On a dare my teen once drank a glass of Cholula, a vinegary Mexican hot sauce that’s spicer than Tabasco. She was used to dousing her food with the hot stuff anyway so it didn’t seem like a big deal to have a drink. She downed the Cholula in a few gulps, reached for a glass of water and then downed that too. I should probably mention that my middle child was the one who suggested the dare. And me? Well, I just sat back and watched the whole thing unfold.

This is NOT the way I’d suggest introducing your kids to hot sauce. My advice is to go gently. One dab at a time. Mix a little into stews or sauces to give them a bit of a kick. Add a drop or two to sandwiches. Why hot sauces? To put it simply, they give food an added dimension of flavor. They wake up your taste buds. Turn up the heat in your food by trying out one of these sauces:

Cholula sauce: This bright, deep orange-red Mexican sauce is thin and vinegary. Use it in place of Tabasco sauce on sandwiches or mix it into guacamole to turn the heat up just a bit.

Valentina sauce: Another Mexican hot sauce. But this one is slightly thicker and spicier than Cholula. I noticed a chef at Caffe Lola in Niagara Falls mix it into marinara and I’ve been doing the same ever since. The heat isn’t overpowering just enough to give you a tickle in your throat.

Chili Garlic Sauce: You can see the red peppers seeds right in this pungent sauce that combines heat and garlic. This Vietnamese sauce works well in Asian dishes. But you might also mix it with mayo to use it either as a dip for chips or a sandwich spread.

Sriracha sauce: The standard variety available in the U.S. has a building heat that envelops the middle of your tongue–and stays there. Mr. Squid is a huge Sriracha fan and sneaks it in whenever he gets a chance. The consistency is almost like ketchup and you can use it as you would ketchup. Just remember that it packs a kick. Use it in Italian, Asian, Indian, Mexican … well, you get the idea. This is one versatile hot sauce.

Frank’s RedHot sauce: I had to add one all-American favorite. This sauce is synonymous with the place where it was created: Buffalo. It’s a must if you’re making wings and it’s a perfect match with bleu cheese. I like to dabble it on salads that have creamy dressings too.

Your turn: What’s your go-to hot sauce–or do you prefer to go without the heat?

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