A History of Hot Sauce

Have you ever wondered who decided that putting chilis and peppers into a bottle with other scrumptious ingredients would make a wonderful addition to all of your favorite foods? Here is a little history lesson about the origins of our favorite condiment: hot sauce!

People have enjoyed chilis for a lot longer than we probably realize, with evidence showing that they have been around for over 100 000 years and were probably some of the earliest plants to be cultivated.  The earliest well-known Western story of chilis being used to make hot sauce, however, dates back to the mid 1800’s, when the first crop of tobasco chilis were grown by Colonel Maunsell White, an upper class Louisiana banker. The first commercial hot sauce was then manufactured and put on the market in 1859 by White, who then generously passed on some of chilis and his hot sauce recipe to a friend, Edmund McIlhenny, who planted the chilis and started to cultivate his own crop. After a few years during the civil war, McIhenny is forced away from his home for 5 years. Amazingly, when he returned, he found his chilli plantation was flourishing, and quickly manufactured and sent out the first batch of hot sauce in 350 using cologne bottles! Within a matter of weeks, orders for his delicious hot sauce flew in, and so the famous hot sauce we all know as “Tabasco” was first patented.

Soon after that, hundreds of manufactures tried their hand at coming up with hot sauces as good as McIhenny’s, but it wasn't until La Victoria brought out their taco and enchilada hot sauces in the early 1940’s that the hot sauce boom really hit the West. David Pace of Pace Foods introduced Picante sauce in 1947 and other notable hot sauces swarmed the market. The hot sauce market branched out and new ingredients started being used, different combinations of chilis, and an obsession with the “hottest” hot sauce ensued. By the early 1990’s, hot sauce started to replace ketchup as America’s condiment of choice, and hot sauce connoisseurs from all over started to enter competitions all over America, one of the most prestigious being the Scovie Awards, where hot sauce not only competes for taste, but for heat too. Hot sauce is now more than just a condiment, but a lifestyle, with hot sauce makers from all over are sharing their delicious, spicy concoctions. Hot sauce lovers wait for the latest, greatest and hottest hot sauces to be made by their favorite brands as well as the new kids on the hot sauce block.

Today, people all across the globe indulge in hot sauces, but it’s safe to say that the USA is still waving the flag of number one hot sauce loving nation. Lets not forget, however, the Asian love for all things hot and spicy-curries in India, mouth watering (and scorching), wasabi, which goes as the perfect complement to traditional sushi dishes . In terms of Western culture, however, it’s no surprise that our favorite condiment has such a great history, and we are eternally grateful to the original hot sauce makers for gifting us with one of America’s greatest food products in modern history.