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The History of Hot Sauce

The History of Hot Sauce Guide

Sriracha. Tabasco. Valentina. Tapatío. If you’re someone who can’t get enough spicy food, you probably recognize these as some of the world’s most popular hot sauces. Hot sauce is an essential condiment in every chilihead’s fridge. Here’s a little history lesson on how hot sauce was first created and how it’s changed over the years!

The First Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is by no means a new culinary invention and has a long history. It’s been around for at least 2,000 years. The first hot sauce masters bred their own chilies. Then they ground the hot peppers into a paste and mixed in with herbs for flavor and water to thin it. Then, they ate it with tortillas. 

It was a little different than the spicy sauces we use today, but it still served the purpose of adding a kick to all kinds of foods. The first batch was made somewhere in the areas that are now Mexico and Bolivia. 

Traveling around the World

For a long time, Central America was the only place in the world where hot peppers grew in the wild. Because of this, the rest of the world was out of the hot pepper loop until Europeans settled in the Americas. Now they had access to chilies and so many spices they’d never had before, evolving the hot sauce history!

Europeans brought hot peppers back to Europe and then the rest of the world started catching on to the trend as well. Many countries started to incorporate heat into their national cuisines. Of course, this led to more countries creating their own hot sauces. Love for hot sauce spread like wildfire! Eventually, almost every region in the world came up with their own signature spin and recipes. 

Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne Peppers

There are, of course, some places that don’t use a lot of hot sauce. For example, Costa Rica doesn’t incorporate the condiment into its cuisine, despite the culture’s love for spicy food.

Going Commercial

The Tabasco company was the first prominent company to make history manufacture hot sauce for commercial sale. This was as far back as the 1800s. They distributed their products primarily to restaurants and hotels. 

Today, Tabasco has become a household name. It’s one of the most popular hot sauces known for packing an intense punch. Like its name would imply, this spicy sauce is made from Tabasco peppers. It’s a classic Louisiana-style hot sauce. The company originally used chilies from Avery Island in its recipe. Now, they also use peppers grown in Columbia and Costa Rica and then ship them to Avery Island for processing. 

The next big hot sauce to hit supermarket shelves came a century later when Huy Fong began manufacturing sriracha. This Thai hot sauce has quickly become one of the most beloved options. Not only is the flavor profile unique, but so is the consistency. It’s thicker than other hot sauces like Tabasco which makes it a great topping on just about anything.

All along, behind the scenes was Underwood Ranches.

By 2006, Underwood Ranches in California was growing 95% of the peppers for Huy Fung. In 2016 however Huy Fung sued Underwood for an overpayment for the 2016 harvest, and Underwood Ranches countersued for fraud and breach of contract. In 2019, a jury ruled in favor of Underwood Ranches, awarding them $23.3 million in damages, which left Huy Fong without the raw ingredients it needed to make the sriracha hot sauce.

In 2019, Underwood Ranches debuted their brand new line of hot sauces with Sonoran Spice introducing the brand to our own store and on Amazon. 

Their hot sauces carry on the legacy of sriracha hot sauces, while Huy Fung falters with supply chain shortages because of the dispute, they have to source their crops from Mexico. In the summer of 2024 they are unable to bring their hot sauce to market as the red jalapeno peppers they have sourced from Mexico are too green to make their once famous hot sauce. 

Meanwhile, Underwood Ranches is thriving. Their new Dragon Sriracha Hot Sauce exceeds all expectations. It is a much deeper color red and that shows in the rich flavor profile to the the sauce. It is Sriracha perfected. Be sure to check out the reviews on how amazing this sauce and all their new hot sauce lineup is!

Underwood Dragon Hot Sauce 3 Pack

How It’s Made

Most hot sauces are a blend of three essential ingredients: salt, vinegar, and, of course, hot peppers. Vinegar is an important ingredient because it’s a natural preservative that will prolong the condiment’s shelf life. Some sauces have a higher vinegar content to not only preserve the condiment but also to give the sauce a tangier flavor. 

Some hot sauces add other ingredients. For example, sriracha famously includes garlic and sugar to make for a balanced flavor that’s more than just pure heat.

Some people think that hot sauce is always a red liquid, but that isn’t always true. Hot sauces can come in a variety of colors and consistencies. They can be various shades and consistencies of red, orange, green, or brown, from this sauces to sticky pastes. It all depends on what you are looking for!

How the Heat is added

The amount of heat in each sauce depends on what hot pepper is inside. The heat comes from capsaicin, which is present in hot peppers. Capsaicin makes you feel like your mouth is on fire, but it won’t actually do any damage. 

Capsaicin Chemical Structure

Just like with hot peppers, hot sauce is measured based on the Scoville scale, which has been around for about 100 years. The higher the number of Scoville heat units (SHU), the hotter the hot sauce. The number of SHU a pepper has or a hot sauce represents the number of times it must be diluted before you can no longer taste the heat. For example, the Carolina Reaper measures over 1.5 million Scoville heat units. That means pure chili oil from the Carolina Repaper must be diluted over 1.5 million times so you can no longer detect the heat.

In 2022 this was the hot pepper list. Now Pepper X, developed by Ed Currie, tops the scales!

Scoville Scale before PepperX

The Evolution of Hot Sauce

Over time, peppers have been cultivated to be even hotter. In the 21st century, the World’s Hottest Pepper has regularly flip-flopped. There are several chilies with over a million SHU including the Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, and now Pepper X. Enjoying hot peppers has become a hobby for many people.

Pepper X Taco Sauce
Pepper X Hot Sauce

As the peppers have gotten hotter, so have the hot sauces. The classic hot sauces like Tabasco and sriracha haven’t changed their recipes. But new hot sauces have been formulated with millions of Scoville heat units to match the demand for heat. 

The hot sauce space has become increasingly competitive. It’s true that primarily the same few brands have dominated the market. But brands don’t just want to sell the most popular hot sauces nowadays. They also want to be the company that sells the hottest hot sauces on the market.

Treat Your Need for Heat with Hot Sauces from Around the World!

There are so many delicious hot sauces waiting for you! Whether you’re all about the heat or want something a little milder, you have choices. Add hot sauce to make your favorite dishes even better! Your taste buds will thank you.

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