Taste Test: Hot Sauce

by in Taste Test, August 14, 2012

hot sauce
With so much talk about hot sauce, we had to taste test all the popular varieties for ourselves. We got our mouths fired up for this spicy taste test. Find out who topped our list.

It’s All About Sodium
Hot sauce is the new ketchup. Dab a little on sandwiches, pizza, pasta dishes, chili, grilled meats, eggs – almost any dish. If you check out the label, you’ll notice that there’s not much nutrition information per serving—no calories, fat, saturated fat, carbs, or protein (or at least so little that it can be listed as zero by food labeling guideline). What it does have is sodium—and some brands have more than others.

The Criteria
For this taste test, we rated hot sauce based on taste, spiciness, ingredients and nutritional information—specifically sodium. We chose the original flavor for each brand and rated them on a 5-point scale (5 being the highest). Since hot sauce is typically eaten with food, we tasted each on a tortilla chip.

Although many folks shouted out Sriracha on Facebook and Twitter, we chose to stick to traditional varieties for this taste test.

Cholula Hot Sauce
Rating: 5.0
Cost: $0.45 per fluid ounce
Nutrition Info (per teaspoon): 0 calories; 28 milligrams sodium
Our Take: Imported from Mexico, this is the only brand that has 1 tablespoon listed as the serving size (others have 1 teaspoon). The pepper flavor is pretty mild, especially compared to some of the other brands; that might be because the first ingredient listed is water (then arbol and piquin peppers).

Tabasco Pepper Sauce
Rating: 4.0
Cost: $1.18 per fluid ounce
Nutrition Info (per teaspoon):  0 calories; 35 milligrams sodium
Our Take: Many of us grew up using this teeny red bottle and boy it’s still as hot as we remember. This baby has only 3 ingredients: distilled vinegar, red pepper, and salt. Alongside Cholula, it has the lowest sodium content but was by far the most expensive.

Frank’s Red Hot Original
Rating: 4.0
Cost: $0.31 per fluid ounce
Nutrition Info (per teaspoon):  0 calories; 190 milligrams sodium
Our Take: We love the innocent (yet filthy-mouthed) elderly woman on the Frank’s Red Hot Sauce commercials (check out their website if you haven’t seen them). The ingredients in this one are pretty simple — cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt and garlic powder. The flavor is just right—not too spicy but not mild either and it’s the cheapest of the bunch. The sodium, however, is one of the highest of all brands we tested.

Texas Pete Hot Sauce
Rating: 4.0
Cost: $0.18 per fluid ounce
Nutrition Info (per teaspoon): 0 calories; 100 milligrams sodium
Our Take: Whoa, Nelly! This hot sauce has a nice kick which you feel a second after it hits your mouth. Sodium is smack in the middle of all the samples we tested and ingredients do include a few additives like xanthan gum and benzoate of soda (to preserve freshness and flavor).

Louisiana Hot Sauce   
Rating: 3.5
Cost: $0.37 per fluid ounce
Nutrition Info (per teaspoon): 0 calories; 240 milligrams sodium
Our Take: This “hot” sauce was actually on the sweeter side and the sauce itself had a thicker consistency. Ingredient list is simple: peppers, vinegar and salt but the sodium is much higher than all other brand we tested.

TELL US: What’s your favorite hot sauce?

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Comments (1,944)

  1. PattiNYC says:

    I make my own hot sauce from serrano's, thai dragons, and habaneros that i grow in the backyard. Just peppers, salt and vinegar and voila! It is delicious!

  2. Rust says:

    I wish food network would put Alton Brown's show on more often…

  3. Jacinthe Mattison says:


  4. Ruth Ann says:

    I like Franks. It is have best flavor. Texas Pete and Tabasco are hotter, but they don't have a very good flavor.

  5. Ruth Ann says:

    Sorry for the grammatical error, "It has the best flavor."

  6. Dpoppy says:

    Louisiana is my favorite because of the flavor – simply the very best aged cayenne peppers, vinegar & salt; distinctly simple!
    You noted one tablespoon versus one teaspoon serving size, as though this is significant, however, a serving size of hot sauce is relevant to the individual's taste – therefore, it is safer to go with less rather than more! Personally, my serving size is probably 3-4 times that amount, but it's all relative.
    Also, you did not note who participated in the study – useful in trying to determine how you arrived at your conclusion.
    Bon appetit!

  7. Jared says:

    Srirachi!!! I can't believe you didn't even include it on your list!

  8. @mimiwi says:

    Love the Tabasco Chipotle sauce. It has a nice smoky flavor.

  9. Johnson bee bop says:

    I’ve been using Texas Pete for a while now and it was my first hot sauce in my refridgerator. In my opinion, the hottest/spiciest, by FAR, is Tobasco. I have to be in a real spicy mood to eat tobasco phewf! I always have a ton of bread and a bucket of water with me when I have tobasco! On the other hand, I like Texas Pete, but it’s nowhere near as spicy as tobasco. In my opinion, Texas Pete has just a little bit of kick, but not too much. I haven’t tried the others.

  10. Johnson Bee Bop says:

    By the way, you guys made an error. You said Franks was the cheapest of the bunch, but Franks is $0.31 per fl ounce and Texas Pete is $0.18 per fl ounce. Just thought I'd point that out, unless you made a mistake on the numbers…

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