Tapatío makes everything better. From tamales and tacos to potato chips and—yes—instant ramen, we trust in Tapatío to elevate each bland meal to hot and tangy brilliance.
If you’re a number one Tapatío fan, you’ll be surprised to learn about this sauce’s family-oriented origins and seasoned history.
PHOTO: RANDY LEWIS CREATIVE
The History Of Tapatío
Tapatío Hot Sauce was founded in 1971 by Jose-Luis Saavedra in Maywood, California.
A Hot Sauce’s Humble Beginnings
According to Tapatío’s website, Jose-Luis Saavedra began making batches of hot sauce with his family at their home in Maywood, California, in the late 1960s.
He would share his creation with coworkers during his lunch break at a local aerospace manufacturer, and the hot sauce was so widely loved that his colleagues eventually convinced him to sell it commercially.
Saavedra, who was past 40, worked full-time daily to supplement and cover his business expenses. He leased a 750-square-foot building and began producing 5-ounce bottles of his beloved recipe.
Steady Growth and Family Hands
After 14 years of steady business, Saavedra moved his operations into an 8,500-square-foot warehouse just one mile away. Mr. Saavedra’s three children joined him full-time, making Tapatío a trustworthy family business.
The 10-ounce bottle was introduced to the lineup in 1988, doubling the sauce contents for chiliheads.
A year later, in 1989, Mr. Saavedra introduced the quart-size bottle, providing 32 ounces of Tapatío goodness to the sauce’s biggest fans.
In 1996, Tapatío saw record sales.
Having outgrown their location, Mr. Saavedra bought land and built a custom, 30,000-square-foot facility to scale his hot sauce operations to unprecedented heights. 
Since its founding in 1971, Tapatío has enjoyed over 50 years of loyalty, success, and value, but not without its fair share of challenges.
What’s In A Name?
PHOTO: THE HUNDREDS
Tapatío wasn’t always called Tapatío. The story behind the iconic hot sauce’s ever-changing name is a testament to the tenacity and dedication of the family behind its recipe.
Journalists at The Hundreds interviewed the Saavedra family to unlock Tapatíos steadfast history.  Here’s what they discovered:
From Cuervo to Charro
Tapatío was once called Cuervo, like the Tequila company.
Saavedra’s brand had a trademark in California to sell their hot sauce, Cuervo. This meant that if José Cuervo were to sell or advertise their tequila in California, they would infringe on the hot sauce brand’s trademark.
It didn’t take long for Jose Cuervo to offer to buy out Saavedra’s company name for the right to sell and advertise José Cuervo tequila in California. After lengthy debate and discussion, the Saavedra family decided that with the money, they could expand their company in all the right ways.
They sold the Cuervo name and changed the company’s name to Charro.
From Charro to Tapatío
After changing the brand’s name to Charro, the Saavedra family was sued again.
Finally, the family decided to name the company “Tapatío.” A person or thing originating from Guadalajara, Mexico, is called a Tapatío. Saavedra, whose kids were born in Guadalajara, named the company to honor them.
This time, they should be able to avoid any lawsuits. Right?
ConAgra Versus Tapatío
Somehow, Tapatío was sued again, this time by the mega multinational consumer packaged goods company ConAgra.
ConAgra made a product called “Patio,” and they sued Tapatío on the basis that the names were too similar.
The Saavedra family decided to fight the lawsuit, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. They won. Now, they are not only able to keep their iconic name, Tapatío, but they set a precedent in the legal books. Tapatío now has a case in the federal register. 
The brand has been operating successfully under the Tapatío name ever since.
Who Is The Man On Tapatío’s Label?
The dapper, mustached man on Tapatío’s label is neither the company’s founder, Jose-Luis Saavedra nor is he anybody in the founding family.
The sketch is an artist’s rendition of a true Tapatío from Guadalajara. More specifically, the man on the label represents a charro or a traditional Mexican horseman.
Saavedra says the lighter skin and blue eyes depict the standard features of the people who live in the highlands of Jalisco.
Tapatío’s Top Secret Recipe
What makes Tapatío sauce so delicious? Saavedra’s lips are sealed.
Only family members are in on the exact details—and the precise list of ingredients—that make Tapatío what it is.
Hundreds and hundreds of recipes were tested before its founder settled on the one we enjoy today. Saavedra said he experimented tirelessly until he came up with the perfect formula.
What Kind of Peppers Are In Tapatío?
Nobody knows for sure what kind of peppers are in Tapatío.
Because Tapatío’s recipe is top secret, the peppers that make up the hot sauce are up for speculation.
Tapatío lists “red peppers” on their ingredient list, but there’s little known on what time. Some people think Tapatío has cayenne peppers, others suggest tabasco peppers, and others accept a fate of unknowingness and choose to enjoy their Tapatío in ignorant bliss.
Tapatio’s Ingredient List
Tapatío is made with the following ingredients: water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum, and sodium benzoate as a preservative.
How Spicy Is Tapatío?
According to ScovilleScale.org, the original Tapatio sauce is rated at 3,000 Scoville Heat units, which is considered a mild heat level. 
Tapatío is less spicy than a jalapeño, which falls between 3,500 and 6,000 Scoville Heat units.
What Does Tapatío Taste Like?
Tapatío has a thin and runny consistency with aromas of garlic, red pepper, and spices.
The sauce, which has a medium spice level, has a simple and subtly spicy flavor profile. The primary flavor notes are garlic and red chilis.
Tapatío’s Nationwide Success
Did you know that Tapatío is one of the best-selling hot sauces in the United States?
An Instacart survey conducted by the Harris Poll found that nearly 74% of Americans from the U.S. eat hot sauce with their meals, and 45% said they use it at least once a week.
The poll found that Tapatío is the fifth most commonly sold hot sauce on Instacart. The most popular is Huy Fong Sriracha. 
In a world saturated with hot sauce options, it’s pretty incredible that Tapatío is a favorite by far.
Tapatío Products You Never Knew Existed
Tapatío, which stays up to trend and doesn’t take itself too seriously, offers a slew of Tapatío-themed merchandise and Tapatío-infused foodstuffs that will surely deepen your love for its flavor.
Here is a list of funny and delicious Tapatío-themed items that you can buy on their website.
Tapatío Ramen Noodle Soup
Tapatío Salsa Picante and instant ramen. Can you think of a more perfect combination?
Next time you’re short on time and feeling hungry, skip a boring packaged ramen and opt for this widely loved, Tapatío-infused alternative.
Tapatío Día De Los Muertos Handpainted Ceramic Plate
Tapatío offers a variety of Día De Los Muertos branded merchandise to get you into the spirit for the spookiest season.
Along with t-shirts, special edition hot sauce bottles, and baseball caps, Tapatío offers a Día De Los Muertos handpainted ceramic plate in traditional Mexican style.
Imagine serving a meal on this intricately adorned plate before dousing whatever it is you cooked up in Tapatío. Sounds like a Halloween-time dream, right?
Orange Acid Wash Tapatío Drip Hoodie
Tapatío took the word “drip”—a coveted compliment amongst Gen Zs meaning “high fashion”—and made it literal with its psychedelic, drippy branded hoodie.
If we saw somebody wandering down the street wearing this hoodie, we would respect them not only for their loyalty to an iconic hot sauce brand but also for their impeccable taste in winterwear.
Take your drip to new heights, and then head home and drip a whole lot of Tapatío onto your shredded chicken tacos.
Van Holten’s Tapatío Pickle
PHOTO: COW CRACK WHOLESALE
Who doesn’t love a spicy pickle? And who doesn’t love a pickle spiced with one of the most beloved hot sauces of all time?
To nibble on a crunchy, Tapatío-laden pickle in a bag is one of the greater pleasures in life, and Van Holten’s made it possible.
Tapatío Charro Holster
You’re not a die-hard Tapatío fan until you’re strapped with one branded leather hot sauce holster on each hip.
This holster, made with genuine leather, is graced with the face of Tapatíos most handsome charro and is perfectly suited to support a 5-ounce bottle of Tapatío.
Show up anywhere prepared to tackle bland food with Tapatío at the ready. We couldn’t imagine anything more extraordinary.
 “Our Story.” Tapatío Hot Sauce.
 The Hundreds Staff. “The Insane Story Behind Iconic Hot Sauce Brand Tapatío’s Legacy.” The Hundreds, 2017.
 “Tapatío Hot Sauce.” Scoville Scale.
 “A Hot Take on America’s Favorite Hot Sauces.” Instacart, 2022.