Chili Sauce – Classic Homemade Recipe

Every harvest season I try to do a bunch of canning. I will make different preserves each year. The one thing that I have to make every year is my wife’s family chili sauce. She remembers having her family chili sauce growing up and there is nothing that matches it for her. So, every September, when tomatoes are available by the bushel I make 20-30 jars of the stuff. That gives us enough to last the year as well as some to give away to family and friends. Below is the traditional family recipe that is three generations old.

Author Steve Cylka


  • 11 quarts of tomatoes (44 cups)
  • 3 cups green peppers , diced
  • 4 cups onions , diced
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pickling spice
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 4 tbsp dried chili peppers


  • To prepare the tomatoes you need to remove the skin and chop or crush them. Fill a large pot 3/4 full and heat the water so it is almost boiling. Drop a bunch of tomatoes in the pot, about 10 at a time. Leave in the pot for about 5 minutes or so. Then transfer them to a sink filled with cold water. After the tomatoes are cool (5 minutes or so), take a knife and slit the skin. The tomato skin should peel off easily. Once, peeled, they can be chopped or crushed in a food grinder. Do this with all the tomatoes.
  • In a pot large enough, add all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and low to a very low boil. Stir it regularly. Cook the sauce for about 4 hours. The sauce should reduce in size and thicken. Ensure that the sauce is not sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • Pour the chili sauce in sterilized jars, seal and process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for 250ml jars, 20 minutes for 500ml jars and 30 minutes for 1l jars.


About Steve Cylka

Steve is the author of The Black Peppercorn. He is a recipe developer and food photographer. His recipes have been featured on websites like Bradley Smoker, Times Picayune, Buzzfeed, and Basil & Salt. He has also authored and co-authored a couple cookbooks.


  1. Canning is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, but never get around to doing it. Still, I hadn’t thought about canning chili sauce — I don’t know why — but it might be actually a pretty good idea since the hubby consumes so much of it 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love to can as well! This year I’m going to try pumpkin. I’ve never tried chili sauce before but yours looks and sounds amazing!

  3. I love chili sauces, especially with tuna casserole or on baked beans. I’ll be trying this recipe (but cut down to 1/, that’s alot of tomatoes!!! Thanks

  4. Your chili sauce recipe sounds so good and simple too. Do you use the chili sauce like a mexican-type salsa?

  5. Spicy! Savings this recipe right now for future use!! 🙂

  6. Hi, I just found your site and am enjoying looking at your talent. This sauce looks delicious and pretty easy to make. I keep saying I am going to do some canning, I have all the equipment but something holds me back, I’m not sure what. Any suggestions?

    • For me, one of the reasons why I choose to can as much as I do is because my family loves it so much. They all say how much better it is than store bought stuff. I also give a bunch away – to the school teachers, neighbours, coaches, etc. Giving away something that you made from scratch is a special feeling! I would say find a day that you can designate to whatever preserve you are gonna make (particularly chili sauce, takes most of the day!), have your favourite movie going on in the background (my wife and I have some canning movie classics that we put on each year!), and enjoy it. I firmly believe that canning is almost a lost art in our culture today – it is so much easlier to go buy it. But if it is from your kitchen, it tastes better, it is all natural, and there are less preservative, sodium, etc. Give it a go and let me know how it turns out.

  7. Steve, your chili sauce is simply a m a z i n g !!!!

  8. roughly, what would you estimate 11 quarts of tomatoes to be in individual tomatoes, 50, 75, 100?

    • Hi Emily. It is hard to know the exact number of tomatoes it would take as they vary so much in size, but doing some research I found that 1 quart of tomatoes should equal 1.66 pounds. Therefore, 11 quarts should measure around 18 pounds of fresh tomatoes. I hope this helps.

  9. Since I am making chili sauce today, I remembered you had posted this recipe on FB so I went to your blog for the recipe. I had chosen a recipe from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook called South Essex Chili Sauce. It’s a cookbook your mother-in-law game me about 40 years ago. This recipe is much like yours and this says to put the pickling spice in a cheescloth bag which is nice because you don’t get the spice pieces in your mouth when you eat it. I have begun doing this also when I make pickled beets. My mom always just put a tsp. in the top of each jar but then we’d have to wash/scrape the bits off. The other thing I do so there’s not so much chance of burning is add the sugar at the end. Before I did that I would often have a big burn spot on the bottom of my pot by the time I would get the sauce thick enough – not easy to deal with. I enjoy your blog very much.

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