Dear Glutton: Preparing for the Hot Sauce Festival

Get ready for the heat with local sauces


Photo by John Anderson

Dear Glutton,

I'm excited for the Hot Sauce Festival, but am a total Austin hot sauce noob. What are some local sauces I should get to know in preparation for the big day?

– Spice Cadet


Dear Spice,

If you're an Austinite who's a fan of food that fights back, the Chronicle's Hot Sauce Festival is pretty much unmissable. But a lot has happened since the festival started in 1990, when it was nothing more formal than a few pals holding a small contest. Today, the festival is a daylong, packed full event, with craft beers, food vendors, and live music, along with the requisite hot sauce tasting (pro tip: drink lots of water and eat lots of chips to cleanse your palate and keep your tongue from literally catching fire). It's a lot to catch up on! But, with a little work and preparation, I think we can get you all caught up to speed by the big day.

The first thing you have to consider is the current hot sauce situation in your own pantry. I'm assuming that since you took the trouble to sit down and write me a letter about correct hot sauce approaches that you have a pretty solid stock, but just in case, let me say a few words about methods.

There are three basic varietals of hot sauce: You have your vinegary sauces, your fruity sauces, and your smoky sauces. A well-rounded hot sauce collection should have examples of all three, and, fortunately for you, past winners of the competition are pretty evenly spaced across the board.

Setting aside individual winners, whose work is not commercially available (but who should definitely invite me over for dinner), perennial favorite Aztexan's Habanero Supreme sauce is a good place to start for acid-backed fire, using both vinegar and lime to pack a sour spicy punch. On the fruity front, you can't go wrong with Two Hot Mamas' salsa roja, with a well-rounded, sunny blend of tomatoes, cilantro, and onion. And for smoky, try out Austin Slow Burn's Jamaican jerk marinade, which OK, yes, is both smoky and sweet – the system's not perfect. You can pick up all three, and scout for a few more in-person recommendations, at the excellent and immaculately stocked Tears of Joy hot sauce shop.

Now that you're all stocked up at home, you're ready to gather some friends and hit up a few past winners from the local restaurant scene. Start out with some comparative breakfast taco chomping at Torchy's and Tacodeli, both past winners for their house sauce, before working up an appetite for your next meal with a long hike off the Spyglass entrance of the Greenbelt, right across from my favorite Tacodeli branch. Trudy's, the far and away record holder with 42 awards for both their green and red sauces between 1991 and 2004, is the perfect place to break for lunch. If you ask nicely, they'll give you a little ramekin of each to pour all over your chile relleno. If you're truly a professional, you can give yourself a walking around and digesting break, maybe take a nap, and then end the day with an extra-fiery meal at El Caribe, a charming neighborhood spot with kiddie pool sized margaritas and a full bar of (award-winning!) house-made hot sauces.

Good luck with your first Hot Sauce Festival, Spice! I'm sure you'll enjoy it. And who knows, maybe next year you can even be a judge! Drop me a line if you're interested; I know a guy.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
MORE Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
2018 Hot Sauce Contest & Festival Facts
2018 Hot Sauce Contest & Festival Facts
Everything you need to know

Aug. 24, 2018

Welcome to the 28th Annual Hot Sauce Festival
Welcome to the 28th Annual Hot Sauce Festival
The heat is on

Jessi Cape, Aug. 24, 2018

More Dear Glutton
A Good Restaurant for an Awkward Conversation?
A Good Restaurant for an Awkward Conversation?
A place to say the things and eat the meatloaf

Emily Beyda, Sept. 28, 2018

Dear Glutton: Fall Flavors
Dear Glutton: Fall Flavors
Places in town to eat something autumnal without pumpkin spice

Emily Beyda, Oct. 20, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Aztexan, Two Hot Mamas, Austin Slow Burn, Tacodeli, Torchy's, Trudy's, El Caribe

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle