History of hot sauce

Hot sauce is a mixture of chili peppers, vinegar, herbs, salt and water. It’s commonly used as a salsa or condiment to add extra flavor to plain food. It can also be added while cooking to give sauces an extra kick.

Hot sauce has been around since ancient times and over time it’s managed to become more and more popular. Now, as a central part of contemporary cuisine, hot sauce can be included in many different meals across the globe.

Early History of Hot Sauce

Hot sauce originated in Mexico in 7000 BC. This was when it was inhabited by the Aztecs and Mesoamericans [1]. They created hot sauce by blending chili peppers and water to create a paste. Sometimes they would even add other seasonings, such as herbs, to give the sauce extra flavorings.

During this period, hot sauce wasn’t just used to flavor foods. The Aztecs also used it to relieve pain, cure colds and even attack their enemies [2]. If hot sauce encountered a person’s eyes, then it was sure to cause some damage. An Aztec could keep some at hand for when they felt threatened, as it ensured an easy escape.

Fast forward 2000 years later to 5000 BC and hot sauce had become domesticized [3]. The Aztecs and Mesoamericans loved their hot sauce so much that they decided to grow their own chili peppers to make sure they had plenty available at home.

The method of creating hot sauce with chili peppers and water carried on for a few more millenniums. This was until Christopher Colombus founded the “New World” in 1492. He took chili peppers back to Europe, where onions and other herbal seasonings were added to create a new variation of hot sauce.

Once hot sauce reached Europe, it wasn’t long until it became popular worldwide. The peppers were particularly loved by South-East Asians who enjoyed their food spicy [4]. They began to create their own hot sauce formulas, focusing on flavors that complimented grains they regularly ate, such as rice.

Hot Sauce in Different Cultures

Mexican Cuisine

Mexico prides itself on creating fresh-tasting hot sauce that uses little ingredients. Their hot sauces are created from chili peppers, salt and a vinegar of choice. [5]. Mexican hot sauces are known for being unique which is because they aren’t fermented. This is what gives them such a fresh taste.

A hot sauce can be incorporated into Mexican cuisine in numerous ways. Firstly, it can be used as a salsa to accompany dips or tacos. It can also be a key ingredient in cooking, especially with chilis and stews. A Mexican hot sauce will give any food a tasty kick.

Asian Cuisine

Asian hot sauces are slightly different to Mexican sauces, with more sugar and salt added. Asian hot sauces are also fermented, giving them a longer shelf life. The most popular hot sauce is Sriracha, which is commonly used in Asian cuisines such as curries, or partnered with soy sauce to create flavorsome meals [6].

Asian hot sauces are also created from chili peppers, vinegar and salt. They give Asian cuisine a warm flavor that works well with noodles and rice dishes.

American Cuisine

American hot sauces are usually used as more of a condiment, rather than added into sauces. Frank’s Red Hot is the most popular hot sauce and is usually drizzled onto meats or breakfast sandwiches [7].

American hot sauces are created similarly to Mexican hot sauces by using minimal ingredients. These sauces usually consist of cayenne peppers, vinegar, garlic and salt.

Other World Cuisines

It isn’t just these countries that have hopped onto the hot sauce train. In fact, you can find them across the world. In the Caribbean you have the Scotch Pepper Sauce which originates from Jamaica, then there’s the Peri Peri sauce coming from Portugal and the Harissa sauce from North Africa.

Not all these sauces feature chili peppers to add heat. Some such Harissa focus on spices like cumin to add flavor and a kick [8].

Modern Hot Sauce

Hot sauce was first commercialized when it reached America in Massachusetts in 1807. It was bought and sold as Cayenne Sauce due to its main ingredient being cayenne peppers. By the 1870s, the use of hot sauce had grown across America. It even started to feature in recipes and cookbooks.

The production of hot sauce stepped up a notch when a business in New York known as J Mollick & Company created it as a Bird Pepper Sauce. This allowed for a widespread distribution across America. As we entered the early 1900s, it wasn’t long until other companies caught on and there was a wide variety of hot sauces on the market.

Thanks to its versatility, hot sauce has helped to shape the food industry. It’s not only helped to increase our intake of spicy food, but to also make our meals more flavorsome. It’s allowed us to try different cuisines from all over the world and open our taste buds to new flavors.

Hot sauce now features heavily in contemporary cuisines. It’s commonly used as a dip to go with chips, drizzled over popcorn or even used to spice up a cocktail. Not only this, but you’ll find many online recipes that feature it on social media pages or blogs. So, it’s come a long way since its Aztec roots.

Health and Nutrition

Along with being flavorsome, hot sauce also has health benefits. It features high amounts of vitamin C which is known to help strengthen your immune system.

The main ingredient of a hot sauce is pepper, and this is known for its capsaicin. This is what gives a pepper its spicy heat and it has numerous benefits. Capsaicin can help with weight loss, reduce inflammation and minimize pain. Capsaicin is so healthy that it’s even been made into supplements. This is much more beneficial, especially if you don’t enjoy spicy foods.

Also featuring a high number of antioxidants, hot sauce can help to protect you against free radicals and even lower your blood pressure.

When you think of a bottled hot sauce that you drizzle onto your chicken, it’s hard to imagine that it originated from 7000 BC. It was first created by the Aztecs who wanted to add a kick to their otherwise bland food. Then, as history has progressed, and foods have become more widely available, hot sauce has been able to take off. It’s now consumed across the globe and used in a variety of cuisines.

With the popularity of hot sauce constantly increasing thanks to the likes of social media and the ability to spread the word online, it won’t be long until there’s a bottle in every household and it’s used on repeat.


[1] Truff. “Who Invented Hot Sauce?” Truff.

[2] Pepper Palace. “The Evolution of Hot Sauce.” Pepper Palace.

[3] Whalebone. “The History of Hot Sauce.” Whalebone.

[4] Bray, M. “Who Invented Hot Sauce? A Brief History.” PepperScale, 2019.

[5] Tasting Table. “What Makes Mexican-Style Hot Sauce So Unique?” Tasting Table.

[6] Dashley, B. “The Beginner’s Guide to Asian Hot Sauces.” The Takeout, 2019.

[7] Lobas, A. “The 10 Most Popular Hot Sauces in the U.S., According to Grocery Shopping Data.” All Recipes, 2023.

[8] Charney, N. “Around the World in 20 Hot Sauces.” Fine Dining Lovers, 2016.

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