Mexico has a deep love affair with chiles, and one of the ways that we love to use them is in hot sauce. There are many different varieties and brands of hot sauce available in North America, with varying degrees of heat and flavor. Mexican hot sauces are usually made with dried chiles, some sort of vinegar, water, spices, and other seasonings. The type of chile used determines the flavor. For example, guajillo chiles have a tangy taste with a lightly smoky flavor, while chipotle chiles bring a little bit of heat with a lot of smoky flavor.
Hot sauces can be used to top practically any savory food, but invariably there are some hot sauces that are the perfect pairing with certain foods. Here are my favorite Mexican hot sauces and how to use them:
Valentina Hot Sauce is made by a family owned business in Guadalajara, Jalisco. It is made from puya chiles, vinegar, water, and spices. The flavor is tangy, spicy, and slightly vinegary. It is available in two varieties (yellow label and black label). The yellow label has medium heat, and the black label is hot. It’s slightly thicker than your standard hot sauce. Valentina is really good on pizza, chips, and popcorn. In fact, the movie theaters in Mexico always have a dispenser full of Valentina so you can pour it on your popcorn!
Cholula is made in Chapala, Jalisco, and it is named after the city of Cholula, the oldest still inhabited city in Mexico. It is made from a blend of piquín and arbol chiles, vinegar, salt, and spices. The flavor is tangy and spicy, but more of a deep chile flavor than Valentina. It is available in original, green pepper, chipotle, chili lime, and chili garlic. It packs medium heat, and it can be used to give an extra kick to your tacos and burritos – it’s also really great for making a spicy ketchup to dip your fries in.
El Yucateco is produced in the Peninsula of Yucatan, Mexico. The sauce is primarily made out of habanero chiles, tomato, vinegar, spices and seasonings. This one is pretty hot, so use at your own risk! The flavor is very spicy with a strong taste of habanero pepper, but the tanginess of the vinegar and tomato balances the heat out. El Yucateco is available in green, red, black label, kutbilik, jalapeña, and caribbean. Try it on this hearts of palm and artichoke cocktail.
Búfalo Hot Sauce is produced in Mexico City. The sauce is a mix of guajillo pepper, garlic, sugar, and spices. Unlike the other hot sauces, this one is thicker, with the flavor of the peppers outweighing the vinegar. The flavor is mildly spicy, with a hint of sweetness and smoke from the guajillo peppers. It is available in clásica, chipotle, and jalapeño. Use Búfalo to bring the heat to your favorite soups, and antojitos (tostadas, sopes, and gorditas).
Tapatio, though not produced in Mexico, deserves to be included on this list. It is produced in Vernon, California, and it was founded by a Mexican family from Guadalajara, México. “Tapatío” is the name given to people from Guadalajara, just like the company’s founders. The sauce has medium heat, and is made with red peppers, vinegar, garlic, and spices. It has a deep pepper flavor with hints of acidity. There is only one flavor or version of Tapatío available on the market. Use it to flavor your breakfast tacos and this pepper and potato breakfast hash.