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Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce

Bajan Pepper Sauce

Denise with our finished pepper sauce

Denise with our finished pepper sauce

Greetings from London, I am back. The first day of Spring (really?!), in Ireland, Earrach (Ar-ock) and the 1st is St Brigid’s Day, where we traditionally made the St Brigid’s crosses. I wonder if kids still do that now?

Everyone was secretly hoping I would be miserable, I think (you were!) but, I love London, and the weather doesn’t really bother me, mainly as I have been away from it for a bit. Plus it is not long until I go away again so I want to soak London up. There is so much to write about Barbados though, and there are those recipes too, so it will live on here for a few more days at least.

The first thing I will share is the recipe for Denise’s Pepper Sauce. For the uninitiated, Bajan pepper sauce is delicious and is served with everything. Recipes and preferences vary but, generally, it is quite spicy (for the UK palate at least) but some are very hot and some a bit cooler. I like mine in the middle somewhere. This one, that I am sharing now, is HOT but, really delicious.

The interesting thing for me is how much turmeric went in it. I love fresh tumreric and use it over dried a lot. It requires prep though so I sometimes opt for powder when pressed for time. Bright yellow, a rhizome like ginger, it stains fiercely, be warned. I have had yellow hands that looked like I was an incredibly clumsy smoker for days after using it the first time. I now use gloves. It is worth seeking out as it is quite different to dried, with beautiful aromas, almost floral. Turmeric is terrifically healthy with anti inflammatory and anti oxidant properties too, it is also said to help prevent cancer and recent studies indicate it may help with lipid metabolism and weight loss.

Denise, a chef at The Club in Barbados where I stayed, shared her mother Thelma’s recipe with me, which I am so grateful for. This is the one I am sharing her with you now. Her mother passed away 2 years ago, and her recipes were her legacy to Denise. She still makes her Bajan seasonings, pepper sauce etc. Her pepper sauce recipe is traditional, and basically is composed of turmeric for colour (it also adds a lovely aromatic quality), chillies for heat, onions for consistency, vinegar thins it out and preserves it, mustard gives it an extra bass note and helps with the consistency too. A pinch of brown sugar balances it.

I took notes as we went, Denise adds as she goes and knows what she is looking for. It is a terrific and quite hot sauce. If you want it milder, add more vinegar and mustard (they use a mild American style mustard), or stretch it with some conrnflour & water. This is what they do for commercial pepper sauces. Personally, I think it takes from the flavour but if you want to reduce the heat, this is one approach you can use.

I have some recipes coming up that use this as an ingredients. Both Bajan recipes, and recipes of my own that use it as an ingredient, including a twist on Sunday roast chicken, which I am very excited about.

Whole turmeric

Whole turmeric

Peeled and chopped turmeric

Peeled and chopped turmeric

Note on the recipe: fresh turmeric is widely available in London in Asian shops and Chinese shops. It looks like skinny small ginger. Fiddly but worth it. I have also seen it in Asda too, so keep an eye out for it. If you can’t get it, don’t worry. I will be publishing my own recipe soon once I have played around a bit, and I will make a version without fresh turmeric.



Adding the peppers. PHWOAR!

Adding the peppers. PHWOAR!

Pepper sauce before vinegar and mustard

Pepper sauce before vinegar, sugar and mustard

Finished pepper sauce

Finished pepper sauce

Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce


225g hot scotch bonnet peppers, stems removed
225g peeled onions, coarsely chopped
110g peeled turmeric, diced
4 tbsp American style or mild mustard (prepared not oiwder)
240ml white flavourless vinegar, spirit vinegar would be ideal (again, available in Chinese shops but a flavourless white vinegar will do, just don’t use malt vinegar)
1 tbsp brown sugar


Put the turmeric in a food processer or blender and process until almost smooth. Add a little vinegar to help it along if you need to.
Add the onions, and process until finely chopped. Add the chillies, repeat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and then add the vinegar, sugar and mustard. You want to keep it a little coarse.
Taste and if too hot, reduce the heat by adding vinegar with some mustard to offset it. Bit by bit, tasting as you go.
Store in sterilised jars or bottles. It will keep out the fridge as the vinegar acts as a preservative.




  1. Claire says

    Just rooted through my cupboard and weighed the fresh turmeric in there I had left (brought back from Morocco) and I have 117grms so just enough to give this recipe a go :-)

  2. I love it! Was just thinking of new ways to use Turmeric after a recent trip to Kerala. It is so good for you, so I am trying to eat it every week.

  3. Love this recipe. Think the shop keeper was shocked at how many scotch bonnets I was buying! How can I reduce the turmeric taste slightly, think I added too much.

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  5. Rachel says

    Hello! What alternative ingredient would you use for someone who is very allergic to mustard? Thanks!

  6. Hi there,

    I have made it, bottled it and stored it. All in secret it’s for my husbands birthday! I did try it and it blew my socks off I bottled it anyway but I was wondering, if it is too hot can it be adjusted at a later date? Thanks!
    Ps totally loving your blog it’s my favourite and I use your recipes a lot!

    • Hi there! Sorry I am only picking this up now, missed it.

      To adjust it, I think you need to adjust the vinegar, mustard and turmeric levels. Serve it with yogurt too which will mute it a bit. I am working on a cooler version of the sauce so watch this space.

      • If you want a cooler version, try seeding the peppers. I live near Baltimore, MD. USA and grow my own Scotch Bonnet peppers. Ray

  7. That’s a lovely picture of Denise and great to share Thelma’s recipe.

    And you’re right about the cornflour ruining the commercial ones. If you’re in a hurry (or want a milder sauce) you can use piccalilli in place of the mustard and tumeric but do blend it. The vegetables in the piccalilli give you some body and are a way of cooling it down without making it too runny. Good pepper sauce is addictive though!

  8. Cullen says

    I’m studying in Barbados now through McGill University and we just had a field trip to Cheapside market. I bought an enormous amount of scotch bonnet peppers and can’t wait to get started on my hot sauce. However, I was unable to find fresh turmeric, so i bought some powdered turmeric instead. When will you be posting your version of the recipe without fresh turmeric?

    • You should be able to get fresh turmeric pretty easily in local shops there. It really is well worth the effort. I have not had a chance to refine my recipe yet but it is on my list :)

    • I used to live in Barbados and remember seeing fresh turmeric in the SuperCentre in Oistins. But that was ten years ago. Amazingly,I can now get fresh turmeric in the Morrisons supermarket down the road from me in Herefordshire.

  9. frankflies says

    Have been to Barbados many times over the years, love bajan sauce on everything – including Sunday roast. SO addictive, it’s like the crack of pepper sauces! Got a bit immune to Aunty May’s etc and googled a recipe without much hope. Came across yours and WOW! Spot on. Just followed the recipe to the letter and it was great. May try a bit hotter next time. (Not that it’s not hot as it is) No problem getting fresh turmeric in Asian shops in Birmingham, have also seen it in Asda but at 3 times the price. Thanks a million!

  10. Trudy says

    Thank you soooooo much, i’m Bajan, and always wanted this recipe only found the red pepper sauces used in Trinidad…..Bless up

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  12. Love this recipe , thank you for sharing I’m wondering if this will taste like the home made hot sauce I love so much from Barbados

  13. Shamone Carey says

    I was wonderingwhy didn’t you post the recipes from heathers when you had lunch with her trying to get the recipe for the mac pie and coleslaw

    • Hi Shamone. Heather, like most home cooks, doesn’t weigh as she goes but cooks instinctively. I would need to redo them all at home and I haven’t had time to do that yet as I am always on the road. Thanks for the reminder though, some Sunday when in town I will do it.

Over to you! Your comments - I would love to hear from you :)