Mexican Hot Sauce: Authentic or Imitation?

Chili peppers and spicy foods have been a part of Mexican cuisine in one form or another for centuries. Contemporary hot sauce has been paired with Mexican foods since its modern-day introduction to consumers. Some Mexican hot sauces stand out as being unique while others follow some similarities to other popular hot sauces but all of them offer spiciness to food.

Food tends to be spicier in hotter climates across the globe. This is because bacteria have a greater growth rate in these climates and the spiciness in food or capsaicin, primarily hot peppers, inhibits the growth of bacteria. Therefore, it is not uncommon for food that comes from regions with higher temperatures to include hot peppers, hot sauce, and spiciness as part of their everyday cuisine…including Mexico.

What is Mexican hot sauce?

A Mexican hot sauce is usually made with piquin, chipotle, arbol, puya, or guajillo chili peppers that come from regions in and around Mexico. Contrary to what is popular a Mexican hot sauce is mild compared to other top-selling brands of hot sauce available on the market today. It can also be distinguished by the type of food it is paired with.

What makes a hot sauce a Mexican Hot Sauce has more to do with the contents than the belief that it comes from Mexico. Simply manufacturing a hot sauce in Mexico doesn’t make it a Mexican hot sauce. However, if the sauce contains peppers or other ingredients specific to the region or originally cultivated in or around the area of Mexico then it is probably OK to label it as a distinguished Mexican hot sauce.

Some of the more commonly used peppers for a Mexican hot sauce are cultivated in the region and are also used in everyday Mexican cuisine and many different varieties of hot sauce. Mulato chili, Puya chili, Casabel chili, Pasilla Mexicana, Poblano, Chili de Arbol, Ancho, Chipotle, and Jalapeno are all common peppers from Mexico that are used in many varieties of hot sauce. Many are not as hot as other popular varieties available on the market today and when diluted with other ingredients within a hot sauce also makes the sauce less spicy.

According to the, Mexican chili peppers can have many names all pertaining to the same type of pepper making it difficult to distinguish varieties. Sometimes they are a different name pertaining to a process like a chipotle, which is a smoked jalapeno. In regions around the globe, a hot pepper is commonly referred to as a “chili”, chilies or chili pepper. This can cause confusion around certain types of peppers that may simply have the tag “chili” to differentiate them from others.

Mexican hot sauce

A Mexican hot sauce will typically only contain a few ingredients like hot peppers, vinegar, and spices like many other popular, traditional, and authentic hot sauces may. An analysis of the ingredients in some of the top-selling brands of hot sauce demonstrates a common use of peppers, vinegar, salt, and preservatives as well as garlic and other spices. This could make a Mexican hot sauce NOT stand out among other classic or traditional sauces.

For many variations of sauces using a few common ingredients, it is often the process that allows it to stand out. Like anywhere in the world there are specific types of foods and sauces that are typical or thought to have originated from certain regions. This also includes many different types of toppings and sauces. From regions in and around Mexico, there are variations of hot sauces that may all use a few of the same ingredients either mixed differently or having a final texture that may be different from each other.

Salsa Picante

Salsa Picante is a combination of two Spanish words. Salsa meaning “sauce” and Picante translates to “spicey”. However, the word salsa is used to describe condiments that are a thick and chunky type of dip that includes tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Salsa Picante on the other hand is usually very thin consistency like a hot sauce. Valentina is the most well-known hot sauce in Mexico using puya chilis and is marketed as a “salsa Picante”.

Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo is a fresh uncooked salsa that is generally spicier than a salsa to include jalapeno or serrano green hot peppers. Pico de gallo is not a thin consistency sauce that can be squeezed from a bottle but is like the chunky consistency of what is called salsa in the US.

Taco sauce

Taco sauce has a much different consistency and flavor to it than a Mexican hot sauce and is often closer to ketchup. It will also usually be very mild and will only typically be used with either tacos, burritos, or enchiladas.

Tomatoes are a huge part of Mexican cuisine states, and have been for centuries so naturally they have also become used in sauces. Tomatoes, either fresh or cooked, blend well with many varieties of hot peppers and are processed into a hot sauce. A homemade Mexican hot sauce will often have tomatoes as one of the ingredients either whole or in the form of paste. El Yucateco is a popular Mexican hot sauce that uses tomatoes as one of the ingredients in many variations of their hot sauces.

Many popular and successful hot sauce companies boast to be selling Mexican hot sauce that are probably the closest sauces to becoming authentic. El Yucateco, Jalisco, Bufalo, Cholula, and Tapatio are some of the most popular Mexican hot sauces. Others such as Mexico Lindo, Taco Sauces La Victoria, Tajin Hot Sauce, and El Chilierto Chamoy have taken traditional Mexican hot sauce in another direction.

What type of hot sauce goes with Mexican food?

The type of food that a sauce is used on may also distinguish its origin or classify the label it is given. However, dumping Cholula all over eggs doesn’t necessarily make it a Mexican dish. Nevertheless, a simple combination of hot peppers, spices, and vinegar paired with signature Mexican foods allows a sauce to be classified for what it is.

Tacos and burritos

Tacos and burritos can generally be some of the same ingredients of meat, lettuce, cheese and tomato wrapped in a flower casing. Both tacos and burritos crave the addition of hot sauce to validate being authentic Mexican foods.

Black beans and rice

There are many combinations of beans and rice, but black beans and white rice is a simple combination that has plenty of opportunity for spiciness. Adding hot sauce as a topping to create a quick and easy Mexican dish is equally as easy.


This is another authentic Mexican dish that has many, many combinations and variations. The combination of ingredients used to create nachos is almost endless. Nachos are almost always topped with cheese and cheese goes great with a hot sauce.

Easy and Delicious Mexican Food

Get recipes for these authentic Mexican dishes and hundreds more from Easy and Delicious Mexican Food. Pairing a hot sauce with food is as important as the ingredients it is made with. If you love hot sauce, spicy food, and Mexican-influenced recipes…GET THIS BOOK! Instant download.


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