Tapatio Hot Sauce Review

If you’ve ever been out west, Tapatio Hot Sauce sits on every table in California. It has that kick that won’t knock you down and a punch of flavor that makes any dish simply better. So, why is this sauce so popular? How does its flavor stack up? How well is the spiciness balanced? And how usable is Tapatio really? Let’s dive right in!


Flavor wise, Tapatio is a Mexican-style hot sauce which reminds us that simple ingredients can go a long way in making something amazing. Let’s dig into the ingredients first: Water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum, and sodium benzoate (as a preservative.)

Water leads things off — and that’s seen in the consistency. This is the thin kind of red sauce that gives you a nice kiss of red pepper flavor without it punching you out.

Overall Tapatio Hot Sauce rolls with simple, reliable ingredients that are a sure-fit hit together. It won’t surprise you with unique flavor or crazy ingredient pairing, but it delivers exactly what you want for something you’ll want to use every day — a delicious fresh peppery taste with hints of garlic and spices. They get the flavor balance just about right to work with rich, flavorful foods. It’s uncomplicated and to the point.

Tapatio Hot Sauce on a spoon
Tapatio Hot Sauce on a spoon

This isn’t a vinegar-forward sauce, but there’s enough acid in this alongside the garlic to give it that slight tang up front. The spices and garlic make such a lovely team here and allow the red peppers to shine, without sending you over the edge from too much heat.

On the sodium level: It isn’t great here, coming in at 90 mg per teaspoon. Those who are watching their salt intake will need to take it easy with this one. As for me, that’s probably what makes it one of my favorites. I don’t reach for the salt when I’m using Tapatio.

Heat Balance

Tapatio lists “red peppers” on that ingredient list, but there’s little more known on what type. It could be cayenne peppers, tabasco peppers, or something else entirely.

What we do know is that water leads the ingredient list and the sauce is thin, so the overall spiciness is very tempered here. Tapatio sits at roughly 3,000 Scoville heat units which puts it slightly hotter than the original red Tabasco Sauce (2,500 SHU). Compared to fresh peppers, Tapatio is as hot as a milder jalapeño pepper (2,500 to 8,000 SHU).

So it’s a low-medium level of spiciness. It warms up your mouth, but the heat dissipates rather quickly. That said, the heat does build the more you use. So if you tend to douse your meals, you’ll certainly feel Tapatio over time.

It’s honestly the perfect kind of heat (in my opinion) because no one can say it doesn’t have enough kick. It definitely has one, but it also isn’t a hot sauce that anyone would call too hot. Tapatio sits perfectly in that middle range of heat, so you can keep going back for more.


The list is long here for what foods work with Tapatio Hot Sauce. It’s very versatile. This will turn any egg dish into an absolute decadent breakfast. There’s something about eggs and Tapatio that just tastes perfect.

Besides that: pizza, burgers, chicken, salads… the list goes on. I even had some with my pasta the other day and it was just the right amount of zing I needed. Because of its simplicity this sauce works with just about everything. There’s no ingredient in here that is too distracting. Everything mixes just right to allow whatever food you try this with to shine with red peppers as their sidekick.

There’s a reason Starbucks even offers small packets of Tapatio to eat with your sandwich. It’s simply a winner with everyone because the balance of heat and flavor make it an “every meal” kind of hot sauce.

This comes with a stopper, but I wish it didn’t. I use about 3 tablespoons of this on whatever I eat, which seems to be just the right amount. You don’t have to be shy with Tapatio, it’s meant to be a hot sauce that people can use prodigiously without a care.

One note on using: I recommend shaking very well before using, as sometimes Tapatio settles and comes out too watery. A few good shakes solves that every time.


The bottle’s label has an artist’s depiction of what a true Tapatio looks like. “Tapatio” means colloquially someone from downtown Guadalajara, Mexico.

Some think it’s the founder, Jose-Luis Saavedra, but it is certainly not. They had an artist do a rendition of sketches for them and settled on one that stands out on the shelves. It’s a fun label that does its job — it draws the eye just enough.

The Score

Tapatio is the kind of hot sauce that you want to put on everything and take just about everywhere. While it relies on simple, typical hot sauce ingredients, it doesn’t overpower you with heat and provides plenty of fresh peppery flavor.

Overall Flavor4.5
Heat Balance4
Based on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest)

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 9, 2021 to include new content.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments