Cholula Ingredients: What Makes This Hot Sauce Tick?

Cholula Hot Sauce (Original) is one of the few truly Mexican hot sauces to achieve true cult status in the US. Famous for the wooden cap on its bottles, Cholula Hot Sauce offers a light flavor along with a mild but long-lasting heat. The makers of Cholula Hot Sauce (Original) claim that it is made from a recipe that is more than 100 years old and which has not been changed over the years.

Ingredients list for Cholula Hot Sauce

  • Water
  • Peppers (chile de àrbol and pequin)
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Spices
  • Xanthan gum

The peppers in Cholula Hot Sauce

Most other hot sauces revolve around one pepper; for example, Tabasco Original Red Sauce features the Tabasco pepper. From the list of ingredients, you can see that Cholula has two: chile de àrbol  and pequin pepper.

The name chile de àrbol means “tree-like” and comes from the Nahuatl word meaning woody; this was probably a reference to the woody stems of the peppers. These peppers are believed to have descended from the cayenne pepper and their capsaicin content enables them to deliver between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs). The flavor of the chile de àrbol can be described as being fresh and herbaceous flavor with a mild nutty note to go with its heat.

Pequin peppers are the other type of pepper in Cholula Hot Sauce. The name means tiny chili pepper and is appropriate given the very small size of these peppers. The pequin pepper is native to Mexico and often shows up in dishes from the northern part of that country. The peppers offer a moderate heat of between 40,000 and 60,000 SHUs. In addition to their heat, pequin peppers offer a fruitiness not present in the chile de àrbol along with mild smoky notes.

The combination of the two peppers above – once diluted among the other ingredients – enables Cholula Original Hot Sauce to have a Scoville rating of between 500 and 1,000 SHUs. This is milder than Tabasco Original Red Sauce, Tapatio Hot Sauce and Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

The other ingredients in Cholula Hot Sauce

The first ingredient is water, which allows the sauce to have a thinner texture without too much of an effect on its flavor.

Salt is important for flavor and for helping to extend shelf life. Cholula has 110 mg of sodium, which means that it cannot be considered a low-sodium hot sauce but neither is it among the high-sodium sauces.

Cholula contains vinegar, which is another ingredient that can help with preservation. Vinegar also provides a tart flavor that complements the heat of the chilies. After this, you have Cholula’s proprietary spices; these are not named.

Finally, there is xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a thickening agent made from corn sugar that has been fermented with a specific bacteria. In addition to being an effective thickener, xanthan gum also stabilizes the hot sauce to keep it from separating. Yet another benefit is that it thickens without adding any calories.

There are no preservatives in Cholula Original Hot Sauce aside from the vinegar and salt because they are not necessary. The sauce is not loaded with vegetables or fruit that are likely to spoil.

Photo credit: Cholula Hot Sauce | Cholula Hot Sauce, 8/2014 by Mike Mozart… | Flickr

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