Cholula Hot Sauce 101: A PepperScale Primer

You’d have to be under a rock to have never seen a bottle of Cholula Hot Sauce. It’s offered in many restaurants, from famous national diners like Denny’s to the likes of California Pizza Kitchen and Boston Market. Many online stores and supermarkets carry them too. But what’s up with this Mexican hot sauce brand? What flavors are available and what heat should you expect?

Let’s take a look in PepperScale’s Cholula primer. The hot pepper in here may surprise you.

Where does Cholula Hot Sauce come from?

There’s no doubt that Cholula Hot Sauce has its roots in Mexico – it’s named after the famous city Cholula which dates back 2,500 years. Cholula Hot Sauce isn’t that old itself, but in terms of hot sauce brands it’s a serious elder statesman. Its original recipe is over a century old. The word “cholula” itself has deep roots, meaning “the place of retreat” in pre-Hispanic cultures.

What hot peppers does Cholula use, and how does it taste?

Its base is not the type of peppers many expect. In fact, it uses some of the more interesting, yet lesser known chili peppers around. The pequin pepper is the main star, mixed with arbol peppers as well. Pequin peppers are a tiny chili that pack a decent punch, 40,000 – 60,000 on the pepper scale. They are slightly hotter than cayenne pepper, but don’t think Cholula hot sauces even come close to that mark. They don’t make sauces that dare your taste buds. In fact, after they mix in their spices and other ingredients, they top out at about 1,000 Scoville heat units. That’s well under eating a jalapeño pepper. In fact it’s about the same heat as a mild poblano.

In terms of taste, there’s a surprising fruitiness to pequin peppers that definitely comes through in Cholula sauces. There’s also a nice tang, especially with the Chili Lime mix. These are flavorful hot sauces that are meant to be enjoyed by the entire family. Cholula works with a lot of foods, from eggs and sandwiches to Mexican dishes and pizza. It’s an easy hot sauce to use, making it a perfect hot sauce daily driver.

What else makes Cholula special?

Beyond the flavors (see below), Cholula’s biggest claim to fame are the wooden caps for their hot sauce bottles. You can tell a bottle of Cholula very easily due to this distinct cap. The label is pretty special too, featuring a distinctly Mexican scene.

What Cholula Hot Sauce flavors are available?

There are four flavors that you’ll find. The most common of course is the original, but all four are very popular and often carried in stores:

Cholula Original: The recipe of old, still kicking today. It’s a terrific general hot sauce that can be used in lots of different dishes. It’s often carried by restaurants and easy to pick up in stores.

Chili Garlic: Take the original recipe and add in a garlic punch! This is one tasty hot sauce for pizza and chicken dishes.

Chili Lime: Now here’s a hot sauce perfect for tortilla chips and even seafood. It’s the original Cholula recipe topped off with just a touch of lime.

Chipotle: This is not a 100% chipotle sauce. Instead, Cholula mixes the smoky chipotle with its original recipe. It has a unique smoky sweetness. We love this one on steaks and burgers.

These are all tasty flavors, and if you want the full Cholula experience, you could even pick up a set that features all four. It’s a great way to get to know this popular hot sauce brand.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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