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Citrus Habanero Sauce

In the fall our farmers market is busting at the seams with hot peppers. They range from medium hot, to “What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you eat that?”

I buy a pretty wide variety of the sane hot peppers, along with some of the “Why did I lose a bet with the Scoville Heat Scale,” level peppers too.

Then I bring them home, wash them, dry them, and freeze them. That way I always have them on hand for a quick chili or stir fry – or just to punish my mouth if I think it’s getting too metaphorically big for its britches.

On Saturday Jedd and I broke our typical routine and went out to lunch. We found a little hole in the wall with great reviews and split a plate of nachos. On the side, was a citrus habanero sauce. It was bright, and spicy, and on the way home we tried to suss out what might have been in the sauce.

At home, we cracked a beer and went through the fridge to see how we might recreate the sauce with what we had on hand. I emailed our friend Steve (the king of hot sauces) to see what his basic blend was – and with his guidance – and our best guesses, we created this little jar of deliciousness.

For the citrus angle I didn’t just want to use orange, or lemon or lime. We had a grapefruit that had been calling my name for days and I thought it would pair perfectly with the heat of the peppers.

Note, in the recipe yield I’m guessing that it was a little over a cup. But, it’s hard to gauge because Jedd and I went through a decent amount of it just standing over the saucepan.

This sauce costs less than a couple of dollars to make, and I guarantee it will make you very, very, happy.

Habanero Citrus Sauce

Yields: Approximately 1 cup.


2 small habaneros, halved and seeded

2 large jalapenos, seeded and roughly chopped

2 small cayenne peppers, halved and seeded

1 large orange carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ medium red onion, roughly chopped

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons honey

3 teaspoons lime juice

2 teaspoons grapefruit juice

1 teaspoon orange juice


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Fit a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Toss the habaneros, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, carrot, and onion with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes, and check the hot peppers. If they’re browned, remove them to a bowl. If not, check, them every few minutes. When the hot peppers are done, keep roasting the vegetables until they’re fork tender, about 10-12 minutes more.

Pour the rice, apple vinegar, and honey into a small saucepan. Stir in the reserved hot peppers and vegetables. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, process until smooth.

Stir in the lime juice, grapefruit juice, and orange juice.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

(Photos by Launie Kettler)

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