Homemade Chili Sauce. An Old Fashioned Recipe.

Yeahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!  It’s fall and that means homemade Chili Sauce!  The tangy, sweet, spicy condiment that makes pork, potato pancakes and chicken come ALIVE.  Well, not technically “alive”. That would be quite scary.

If you can chop vegetables, simmer something on the stove and happen to have a working nose you CAN make chili sauce.   It’s full of chunky vegetables and wintery spices like cloves, brown sugar and cinnamon with the added heat of CAYENNE. 

So about that nose thing … several years go I got sinusitis. One of the symptoms of it is not being able to smell anything.  Great for walking through garbage juice puddles at the dump, but not so great when making chili sauce.  The thing about creating great food is you need to taste as you go. Even if you’re using a recipe. And the thing about tasting is you need your sense of smell to get a good idea of how things taste.  So I made my sinusitis chili sauce and had no idea how it tasted. I dragged it around for all of my friends and relatives to taste and got a unanimous decision.

It was gross.

Bland I believe was the actual word. I pulled the spice bag out too early. So as you make this and let it simmer don’t be afraid to adjust things. The inability to adjust is my main complaint about the stupid Instant Pot by the way. You can read my complete unbiased review of how much I don’t like the Instant Pot here.

Shot of a rare museum quality artifact – the recipe card. 

You may be asking yourself why now Karen? Why NOW? Because now (around the end of summer) is when you’re going to find the fresh ingredients for everything you need to make it.

Everything that goes into chili sauce is in season in late summer.

What’s in Chili Sauce

This isn’t the thin runny, condiment you see in the grocery storey. It’s a hearty, full of fruit and vegetables concoction that’s more like a chutney. 

  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Banana Peppers
  • Red Peppers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Peaches

As far as spices and flavourings go you have brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Honestly all you do is rough chop a bunch of vegetables, throw them in a pot and let ’em simmer. If you can’t manage that then I’m so sorry to hear you’re in a coma.  Get well.

Ready for this old timey, vintage, sweet and spicy chili sauce recipe?  Good. I’m proud you were able to shake yourself out of that coma.

What to Eat it With

Close up shot of potato pancakes served with chutney style sauce.

Canning Chili Sauce

  1. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Bring sauce to a boil if it isn’t already.
  3. Fill washed, hot pint jars with hot chili sauce, leaving 1/2″ head space.  
  4. Wipe rims, put lids and screw rings on.  Finger tighten the rings.
  5. Process in a hot water bath making sure they are submerged with at least 2″ of water over them.
  6. Process for 20 minutes. Start timing the 20 minutes once the water has returned to boiling after putting all your jars in.
  7. Remove jars from the water bath using a jar lifter and set on the counter undisturbed until you hear the satisfying “pop” of them sealing.

To make canning less of a pain (literally) get one of these cheap canning kits that have a jar lifter, a funnel, tongs and everything else you need for canning.

The Recipe

Chili Sauce

Classic, old fashioned sweet and spicy chili sauce.  PERFECT with potato pancakes, chicken and pork.
3.8 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Canning/Preserves
Cuisine: English
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 7 hours
Canning Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 15 jars
Calories: 643kcal
Author: Karen Bertelsen


  • 18 quarts tomatoes
  • 2 bunches celery
  • 3 quarts banana peppers
  • 10 red peppers
  • 12 onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 4 cups vinegar
  • 4 peaches
  • 2.5 lbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsps. cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsps. cloves
  • 3 tsps. cinnamon
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves


  • Peel tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunging them into cold water. The skin will slide right off.  If it doesn’t, plunge them in the hot water again.
  • Wrap all the whole spices in a little cheesecloth bag.
  • Rough chop the remaining ingredients.  Don’t worry about it being pretty, just chop them up into pieces between 1/4″ – 1/2″.
  • Put all the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until thick and reduced by 1/3rd.  This will take many hours. 5-10 hours depending on the type of tomatoes you use.
  • Taste as you go! If after 3 hours you find you like the taste of it, then remove the spice bag and continue to simmer until thickened. I always leave my spice bag in until the end though.


To can this chili sauce:
  1. Prepare a water bath.
  2. Fill canning jars with hot chili sauce then put on sealer and band.
  3. Process for 20 minutes in water bath.
If you want you can also add other spices to the spice bag. Mustard seed, star anise, peppercorns would all be good additions.


Serving: 1jar | Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 150g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 3g | Sodium: 2616mg | Potassium: 3230mg | Fiber: 25g | Sugar: 120g | Vitamin A: 12395IU | Vitamin C: 290mg | Calcium: 239mg | Iron: 4.6mg

This recipe makes a HUGE batch so either half it or plan on preserving it.  

Pro tip? Do not attempt this while suffering from sinusitis. 

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Homemade Chili Sauce. An Old Fashioned Recipe.


  1. Anna Marie Mangili says:

    Was wondering if there was any way to approximate the weight of the tomatoes? The quart measurement is a bit foreign to me. Same for the peppers.

    • Karen says:

      HI Anna Marie. 18 quarts is equal to half a bushel. A bushel of tomatoes = 50-55 lbs. So half a bushel is apx. 25 lbs. And a 6 quart basket is the typical longish fruit basket. Not the short squat type of one, the longer one. It equals 7 litres. ~ karen!

  2. Maria says:

    I noticed on your recipe card that you scald your tomatoes to peel them.

    I learned this summer that if you cut the tomatoes in half and freeze them for a couple of days in a ziplock bags then defrost them, the skin will slip off in your hand. No boiling water needed. It does not affect the taste at all. I did this all summer and it worked perfectly with any cooked tomato recipe. Pro tip!

    • Karen says:

      Yup. Freezing tomatoes is a great option! I freeze all my tomatoes at the end of summer. But this requires half a bushel of tomatoes and most people wouldn’t have enough room in their freezer for them all. :) ~ karen

  3. Beth L Bilous says:

    OOOh I’m gonna just buy a jar of Calabrian Chili sauce at Wegmans, and whirl it up in a blender. Way easier folks.

  4. Rose G. Sluzas says:

    This recipe sounds great-
    Like some others, I would like to make half the quantity. So, I have a few questions-
    What would the weight be for some of the ingredients?–

    18 quarts tomatoes is equivalent to ??? lbs. (if I have a choice, what type of tomato should I buy?)
    Banana peppers–3 quarts is equivalent to ??? lbs (I have not seen banana peppers at our local farm market–can I use jalapenos???-they are very plentiful–would I use the same amount?
    Celery–how much does a bunch weigh?

    I imagine some of the quantities can be approximate. However, in making something the first time, it helps to have an idea of measurements.
    The second time around, we can adjust to our personal preference
    This looks so good, I imagine I will be making it many times in the future.

    For right now, I hope to use some as an ingredient in sweet and sour meatballs and to freeze the rest.
    Hope to hear from you soon so I can buy those tomatoes.
    Thanks so much

  5. Candice says:

    PLEASE HELP! I woul dvery much like to make this recipe, but I live in France and have no idea how to convert a quart of tomato! How many grams (or kilos) of tomatoes makes up 18 quarts??? Or if that is too hard, how many “regular” sized tomatoes make 1 quart ?

    I hope you will answer, despite the age of the post :):):)

  6. Todd says:

    How about cooking ingredients down in a pressure cooker than simmer to thicken do you think that would work

    • Karen says:

      Hi Todd. It *might* work but I actually don’t think that you’d save any time because it’s the simmering to thicken (and meld the flavours) that really takes all those hours. So mainly you’d just be dirtying two things instead of one. :) ~ karen!

  7. Sabina says:

    Ok your “rare museum quality artifact” (aka the recipe card) first says 3 quarts of tomatoes, then I see a 6 written above that. Then down on your printable recipe you have 18 quarts of tomatoes. What is the correct amount of tomatoes because I really want to make this and I still have tomatoes left from the garden :)

  8. Jacqui says:

    Yet again, something I cannot wait to make! Let me know if you ever start taking interns, I’ll be the first to apply, HA! Question – have you ever made in a crock-pot (ie apple-butter) for reduction? I love my gas stove, but it also likes to scald my concoctions that require simmering. It doesn’t know how to simmer. I cannot wait to make my house smell like spicy-spicy goodness!

    • Jacqui says:

      Ok just saw the slow-cooker comment, did a search for the “crock,” didn’t find anything, so asked away. Dis-regard the cooking question, intern question still stands :)

  9. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Hey Karen, as soon as I read “chili sauce” my nose memories kicked into gear. I grew up in Winona with the E D Smith jam factory almost in our backyard. This time of year they made chili and the air was filled with the most glorious smells imaginable. Thanks for the happy thoughts…. my nose hairs are tingling! Lol.

  10. susan warder says:

    Did this ever exist in a smaller form. I love the taste image that the ingredients form but I only want a single jar (which would live forever in fridge with the condiment family )
    I can do the math but sometimes w recipes, extreme reductions or multiplications have a dramatic effect on the outcome.
    Do you think reducing this to single size would work?

    • Karen says:

      Eek. I’m not sure Susan. That’s a big reduction. I can see halving the recipe as an O.K. way to go but I’m not sure a single serving would work. In fact I’m almost positive it won’t. It needs to simmer for a long time to both reduce and get the proper flavour from the spices. If you were to try to simmer one jars worth of it I think all the liquids and balances would be off. You could maybe make a half recipe and give the other jars away? Or freeze them if you’re worried about canning. ~ karen!

      • susan w says:

        I was afraid of that. Perhaps its worth a “science experiment”, using chutney recipes but with these ingredients. They’re not hugely dissimilar.
        Thanks for such a speedy response

  11. Jen says:

    YUM. I wish I still had tomatoes to make it! I feel the need to share something that I made with the 1 billion paprika peppers that I have (still) growing in my garden this year. It’s a fermented hot sauce but it’s much more of kind-of-hot sauce that I’ve been using as an ingredient rather than as a condiment. IT’S SO GOOD and I got it from one of @urbanfarmstead’s Instagram stories:

    1 1/2 pounds your choice of not too spicy peppers (I used about 95% of my Leutschauer paprika peppers from Baker Creek and 5% habaneros), stemmed and cored
    5 cloves garlic
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 heaping tablespoon salt

    Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to a puree. Pour into a covered glass jar and ferment in a cool dark place for 1 week.

    After fermentation, return to blender and add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar.

    IT IS SO GOOD. I doubled the recipe but didn’t feel like canning so I froze what I didn’t keep in the fridge. It made about a quart and a half?


  12. Olli says:

    Sounds delicious. Any chance that the next time you make this you could weigh your ingredients for me? That way, I can cut the recipe (or multiply it) easily. Weights are so much easier to work with than volume measurements — for instance 18 quarts of tomatoes can be very different depending on their size.
    I’d love to try this recipe out by making a smaller batch, but I am afraid I would get the proportions way off in trying to cut it down to one or two jars worth.

  13. Christine Hilton says:

    I realized this week that EVERY recipe l have tried of yours is the absolute best! Your rhubarb cake with coulis is a man tamer.I can’t wait to make this chili sauce….next year.

  14. Sabina says:

    That mass quantity of ingredients and only 6 cloves of garlic??? Something must be wrong, that just doesn’t seem right…

  15. Paula says:

    18 quarts is rather subjective; do you have a weight? I make my own but I would like to try your recipe.

  16. Shelly Bower says:

    Can u freeze this instead of canning?

  17. Katsu says:

    Chili sauce is essential with meatloaf and mac & cheese, preferably together. Seriously, try it on baked mac & cheese, you will never go back to plain. I don’t use celery or peaches in mine but I might need to give it a whirl.

  18. Cathy Reeves says:

    Sadly, my last bout of sinusitis resulted in a near total loss of smell and taste.
    ( as if that wasn’t enough I also smell odors that aren’t there. Gobs of fun)
    All of this said I’m perfectly willing to accept a jar of yours to add pizzazz to meals that folks tell me are either too bland or over the top too whatever— garlicky, peppery, etc.
    And you’ll get all the kudos, I promise.😉👍
    Address on request.

    • Tina says:

      Years ago I was in a bad slip-n-fall and crashed my face. One eye socket was smashed, sinuses were flattened, as was ear canal. My nose was obliterated. They said I had to heal for “a bit” before surgery…that bit ended up being about 9 years. Finally the surgery was done, healing was a minimum 10 weeks and it was amazing! I could breathe through my nose, I didn’t have constant sinus infections and my right ear worked! My hearing and balance was SO bad! And I got back part of my sense of taste and smell. What a difference!

      • whitequeen96 says:

        Wow – that sounds awful! Glad you’re better than you were. Tasting and smelling things again must seem miraculous!

      • Tina says:

        Thanks! I’d forgotten how bad it was until I could smell and taste again! I LOVE food!

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  20. cathy says:

    do you taste the peaches in this recipe? making it right nowth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cathy. How are you? You don’t taste the peaches. You don’t really taste any individual ingredient, it’s the combination of them all and the spices that makes the flavour. The peaches help to add the sweetness plus the pectin in them would aid a bit in the thickening of the chili sauce. ~ karen!

  21. Jane Keene says:

    I make this chili sauce, too, but minus the peaches and banana peppers….hmmm….I Like peach salsa so might try it. My grandkids love it right out of the jar, use it like salsa, and I eat it on white beans with ham in them. Delish!! Oh, and I cheat now and use canned tomatoes. I’m lazy and the tomatoes grown around here aren’t that tasty any more. Plus, don’t have to cook it as long. Keeps in the fridge awhile, but I don’t make as much as you and it gets eaten before it goes bad. Oh, and I just put the hot sauce in jars and they seal themselves. Don’t put them in a water bath. I can’t imagine peeling that many tomatoes!!!!

  22. Robin Fesmire says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about this chili sauce recipe. My mother made chili sauce frequently, and our whole family was addicted to it. Yes, it took most of the day, even if you cheat and use canned tomatoes, but it was usually a family project. My mom was an Okie, and I know my grandmother and great-aunt always had it on hand, too (all Okies) so I figured it was an Okie thing. My family was in New Mexico and every meal was centered around beans, usually pintos, but we ate chili sauce on the beans, whether pintos or limas or navy beans. If we had roast beef, we usually dolloped chili sauce on it, too. My family would easily go through a pint jar in a single meal because it was absolutely delicious and satisfying, and you can never get enough of it, so we had to make it a lot. My mother used the recipe from her old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from the 1950’s although I have seen it in some earlier versions, too. The whole house smells wonderful while it’s brewing in the big pot. My mouth waters just thinking about it–happy memories! –Robin

  23. Karen says:

    Hi Susan,

    Yes, lol, the answers to all of your questions are in the post. You may have skipped over or skimmed the last paragraphs (underneath the recipe card). Everything you need to know is there. Good luck! ~ karen

  24. susan says:

    Looks like a great recipe, and I was going to make it this weekend but got a little confused….. what measurement of pickling spice to you put in the cheesecloth?
    Is this canned? Water bath or pressure canned? How long?

    Are all these answers in the recipe, and I am making things difficult for myself? :)

  25. Dan says:

    Check my Instructable to get you to the thick tomato paste stage where you add the rest of the ingredients and you won’t need nearly 10 hours of cooking.


    If you don’t have a juicer or food strainer maybe you can negotiate one in exchange for mentioning it.

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