Valentina Salsa Picante is available in both an Original and an Extra Hot version. It is made in Guadalajara by Salsa Tamazula. The company started out by making Tamazula Hot Sauce prior to bringing Valentina Hot Sauce to market in 1954. In the years since it has become the best-selling hot sauce in Mexico and is a staple in many Mexican households and Mexican restaurants. In short, it is the Mexican equivalent of Tabasco. In order to understand how this sauce acquired its iconic status, it is important to look at what goes into it.
The listed ingredients for Valentina Hot Sauce:
- Chili peppers
- Sodium benzoate
The peppers in Valentina Hot Sauce
In much the same way that the peppers in Tapatio hot sauce are listed as “red peppers,” the peppers in Valentina Hot Sauce are listed simply as “chili peppers.” In other words, the specific type of pepper is not identified. The most likely candidate is the chipotle pepper since this is a Mexican-style hot sauce. Chipotle is the most commonly used pepper in Mexican style hot sauces. Chipotle peppers are dried and smoked jalapeños, which means that they are relatively mild and measure in the 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat unit range. The sauce itself is much milder (due to dilution of the peppers) and has been measured at somewhere between 100 and 1,000 SHUs.
The other Valentina Hot Sauce ingredients
Water is the first listed ingredient. Water can be used to dilute the hot sauce to make it mild enough for the average consumer. Water is also important for keeping the hot sauce pourable. While a little thicker than Louisiana-style sauces, Valentina and other Mexican hot sauces are still thin enough to pour.
After the chilies and the water, the next ingredient is vinegar. Mexican-style hot sauces have less vinegar when compared to those made in the Louisiana style and Valentina is no exception. The tang is noticeably less than that of Texas Pete and similar sauces, but it is still there.
The next ingredients are salt and spices. Both of these are important for flavor, especially with the reduced amount of vinegar. While the spices in Valentina Hot Sauce are not named, they most likely include garlic and cumin. Another spice that shows up in Mexican hot sauces is annatto seed. The addition of annatto seed may account for the bright red color of the sauce.
Lastly, Valentina Hot Sauce contains sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate is benzoic acid’s sodium salt and is usually used for acidic foods, including condiments like hot sauce and sauerkraut. It is also used in sodas. Sodium benzoate is not just a preservative, it increases acidity and the increased acidity helps to boost the flavor of the hot sauce.
Why doesn’t Valentina Hot Sauce have numerous preservatives like some other hot sauces?
It does contain sodium benzoate, which increases the sauce’s acidity to make it bacteriostatic and fungistatic; but it is the only ingredient in Valentina Hot Sauce that is primarily a preservative. The reason for the short list of artificial preservatives is that most of the flavoring ingredients have some preservative ability. The capsaicin in Valentina Hot Sauce, as well as the vinegar and the salt are all known to have antibacterial characteristics.