As Americans, we often think of Mexican food as synonymous with spicy. Chilies are native plants to Mexico and Central America, and they have been used as both food and medicine for centuries.
Jalapeños, serranos, and habanero peppers are very common in Mexico and are widely used as a spicy element and flavoring in popular hot sauces.
What is Mexican hot sauce?
Mexican hot sauce refers to a spicy condiment made from vinegar and chili peppers. While there are a wide variety of spicy sauces and salsas in Mexico, for the purpose of this article we’re talking about bottled hot sauces that are widely distributed in America. However,
Most popular Mexican brands of hot sauce
Many of the most popular and familiar brands of hot sauce available in stores hail from Mexico:
1. Valentina hot sauce (Guadalajara, Mexico)
Valentina is one of my absolute favorite hot sauces and is manufactured in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is made with puya chilis grown in Jalisco, which are similar to guajillo. Valentina is a vinegar-based hot sauce. I always buy Valentina Xtra hot.
2. Cholula hot sauce (Chapala, Mexico)
Cholula is actually based in Stamford, CT, United States, but it is manufactured in Jalisco, Mexico. It is easily recognizable by its wooden cap. Cholula is named after an ancient city at the base of Popocatépetl volcano. Cholula ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 scoville units, making it relatively mild for most people, using arbol and piquin peppers.
3. El Yucateco (Yucatan, Mexico)
You’ll find a variety of brightly colored hot sauces by El Yucateco in almost any grocery store. El Yucateco hot sauces use Habanero and Annatto chili peppers which they grow themselves. They range from milder to very hot.
It might surprise you that these hot sauces are NOT Mexican
The following are two extremely well-known hot sauces that use Mexican names, but which are not based or produced in Mexico.
Tapatio, another very common hot sauce, is actually not made in Mexico. In its early years, Tapatio was started in Maywood, CA, and is now headquartered in Vernon, CA. However, the term “Tapatío” is a colloquial term for a person who is from downtown Guadalajara.
Named for the Mexican state of Tabasco, Tabasco sauce is actually not a Mexican-made hot sauce. Tabasco sauce originates in Louisiana, using tabasco peppers which are commonly grown in Central and South America and Africa.
What makes Mexican hot sauce unique?
Truthfully, thousands of years of history and culture are what make Mexican hot sauces unique. Chilis are a traditional indigenous food grown in the area and have been used for centuries.
Nowadays, manufactured Mexican hot sauces are usually vinegar-based, and uses a wide variety of dried chilies in addition to other spices. It tends to be tangy, zesty, and hot, making it the perfect addition to soups and sauces, or a delightful additive to tacos, eggs, and anything else you could dream of. The exact taste of the hot sauce will depend largely on the type of chili used, as well as the other spices or seasonings. They also range widely in the level of heat, with some being milder (<500 SHU) and some being quite hot (100,000+ SHU).