I'm a hothead, I admit it. No, I don't lose my temper that often, but I love hot, spicy food, and hot sauce in particular. So when the opportunity arose recently, I gladly accepted a review sample of Tabañero Hot Sauce, to commemorate "National Hot Sauce Day" on January 22 (who knew?). Released in early 2011, Tabañero Hot Sauce is made from all-natural ingredients from Tabasco, Mexico, in the Yucatán Peninsula.
I can't claim to have tried every hot sauce out there, but I've tried a bunch, and made some of my own. I always have a few bottles at home, and I put it on a lot of dishes, including pizza (although if I'm doing a pizza review, I'll take notes before adding hot sauce).
Tabañero has a distinctive flavor that rates it a space on my shelf. It's got the flavor of habanero peppers (one of the hottest peppers out there) without the extreme heat. It's quite hot, believe me, just not tongue-scorchingly so. On a 1-to-10 scale, maybe a 7.
Tabañero uses carrots to balance and moderate the heat of the habaneros, which is common with habanero-based sauces - for some reason, carrots and habaneros just seem to go together - and from there things get more interesting. The rest of the ingredient list includes onions, key lime juice, agave nectar, garlic, salt, and grapefruit seed extract. No coloring, no thickeners - just all-natural goodness.
The result is a sauce that packs some serious heat, but that has a complex flavor profile. I've tasted and used it several times now, and each time, I've noticed something different about the flavor. There's sweetness, there's acidity, there's the all-important garlic, and the lime juice adds a citrusy twist that takes things in a different direction. As much as I love hot peppers, I like my sauces to have some flavor, and this one packs a punch in that department too. It's hot enough to make pepperheads like me happy, but tasty enough that less heat-jaded eaters (my wife, for instance) will enjoy it as a condiment, a few shakes of the bottle at a time.
Tabañero is not yet available in local Rochester stores, though that may change in the near future. For now, you can order it online, by the individual 5-oz. bottle to cases and gallon jugs. If you love hot sauce as much as I do, you need to try this.