Tabasco hot sauce

Tabasco is another one of those iconic hot sauces that adorn tabletops everywhere. 

It’s tart and subtly piquant. Its purposes are multifold. Its bright red lid and white diamond-shaped logo are archetypal. 

Where exactly did Tabasco hot sauce come from, and what’s the story behind this condiment, anyway? Join us as we stroll through the fascinating history of a Louisiana hot sauce that transformed the world. 

The Tabasco Sauce: A Hot History

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Tabasco Sauce was created by Edmund McIlhenny in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. 

McIlhenny, a resident of Maryland, moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1840 to seek a fortune in the banking business. By the time of the American Civil War, McIlhenny was a successful banker, but the war and its repercussions destroyed his livelihood. 

Spicing Up A Post-Civil War America

Edmund McIlhenny moved in with his wife’s family on Avery Island, Louisiana, where he acquired some tabasco pepper seeds. An avid gardener, McIlhenny sowed and nurtured the seeds, thoroughly appreciating the intense and fruity flavor of the peppers he tended. 

The diet of the Reconstruction South consisted of bland foods such as corn meal, canned goods, and low-quality meats, so McIlhenny determined to create a pepper sauce that might give tasteless food a burst of flavor. 

The Tabasco Company Expands

McIlhenny grew his first commercial tabasco pepper crop in 1868. He sent out 658 sauce bottles to wholesale grocers around the Gulf Coast just one year later. 

In 1870, he secured a patent, and TABASCO® Sauce commenced its quest to ignite the culinary world.

By the late 1870s, McIlhenny was selling his hot sauce throughout the U.S. and Europe. 

Tabasco Today: True To Its Roots

Today, nearly 150 years later, the process by which Tabasco Sauce is made and the ingredients that give the sauce its unmistakable flavor are virtually unchanged. 

The aging process for the sauce is longer—it spends up to three years in white oak barrels—and the vinegar is distilled and of a higher quality. [1

Today, Tabasco products are sold in over 195 countries and packaged in 36 languages and dialects. 

A Burning Hot Controversy

Would Tabasco be a genuine multinational company without some controversy woven into its history? 

Here’s the toss-up behind Tabasco’s origin story:

Did Tabasco Steal Its Recipe? 

Some say that McIlhenny got the idea for his hot sauce, and maybe even his seeds, from a sauce created by New Orleans-area entrepreneur Maunsel White. 

An article published in the New Orleans Daily Delta newspaper from January 26, 1850, titled “Pepper,” stated that “Colonel White has introduced the celebrated tabasco red pepper, the very strongest of all peppers, of which he has cultivated a large quantity with the view of supplying his neighbors, and diffusing in throughout the state.” 

The newspaper asserted that White poured strong vinegar onto his peppers after boiling, making a pepper sauce “which possesses in a most concentrated form all the qualities of the vegetable.” [2]

Maunsel White’s Concentrated Essence of Tobasco Pepper

Maunsel White’s heirs advertised “Maunsel White’s Concentrated Essence of Tobasco Pepper” for sale in 1864, one year after his death. White never sought a patent for his sauce, and his heirs stopped producing the sauce before 1900. 

The McIlhenny Company denies any claim that Edmund McIlhenny obtained his pepper seeds or recipe from Maunsel White. 

The Inner Makings Of Tabasco Sauce

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How Is Tabasco Made?

The process of making Tabasco sauce commences with the harvest. 

In the earliest days, field hands used a small red stick, “un petit baton rouge,” to measure the ripeness of the peppers. Once the peppers were as strikingly red as the stick’s paint, they were ready for harvest. Tabasco pepper farmers still use the “petit baton rouge” during harvest today.

The chili peppers are ground into a paste called a mash. Most mash is made at tabasco pepper farms in Central and South America. 

The mash is combined with salt and moved to repurposed bourbon barrels, then shipped to the U.S. The barrels are stored for up to three years in a warehouse on Avery Island, where the sauce originated. 

After three years, the mash is diluted with vinegar, which tempers the overall heat of the sauce to make it approachable to a broad audience. After aging for an additional 28 days, the pepper sauce is bottled. [3]

Tabasco’s Ingredient List

Tabasco sauce has just three ingredients: tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. 

With such a narrow list of ingredients, you can eat this pepper sauce freely without worrying about harmful components or nutritional detriments. This hot sauce has a low sodium content, read about other low sodium hot sauces here.

How Spicy is Tabasco?

Tabasco Pepper Sauce falls between 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville Scale. 

The mild head ranking makes tabasco sauce relatively approachable, with the same spiciness as a jalapeño. 

How Does Tabasco Sauce Compare To Other Hot Sauce?

Because it consists of only three ingredients, Tabasco’s flavor profile is relatively simple. As you enjoy the condiment, you will taste the straightforward yet exquisite combination of tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. 

Tabasco is a highly acidic hot sauce with a flavor characterized by vinegar-led tartness and heat. 

The sauce is aqueous and has little viscosity. 

Tabasco: What’s In A Name?

Tabasco sauce is named after the peppers that give the condiment its signature flavor. The tabasco pepper is a variety of the species Capsicum frutescens. 

Tabasco peppers are named after the Mexican state of Tabasco. While they grow plentifully in Tabasco and are used abundantly in Tabascan cuisine, the pepper is generally native to Central America and Mexico. 

How Hot Is The Tabasco Pepper?

According to Chili Pepper Madness, tabasco peppers range in heat from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). [4]

Tabasco peppers are 6 to 10 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, which averages 5,000 SHU.

What Does the Tabasco Pepper Taste Like?

Tabasco peppers are typically picked and used at full, red ripeness when they have a subtly sweet and smoky flavor that borders on fruity. Ripe tabasco peppers have a juiciness that exceeds other peppers. 

When green, tabasco peppers have a bright, peppery flavor and subtle sweetness. 

Tabasco Flavors, Ranked



A vast selection of hot sauces is available at grocery stores throughout the world. There’s a vast amount of Tabasco products available, too. 

Here’s our opinion on Tabasco’s variety of flavors, ranked from least favorite to number one choice: 

7. Sweet & Spicy

Tabasco’s Sweet and Spicy is undoubtedly sweet and, in a Tabasco kind of way, spicy. When we think Tabasco, we don’t want a sauce this sweet, though, which is why Sweet & Spicy is the lowest on our list. 

6. Buffalo

Tabasco’s Buffalo sauce could be the perfect last-minute wing sauce. It’s pretty spicier than the original recipe, so consider mixing it with butter if you throw it onto wings. Tabasco’s Buffalo sauce is number 6 on our list because you lose some of the iconic Tabasco flavor when you transform it into a buffalo sauce. 

5. Habanero

Tabasco’s Habanero sauce is among the spiciest in the brand’s repertoire. While it’s delicious and relatively spicy, it lacks the sweat-inducing heat you might expect from other Habanero hot sauces. 

4. Green Pepper

We love the flavor and color of Tabasco’s Green Pepper sauce. It’s packed with far more ingredients than Tabasco’s original recipe, though. It boasts jalapeño (hello, verdant hue), but it also contains corn starch, xanthan gum, and ascorbic acid. We’re not the biggest fan of the backside of that ingredient list.

3. Garlic Pepper

Tabasco’s Garlic Pepper sauce does not skimp on deep, garlicky flavors, and for that, we’re perpetually grateful. If you’re a die-hard garlic fan—somebody who needs mountains of it in every dish—we recommend you opt for Tabasco’s Garlic Peper variety. It’s got all the spice and a grounding, savory undertone. 

2. Original

Tabasco’s Original pepper sauce has proved sensational for over 150 years, and we understand why. It’s tangy. It’s spicy. It’s simple yet complex. It works on any dish, and we believe it should be within arm’s reach in everybody’s kitchen. That’s why Tabasco Original is number two on our list. 

1. Chipotle 

Tabasco’s Chipotle flavor is the one to rule them all. It’s smoky, sweet, full-bodied, and promises to amp up heat and flavor in every dish. Its depth of flavor is unmatched in comparison to other Tobasco sauces. If you haven’t had it, get your hands on it. Quick. 

Tabasco’s Royal Reviews

Would you believe the late Queen Elizabeth a lover of all things spicy? We wouldn’t. Her royal highness did, however, adore Tabasco sauce. 

In 2009, Tabasco received a Royal Warrant from the Queen Elizabeth when it was determined that the condiment was used regularly on tabletops within Buckingham Palace. 

Tabasco was sent up with astronauts in the ‘70s to add a bang to bland, freeze-dried foods. It has also been included in the U.S. Army’s MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) since the ‘80s. [5]

Talk about a world-renowned hot sauce. 


[1] “The History of TABASCO Brand.” TABASCO Brand.

[2] Grace, R. “Was Col. Maunsel White the True Originator of Tabasco Sauce?” Metropolitan News-Enterprise, 2004.

[3] “How We Sauce – Tabasco.” Tabasco Canada.

[4] Hultquist, M. “Tabasco Peppers: All About Them.” Chili Pepper Madness, 2020.

[5] Rome, L. “The Hot Sauce That’s Queen Elizabeth’s Favorite and Found on Air Force One.” ABC WYTV, 2021.

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