Tapatio Ingredients: What Makes This Hot Sauce Tick?

| Last Updated: September 5, 2019 |

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A staple of Mexican restaurants in the US, Tapatio Hot Sauce has been around since 1971. Tapatio’s reputation has grown over the years to the point where it is now considered one of the great American hot sauces alongside Tabasco Original Red Sauce and Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. Its relatively mild heat along with its piquant flavor makes it a tasty addition to food, both for chile pepper novices and for long-time lovers of spicy food.

Ingredients in Tapatio Hot Sauce

The label on a bottle of Tapatio will list the following:

  • Water
  • Red peppers
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Garlic
  • Acetic acid
  • Xanthan gum
  • Sodium benzoate

The hot peppers in Tapatio Hot Sauce

Note that the label on Tapatio Hot Sauce lists only “red peppers” with no further indication about the pepper type. Potential candidates include the tabasco peppers used in Tabasco Original Red Sauce and the cayenne peppers used in Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Sauce. Since Tapatio is somewhat hotter than both of those sauces, it is possible that the pepper used is also hotter. The pequin pepper and the chile de arbol are two possible candidates; those are the peppers used in Cholula Hot Sauce.

The other ingredients in Tapatio Hot Sauce

The first ingredient on the list is water, which helps to give this hot sauce its thinner texture but does not clash the flavors. Next, you have red peppers and salt. Tapatio cannot be considered a low-sodium hot sauce with 110 mg of sodium per serving; however, it has considerably lower sodium than several other popular hot sauces.

Tapatio lists “spices” among its ingredients, along with garlic, though there is no indication as to what exactly those spices are. Whatever they are, the spices provide a nice flavor boost that complements Tapatio’s heat very well.

You may have noticed that vinegar is not one of the ingredients in Tapatio, yet it does have the tartness that vinegar provides to other sauces. This is because of the acetic acid. Acetic acid is the most concentrated ingredient in vinegar aside from water. While it does not have the compounds responsible for vinegar’s pungency, acetic acid does have similar preservative qualities when used in products like Tapatio Hot Sauce.

Xanthan gum is a thickener that also acts as a stabilizer to keep ingredients from separating. Xanthan gum was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1960s and is considered safe or everyone except for those with allergies to the grains from which it is derived.

Sodium benzoate is used to preserve a variety of different foods, but it is most commonly used in acidic foods like hot sauces and sodas. Sodium benzoate is also generally considered safe if you consume it in small quantities. It is found naturally in a variety of foods, including cinnamon and apples. The amount used to preserve foods is considered too low to have any effect on health. The combination of acetic acid and sodium benzoate helps to keep Tapatio Hot Sauce good for longer periods.

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