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History of Tabasco and How to Cook with It

Updated on June 3, 2010

There are people who like spicy food, people who like Cajun cooking. And then there are TABASCO® people. Like me. I will put TABASCO® on popcorn, pizza, Cheez-Its, pasta just to name a few of my favorite food groups. My unwavering love of all things TABASCO® led me to find out more about the legendary McIlhenny family who created this heavenly condiment and how it goes from pepper bush to my plate!

Photograph  Andrew Dunn, 13 August 2005.
Photograph Andrew Dunn, 13 August 2005.

The McIlhenny Family

After moving to Louisiana from Maryland where he was a banker, Edmund McIlhenny married into the Avery family, who settled onto Avery Island in Lousiana. In 1868, Edmund invented TABASCO® sauce, which is very similar to the sauce we know today, and began selling it in cologne bottles. The company is still run by the McIlhenny family today, ensuring that the same quality standards and homegrown taste are carried throughout the decades – I wouldn’t want to mess with a formula that has worked for over a century!

How Tabasco Sauce is Made

Even today, the process of how TABASCO® sauce is made is a labor of love. The peppers are hand-picked when they are bright red and juicy – each worker carries a red stick, called le petit baton rouge, so they can make sure that the peppers they are picked are the perfect shade of red. When demand exceeded capacity at Avery Island, the McIlhenny family expanded their growing operation to several Latin American countries, but the seeds are all the same.

Once the peppers are picked, they are ground up with a little salt to make a mash that is then aged on Avery Island for three years! Once they are aged to perfection, the peppers are strained and mixed with vinegar before they are shipped out for the consumer’s enjoyment.

Cooking with Tabasco

Branching out from the typical red pepper-based TABASCO®,the company now makes different versions, which are all wonderful for cooking:a green TABASCO® that is jalapeno-based, garlic TABASCO®, a TABASCO® made withthe ultra-spicy habanero, and a smoky chipotle version. The jalapeno is themost mild, while the habanero boasts the most punch on the Scoville scale,which measures the heat of each pepper.

Tabasco sauce can be used in dishes from savory to sweet. BBQsauces and jambalayas are my favorite ways to add spice to a main meal. TABASCO®peanut brittles are a great way to add a little spice to your sweet treats!

My Favorite Tabasco Recipe

TABASCO® Barbecue Sauce

I especially like this BBQ sauce on chicken. Use the TABASCO® to your taste level – I like mine HOT and vinegary!

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted (you could use olive oil)

1/2 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1 (1 pound 4 ounce) can tomatoes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce

2 teaspoons Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/3 cup vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Cook down onions and garlic in butter (or olive oil) until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

As you sit back with a spicy Bloody Mary, munching on spicy TABASCO® nuts before you sit down to meal of TABASCO® BBQ and then finish off your meal with  TABASCO®  brittle, take a minute to think about all the people who have enjoyed this simple sauce for over 140 years!


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    • Meghan Fitz profile image

      Meghan Fitz 8 years ago from Texas

      EF - Give it a try in pretty much anything. Eggs is another favorite. I just love spicy food!

    • EFPotter profile image

      EFPotter 8 years ago

      This hub got my mouth watering! I've been wondering how to best use that hot sauce we always keep around for a while now, and this gave me some good answers!