Bachan's New Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce Brings Balanced Flavor With A More Affordable Option

Bachan's hot sauce with bowl
Bachan's hot sauce with bowl - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

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Bachan's recently launched its spiciest flavor, Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce, at Target. The brand offers a range of flavors such as The Original, Sweet Honey, Hot & Spicy, Miso, Yuzu, and Gluten-Free to allow flexibility in the flavor profile you're seeking. The word bachan means grandma in Japanese, and the brand was created by Justin Gill, founder and CEO, using a recipe that was passed down in his family. While each flavor varies a bit due to the ingredients, the preservative-free and made in small batches sauces are comparable to teriyaki with a sweet, umami taste.

We ranked The Original sauce as our favorite popular barbecue sauce brands, so I wanted to see how this held up. The Hella Hot flavor was released for those who want a spicier version of the sauce to integrate into their meals, and there are plenty of ways to employ it in your cooking. You can use the sauce to marinate meat, fish, or vegetables, squeeze some onto rice, or use it as a dip to dunk food in. I tested the Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce to get a feel of the taste and find out if it's something worth stocking up on as a condiment.

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

What Is Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce?

bachan's hella hot sauce
bachan's hella hot sauce - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

Recipes will vary, but generally, Japanese barbecue sauce has soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, tomato paste, and scallions as the base ingredients. Bachan's Hella Hot sauce is the spiciest rendition the brand currently has on the market. While they have a Hot & Spicy option made with red jalapeño, this has a higher spice level for those who want versatile spicy sauce. This one is created with red jalapeño (which is just a ripe, older jalapeño that has the chance to turn red) as well as red habanero to double up on the spicy ingredients compared to the Hot & Spicy.

The sauce is like a combination of teriyaki, barbecue, and hot sauce, so one of the top ways to use it is as a marinade — whether that's salmon, steak, or squash. On Bachan's website, it suggests dousing the Hella Hot sauce on chicken wings, mixing it into a cocktail, or squirting it into your favorite ramen. Unlike teriyaki or BBQ sauce, which tends to be more viscous, Bachan's sauces are thinner and runnier. Bachan's various flavors come in different-colored packaging to distinguish them, and this one comes with a red label and lid with a black font to differentiate it from the others.

Where To Find Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce?

flavors of bachan's at target
flavors of bachan's at target - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

While other hot sauce flavors can be purchased at grocery stores (Target, Walmart, Ralphs, Whole Foods, Stater Bros, etc., depending on your location) and on the website, this Hella Hot flavor, in particular, is only available at Target. Even on Bachan's website, it prompts you to purchase the flavor from Target. I looked at the Target app to identify the aisle location but couldn't find it when I meandered around the store and ultimately ended up walking to one of the little kiosks where you can scan or search for items.

I typed in "Bachan's," and it said it was in a different area entirely (B23 as opposed to G23 as listed on the Target app). This might be something to consider so you don't walk around aimlessly. Save time and consult the in-store kiosk right away. I found it in the area with other sauces and condiments, but I have seen a photo of it on the end cap since it's a new item. This seems to vary by the store.

How Much Does Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce Cost?

bachan's hella hot bbq sauce at target
bachan's hella hot bbq sauce at target - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

I bought the Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce for $7.99 on sale for this article, but it's normally $9.59 for a 15.5-ounce bottle, which we found will depend on region and location. For comparison, an 18-ounce bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n Spicy Barbecue Sauce costs $2.99 at regular price at Target, at the time of publication. I bought this in San Diego County and was not taxed for it, but this could vary depending on your city and state. On Bachan's website, the other sauce flavors cost $12.99 with sizes ranging from 16 ounces to 17 ounces, at the time of publication, which is a moderate price and size difference. There's no information on why the prices and sizes vary. But even so, the sale price or not, this is the most affordable Bachan's flavor regardless of size.

Taste Test: Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue

bachan's hella hot bbq sauce
bachan's hella hot bbq sauce - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

The Hella Hot sauce is thinner than you might expect from a teriyaki or BBQ sauce, but this is something you'll find with all Bachan's products, not just this flavor. The product contains soy, sesame, and wheat. It's made with ingredients like non-GMO soy sauce, cane sugar, red jalapeño puree (red jalapeño, and vinegar), red habanero puree (red habanero, salt, and vinegar), tomato paste, mirin, and others. It also has a few organic additions, such as ginger, rice vinegar, garlic, and toasted sesame oil. You can smell the soy sauce and sugar on the nose. Unlike some hot sauces where a sniff may tickle your nose and send you coughing, you can't really smell or inhale a sense of the spiciness.

When you initially taste it, both the soy sauce and sugar come in strong, along with a hint of tomato, then it's followed by the heat of the jalapeño and habanero, which linger on the tongue after. The bottle recommends shaking before using and notes that out of a level of five, it has a spice level of three. I'm not someone who seeks the hottest types of chiles on the Scoville scale, but I do enjoy spicy foods. The sauce is spicy, stays spicy on the tongue for a few seconds, then dissipates. While it might be the hottest Bachan's product, it's not exceedingly hot. It's approachable in its heat but still hits the spicy craving.

Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce Vs. Other BBQ Sauces

bachan's japanese bbq sauce
bachan's japanese bbq sauce - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

Since Bachan's calls itself a Japanese barbeque sauce, and I didn't see any Japanese BBQ sauce from Target to liken it to, I compared it to an 18-ounce bottle of Stubb's Barbecue Sauce Original, which retails for $4.99 at Target. The Stubb's $4.99 offering and Sweet Baby Ray's $2.99 (both 18 ounces) option are considerably cheaper than Bachan's 15.5-ounce bottle. Other sauces are more widely available at other grocery stores, not just Target, which is convenient if you don't have a Target near you or don't shop there frequently.

Compared to other BBQ sauces and spicy sauces, the dedication to ingredients could also be a significant factor if you want simpler ingredients. Stubb's Barbecue Sauce Original has classic  BBQ sauce ingredients like tomato puree, distilled vinegar, sugar, molasses, and more. The listed ingredients also mention spices (which it says includes black pepper, paprika, and chili pepper, but doesn't identify what else), corn starch, guar gum, xanthan gum, and natural flavor (including hickory smoke but doesn't specify what else). You won't find guar gum, xanthan gum, or natural flavor in the Hella Hot sauce.

Consistency and versatility are other noticeable differences. Many barbecue sauces are thick and sticky, whereas Bachan's isn't. It's also a mish-mash of BBQ, teriyaki, and hot sauce, so you may be able to find more use for it than the average BBQ or hot sauce alone.

Is Bachan's Hella Hot Japanese Barbecue Sauce Worth It?

bachan's bbq sauce and food
bachan's bbq sauce and food - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

This might be the perfect addition to your condiment armory if you like barbeque sauce, teriyaki sauce, or hot sauce. While this sauce isn't too costly relative to other food costs, like a bottle of wine or going out to dinner, it can be on the pricy side for a condiment, which can be a deciding factor for some.

If you have a larger family or are cooking for a crowd, you'll use this up pretty quickly. But, if you're making standard-size meals, you can get a fair amount of use out of it: I used it three times cooking for two adults and finished about a third of it. However, the quality of ingredients may be higher than your average store-bought BBQ sauce, and this could be a bonus.

I like the consistency of the sauce as it's thin and delicate enough to blend seamlessly into your meal rather than sticking to it and affecting the texture. But it's not so watery or weak that it just falls off your food. I added Hella Hot to a burger salad bowl with hamburger, lettuce, fries, pickles, and dressing to give it a zing. It brought a welcome but not overwhelming lift to the meal; it's spicy but not my-nose-is-dripping spicy. There's a balance of sweet, salty, and spicy, with the spiciness coming through at the end of the bite. I enjoyed the nuanced flavors that come through in this sauce.

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