Why Pickapeppa Sauce Is an Entertaining Staple in the South and Beyond

Give your pepper jelly a break, this sauce is cream cheese’s perfect pairing.

Pickapeppa Sauce

Pickapeppa isn't a phrase in a tongue twister. It's the brand name of a bottled condiment sauce that's affectionately nicknamed "Jamaican ketchup" in tribute to its versatility and popularity. Classic Pickapeppa is a thick, dark brown sauce with layers of Caribbean-influenced flavor. It's a bit sweet with a mild tang, made from sugar cane vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, onions, raisins, sea salt, ginger, peppers, garlic, cloves, black pepper, thyme, mangoes, and orange peel. The mixture simmers in copper pots and then ages in oak barrels for a year before it's bottled and shipped around the world. Each bright orange and green label sports a parrot and the Jamaican flag, a salute to its place of origin.

The Pickapeppa Company has been making its products in Shooters Hill near Kingston, Jamaica, and the first imports to the U.S. came through the Port of New Orleans in 1982. Local legend holds that a teenager named Norman Nash developed the recipe in his family's home kitchen in 1921, but these days the secret formula stays hidden in a bank vault.

In recent years the company added four more flavors to the product line. The Hot Red Pepper Sauce is a sweet hot sauce, and the only one that has some kick to it thanks to Scotch Bonnet chiles. The Gingery Mango, Spicy Mango, and Hot Mango are fruity and mild, far more aromatic than fiery.

Many Southerners pour Pickapeppa over a block of cream cheese to serve with crackers as a quick and popular appetizer for holidays and tailgating. Some people pour it straight from the bottle onto their meals as they would ketchup, barbecue sauce, or steak sauce. Cooks use Pickapeppa as an ingredient, often using it in place of Worcestershire sauce or A-1 in recipes for a bit more pep.

Keeping flavor-packed condiments in our fridge doors and pantries is a quick and easy line of defense against bland and boring dishes. Picking up a bottle of Pickapeppa is a good move. Grab some cream cheese and crackers while you're at it.

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