Who Invented Hot Sauce?
Who Invented Hot Sauce?
Curious about how all the variations of hot sauce you know and love today came to be and who made it all happen?
Keep reading, and we’ll give you all the information as we run through the history of hot sauce and who invented it.
Hot Sauce Before It Was Hot Sauce
We can trace the origins of hot sauce back to before information could be digitally recorded and stored or even scribbled on paper. Hot sauce all starts with drawings on walls that tell stories of its key ingredient, the chili pepper, whose origins start as early as 7000 B.P. (Before the Present).
It is believed that in 7000 B.P., the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican groups — from the areas we now know today as Central America and Mexico — would grind chili peppers, water, and other herbs to use as seasonings, treatments, punishments, or even weapons.
Essentially, the ancient people of Central America and Mexico invented the condiment we know of today as hot sauce.
Many years later, European explorers would come to explore the riches of the lands of modern-day Mexico and Central America.
At the time, the Aztecs had been developing and growing chili peppers abundantly, though their hot sauces were simple and without many ingredients.
During this time, Columbus was tasked by the Spanish king and queen to find the black pepper that was native to India. However, through his travels, he found these more flavorful spicy fruits instead. Thus, he referred to these spicy treasures as peppers.
In this sense, Columbus is responsible for naming what we know today as chili peppers.
Chili Peppers in Hungary
Following the European expansion of hot sauce ingredients, Hungary became one of the first-ever countries to use chili peppers as a seasoning in a hot sauce-like way.
Prior to Hungary’s interest in chili peppers, Europe's export of the peppers had reached Asia and Africa, amongst other countries, though the pepper products shipped out did not come close to something like hot sauce until Hungary.
At the time, part of Hungary was under Turkish control. Hungarian cuisine was greatly influenced by Arab and Indian traders who introduced the Hungarian people to some peppers of their own.
The Hungarians enjoyed the flavor of the chili peppers but were not fond of the spicy heat that came with them. Thus, they decided to remove the seeds, dry out the chili peppers, and grind them into paprika. This was another step towards hot sauce, as it was the first time that chili peppers were used as a condiment.
Hot Sauce Origins in America
Later, the first ‘real’ hot sauce in America was commercialized in Massachusetts in 1807. It was called “cayenne sauce” because it contained cayenne peppers.
Besides the initial Aztecian creation of mashed chili peppers and water, this creation is the official invention of hot sauce. The identity of the food genius that first came up with this sauce is unknown, and any data about the sauce itself can only be traced back to an old newspaper article.
However, shortly after cayenne sauce came about, a sauce company in New York City called J McCollick & Company created a sauce known as Bird Pepper Sauce, presumably using what we know today as the bird’s-eye chili or Thai chili peppers.
Later, in the early 1870s, hot sauce expanded in the American markets and would be seen in cookbooks as well as regularly sold in stores. By the 1900s, a multitude of hot sauce companies existed and sold bottled sauce around the nation.
Hot Sauce Around the World
Following hot sauce’s growth in the United States and other parts of the world, different variations of hot sauce began to develop in different countries.
Some examples of different nation’s hot sauce variations included:
- Thailand’s Sriracha: This hot sauce was created in 1949. It is different from the Vietnamese sriracha sauce you may recognize in grocery stores.
Thailand’s sriracha includes elements of both spice and sweetness, evoking a unique taste for a hot sauce that is burning hot.
- Portuguese Piri Piri Sauce: Piri Piri sauce was originally made using African bird’s-eye chilis brought to Spain from Christopher Columbus’ voyages.
The sauce uses lemon and garlic, among other ingredients, which distinguishes it from other hot sauces’ heavy vinegar flavor.
- Hungarian Eros Pista: Despite Hungary’s initial disinterest in spice, they did invent a chili sauce later on. Their Eros Pista is more of a chili paste than a true hot sauce, though it shares its initial root with hot sauce.
It is made using minced paprika peppers that are ground down.
The Scoville Scale Emerges
The Scoville scale was created in 1912 by a man named Wilbur Scoville, and it was pivotal in shaping the way we look at hot sauces today. The Scoville scale measures the amount of heat or spice in a chili pepper by diluting a chili pepper extract with a sugar water solution.
Basically, an extract of chili pepper is diluted with sugar water and continually tasted until a tester is unable to taste the pepper’s heat in the solution. The amount of times the solution is diluted determines a chili pepper’s heat and its placement on the Scoville scale.
The amount of times the solution is diluted is equivalent to the chili pepper’s Scoville ranking, also known as its Scoville heat unit or SHU. A hotter pepper would need to be diluted more times and would result in a higher Scoville heat ranking.
Because chili peppers are a key ingredient in hot sauce, the Scoville ranking of a chili pepper is equivalent to the Scoville ranking of a hot sauce containing that chili pepper.
Capsaicin in Today’s World
The Scoville scale measures the amount of capsaicin in a chili pepper, which is the chemical compound in all peppers that creates the sensation of heat. Because of chili peppers, the Scoville scale, and today’s open exploration of chili peppers, the research on capsaicin and the benefits of spice has been expanded substantially.
Because people recognize hot sauce’s chemical compound, they are also aware that there are health benefits to spice. These benefits include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics, benefits which would not have been known at the time of hot sauce’s creation.
Hot Sauce Over Time
We can conclude that hot sauce has evolved immensely since its initial creation. For this, we can thank the ancient peoples of Central America and Mexico for their wonderful cultivation of one of our favorite plants.
Recognizing hot sauce’s origin and lack of one creator or inventor allows us to see how hot sauce is not chained down to one fixed idea or method of consumption. It is essential to remember the roots of chili peppers but also know that hot sauce itself comes in many shapes and forms.
These forms include, but are not limited to, various Asian hot sauces like sriracha, more traditional Mexican hot sauces like chipotle or habanero-based sauces, and hot sauces that use unique ingredients like our truffle-infused TRUFF Original Hot Sauce.
Flexibility in Hot Sauce
We hope you received the answer you were looking for in regards to hot sauce’s history and origin.
We also hope you take this as an opportunity to see new ways to expand your hot sauce experience. We’d love to see your own personalized methods of stylizing hot sauce and trying new tastes!