The rise of hot sauce around the world

Hot sauce seems to be everywhere these days.

From mild concoctions to flavors so hot they seemingly surpass the very limits of the hot pepper scale. While it’s common to see a range of fiery flavors on the market, hot sauce, as we know it, took hundreds, if not thousands of years to perfect. That’s because the history of hot sauce can be traced back to Central and South America, and hot sauce wasn’t always used simply to flavor foods.

Thousands of years ago, it’s thought the Aztecs and the Mayans used hot peppers for medicinal reasons.

Some reports suggest ancient Aztecs used chili pepper sauce for tooth pain. Similarly, capsaicin is now used topically for pain relief. Generations upon generations ago, it’s thought some people also used chili products as a remedy for colds, stomach aches, asthma, and sore throats. Apart from their medicinal value, Mesoamericans were thought to have used a paste made from ground peppers, possibly herbs, and water, as a condiment. When European explorers arrived, they brought some of the peppers home with them. Likely in the 1500s, traders brought chilies to Asia, where the peppers were combined to make condiments, paste, and other things. Hot peppers were also introduced to Africa, where they were used to make a popular hot sauce.

By the early 1800s, it’s thought the first commercial hot sauce in the US was created

Although it’s possible it may simply have been a pepper flavored vinegar ketchup. Around the same time, some believe hot peppers were added to sherry as a medicinal, anti-scurvy sauce aboard ships, but later used for flavoring. It didn’t take long before several hot sauce brands were created, including Tabasco sauce, which spread not only across the US, but also across Europe in the late 1800s. An immigrant from Vietnam started selling Sriracha sauce in the mid 1970s, which really took off in popularity in more recent years. These days, there are some earth-scorching hot sauce flavors to choose from, all thanks to the availability and popularity of hot peppers around the world.

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