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
The Mexican puya pepper is the source of heat here. It has a unique sweetness (think a mix of cherry and anise). But these flavors aren’t really what you experience in Valentina. It’s more tangy and a touch vinegary.
In terms of heat, the puya runs from 5,000 to 8,000 Scoville heat units. That puts it in a similar range as the jalapeño (but with a higher floor to its heat). That said – you don’t feel the entire spiciness of any chili once it’s diluted into a hot sauce with many ingredients. The regular version of Valentina taps out at 900 Scoville heat units. Its extra hot variety is more inline with jalapeño level heat (2,100 SHU).
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.