How Tabasco Sauce is made

I am a committed Tabasco Sauce fiend. It is neither too hot, nor too mild, nor too vinegary -- I put it on pretty much everything. I'd use it for contact lens solution if I could. My life was radically transformed by my discovery of tiny, individual Tabasco sachets that aviation security X-rays don't identify as liquids, which means I can carry Tabasco with me at all times without worrying about getting stopped at airports for not having a stupid baggie with my liquids in it.

I found this video describing the production of Tabasco absolutely riveting. The fermentation process, the salted barrels, and let us not forget le petit baton rouge.

How Its Made - Hot Sauce (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Well crap. I usually use “contact lens solution” as my witty comeback when friends say something like “Sriacha works great on anything”. Now, in the darkest timeline, when Cory lands in his balloon, and exclaims his love for Tabasco (which I share, despite getting it in my eyes while visiting the National Zoo when I was 10), what the hell am I supposed to say?

    1. I use ‘intimate wipes’ instead of ‘contact lens solution’ as my example. I like both Sriracha and Tabasco and other hot sauces. But for portability, nothing beats these:
      They are less likely to become a problem in your pocket than the little condiment packs are.

  2. Tabasco sauce it the shit.  I mean that stuff has been around forever, and I have always enjoyed the hell out of it.  It may not be my favorite Louisiana hot sauce, but I will always love it.

    What really put them over the top AFAIC, is that they opened their plant as a shelter post-Katrina.  Yay.


    1. I love it.  It makes everything edible.  I’m tempted to put it in my coffee.

      1. Tried that recently when I had a bad cold.  If you also add copious amounts of brown sugar, it’s not bad.

      2. Amen!  I used to carry a large bottle of it in an ammo pouch to make our c-rats and MREs more edible.  I gave my bottle to one of my lieutenants and almost came to tears when that West Point goober dropped the bottle, which shattered on a boulder.

  3. If you consider Tabasco to be “not too vinegary,” what hot sauce would you consider too vinegary? Tabasco (and Crystal, and Frank’s Red Hot) are vinegar-based. (I only use it on greasy fried things like chicken to cut through the grease. Everything else gets Mexican or Asian style hot sauces.)

    1. Well there’s a continuum. Certainly green Tabasco is more vinegary than red. To me, red Tabasco is too bitter and when I found Frank’s years ago I switched.

      1.  sidebar:  straight from the bottle, Frank’s is perfect wing sauce.  truefacts.

        1. Mix equal parts Frank’s and melted butter (real butter, margarine is not allowed) plus liberal splashes of Tabasco and sprinkles of Cayenne pepper powder.  Use half to cover the wings before you bake them, use the other half to coat them after the wings are cooked.

          You’re welcome.

          1. My bottle doesn’t have a wing recipe on it, but their site lists a wing sauce that mentions Franks and butter, but no mention of Tabasco or Cayenne.  Give it a shot; you might like it!  If you do, put the wings on a wire rack that’s over a cookie sheet.  Both sides will crisp up and the cookie sheet will catch the drippings.

          2. frank’s and butter is standard restaurant fare. i’ve worked in several restaurants over the years and every single hot wings recipe has been frank’s and “butter” (“butter” being whirl, or some other restaurant liquid butter substitute)

            it’s good. i don’t mind frank’s at all.

    2.  I love the fact it is vinegar-based but then again I love vinegar so Tabasco is my fav.

    1. That shit is so good. Regular Tabasco heat/vinegar ratio is such that enough to make your food spicy leaves it tasting like you just poured half a cup of vinegar on it. Chipotle Tobasco has a much nicer warm, rich flavor that goes with just about anything.

      1.  I’m impressed by Tabasco’s physics-defying powers, assuming that “enough to make your food spicy” is *less* than half a cup.

  4. Since when did How It’s Made get a female narrator? Or is this some obscure way to get around YouTube’s filters?

    1. The show is designed to be redubbed for different regions. This sounds like the Canadian dub, and you can find a British dub on Youtube too.

      1. That never occurred to me, but now it seems completely obvious. Now I’m imagining regional versions such as “How This Thing Got Done Made”.

      2. It’s a Canadian company that does it… Apropos of nothing I guess.

        Probably the original is french, since it’s made in Montreal.

      1. Sure, that’s the general vibe, though they make sure to add some groaningly terrible puns.

        I probably watch more How It’s Made on Netflix than anything else. I think it does the same thing to the brain as meditating and I look forward to the health benefits.

  5. I like it well enough, but I came to it late, after coming to love some others more: Franks for daily North American sauces, a few whose names I don’t know for Asian sauces ( all Chinese writing).  But Tabasco definitely has a place on the shelf in the fridge.

  6. Did this narrators voice bother anyone else? When she said “burrito” at the beginning I thought “wow, this lady is trying way too hard.”  Maybe I’m a jerk.

      1. I’m Canadian and I don’t say “NAT-chos”, “chi-POT-lee” or “BEER’-eetoes”. I’m going to go out on the limb and suggest her first language is French. Certain words like “dis-gull-eration” point to a French palette. Also, she pronounces the “t’s” in “bottling”, whereas if Canadian English was her first language she would’ve said “boddling”. 

        1.  ???  Neither I nor whom I replied to made any mention of nationality.  It’s Max and Antinous you want.  But now that I think about it they must be right; she sounds North American but doesn’t match any US accent I know of.  Considering your input, that would place her as a Montrealer, n’est ce pas?

          Anyway, I hear her pronunciation of “burrito” to sound more like “B’YOU-ree-tow,” which–French Canadian or no–is just all types of wrong.

  7. I wonder how a beer aged in those barrels would taste. I have had some spicier beers and beers aged in wine, whiskey, and bourbon barrels. It would be interesting to at least try. 

    1. I’d suspect anything brewed in those barrels would get overwhelmed by the flavor of the Tabasco infused into the wood.

      1. I always like a little something interesting. I have had coffee aged in wine barrels, which is good, but not something I want a whole cup of. It might be interesting to try a few ounces of. But yes, it would be overwhelming. 

      2. So maybe make one batch in the barrels, and dilute it to taste with similar ale you made parallel in fresh oak barrels. And then you could make extra special ale-tabasco in those already ale-infused barrels, Innis&Gunn style. 
        It actually seems unlikely that someone hasn’t had a go at this already.

        1. Found that :

      3. It would take a special beer to work, so I tweeted a link to this comment thread to Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. We’ll see.

        I suspect that it would work better for aging a vodka or a rum.

        1. I visited a rum distillery recently in Thibadoux, LA that had aged rum in one of the barrels, after washing out the salt and crud. It was single note: eye-melting.  Alcohol is even better at soaking capsaicin than vinegar.

          1. Anyone who drinks martinis with dinner can tell you that alcohol increases the heat in your mouth dramatically.

  8. i won $5 from a guy at work once for knowing the ingredients of tabasco.. vinegar, red pepper, salt. liquid elegance, and probably the best thing you can do to scrambled eggs.

    1. For a moment I wondered “Does their bottle really list “liquid elegance” as an ingredient?

  9. But if tabasco sauce can be smuggled past the TSA, then it could be weaponised by squirting it into the eyes of the cabin crew! I demand a multi-billion dollar investigation and subsequent upgrade to airport security to handle this grave threat to freedom and democracy!

    1. And kids, that’s how Tabasco packets came to be added to the ‘do not fly’ list.

  10. Tabasco was life changing when my taste buds finally grew up sometime in my 20’s. Nothing goes better with crispy hash browns…though I admit I’ve strayed a bit over the years: red beans and rice get Cholula lately. But Tabasco remains my go-to for breakfast items and some pasta dishes.

    Nice video: three years in whisky barrels? Salting the tops, then blending for four weeks with the vinegar…how did people figure out these involved methods back in the day? I find it very impressive.

    I heard somewhere that the family were mad as hatters and lived a solitary life of secrecy and intrigue on their private island, but haters gotta hate I suppose.

    And they do make a damn fine hot sauce.

    1.  was anyone else completely envious of this pastoral, traditional work environment?

      1. Arrogant man walks through the field throwing string on plants he wants you to pick then his second in command ties the strings to the plants. Then you have go over the plant with a color matching stick and get the peppers? Then they probably try to pay you 30c per bushel picked but only if you got the perfect color?

        Hell no. 

        1. The operation involving strings (selecting peppers for reproduction) is not the same as the operation involving the little red stick (selecting peppers for sauce production).

          No doubt neither operation looks precisely as filmed in this piece. For sure, harvesting ripe peppers for sauce production likely involves many more people, working at a much faster pace.

      2. Everything about that video said quality control, attention to detail and marketing awareness of Tabasco’s competition.

        ‘The company uses glass rather than plastic, because glass is a better barrier against oxygen.  Oxygen penetration would adversely effects the flavor and color of the sauce.’

        Like they were flipping Sriracha the bird and saying, ‘AMATEURS!’

    2. How did “people” figure out the recipe?  “People” was Old Man McIlhenny himself, who got the first seeds from Mexico (or maybe Central America).  His first batch of sauce was only a month of  fermenting and a month of vinegar soaking.  If you visit the Avery Island, they’ll tell you all about it, and give you some of those teeny bottles besides.

      1. Yeah!  Avery Island is a great visit!  Be sure to go when the azaleas are blooming.

    3. I couldn’t get enamoured with that “one note” flavour of Tabasco either.   I’m so glad I discovered Cholula Hot Sauce!  A much more interesting and complex flavour. 

      I had to have the stuff shipped to me from the factory when stores around here stopped carrying it (it’s all Tabasco and Frank’s everygoramwhere…).  Luckily I found a store out of town that carries it.

      Also available in 1/2 oz. squeeze packs.  And 1/2 gallon jugs.

  11. Tabasco is way yonder too vinegary. It is basically hot vinegar, a one note flavor. There are many, many hot sauces with more interesting flavor profiles — Sriracha, Texas Pete, Yucutan Habanero, even Frank’s. No, tried to like Tabasco but I just can’t abide it.

    1. Right its all heat and vinegar. Which makes it great for things like tuning up bloody marys, add some heat distracting from the other flavors. But kind of mediocre as a hot sauce. I tend to go with Franks or Crystal for general hot sauce use, or Cholula if I want something less vinegary with more flavor going on. 

    2. I’m not hating, because I like Tabasco, but I do agree.  If the food you’re eating pairs with the vinegar, then by all means toss some Tabasco on there (Crystal is also good.)  But if vinegar won’t work with your food:

      For intense, flavorful heat go for Sriracha (look for the rooster) or Sambal (more of a fermented pepper paste for cooking rather than a sauce.)  For a good amount of heat and a great flavor, my everyday is pic related.  It’s pretty much god-tier.

    3. Honestly, if I want something spicy I usually just add cayenne powder. Heat tolerance varies so widely that trying to combine heat and flavor seems like a bad idea: unless your heat tolerance matches the sauce exactly, you wind up with not enough flavor or way too much.

      1.  wisdom.  but the obverse is also true.  if particular sauces match up to your particular palate, it’s convenient.  Tapatio is perfect heat for me, and I really like the flavor.

    4.  You think Tabasco tastes only like vinegar but you hold up Texas Pete’s?!  I must have very different tastes, because Pete is not doing it for me.

      That said, agree with everything else you mentioned.  Tabasco is good for well, when I want hot vinegar.  Then again, I also have about five hot sauces (two of which you mentioned) open at any given time for different things. 

  12. I used to use Tabasco all the time, until I discovered Sriracha.  I still use tabasco occasionally, restaurants and such, but at home it is all Rooster sauce.

      1. Agreed, though it’s really a different sauce, being much sweeter.

        It’s worth seeking out, though. I buy four or five bottles at a time (they’re cheap) at the Seattle Uwajimaya.

    1. I really don’t get the Sriracha hype. The stuff is like cheap chilli marmelade. I tried it several times since one of my favoured vietnamese diners swapped the Sambal Oelek for it and I think the main effect is that it sweetens everything which leads me to believe that Sriracha lovers would be better off with a bottle of maple syrup and a bit of pepper.

      1. The local sandwich shop near where I used to work brewed their own Sriracha imitation.  (This wasn’t a hipster thing; it was an old Chinese guy doing it non-ironically because he liked it better.)  Great stuff on French Fries.

        1. In Germany, one of the favourite brands of sauce for fries and general seasoning is Hela Curry Gewürz Ketchup which comes in a large, oblong, red plastic bottle. The taste has very little to do with curry and even less with ketchup. It’s rather like Chutney that went through a blender. The main attribute is sweetness which enforces my suspicion that many people just look like to put sugar on anything ;)

  13. It was either this episode or another ‘making of’ show where they showed that they have to change out heavy tools like forklifts at a higher than normal rate due to the corrosion/acidity in the air.   

  14. I put Tabasco on everything as well. More so than salt or pepper. Pizza and eggs are the big two Tabasco recipients in my household. I think I may need to order some of those single packets. I used to buy the mini bottles for travel (like these) but they’re a bit spendy.

    1.  Damn, I never thought of that for some reason and I just had pizza.  Gonna remember that for next time.

    1. Yucateco green is my favorite day-to-day sauce, but the rest of my family can’t handle it so I keep a bottle of Miranda’s XX and one of Sriracha on the table, too. 

      Been a long time since I’ve tasted any of those vinegar intensive sauces such as Tabasco, but still not quite long enough….

    2. The kitchen staff was trying to fuck with the front-of-the-house gringos, getting us to try this.  They were surprised that I could handle it, but even so, it’s still more heat than I’m genuinely comfortable with.  Too bad for me, it’s a really good sauce.

      1. Yes, this is my new favorite Mexican sauce.  Hotter than their green/orange Habanero sauces.  The first night I had a bottle of this stuff I woke up with night sweats, as if I were breaking a fever.  I may have over done the amount. ;)

    3. This is the default in my house, and we’d buy in bulk if we could.  Still keep a couple vinegar sauces and sriracha on hand though for things that need it.

      Oddly, they all taste good on eggs.

  15. I’ve had tobasco a few times, and I’ve always found the vinegar overpowers everything else. What’s worse, my spice tolerance levels are such that I can’t even register it as being spicy at all, so for me tobasco comes off as little more than a small bottle of expensive but poor-quality vinegar. Sriracha’s not all that much better. I’m basically forced to get the purer, stronger stuff and craft my own spicy mixtures… and am very happy with the results, even if almost nobody else I know can properly enjoy them.

    1. See if you can find a peri-peri sauce from South Africa. If I remember correctly, Nali was one considered the hottest. I brought a bottle back for a pepper-belly I worked with, and he liked it very much; flavor with enough heat to get his attention.

      Closer to home, I like the flavor of Dave’s Insanity Sauce, but it has too much heat for me. Tastes great though.

  16. I saw another program about Avery Island and the operations and every pay day the employees get a chef size bottle of Tabasco with their paycheck.

  17. Unfortunately, those “tiny, individual Tabasco sachets” (they’re actually called ‘PCs’), are about as environmentally unfriendly as one can get.

    The tiny glass bottles of Tobasco that come in MREs are better, but the Tub Stacking Authority gets stupid and insists they go in the baggie.

      1. Hawaii’s always had baggage inspection at the airports, because of the Agriculture Police (and unlike TSA, I’m just fine with having them inspect my stuff, because they’re actually protecting the mainland and the state from actual risks.)  The TSA people there tend to be friendlier because they’ve got a good example nearby, instead of hostile bullies like on the mainland. 

        I was talking with a TSA person who was handing out baggies (back when they still did that), and she said she was really annoyed at airport policy – she used to empty plastic water bottles into the local planters and recycle them, but they got ordered to stop doing that and just throw them unopened into the non-recycling landfill trash.

  18. you need to visit Avery Island, Cory. they do a great factory tour and sell a bazillion Tabasco brand products from the store that you can’t find in most places – including Tabasco ice cream! a lot of it is over-priced brand-stamped hooey from China, but the variety of pepper-related food products is quite awe-inspiring. 

    1. Second all that.

      Also, not sure if they still do this, but last time I was there, back in 2001 (right after 9/11, ironically), they were selling the spent “mash” (the pepper pulp mentioned in the video). That stuff is plenty hot and very flavorful. Makes for a great addition to cooking, especially stew-like dishes (stew, chili, jambalya, etc.)

  19. Hang on a sec, Cory….if I’ve read this right, you wear contact lenses and you don’t put a baggie through the x-ray system at the airport.

    Yes, you can get soap and shampoo at most hotels, but are you really running out to a drug store every time you land to buy contact lens solution?

  20. Thank you for posting this. I heard one can tour the facilities in Louisiana. I’d like to do that sometime. 

  21. I’m incredibly jealous of the taste tester who gets paid to eat sauce, crackers and ice cream bars all day.

  22. I like Tabasco, but it can be on the vinegary side.  I like to have a
    variety of hot sauces around but more than anything else I find myself
    coming back to Grace Pepper sauce.  It’s a similar product to Tabasco,
    but made with Scotch Bonnet peppers and is much spicier, has more pepper
    flavor and less vinegar taste to it.

    Frank’s is simply not hot
    enough and way too salty for my taste (and I like a lot of salt on my
    food).  It does make good buffalo wings, but that’s about all I find it
    useful for. 

  23. So not anyone remembers good old Salsa Valentina to pour over your mangoes or cucumbers? Perhaps too proletarian.

  24. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned specifically Tabasco’s “Habanero” flavor. It’s somewhat hotter than the original recipe (though less hot than many other brands’ habanero/scotch-bonnet flavors), with a thicker, less-vinegary texture and flavor.

    I still like the original, but the habanero has been my go-to for most foods, for years now.

    Their garlic flavor is also quite good…less hot than the original, with a more complex flavor profile.

  25. I really like the “garlic” Tabasco flavor. I don’t feel like I have to choose though. I usually have a bottle of Tabasco, Cholula, and Tapatio stocked at all times.

  26. Love love love Frank’s (Red Hot)! Used to buy it by the gallon, but can’t find that size any more.

  27. I like them french fried potaters too, with mustard on em, hmmm. Reckon I aim to eat some. Might try some Tobasco on em too, hmmm. All right then.

  28. Took a while even as an adult to enjoy this stuff because when my brother and I were kids we would get a splash on the tongue when we cursed.  
    Didn’t do any fucking good.. :)

  29. I would just like to point out that my tastes are the standard by which all of you are judged and you are failing miserably. None of your choices reflect well on your understanding of this simple fact.

  30. i used to be in love with tobasco but when i moved to nola i started using bruce foods Louisiana Hot Sauce and it is so much better. THEN i moved to texas and threw all that crap out for a bottle of Cholula. nothing beats Cholula. 

    seriously. there you go. 1. Cholula. 2. Louisiana Hot Sauce 3. (if you absolutely have to have it) Tobasco

    1. Don’t know if they still do it, but the mess halls at Ft Polk, Louisiana had a bottle of Trappey’s Louisiana Bull sauce on each table back in the 80s.  Loved that stuff on the eggs.  I didn’t discover Cholula until the 2000s, but am happy I did.  Tasty stuff.

      Goya has a good sauce made with chiles de arbol that you’d probably like.  It also has a wood bottle cap.

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