Consumers love condiments! Most recently hot sauce consumption has been on the rise and is giving other condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise some competition. There are many different brands of products in the category of condiments and within that category there are hundreds of hot sauces to choose from. When using the term “hot sauce” in speaking about the industry, what does it mean?
How many types of hot sauces are there?
There are many brands of hot sauce throughout the world but there are also several types of hot sauces as well. When I speak about a hot sauce I am generally referring to a simple pepper and vinegar mixture similar to the popular Tabasco brand sauce.
How many brands of hot sauces are there? Wikipedia alone lists over a hundred and this is definitely not including many independent producers. Most web sites will only list a guide or the “Top 10 Sauces in Their Area”, or a list by pepper type. Listing and comparing every single brand of hot sauce on the market would be an overwhelming web site let alone a blog post.
One of the most amusing things about hot sauce is the name. I cannot endorse the following sauces because I have not tasted them but with names like “Satan’s Blood” and “Ass In Space”, they certainly are tempting. That definitely says something about marketing. I have decided to focus this article on different types of hot sauces instead.
What classifies a product as a sauce?
According to Dictionary.com a sauce is “a thick liquid served with food”, to add moistness and flavor”. That’s a broad definition but the hot sauce that I refer to certainly falls under that category. After reading that I decided to classify them further.
When people mention hot sauce, they are typically referring to an all liquid hot pepper and vinegar combination in a woozy bottle between 5 and 10 ounces. The most popular brands of this are Franks Red Hot, Tabasco and Cholula. This website for the most part refers to this type of sauce but there are many, many variations to it and many brands manufacturing it. We will call this simple blend of peppers, vinegar and other spices a “traditional” sauce.
Chicken wing Sauce / Buffalo sauce
Chicken wing sauce, Buffalo sauce or Buffalo wing sauce are a close relative to a traditional hot sauce. In fact most recipes you will find cheat by simply using a Franks or Tabasco as the base. Some of the other key ingredients to a buffalo wing sauce are a tomato base, or ketchup and butter.
These sauce flavors are expanded even further to include sweet & sour; hot, medium & mild and buffalo wing glazes. Its the crispy, deep fried chicken wing itself that allow these sauces to explore endless flavor combinations.
What is meat sauce? Also known as Garbage Plate Sauce, Rochester Hot Sauce or Hot Meat Sauce. Almost of a chili consistency. Although not as abundant on grocery store shelves it is available at Walmart as the brand Coach Tony’s.
Where I come from, we have a local diner that serves up a national phenomenon called a garbage plate. I know there are probably many variations of this, but Rochester NY would like to think they have invented it. We have definitely perfected it. In Rochester the garbage plate originates at a diner called Nick Tahou’s. This meal consists of homemade macaroni salad, home fries and beans with two cheeseburgers on top. The plate is then covered with a hot and spicy meat sauce. I personally have never tried to make this, but the product is available here.
Is salsa considered a hot sauce? In Spanish salsa means sauce but in the traditional sense it is more of a dip.I would not call this a hot sauce, but I have seen it among other hot sauces and it can certainly contain the same amount of heat as a hot sauce. Diced tomatoes, onions and peppers are the typical base. This can be mixed with fruits to compliment.
The literal meaning of salsa is sauce and some of the ingredients are similar to what is found in many hot sauces. The main difference being that typically a salsa will have chunks of the products it is made with verses a smooth texture traditional pepper & vinegar hot sauce.
Taco Sauce will usually have a tomato base and Is often thicker than a traditional hot sauce. These sauces can have some heat to them but are often just mild but very flavorful. The differences in these types of sauces are the addition of spices like paprika, chili powder and cumin.
I love taco sauce but I cannot eat on anything other than a taco or burrito and I generally prefer it mild. This type of sauce was my introduction to eating hot sauce as a kid.
Artisan and gourmet hot sauce
Anything goes. These sauces are usually small companies producing a specialty sauce. These flavors range from a traditional red pepper sauce to a unique blend of flavorings including bourbon and tequila. It is this category of sauces where the heat level just skyrockets to almost no limit.
These high end sauces are typically only available at specialty shops or web sites specifically for selling hot sauces and related items. Larger grocery store chains are gradually adding them to the shelves as they are increasing in popularity.
Dips and dressings
Dips and dressing have their own category. Dressings cannot be hot sauces but hot sauces can be dressings. Dips and dressings can be hot and spicy but they are still dips and dressings. What? Arguments can be made here but it partly depends on what you are putting it on. Consistency and thickness are factors that classify dips and dressings into the category they are in.
The consumption of sauces and how they are eaten plays a part in how they are classified and perceived. Brand does not have much to do with the type of sauce that makes it unique in its own category but a popular brand can certainly help mainstream it into becoming the go to the go to product.