Tabasco: the definitive review

It’s fair to say that I’ve been a fan of hot sauces since childhood, and that Tabasco sauce has been a vital kitchen component almost from the time I moved out to live on my own. In recent years, the number of sauces they make has expanded, but whether that happened fast or slow is a guess for me because all I understand of their development is mostly down to what I can find locally here in Italy. So first we got green jalapeño Tabasco, followed by chipotle, habanero and then by sriracha.

But there is one version that I learned about online, scorpion pepper sauce, which was first just a limited edition version. I told myself I wouldn’t get to try that, but then I found a collection of all the sauces together, and scorpion was in the line-up. All in all, it was five bottles for a very reasonable price of twenty-five euros.

I originally imagined doing a longer review on this topic, making notes for each sauce using spoons, pizza, chicken nuggets, and chicken wings. Then again, I also imagined doing all of this in one sitting. But just doing the spoon ladder proved that it would be better to group all the impressions by sauce type, and also to spread out the sampling time by several days to avoid spice blow-out corrupting my results the farther into the test I got.

While I expected the pizza test to mute the heat levels, I was surprised to find that chicken nuggets were able to suppress the heat far more effectively. Something about the breading or the blandness of chicken breast absorbed a lot of the spiciness as well as the tang of the vinegar. They were still tasty, but the nuggets even tamed the scorpion pepper sauce, a hell of an accomplishment as my review will soon cover.

Oh, by the way, this was never going to be a versus series post because I love all of these sauces equally, and I think they all have a place in my kitchen for different applications. I’ll try to suggest what I like to use them on, but I highly recommend getting the collection wherever you can and experimenting to find the foods that work best for you.

Lastly, the sauce collection I bought did not include sriracha, but I already had that in my fridge, and I feel like it belongs in the review. So it’s listed here in the heat scale that I feel it belongs in.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into this lovely collection…

Jalapeño Tabasco
The mildest sauce of the bunch, this recipe brings to mind jars of sliced, pickled jalapeños, the kind you’d put on nachos to give the cheese more flavor and only the slightest hint of heat. This has that same pickled warmth, making it perfect to add zest when something just isn’t hitting the right notes on its own. I love this on omelets and scrambled eggs, but also in fried beans and potatoes. (a recipe of my hubby, not to be confused with the equally delicious Mexican recipe for refried beans.) It’s great as a dip for chicken nuggets, plain tortilla chips, or french fries. It gets lost in the mix of a pizza slice, though, so I wouldn’t suggest it.

Original Tabasco
There’s so much that this sauce works with. The level of spice is high enough that it tingles even for a seasoned pepper fan like me, while the kick of vinegar enhances whatever it’s mixed with. I love to add a generous shake of this to broth in winter because it’s just hot enough to clear my sinuses. (Though due to a deviated septum, even a slightly higher than average dash of black pepper can make my nose run, so it’s not a reliable heat scale indicator.) It’s also good in minestrone, chili, or any soup that needs a little more kick than black or white pepper can deliver. I love it on pizza, in tacos, and slathered on chicken wings Buffalo-style. I even tried it on vanilla ice cream and found it to be delicious.

Tabasco Sriracha
I was already a fan of several brands of sriracha from Thailand, Korea, and China, so picking this up was an easy choice. Like all variants, it’s got that lovely Tabasco tang, but this is blended with notes of sweet and garlic flavors. I’d say it’s almost identical in heat level to the original sauce, and goes just as nicely on the same foods. This is also one of my favorite sauces to add to chicken or vegetable ramen packets to augment the savoriness of the broth with heat, sweetness, and vinegar bite. I’ve tried it on tortilla chips, but in my opinion, the sweetness gets a bit too overwhelming once the tongue is primed by the salt on the chips.

Chipotle Tabasco
Maybe it’s only my imagination, but the addition of dried and smoked jalapeño peppers seems to slightly raise the heat level above the original sauce. I love the added smokey flavor, and it’s perfect to add to store-bought tomato-based barbecue sauces to help balance the sweet flavor with spice and smoke. These are also perfect on smoked chicken wings, omitting the barbecue sauce to get a wing that hits just the right level of heat to make a cold beer the perfect companion between wings.

Habanero Tabasco
Wow is the first thing I thought doing my first spoon test of this sauce because it’s so different from the others. First, there’s a fruity sweetness that you can’t find in the others, and a few seconds after the sweetness and flavor of the peppers and garlic have coated the tongue, in comes the real heat. This is several steps above the other sauces in terms of spice, and if you can’t handle this one, it’s understandable. But if you can, this is another sauce to go on everything. I mean everything. Dab it on eggs, meat, (beef, pork, chicken, and fish) chips, pizza, in soups, on fries; hell, dab it on a chocolate bar or drizzle it over ice cream. I like to buy hummus at the store and add a generous shake to take that chickpea dip to the next level.  I run out of all varieties pretty fast, but this one is the one I run out of first because I can put it on everything.

Scorpion Tabasco
I just got this sauce for Christmas, so I’m not ready to give a full list of what it’s good on. The first spoon test was so good, but the fruit sweetness isn’t as bold even though it is still present. What’s more obvious before the heat kicks in is the vinegar bite, then the sweetness sneaks in for just a second. When the heat does kick in, it ramps up and up for a good minute before peaking. This recipe is for the folks who had the habanero version and thought, “Yeah, it’s tasty, but I want to punish my tongue in that special sadistic kind of way.” If you want to feel the full punch, put this on fried chicken like I did. I slathered this on, took a bite, and instantly got a ringing in my ears. Ten minutes later, I could still feel it on my lips and under my dentures. Not for the faint of heart, but damn if it isn’t as delicious as it is spicy.

That’s the review, with one caveat: these are only the sauces available to me. Tabasco actually makes a few other flavors that can’t be found here, but if I could get them, I would.

You hear that, Tabasco? IF YOU SHIP ALL YOUR SAUCES TO ITALY, I WILL BUY THEM ALL. Please. Pretty please, with habanero Tabasco on top.

That’s it for this week. See y’all next week with something new.