Category Archives: Hot Sauce Review
When Hector Saldivar asked about sending me his brand new sauce to try, I have to admit I was busy and told him I only had time for a cursory review on Facebook or Instagram. But I was honest with him and he sent it anyway. And as you might have concluded, the impression it made was enough that here I am with a full on review! The box came quickly with 2 bottles of sauce, some stickers, and a purple hair roller! “Well that’s all kinds of random”, I thought when looking at the roller. Then I looked closer at the Tia Lupita label, then back at the roller, back at the stickers, then at the roller, then back to the sauce, then to the…..okay, enough! Turns out Hector named his sauce after his momma, Tia Lupita. And Lupita always had a purple roller in her hair! What a loving memory of his mom, and what a lasting tribute. So….it made me curious to learn more…Score a point for marketing! Then I went to the website and my heart was touched at the Tia Lupita backstory. Turns out that everyone calls Hector’s mom Tia (Spanish for Aunt) Lupita! And she would give Hector her old school, Old Mexico hot sauce to remind him of home after he moved to the states. And fast forward to everyone begging Hector to make them that sauce! And fast forward to Hector’s entrepreneurial spirit, and just like that, Tia Lupita was born! Born from a mother’s love for her son! (Can you tell I’m writing this around Mother’s Day?)
So, now for the quickie review – this sauce has instantly become one of my all time favorite Mexican style sauces! Holy Majolie is this stuff good! But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re super busy, then the review is over. Go forth and buy and enjoy! But if you want a little more detail, read on!
The labeling is smart with a caricature of Hector’s mom on the label bearing her name, complete with signature roller. Nice graphics, easy to read, and the bottle is a short, 8oz squatty bottle, so plenty of product to enjoy in attractive packaging. Good descriptors on the side (non-GMO, Gluten Free, No Sugar, all natural, only 7 ingredients) and the website’s URL, www.tialupitahotsauce.com. The write-up on the label is fun, but a little long for a label and kinda hard to read with less than young eyes! I also enjoyed the hashtag lines, #makehotsaucegreatagain and #curlpower. Very catchy, but be careful making claims like “make hot sauce great again”! There’s lots of really great small batch, artisan hot sauces out there!
With only 7 ingredients, Tia Lupita tastes clean and authentic. Here’s the lucky 7: Red Chili Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Garlic, Salt, Black Pepper, Oregano, and Cumin. A simple list of ingredients but it provides a full depth of flavor. The type of peppers aren’t specified, but I asked and my suspicions were confirmed: Tia Lupita uses fully ripened jalapeno’s. The flavor, combined with the black pepper and toasted spices like cumin, reminds me of a nice, earthy Arbol Chile, and that’s a very good thing!
Now for the good part! This sauce just tastes old school Mexico! Deep, rich, earthy, full-bodied with a nice texture. It’s a smooth sauce, but not watery. In fact, it’s a thick sauce, with a consistency similar to ketchup. I enjoyed the thickness, as it didn’t run everywhere, stayed where I put it, and coated very nicely. I am very sodium conscious these days and the low sodium content allowed me to hit the shaker and dial in just how salty or not I wanted the sauce, which I thoroughly appreciated. Tia Lupita says it toasts its spices, and the earthy, smoky flavor profile was testimony to that, since they aren’t using a chipotle pepper. The black pepper shined through and makes a great statement, and the oregano and cumin paired really well and provided a nice brightness that screamed, “Viva Mexico”!!! Of course, I tried it on eggs, and it has become my current go to for that breakfast staple! I also used it on chicken, pork, and steak. It worked extremely well with all of the meats listed. Ironically, I haven’t made tacos yet, but I have no doubt it will be superb on any traditional Mexican/Hispanic food choice! And of course, let’s not forget pizza! This sauce will be stellar on a good pizza!!!! The thickness and the toasted spice blend with the garlic and oregano will add great value to a basic pizza sauce.
So given that this post will be released around Mother’s Day, it’s very appropriate to celebrate the awesomeness that is Tia Lupita, as Hector pays respect and homage to his mom, Lupita. She shared herself, her family treasures, and love for her son when she sent him sauce to remind him of home. What a sweet thought and visual image of family and the love that so often revolves around our kitchens and the food we eat! I can almost see Hector spending time with his mom talking about life, food, his messy room, childhood memories, etc. etc .etc. My Mother’s Day wish for everyone is that you all have a Lupita in your lives. A special someone-mother, aunt, friend, or whoever- who loves us enough to share and sacrifice their talents and treasures so that we can smile and be happy and experience a little taste of home and family through the culinary cue cards embedded in our hearts and brains! All while rockin’ a big ‘ol purple hair roller!
You can find Tia Lupita on the web at www.tialupitahotsauce.com and at a few lucky, select locations in and around Marin County, California! This is an outstanding hot sauce! One of the best new sauces I’ve tasted in a long time! So get your hot sauce on! Tell Hector I sent you! And tell your momma you love her! And thanks to Hector for allowing me to share a little bit of my world with you, because we all know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that It’s a Fiery World!
When you first pick up a bottle of Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce, you see a fun image of a sombrero and sunglass wearing, very white (thus the Gringo part of the name, I assume), blonde, pistol packing, bandolier draped character carefully guarding the contents. What you may not know is that is the image of Gringo Bandito founder Dexter Holland, front man for the punk rock group The Offspring! What you may also not know is that Dexter developed and founded his sauce company in 2004 because it would “be cool” to have a hot sauce, and because people who are into hot sauce are passionate! Before taking the first taste, I already like this guy! Luckily, I also liked his sauces!
There are three main sauces in the Gringo Bandito lineup- the original red sauce that features habaneros, jalapenos, and red Japanese chile peppers (more on this later), and two offspring sauces – a green sauce with habs, serranos and “more” peppers, and a Super Hot sauce with scorpion and jolokia (ghost) peppers. According to their website, there are limited release private reserve sauces that appear annually and a taco seasoning coming out in 2017. The original red sauce is a nice, smooth blend of the habs, jalapenos and the darker, earthier, “chile arbolish” Japanese chile, which is actually a native of Mexico’s Jalisco region. The Japanese Chile is a well known player in Asian dishes, especially Szechuan! How’s that for cultural diversity! With a nice front end playful heat, the red sauce makes very good use of black pepper and spices to enhance the earthiness and complexity of this signature sauce. I’d say it has a low to medium heat and does justice to eggs, pizza, tacos, fish, chicken, black beans, and I’m sure lots and lots of other things. Given the complexity of flavors, it’s almost like Dexter used the recipe for some sort of doctoral research in Molecular Biology!
Next up is the green sauce, which pairs a mid palate pop of habanero pepper with the bright, citrusy front end annum style heat of the Serrano’s, and, according to the label, adds in the mysterious “more” peppers. What peppers are those? I really couldn’t discern any specific type, so we’ll just let more be less. And while this sauce has a light green appearance that isn’t the most appealing to me, it takes off on a mojo-induced, solo green sauce flight around the world, landing right in the center of my flavor runway! I loved this sauce!!! So much I could see myself getting on a private jet, flying to the Isle of Man, skydive down, and telling the first person I see that I give Gringo Bandito’s Green Sauce my Fiery World stamp of approval!!!!!
The last entry in this Rock trio of sauces is the “ridiculously rambunctious” (straight from the label) Super Hot! Made with Scorpion and Jolokia, or Ghost, peppers, each known for big hits of heat and flavor, I have to say I was genuinely surprised, as I was fully expecting some super charged, tubular, “nitro” induced blast of heat! However, the Super Hot came across my tongue in a wave of balanced flavor, heat, and spice! It was almost like I had just experienced the Housewives of Orange County- richly flavored, plenty spicy and wildly playful, but still grounded in suburbia!
All in all, of the two traditionally styled hot sauces, I have to give the valedictorian award to the original red sauce! I liked them both, but I especially liked the way Dexter used the blend of the earthy Japanese chile with the habanero, jalapeno, black pepper, and other spices. Don’t get me wrong-the Super Hot was also very good, and it had plenty of good heat that made you pay close attention to the ride. I compare it like this-You’re expecting that knock you off your surfboard big wave of heat, and instead it gives a fun, tricked out skateboard ride through the streets of Orange County! But the green sauce, pukey color aside, was a solid home run for me! I really, really liked it and I’m super picky when it comes to green, verde style sauces.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about labeling, since that’s what draws people to a product on a store shelf. According to some random internet sources, Dexter’s choice of label art was a way to pay a bit of homage to a staple of the Mexican sauce world, Tapatio, which displays a similar image, albeit not the very blonde, Dutch looking white guy with punked blonde hair! Gringo Bandito sports a smart, clean, visually appealing label, each flavor with it’s own label color, making it easy to spot on a store shelf. And the witty banter they placed in the contents and nutrition info certainly brought a smile and soft chuckle to this fiery food aficionado. Now found nationwide in several thousand grocery stores, and online at www.gringobandito.com, Dexter Holland’s labor of passion and love is doing quite well for itself.
So there you have it! A punk rock inspired, three piece band of sauces – each instrument with a unique sound – kind of like a Gibson and an Ibanez, but when connected with a Marshall stack, they come together as a finely tuned symphony of flavor, spice, and heat. El Sabor Gringo Bandito is highly recommended by this blogger and reviewer , and I’m sure it will bring a smile to any hot sauce loving family of Offspring! And never, ever forget, ladies and gentlemen – It’s a Fiery World!
When I heard that Born to Hula was putting a BBQ sauce on the market, I instantly knew I had to try it! Imperial Apple! I’ve been seeing it on the various hot sauce and BBQ groups on Facebook with it’s beautiful label and mouth-watering description! Man oh man!! And lo and behold, a gift arrived at my doorstep today, like manna from heaven! And it was so glorious that I could of sworn I heard angels sing when I opened it! Ten minutes later it was slathered all over my left over grilled chicken breast! And here I am the very same evening just having to share!
It’s a stunning looking label- black with a metallic BTH crested eagle logo and lettering, with a nice unique label shape (see picture!). It has a rich looking, commanding presence with a genuinely German feel and the phrase “100% Natürlich” (that’s natural for you non German speakers!) on the label is a nice touch. And with ingredients like Berentzen Apple Liqueur and Applewood smoked habaneros accompanying the molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, vine-ripened tomatoes and spices, I knew I was in for a treat!
And it did not disappoint! It was thick, robing the chicken evenly, with a nice texture. The richly colored sauce was oh so slightly acidic from the tomatoes and apple cider vinegar, but with just enough acidity to open the palate and get the tastebuds ready for the mild, sweet, apple flavor. Pair that with a zesty pop from the liqueur, a bold “we are spices, hear us roar” statement from the spice blend, and then a subtle, smartly layered habanero based heat that is the undertone for the entire flavor spectrum, and it was just Wünderbar! The applewood smoked habs was a creative stroke of genius, using a nice, bright pepper, but using the applewood smoke to tone down the citrusy sharpness of the hab so it didn’t overpower the other flavor profiles. Born to Hula’s Imperial Apple BBQ sauce now sets right next to a very small club of what I consider top end BBQ sauces!
Ed and Amy Bucholtz have definitely been on a positive roll lately, introducing one winner after another. Their Smokehaus salsa and Smokehaus Blues, the new fatalli based smoked pineapple hot sauce, and now the Imperial Apple BBQ sauce proudly accompany their existing lineup of award winning sauces and spicy snacks. Go to their website, http://www.borntohula.com and stock up on some fiery goodness today! And don’t forget to tell them I sent you! Why, ladies and gentlemen? Because we all know – It’s a Fiery World!!!
Well, I gotta tell you it feels good to be in the review mode once again! And it’s fitting that my first written review in a while comes from my backyard – Cajun Country!! The Rougarou lineup of Louisiana style sauces from the new startup company Bayou Blend, from Napoleonville, Louisiana did not disappoint.
Let’s start with the foundation of their lineup, Cajun Cayenne, since it appears that the Cajun Habanero builds on that profile. At first, this appears to be a pretty straight forward, cayenne based sauce, but it has some pleasant twists. It has a simple ingredient list – cayenne peppers, garlic, onion, vinegar, and spices. It’s a thin sauce, with maybe just a bit more consistency than another very well known Louisiana based sauce, but with a tad more texture. It has a very appealing look, where you can see the fresh spices suspended evenly throughout. I credit the textural difference to those visible flecks of spices and black pepper swimming around in the sauce, kinda like the beady eyes of a gator in the swamp, which is their label and logo mascot. In fact, the black pepper is a fairly dominant player on Cajun Cayenne’s flavor team. I could pick up the garlic and onion notes, and much to my liking, not a lot of salt! I really am not a fan of super salty sauces. Most traditional Louisiana style sauces are simply peppers, salt, and vinegar, and this sauce ( and the other 2 in the lineup) took a nice, bold step to break that mold! At only 40 mg of sodium per teaspoon, there’s lots of room to guage your own saltiness needs in your food, so the sauce compliments, rather than competes, with other ingredients being used.
The heat level is a mild to low medium for the average person, and a definite very mild for the Chilehead, with that quick pop of heat you’d expect with a cayenne pepper based sauce, accented by the vinegar on the front end, with a lingering zing and a playful heat tang. It pairs well with all the staples you’d think with a Louisiana style sauce- eggs, pizza, a “cajunized” bloody mary mix, etc. and with the way the spices are blended, it could easily compliment any sauce or dish.
The Cajun Habanero shares most of the above comments, with the following additions: It obviously adds a layer of heat from the habs, as well as that nice fruity, “citrusy” note that I enjoy from a habanero. The layering of heat with the cayenne is done smartly for this medium heat sauce. You get the quick up front palate pop, then the mid palate heat takes over, which lingers much longer than the cayenne sauce, as would be expected. And for both of these sauces, the vinegar is noticeable, and after all, it is a Louisiana style sauce, but it works well in the overall flavor profile.
These sauces are respectable, if not too, too remarkable and would work well with all the usual staples, as well a companion to lot of other dishes where you want a fairly mild, but somewhat zingy punch of flavor and heat.
Bayou Blend’s Luzianne Red Habanero is a straight up, Louisiana style sauce made of red habanero peppers, salt, and vinegar. It’s thin, red, with a big vinegar front end and a fairly mild habanero heat. I like a nice,traditional Louisiana style sauce to mix with ketchup, add to soups, beans, and eggs. The added heat from the habanero is a nice deviation from either tobasco or cayenne peppers, the stalwarts of Louisiana sauces. And speaking of heat, I would say that even though this is a Hab sauce, it’s only a mild heat, or possibly a medium heat for the faint of heart!
Now if you remember, I love me a good label, and Bayou Blend gets an A+ on their graphics and label design. it’s clean, catchy, not too busy, uses a really catchy font, and just has a great, marketable look about it. Their brand logo of the gator with the name embedded is really clever and eye appealing. And if you’re a sauce maker competing with lots of others on a shelf in the store (where folks buy on looks and impulse, cause they can’t taste it!), then your label is everything! Great job, Bayou Blend!
I’m gonna give Bayou Blend’s Cajun Cayenne and Cajun Habanero both a solid 3 Fiery Worlds, which is above average in my world. They had great flavor, a nice heat balance, and would pair well with most anything. I’m giving the Luziana Red Habanero an average rating of 2 1/2 Fiery Worlds, since it’s really not any hotter than most readily available Louisiana style sauces currently on the market. If the folks at Bayou Blend go back and truly do justice to the habanero’s heat potential, I’d rate it at least 3 Fiery Worlds, since I haven’t seen too many true Louisiana style hab sauces true to the flavor profile with enough heat.
Even though these sauces haven’t made their way to Bayou Blend’s website, bayousnacks.com , I’m sure they’ll be there soon. I’ve tried their original jerky, which is tasty, with great flavor and texture. They have several jerky flavors available, so go check them out. And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – 3 sauces from a bayou state newcomer to the scene. I encourage you to order some and try them for yourself, and do your own review. I’m just one man with a unique palate and an opinion. And there are lots and lots of tastebuds and taste prefenences out there! Why, you ask? Because we all know – It’s a Fiery World!!