Have you ever wondered how the more common hot sauce brands stack up against the lesser-known EXTREME versions when it comes to heat? Thanks to the Scoville Scale, which measures the 'hotness' or 'spiciness' of peppers or sauces, we now have an easy way of finding out.
The hottest sauce in the world (called Blair's 16 Million Reserve) clocks in at 16,000,000 Scoville Heat Units (or SHU). For reference, a jalapeño pepper has 3,500 to 10,000 SHU, a cayenne pepper has 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, and a habanero chili has 100,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Now that our mouths are watering, just how hot is the "hot sauce" that's sitting in your pantry right now? Here are the heat rankings for 10 of the most popular hot sauces in America.
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10. Frank's RedHot Original: 450 SHU
I love myself some Frank's RedHot, especially when making buffalo chicken dip, and this low heat ranking tells me why: I'm a wuss.
Founded in 1920, Frank's RedHot was actually the main ingredient used in the first buffalo wing sauce created in 1964 at the Anchor Bar and Grill in Buffalo. That would explain why sauce tastes like the delicious "not-too-spicy-but-spicy-enough" Buffalo wings that we all know and love. In other words, it's not really that hot at all, so don't be too proud of yourself.
9. 'Louisiana' Hot Sauce: 450 SHU
"Louisiana Hot Sauce" is another very common hot sauce option in the United States, and the low heat rating tells you why it's such a crowd pleaser. This popular potion was originally concocted in New Iberia, Louisiana (in the "original Louisiana way") where their process is sassy. Adding vinegar and salt to their peppers, the company then leaves the batch to ferment during—what they call—the "aging process."
This brand also claims to be "the very first commercially available Cajun food products" and the "first hot sauce to use the state's name."
8. Tabasco: 700 SHU
Tabasco's original sauce might not be the hottest brand around, but it's certainly the oldest! Founded in Avery Island, Louisiana in 1868, the sauce was originally packaged using discarded cologne bottles. Crazy, right? I just hope those bottles were thoroughly cleaned!
Although regular Tabasco sauce only ranks at 400 SHU, Tabasco Green Sauce hits 1,000 SHU, Tabasco Pepper Sauce hits 3,500, and the Tabasco brand 'Habanero Sauce' gets up to 8,000 SHU. In other words, they know how to serve up some heat when they want to.
7. Texas Pete: 750 SHU
Everyone's got some Texas Pete sitting around in their pantry, right? This is a great option for when you want something a little hotter than normal but you also want to feel your tongue at the end of the day.
Texas Pete was founded in 1929 in North Carolina. The sauce first came about when customers at the Dixie Pig BBQ stand in Winston-Salem asked for a spicier sauce. Thus, Texas Pete was born, even though it should probably be called "North Carolina Pete." I guess that doesn't have the same ring to it...
6. Cholula Hot Sauce: 1,000 SHU
This is the wooden-topped brand I see in almost every Mexican restaurant I go to, and for good reason (it's satisfyingly HOT). Cholula mixes pequins (which are seven times hotter than a jalapeño) and arbol peppers, which lends it its unique flavor, setting it apart from Louisiana hot sauces.
To honor its Mexican roots, Cholula Hot Sauce was named after a 2,500-year-old city in Mexico — "the oldest inhabited city in North America." According to its website, Cholula delivers "an enjoyable 1,000 Scoville units." For comparison, bell peppers range between 0-100 while habaneros fall between 200,000-300,000.
5. Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Sauce: 2,200 SHU
Ah, Sriracha. Not for the faint of heart (like me). Founded in Los Angeles in 1980, Huy Fong Foods is tasty, garlicky, and versatile AF. Seriously, Californians stick this shiz on everything! The founder, David Tran, was a Vietnamese refugee who started his "chili legacy" in a 5,000 square-foot building tucked away in Chinatown, Los Angeles. His popular recipes include Pepper Sa-te Sauce, Sambal Oelek, Chili Garlic, Sambal Badjak, and Sriracha Hot Sauce.
4. Topatío Hot Sauce: 3,000 SHU
Get ready, because from now on we're going to be climbing the heat scale pretty fast.
Tapatío can be found in sizes ranging from individual packets to gallon-sized bottles and packs a pretty good punch at 3,000 SHU. Apparently "Tapatío" is a slang term for people from Guadalajara, which is where the founder is originally from.
This Mexican-style hot sauce was created in Vernon, California, and is pretty popular with people across the world who aren't afraid of some heat. Although the brand was instantly popular in the Hispanic community, it didn't cross over and become a favorite in American households until the late '80s/early '90s.
3. Crystal Hot Sauce: 4,000 SHU
There's a long-standing feud between "Louisiana" Hot Sauce and Crystal Pure Louisiana Hot Sauce over which is the "ORIGINAL" Louisiana-based sauce. However, no one can deny that Crystal's is hotter (clocking in at 4,000 SHU). Crystal claims that their sauce was created in 1923 (five years before Louisiana's) and they continue to be the number one selling Louisiana-style hot sauce on the market. I guess people aren't scared off by the heat, after all. Maybe they stick it on fried gator?!
2. El Yucateco Red Chile Habanero: 5,790 SHU
The only time I've seen this sauce is on the shelf of a grocery store — this bottle looks like it means business (and it does). According to El Yucateco's website, this particular sauce is based around habanero peppers (ouch), red tomatoes, and a selection of fine spices and seasonings. Apparently, it's ideal on any kind of seafood and can be used in a traditional Bloody Mary if you're insane. Although it's definitely hot, it's still not as fiery as some of its other brands (the KUTBILIK EXXXTRA HOT HABANERO is 11,600 SHU, for example).
1. Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Sauce: 350,000 SHU
Who knew a chain restaurant could quickly turn into a pain restaurant? Buffalo Wild Wings' Blazin' Sauce is so hot that they built a challenge around it in which brave souls must eat 12 blazin' wings in six minutes to score a T-shirt.
A flipping t-shirt for permanently killing every single taste bud in your mouth? Uh, no thanks, that's a hard pass for me.
There's a reason they put that little disclaimer in the bottle...