Crystal Hot Sauce Review

Crystal Hot Sauce is a staple in New Orleans, but there’s good reason why this Louisiana-style hot sauce is so popular (and widely available) all around the globe. It’s packed with flavor and supplies a very eatable heat. But how well-balanced are the two together? And is Crystal Hot Sauce as usable as other Louisiana hot sauce staples? Let’s dive into a bottle and find out.

SUMMARY
Crystal Hot Sauce (priced as pack of 3)
4.5
$10.99

Crystal Hot Sauce is a perfect every day “driver” for your table. Its low-medium heat is very eatable, and the flavor is well-balanced between peppery bite and vinegar tang.

Heat Level: Low-Medium (2,000 to 4,000 SHU)
Pros:
  • Well-balanced between flavor and heat
  • Vinegar tang more subdued than competitors
  • Super-usable
Cons:
  • High level of sodium
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09/26/2021 01:12 am GMT

Flavor

Like most Louisiana-style hot sauces, Crystal is super-simple in terms of ingredients: aged red cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, and salt.

Look familiar? It’s similar ingredients to Tabasco Original Red Sauce (distilled vinegar, red pepper, and salt), but with a key difference outside of the chili pepper type used (more on that below.) Crystal Hot Sauce leads with the chili peppers, while Tabasco’s predominant ingredient is distilled vinegar. That’s important to note while considering Crystal’s flavor profile against the competition.

Crystal Hot Sauce delivers more pepper mash flavor (spicy and peppery) right at the top compared to Tabasco and other Louisiana-style hot sauce competitors. The vinegar tang is still there, but it’s more subdued than Tabasco’s bolder tang. It shares the spotlight with the pepper mash in just the right ways.

Salt also plays a large part in the flavor profile with Crystal, just like with most other Louisiana-style hot sauces. But it’s a larger part with Crystal than it is with many competitors. It has 135 mg of sodium per teaspoon serving (6% of the daily allowance.) Compare that to Tabasco’s 35 mg (1% of the daily allowance) — it’s a big swing. Sure, these are mainly dasher sauces, so using a full teaspoon is not always the norm. But if you’re watching your sodium intake, keep that in mind with Crystal Hot Sauce. There’s plenty of salt in the hot sauce, so you likely don’t need to reach for that table salt when it’s used.

Even though Crystal Hot Sauce only has three ingredients, the taste seems bigger than that ingredient list. The balance is spot on, making everything taste “more”. There’s a surprising depth due to the pepper mash and the vinegar being more equal flavor partners.

Crystal Hot Sauce on a spoon
Crystal Hot Sauce on a spoon

Heat Balance

Crystal Hot Sauce uses aged cayenne peppers as its primary ingredients. Aged red cayennes have a similar heat profile to red tabasco peppers, the pepper used in Tabasco Original Red: 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). So, it’s no surprise that Crystal’s heat profile (2,000 to 4,000 SHU) is comparable to what you get from the O.G. Tabasco (2,500 to 5,000 SHU).

Though, it is a bit of a surprise that it’s slightly lower, given the cayennes come first on the ingredient list. That typically means less dilution of the heat. I know, splitting hairs here — both of these hot sauces provide a very eatable low-medium heat. If you’re going to compare the heat to a fresh chili pepper, it’s equal to a fresh jalapeño pepper (2,500 to 8,000 SHU).

Crystal Hot Sauce’s spiciness doesn’t last long. Really, it doesn’t linger for more than a minute or build upon itself to reach uncomfortable levels. The heat hits the front of the tongue and lips, but it doesn’t really make it to the back of your throat. This is the type of hot sauce that heat fans can layer up and enjoy every minute of it.

In terms of how balanced that heat is — because that chili pepper mash is more upfront, Crystal Hot Sauce is a lot more balanced than many Louisiana-style hot sauce competitors. The heat doesn’t get buried behind the tang — it shares center stage.

Usability

It should also come as no surprise that Crystal Hot Sauce is among the most versatile hot sauces on the market. That eatable heat and balanced flavor makes it just delicious on near anything. I tried it on eggs, pizza, and steak — delicious across the board. It provides just the right amount of cayenne pepper and salt kick that I like while eating a steak or any other meat protein.

It also works with potatoes, vegetables, and even simple buttered bread! I sometimes just drip my Hawaiian rolls in this, and it adds such a tasty zing.

Crystal Hot Sauce isn’t very thick, but it’s not as watery as many Louisiana-style hot sauce competitors. Because of that additional thickness, its dasher bottle is a little different, allowing you to get larger amounts of this hot sauce onto your plate. That’s a nice and needed touch, especially given Crystal Hot Sauce’s heat and flavor balance will have you coming back to the bottle over and over.

Collectibility

Crystal Hot Sauce is extremely popular — Baumer Foods (its parent company) processes more than 4.5 million gallons of the hot sauce annually. So, you’ll find it easily in most well-stocked grocery stores. It’s not hard to find, but it can be overlooked due to the brand cachet of the other Louisiana-style hot sauces that surround it on the shelf. It shares space with Tabasco, Texas Pete, Louisiana Hot Sauce, among others.

For this reason, Crystal Hot Sauce is worth a place in your collection. Many who have had one of its competitors above may never have tried Crystal Hot Sauce…and they should. It has its own unique twist on similar ingredients and really showcases how ratios can mean a lot to the overall eating experience. Plus, it’s just downright tasty.

The packaging is old school and speaks to Crystal Hot Sauce’s place among long-legacy hot sauce brands. It’s been around since 1923, and the label (a retro cursive font with a simple cayenne pepper graphic) gives a feeling of that longevity. It doesn’t draw the eye, but it does speak to years and years of quality.

The Score

Crystal Hot Sauce is a perfect every day “driver” for your table. Its low-medium heat is very eatable, and the flavor is well-balanced between peppery bite and vinegar tang.

FINAL SCORE4.5
Overall Flavor5
Heat Balance4.5
Usability5
Collectibility3.5
X-Factor4.5
Based on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest)

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on July 24, 2021 to include new content. It was originally published on July 2, 2021.
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