Taste Test: We Murder Our Tongues with Five Variants of Tabasco SauceFebruary 7, 2017
When bland, lifeless food makes its way to your plate, there is one thing you can count on to come to the rescue: Tabasco Sauce. Made with aged Capsicum frutescens peppers, the original sauce was created by businessman Edmund McIlhenny in 1868. Since then the company’s been under the ownership of the McIlhenny clan (who—to ensure availability—have gone as far as to keep a stash of seeds at a local bank vault). To this day you find it on restaurant tables and home pantries, ready to add a zip to anything it touches. It is as ubiquitous as it is versatile.
While the original red remains the most popular and consequently the easiest to find, the Tabasco brand offers a number of other flavors available for those looking to change up their spice game.
The flagship product of the brand, original red has a distinguishable watery consistency and tastes predominantly of vinegar rather than mouth-tingling peppers. With only three ingredients listed—vinegar in the forefront signifying it as the primary ingredient, followed by red pepper and salt—its exaggerated sourness makes the staple sauce one-dimensional as a hot sauce, and it’s not the hottest sauce around. Still, it does its job of providing a punch—one that is more sour than spicy, but successful in stimulating the tongue and adding its own tabasco-unique kick.
A touch milder in heat than the original red, the green jalapeño sauce has a thicker consistency with a still-dominant vinegar taste. The zesty flavor of the green pepper and the higher amount of saltiness on this sauce works to its advantage in countering the sourness. We think one of our tasters puts it best when she says, “it provides that quintessential taco joint flavor”—likely referring to its fresh, vibrant zing that works well with rich, fatty food.
mild garlic pepper
Despite this bottle explicitly being billed as the milder variant, the panel actually enjoyed the flavor better than the original. The sourness is toned down and does not overwhelm, allowing for the pepper and the garlic to come through. “It’s not that spicy, but I don’t mind,” a taster remarks. “I’d take it as an all-purpose seasoning sauce.”
Without a doubt the highest-rated in the lineup. With a sweet, smoky flavor and just the right amount of heat, the team likened it to a spicy American-style barbecue sauce. “It doesn’t feel like hot sauce, but it’s pretty good,” says a taster, who was later spotted nibbling on the extras with a spoon.
This is the spiciest in the bunch, just as its label promises. It might not be hot enough to please die-hard chili fanatics, but still makes for an approachable hot sauce for those of us with amateur tongues. “I can feel the heat at the back of my throat,” says a taster. With habañero peppers in the mix, you get a distinct tropical fruitiness enhanced by mango, banana and tamarind, only further brightened by its vinegary bite.
For those of us who grew up with it, the flavor of vinegary spice is hard to beat. Tabasco sauce has its uses, sparking life into certain foods such as fried eggs, tacos, and burritos by countering their predominantly rich, greasy character with its tartness and its heat.
The lineup doesn’t deliver the most complex, lingering burn that we look for in a hot sauce. As an all-purpose sauce however, they do hold their value by adding a dose of of flavor. Taken that way, the Mild Garlic Pepper and Chipotle variants stand out—the former for its garlicky goodness, the latter for its crowd-pleasing smokiness. While the heat is more of an afterthought, it at least does a good job rounding out each of their respective flavor profiles.