Hailing from Avery Island, Louisiana, Tabasco is a brand name of hot pepper sauce that's been turned out by the McIlhenny Company since it was founded in 1868. A mixture of fully aged red pepper, all-natural vinegar and Avery Island-mined salt, the mash is allowed to ferment and age in oak barrels for up to three years, producing a fiery sauce that's highly concentrated and rich in flavor. Tabasco can add zest to a wide variety of recipes and it's a key ingredient in the popular Bloody Mary cocktail.
Founder and patriarch Edmund McIlhenny originally wanted to call his recipe "Petite Anse Sauce," but family members balked at the idea. The now famous Tabasco name was actually his second choice. The name refers to a very hot, small red chile that originated in the Mexican state of Tabasco. Scholarly research has traced "Tabasco" back to a Central American Indian word meaning "land where the soil is hot and humid."
Varieties and Buying Tips
In addition to the original, you will also find a variety of Tabasco sauces made from different peppers. Each of these offers a different level of heat, which can be measured in Scoville Units.
Milder sauces include Tabasco's Sweet & Spicy and Green Pepper sauces. Garlic Pepper and Chipotle Pepper varieties fall in the mid-range, while Tabasco's original and Habanero (coming in at 7000-8000 Scoville Heat Units) sauces are the hottest.
Other Tabasco products include spicy ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, okra, pepper jelly and even jelly beans and lollipops.
Tabasco has a shelf life of five years when stored in a cool, dry place. Over time, artificial light, sunlight or extreme hot or cold temperatures may cause the sauce to darken. The sauce may also separate. Neither of these indicates the sauce has gone bad. Just give the bottle a good shake.
Highly concentrated, Tabasco should be used more sparingly than other pepper sauces.
Use it as a "by the drop" condiment for pizza, scrambled eggs and hamburgers or as a spicy finishing touch to salads, seafood dishes and creamy soups like clam chowder. Try it as a marinade for flank steak or substitute it in any recipe calling for black pepper.
The degree to which you use Tabasco depends on your individual taste. Play it safe by starting with a drop or two and work your way up.
Try one of our favorite Tabasco recipes:
Grilled Salisbury Steak in Belmont Sauce
View BigOven's tabasco recipes