The Hot Sauce Test

Hot Sauces

I’ve used hot sauces for years. In high school, Tabasco went on all my sandwiches. Hot sauce went on all my tacos and Tex-Mex food. During college, I went through a phase of hunting down (then) rare and hard to find Habanero pepper-based sauces.

But in recent years, I started phasing out hot sauces out of neglect more than anything. I put Texas Pete Original on roast beef but never went beyond into more adventuresome sauces (though my fellow millenials kept the trend up).

And then I started watching the Li Zi Qi YouTube channel and watched her just casually eat huge amounts of hot peppers at every meal – even ones described as “numbing”. I went to a Sichuan restaurant, which was amazing, but didn’t have the pepper-fortitude to enjoy the most appealing dishes.

And then I started reading The Body by Bill Bryson and learned all about gut microbes and capsaicin and all the counter-intuitive ideas about the digestive system.

Also I learned that Capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot) can actually help your stomach get *less* upset – not more. The heat in your mouth is a mind-over-matter deal. And in your gut, an ecosystem of microbes and hormones not only deal with the capsaicin – it actually helps those ecosystems & triggers grow so that you can handle more acidic foods.

Also, one of my in-laws is in India and the whole country regularly consumes massive amounts of hot spices…lead me to realize that you can absolutely “toughen” your stomach up. And that I absolutely should, sooner than later.

Also hot sauces are amazing and make everything taste great.

But what to buy? Well, this documentary on how Tabasco is made really made me want to buy some Tabasco.

But also I like some things about Texas Pete. And then there’s all the random small micro brands. And that doesn’t even get into Asian sauces or Mexican sauces or Habanero sauces. I just wanted to know what to buy consistently at the grocery store.

So I bought 5 variants of the Tabasco / Texas Pete line for a proper taste test. Here’s what I bought – and how they rank in terms of Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s). More SHU’s = More Heat from the capsaicin.

  • Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce – 750 Scovilles
  • Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce – 2250 Scovilles
  • Texas Pete Cha! Hot Chile Sauce – 1500 Scovilles
  • Tabasco Classic Pepper Sauce – 2500 Scovilles
  • Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce – 1000 Scovilles

Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce

Texas Pete Original is the default or benchmark. It’s not especially hot, but has a nice texture. It will soak into whatever food that you put it on. It also has the best aroma. The vinegar isn’t as heavy up front as the Tabasco products. However, I think this will be the only one that I don’t keep in stock. Texas Pete Original’s big advantage over others is the texture…which the Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce also has, but for a milder sauce, the Tabasco Green Pepper has a more interesting taste. But it’s been a great hot sauce for getting back into sauces.

Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce

This sauce was tied for the most heat among all that I tested. It competes directly with Tabasco Classic Pepper Sauce. I love the texture and flavor. They balance the heat some, and goes with a wider range of foods. I’ll keep this one in stock for sure.

Texas Pete Cha! Hot Chile Sauce

This sauce directly competes with Sriracha sauce, which is most famously made by Huy Fong Foods (the rooster bottle). Sriracha though is more of a style than a brand of sauce – so this is Texas Pete’s take. It was the oddball in the taste test. It has a distinct Asian / West Coast flavor rather than a Deep South / Tex-Mex flavor. The heat seems to come after the bite instead of before. I definitely like Texas Pete’s take over the name brand Sriracha sauce. I’ll keep it in stock, but will likely only break it out with Asian dishes and some rice.

Tabasco Classic Pepper Sauce

Tabasco is rightfully the “default” name brand among all hot sauces. It’s really hard to go wrong with it. Even though I’ve used it for 20+ years, the taste test brought out a couple things that I had never noticed before. First, it’s much lighter and water-like in consistency compared to Texas Pete. Second, it’s very vinegar forward. The chile smell is different than other sauces. Third, it’s heat-forward. It’s the hottest of all the sauces that I tasted. I think it works best on foods that can soak in the sauce and balance with the vinegar. Even though Texas Pete is more versatile overall, I’ll keep Tabasco because it works *really* well on specific dishes – like ribs and burgers.

Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce

This sauce competes with Texas Pete Original on scovilles, but is unique among all that I tested. Until the taste test, I had never realized how flavorful this sauce is. It really brings out the flavor of chile peppers over the heat. The heat is there for sure, but it takes a backseat. I’ll keep this in stock for when I’m not feeling a lot of heat, but do want to add a good bit of flavor – like to a turkey sandwich or breakfast eggs.

The Next Test

Admittedly this was a small test. I didn’t get any micro-brands or different pepper blends. But! It was fun enough that I’ll do it again soon as I can acclimate my tongue & stomach to hot sauces again. There’s been a renaissance & surge in new hot sauces, so I’ll keep this post updated as I do new rounds.

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