Heat With Harmony: The Malagueta Pepper and the World of Mild Hot Sauce

Heat With Harmony: The Malagueta Pepper and the World of Mild Hot Sauce

Have you ever watched the series “Hot Ones?” It’s a YouTube talk show that takes place while the host, Sean Evans, interviews the celebrity of the day. During their talk, they eat chicken wings or a vegetarian option that is covered in progressively hotter sauces. It’s a fascinating look at the many varieties of hot sauces available today. 

Over 23 seasons, “Hot Ones” has shared a variety of hot sauces using every pepper imaginable. The one pepper that’s been overlooked so far is the malagueta. It’s the perfect choice for people looking to explore chili sauces without dealing with too much heat. Host your take on “Hot Ones” with your friends, and use the milder malagueta pepper hot sauce in your chili sauce line-up.

Introducing the Malagueta Pepper

The malagueta pepper is specific to Brazil and is the country’s most commonly used chili pepper. It’s a small, tapered pinkie-sized pepper that’s green to start and turns red when fully ripened. On the Scoville scale, it’s ranked similarly to Tabasco peppers at 60,000 to 100,000 SHU, though the flavor is nothing similar. 

Malagueta peppers have almost a fruity, citrus flavor, but there’s a slightly bitter note. If you’ve ever had an IPA, my favorite type of beer, the malagueta has a similar bitterness to hops. 

There is debate on whether Christopher Columbus brought malagueta peppers to Brazil from Portugal or vice versa. It could go either way, but what’s important is that malagueta peppers inspired Portugal’s peri-peri chicken. 

If you’ve had peri-peri chicken, you’ve likely tried a pepper that is very similar to the malagueta, if not the exact thing. The thing is they’re harder to find in the U.S., so some people haven’t experienced them, and Légal wants to change that.

What Are Some of the Mildest Chilis?

The Scoville scale dates back to 1912. A pharmacist took a sample of the chili and determined how much water was needed before the chili’s spiciness was no longer apparent. More water means a spicier chili. This method is used to establish the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).

Tabasco peppers are similar in spiciness to the malagueta. Bell peppers do not have any heat. Here are other mild peppers that help you better understand where malagueta peppers rank.

The first pepper that is measured on the Scoville scale (Scoville Heat Units or SHU) is the pepperoncini. It’s usually pickled and included in antipasto platters. Pimentos also measure 100 to 500 SHU.

Continuing through the list of common mild chilis building up to the malagueta in heat are:

  • Anaheim at 500 to 2,500 SHU 
  • Poblano and Ancho (dried poblano) at 1,000 to 2,000 SHU
  • Cherry Peppers at 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
  • Jalapeno at 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
  • Chipotle at 5,000 to 10,000 SHU
  • Serrano at 10,000 to 25,000 SHU
  • Cayenne at 30,000 to 50,000 SHU
  • Thai Dragon at 35,000 to 90,000 SHU

This brings the malagueta, which starts at 60,000 SHU and goes up to 100,000 SHU. It’s spicier than some of the common peppers, but it’s not overwhelming.

Until recently, the hottest chili pepper was the Carolina Reaper at 1,500,000 to 2,200,000 SHU. However, Guinness World Records named  Pepper X as the world’s hottest chili after measurements found it measures 2,069,000 SHU. Those peppers are not a pleasant experience. 

How Is Malagueta Hot Sauce Made?

Any hot sauce is a mix of vinegar, chili peppers, and maybe a fruit or vegetable for flavor. That’s why you might see a garlic sriracha sauce or a mango habanero bottled sauce. 

To make malagueta hot sauce, carrots, vinegar, and Brazil's popular chili peppers are blended and aged. It’s strained and bottled. The mild sauce uses fewer peppers per bottle than the hot version. 

Once you have a bottle, you’ll find you use it on everything from scrambled eggs to grilled chicken. 

I love it on fried rice and even to make a homemade take on Aztec hot chocolate that is the chocolate, chili sauce, and cinnamon. It’s versatile enough to work for desserts, soups, stews, and casseroles.

Traditional Brazilian Dishes That Use Malagueta Peppers

Malagueta peppers are commonly used in Brazilian meals. They add flavor and a kick of spice without being too hot, which is why we recommend mild malagueta hot sauce. As the hot sauce has clear citrus notes, it brings harmony and balance to so many dishes. What are some of these traditional Brazilian foods?

Acarajé is a fritter made from cooked black-eyed peas, malagueta peppers, garlic, and onion. Once the peas are mashed and incorporated with the rest of the ingredients, flour is added to thicken it into a batter for frying.

Bahia shrimp are cooked in a mixture of garlic, lime juice, annatto oil, onion, red and green bell peppers, coconut milk, cilantro, and malagueta peppers. Don’t take the tail off as that’s how you eat them. Eat them with bowls of cooked rice.

Empadão is a savory pastry filled with the following meat filling and baked until golden. Or, turn it into a pot pie if you prefer. The filling includes shredded chicken, onions, garlic, tomatoes, green olives, peas, and hearts of palm. Add a splash of malagueta hot sauce and move the mixture to a pie crust or create a turnover if you’re opting for single-serving pies.

Feijoada is Brazil’s national dish. It’s a meat and black bean stew that puts the malagueta to good use for a little spice and flavor. Meats added to this stew usually include smoked pork, bacon, corned beef, and a sausage like chorizo or linguiça.  The stew is thickened with cassava flour.

Moqueca de Camarão is a shrimp or fish stew made with the seafood option, full-fat coconut milk, roasted red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Green and red malagueta chilies also go into the stew, along with fresh lime juice, before it’s slowly simmered.

Finally, Vapatá is another shrimp stew, but this one has a thickener like bread crumbs and ground cashews or peanuts. Shrimp, malagueta peppers, green onions, tomatoes, diced onion, and salt cod stew in coconut milk. It’s served over bowls of white rice.

Try a Bottle and See What You Think

With the mild version of malagueta hot sauce from Légal, make your own versions of these popular Brazilian dishes. You might find it hard to get the whole peppers, but the sauce gives you the flavor profile you need. 

The mild sauce isn’t so hot that you’re overpowered. It’s pleasantly spicy and full of flavor. Even better, order the boxed set of mild, medium, and hot, and pick your favorite.