie in 2004 from New Providence, New Jersey. Their wing sauces are what put them on the map. Fast forward to today, their sauces have won them over 70 international awards.

I absolutely love Defcon’s wing sauces. I got to try them out in Boston when I went to that festival in April and I have to say, their Medium “Defense Condition #2” wing sauce is my favorite. It’s got the perfect Buffalo wing sauce flavor with a bit more of a cayenne pepper kick.

Spices of the Sun

Spices of the Sun from Woodland Park, New Jersey, brings a Caribbean kick to hot sauces. Started by Master Chef Nikisha Williams, Spices of the Sun is more than just sauces. As a master chef, Nikisha offers cooking classes to both kids and adults.

Of the sauces she has, my favorites are the Green Devil Dance sauce and the Orange Mango Inferno sauce. I’ve used the Green Devil Sauce as a marinade for chicken. The cilantro and green chili give the chicken some incredible flavor.


Hot Graham Sauce Co.

Hot Graham Sauce Company is based out of Fanwood, New Jersey. After founder Lorne Graham was gifted 10 superhot pepper plants in 2019, he set out to experiment with different sauce recipes. Both Lorne and his wife are musicians, so everything they do with their sauces has a musical edge to them.

Lorne and Hot Graham Sauce Co. believes in flavor over for their sauces, and you can definitely tell. My favorite sauce of theirs is the Warmup Hot Sauce — a green jalapeno sauce that has a great blend of sweet and spice. You pick up hints of ginger and pineapple that pair well with the spice of the jalapeno pepper - the perfect warmup sauce for someone just getting into the hobby!

Whitehouse Station Sauce Co.

Another fantastic company is the Whitehouse Station Sauce Co, from — you guessed it — Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Whitehouse Station Sauce Co. is a family company founded in 2013 by John Kasper and his son John Kasper — a culinary graduate of Johnson & Wales University. They started with one sauce — a habanero sauce blended with onions, peppers, and garlic and are now up to about 15 sauces.

I love all of Whitehouse Station’s sauces, but my two favorite sauces are their Hot Cherry Pepper sauce and their Table Sauce. The Hot Cherry Pepper sauce is incredibly versatile, but my favorite way to have this sauce is on a hoagie. The Table Sauce is good on just about anything but my favorite thing to put it on was pizza.

At the Boston Hot Sauce Festival in April they gave away a 5-gallon jug of the Table Sauce and I was very jealous.

Bob Giaquinto / Townsquare Media
Bob Giaquinto / Townsquare Media

If you’re interested in getting into the hot sauce scene, or if you’re a Jersey pepper head, you’re in luck. The Philadelphia Hot Sauce Festival is coming up Aug. 19 and 20 at the Canstatter Biergarten in Northeast Philadelphia.

CastIron_Kyle is the head judge for the various awards that are going to be given out by judges from the tri-state area. If you want to grab tickets to the festival, you can grab them here.

These festivals are so much fun, and I might have to make a stop there that weekend.

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