The American hot sauce has industry enjoyed a boom in recent years with more moderate growth projected for 2019. So it’s time to educate yourself with the hot elixirs.
Vinegary, garlic-y or peppery; tangy, tingly or tongue-deadening—different recipes use different types of peppers and offer different flavor profiles and levels of heat, making some tastier on certain foods than others. Here you can learn about the seven most popular hot sauces in the country and find some suggestions for the best dishes to dose them on.
Cholula Hot Sauce
Americans’ love for Cholula runs deep, as evidenced by the fact that true fans can apply to become an official “Cholulian” and join The Order of Cholula. It’s pretty easy to see why there are so many devotees to this brand as they make six diverse and signature flavors, though the three most often found on restaurant and taco-spot tables are the Original, Green Pepper and Chipotle.
The Original recipe is “generations old,” made of a blend of arbol and piquin peppers and a secret blend of spices that gives it a medium level of heat that’s great on burgers, eggs and pizza. The green pepper variety is a blend of poblanos and green jalapeños and that signature blend of spices so, it too has medium heat, but is a little bit spicier than the original and helps elevate fried chicken and even seared or raw tuna. The chipotle flavor blends arbol, piquin and—you guessed it—chipotle peppers with the brand’s proprietary spice blend for a smoky hot sauce that has a heat level somewhere between medium and mild, so it’s perfect to add to your homemade salsa or grilled corn.
Crystal Hot Sauce
A mainstay in most Southern establishments and a claim to be “Louisiana’s favorite,” Crystal produces an impressive array of condiments like teriyaki and steak sauce, but they’re best known for their hot sauce. Made of aged cayenne peppers, vinegar and salt, the versatile stuff adds the perfect spicy flavor to barbeque of all kinds, with raw oysters and especially with po’boys.
Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
Just like Crystal, Frank’s uses aged cayenne peppers, vinegar and salt, but they also list garlic powder and paprika as ingredients, with no high fructose corn syrup. Frank’s claim to fame is that, as the legend goes, they were the secret ingredient in the first-ever Buffalo wings served in “Nickel City” and helped start the cultural culinary phenomenon that’s alive and well over 50 years later.
Huy Fong Sriracha
Another spicy condiment with a cult-like following that’s often referred to as “rooster sauce” by fans, Sriracha has its origin in Thailand and is more chili paste than a sauce. Its blend of red jalapeños, vinegar, salt and sugar creates a very versatile, complex level of heat that’s particularly good on mounds of noodles, on top of dumplings or blended into mayo and spread on anything and everything.
TABASCO Original Red Pepper Sauce
TABASCO is the go-to hot sauce for any traditional Bloody Mary mix—so much so that they produce their very own. The original recipe dates back in the McIlhenny family to 1868 and involves aging Tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt in oak barrels for up to three years before bottling. Besides adding it into cocktails, the sauce adds a peppery medium-level heat to guacamole, meat marinades and salad dressings.
Tapatío Hot Sauce
Mr. Jose-Luis Saavedra, Sr. founded Tapatío in California in 1971 and the company is still family-owned nearly 50 years later. Another fun fact: “Tapatío” is the name of a person from the city of Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico making this hot sauce particularly perfect on Mexican dishes like tacos and huevos rancheros. Red peppers are ambiguously listed as an ingredient, but many speculate tabasco and cayenne are likely the culprits behind the heat level that clocks in around 3,000 Scoville heat units (higher than Sriracha but lower than Original Cholula).
Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce
If you’re a fan of Texas Pete you can join The Tribe, which is a seemingly less-intense community than The Order of Cholula. This sauce’s name is a bit of a misnomer since it originates from the Dixie Pig barbecue stand in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As the story goes, the original recipe introduced back in 1929 by stand operator Sam Garner was relatively mild and was first called “Mexican Joe.” Garner insisted on a more “American” name and customers demanded a spicer recipe. So, the cayenne pepper-laced Texas Pete that many of us love to put on avocado toast, fried cauliflower and much more became what it is today.