Cholula Hot Sauce. You know it well. The small glass bottle enveloped in a yellow label. The gently smiling woman dressed in white, hands busy with fresh tomatoes and chilis. The spherical wooden cap.
Over the years, this iconic hot sauce has amassed a sizeable, passionate fanbase devoted to a lifetime of Cholula consumption.
What’s the story behind this quintessential condiment, and why is it all the rage anyway?
The Origins Of Cholula Hot Sauce
Cholula was invented more than a century ago by the Harrison family of Chapala, Mexico, a vibrant lakeside town in the central state of Jalisco.
Jalisco, famous for its tequila, was the perfect birthplace for Cholula Hot Sauce because it was created initially to make sangrita, a tart and spicy non-alcoholic chaser for tequila.
Cholula was produced for three generations before expanding across Mexican and U.S. markets.
Who Is the Woman On the Cholula Bottle?
The woman on Cholula’s label is called La Chila.
Legend has it that La Chila’s appearance is based on the late Camila Harrison, the matriarch of Cholula Hot Sauce’s founding family.
Camila worked as a cook for the Jose Cuervo family and is credited with creating the hot sauce’s original recipe.
What Is Cholula Made With?
Cholula’s complete ingredient list includes water, peppers (arbol and piquin), salt, vinegar, garlic powder, spices, and xanthan gum.
Which Peppers Are In Cholula?
Cholula is made with a blend of 80% chile de arbol and 20% chile piquín. Both peppers take almost a year to grow and harvest.
Chile de arbol, or arbol peppers, register 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville scale, making them slightly milder than cayenne pepper but significantly hotter than a jalapeño. This slim, short chili delivers a nutty flavor with a hint of smokiness and herbaceousness.
Chile piquín is hot, registering 40,000 to 60,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs). It shows a fruity and peppery flavor with hints of smoke, citrus, and nuttiness.
How Is Cholula Made?
Cholula Hot Sauce stays true to its original recipe and technique. Here’s how:
Selecting the Finest Peppers
First, seeds are collected and classified by their heat, flavor, and robustness to help growers choose the peppers that best suit Cholula’s iconic taste and heat.
All peppers used in Cholula are sourced in the Americas. Nearly 90 percent come from Jalisco, where a mild climate and high altitude make pepper farming ideal.
The peppers for Cholula hot sauce are grown in small fields and irrigated with water from local wells. Cholula still grows peppers in the fields it has used for generations.
Making a Hot Sauce
The finest arbol and piquin peppers are hand-picked, carefully washed, and dried in the sun. Workers then supervise the peppers’ drying process over three days.
Once dried, the peppers are sent to a facility to be ground into a paste. They are put through a mixer, where the peppers blend with Cholula’s top-secret spice blend.
The sauce is bottled, topped with its iconic wooden cap, labeled, and shipped worldwide. According to Askmen, almost 9 million bottles of hot sauce are produced per month. 
Just How Hot Is Cholula Hot Sauce?
On the Scoville scale, Cholula lands between 1,000 SHUs and 3,600 SHUs.
Although Cholula is spicier than Tabasco and one of the spiciest options on standard U.S. restaurant tabletops, It’s a relatively mild condiment within the hot sauce universe.
Cholula’s History In The U.S.
Jose Cuervo introduced Cholula hot sauce to the U.S. in 1989 through Austin, Texas. Shoppers at the time could only find the delicious hot sauce at specialty shops and select restaurants.
During the 90s, Cholula achieved distribution in supermarket chains throughout the American Southwest and exploded in popularity. Nowadays, you can find Cholula on restaurant tabletops throughout the U.S. and even in Canadian and British supermarkets.
Which Cholula Products Exist?
Cholula is available in variations, utilizing distinct spice blends, peppers, and formats depending on your tastes. 
Cholula hot sauces
Cholula’s hot sauce varieties include:
- Green Pepper
- Chili Lime
- Chili Garlic
- Sweet Habanero
- Reserva Tequila & Lime Cholula
Cholula Wing Sauces
Cholula offers two wing sauces to elevate your standard chicken wing recipe. They include:
Cholula Dry Mixes
In addition to hot sauces, Cholula makes mouthwatering dry seasonings, including an original recipe, a Cholula Smoky Chipotle mix, and a Cholula Chili Garlic mix.
Cholula’s Wildly Successful Marketing Campaigns
Cholula’s extreme success is attributed to its successful marketing strategies and campaigns over the years. Here’s where the Cholula brand gained the most traction:
Cholula on Tour
In 1998, Jose Cuervo hired Charlie Watkins, a famous Houston chef, to embark on a 12-city U.S. tour. He traveled the country incorporating Cholula Hot Sauce into unique recipes for TV shows and food editors, spreading the word about this burgeoning condiment.
A marketing campaign launched ads in magazines and local newspapers, calling Cholula “The perfect complement.” 
Cholula sponsors a variety of professional sporting venues and competitions every year.
As the “Official Hot Sauce” of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cholula has sponsored collegiate football and tailgating promotions at stadiums, including the Rose Bowl. The hot sauce brand is a famous winter sports sponsor, partnering with snowboarding competitions to host events like the Cholula Triple Air Show.
The beloved brand is also a major sponsor of sports teams such as the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Miami Marlins.
Cholula has a history of partnering with thriving restaurants and fast-food chains to create branded menu items.
In March 2007, Cholula launched a joint promotion with Papa John’s, offering free hot sauce packets with every order.
Del Taco teamed up with Cholula in 2020 to offer a lineup of saucy Cholula-branded menu items, including the Crispy Chicken Cholula Taco, the Epic Cholula Crispy Chicken Burrito, and Cholula Loaded Fries. 
Golden Chick, a Texas fast food chain, partnered with Cholula Hot Sauce to offer the Cholula Chicken Sandwich and Cholula Chicken Tenders. 
Adapting to a Pandemic
According to McCormick, about 40% of consumers learn about Cholula at restaurants.  Cholula had to strategize to keep traction high when restaurants closed their doors in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cholula released a 2-ounce bottle at Walmart and to restaurants to include in delivery orders.
It also announced a touch-free dispenser to help restaurants utilize the condiment without risking the spread of the virus.
A Worldwide Fan Base
Over the years, Cholula has developed a large, devoted fanbase.
Cholula fans, known as Cholulians, dress up as La Chila for Halloween and tattoo cholula bottles onto their arms in exchange for a lifetime supply. 
Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and NBA legend Lebron James swear by Cholula as their favorite hot sauce.
The Order of Cholula
In 2017, Cholula launched an online movement called “The Order of Cholula” as a hub for superfans to celebrate their devotion to Cholula hot sauce.
Cholula partnered with Mets All-Star Pitcher Noah Syndergaard as the Order’s celebrity ambassador. Syndergaard, a Texas native and longtime Cholula fan, spoke organically about Cholula hot sauce and how it connects him to his Texas roots when he’s homesick.
Many athletes joined the Order of Cholula, publicly demonstrating their authentic love for their favorite sauce. 
The campaign boosted awareness of Cholula hot sauce most especially among sports fans.
The Hot Sauce With The Wooden Cap
According to their website, the iconic wooden cap “symbolizes the care and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle of Cholula.” 
The wooden caps are made with sustainably sourced beechwood and color coordinated depending on the bottle’s flavor.
Cholula Original Hot Sauce sports a plain beechwood top. The sauces that contain jalapeños and limes have a green cap. An orange-brown lid tops the garlic and habanero varieties, while the chipotle sauce sports a darker brown alternative.
 Park, E. “How Cholula Hot Sauce Is Made.” AskMen, 2018.
 “Discover Cholula Products.” Cholula.
 Fuentes, S. “Cholula: The Billion-Dollar Mexican Hot Sauce with a Cult Following.” Mayorga Coffee, 2022.
 Miller, B. “Del Taco Introduces New Cholula Hot Sauce-Inspired Lineup.” ChewBoom, 2020.
 Miller, B. “Golden Chick Introduces New Cholula Chicken Sandwich And Cholula Chicken Tenders.” ChewBoom, 2020.
 Wiener-Bronner, D. “How Cholula Plans to Get More Americans Hooked on Its Hot Sauce.” CNN Business, 2020.
 Salaky, K. “You Can Get A Free Tattoo Courtesy Of Cholula And Be Entered To Win A Lifetime Supply Of Hot Sauce.” Delish, 2020.
 “The Order of Cholula: Founding a Cult of Flavor.” Shorty Awards.
 “Cholula, The Mother of Sauce.” Cholula.