model making disgusted face with spoon held up near their mouth

Why does hot sauce taste like metal?

Hot sauce is bold in flavor — in addition to spice, you might notice sourness, sweetness, fruitiness, and other flavor notes. But one flavor you shouldn’t be noticing is a metallic taste. Here are a few things to consider if you notice that your hot sauce tastes a little bit metallic.

Health conditions that cause metallic taste

If your hot sauce tastes metallic, try to note whether it’s just the hot sauce, or if other foods also taste like metal. There are a variety of health conditions, allergies, and medications that can cause you to taste metal — including COVID-19. So, if it’s not just the hot sauce, but other foods as well that taste metallic, I hate to break it to you, but it’s probably you, not the hot sauce.

Acid reflux

Heartburn and acid reflux are common causes of bad or metallic tastes in your mouth, and it is well-documented that spicy foods can aggravate heartburn. So, if you notice that hot sauce causes a metallic taste in your mouth but other foods do not, there’s a chance that the root of the cause is heartburn. In this case, it’s likely that you’ll notice the same effect from other spicy and acidic foods, not just hot sauce.

When it’s the hot sauce that tastes metallic, not you

Once you’ve ruled out health conditions including acid reflux, there aren’t a ton of common causes of metallic-tasting hot sauce.

It may be spoiled

If your hot sauce is old and out of date, that may be another reason that the taste has changed, and you may be recognizing the taste of spoiling as metallic. Hot sauce tends to have a very long shelf life, especially if you refrigerate it, but it may be worth checking the “use by” date if you notice that it’s tasting weird.

Often times your body recognizing a taste as repulsive, gross, or out-of-the-ordinary is a sign that it shouldn’t be going in your body. Listen to your instinct!

It may be absorbing metal flavors from the way it’s stored

It’s possible that your hot sauce has had too much contact with aluminum, but unlikely because hot sauce is usually stored in metal or plastic bottles.

It may have absorbed flavors from the cookware

If it’s not the container your hot sauce is stored in, acidic foods are also known to pick up metallic flavors from “reactive” cookware. That is, your hot sauce may have picked up tiny metal molecules from an aluminum or unseasoned cast iron pan, causing it to taste metallic. These tiny metal particles are not harmful to your health but can change the flavor. This is unlikely to cause metallic-tasting hot sauce in store-bought sauces, but if you made the sauce yourself you might think to audit the cookware you used.

The hot sauce ingredients may not be well-balanced

There are a few ingredients in hot sauce that, when out of balance, may cause it to taste metallic. Highly acidic hot sauce, as mentioned above, may pick up trace amounts of metals from your cookware, making it taste metallic. If you used a lot of lime or lemon juice, the naturally bitter and sourness of the juice may create an illusion of metallic flavor. Imbalances of other ingredients, like too much molasses, have also anecdotally been reported to cause a metallic taste in hot sauce.

What to do if your hot sauce tastes metallic

If you’ve ruled out common health concerns and metal cookware, the safest thing to do if you notice that your hot sauce tastes metallic is to discard it. You don’t want to risk consuming something that is spoiled or contaminated, and most hot sauce is cheap enough to replace. If it’s a fresh homemade recipe, you may want to tweak the ingredients to make sure it’s properly balanced for the next batch you make.

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