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It seems like all it takes to start a hot sauce business is a bag of chiles and a blender, and Coloradans are catching on: At press time, we counted more than 40 local companies that make the stuff, and most sell several iterations. But not all of the scorchers are worthy of your pork taco or scrambled eggs. We narrowed the lengthy list down to 10 bottles from our favorite producers. Then, a brave band of editors—heat seekers and wimps alike—took on the painful task of tasting the tongue torchers to choose the very best. Aided by gallons of milk, tortilla chips, and tissues, they evaluated each sauce on spice level, consistency, appearance, and flavor to crown victors in three categories.
Horsetooth Hot Sauce: This Little Piggy
Although we didn’t pick up much pork flavor from this Fort Collins–made, bacon-infused concoction, it was a winner thanks to its tasty brightness, subtle smoky notes, and vibrant red hue. We put this cayenne-based all-arounder on, well, everything: eggs, wings, pizza, fish tacos, you name it. 970-658-0955
Burn Rating: Medium
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Chiporro Sauce Co.: Cilantro Jalapeño
This mild, creamy, tangy option, crafted in Boulder, was a balm for burning taste buds. The full-bodied balance of cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, and tomatillo even won over our resident chile-head (and green sauce cynic). This is the bottle we reach for when feasting on Mexican favorites like burritos and enchiladas—or to dash over avocado, with a pinch of salt, for a quick desk lunch. 303-834-8313
Burn Rating: Mild
K-Sauce: K-4 Sunshine Mango
K-Sauce somehow bottles the tropics from its home base in landlocked Castle Rock with this slightly sweet, rich mango-habanero blend. The bright yellow sauce balances ripe, piquant notes with a healthy spice kick and hints of garlic and cinnamon. Use it to perk up a grilled cheese sandwich or to infuse some Caribbean spirit into a pot of rice and beans. 303-789-3888
Burn Rating: Hot
We weren’t so hot for all of the sauces we tasted.
“The chunks are suspect.” —Jerilyn Forsythe, digital associate editor
“It’s like strawberry jam that tried to be hot sauce.” —Callie Sumlin, associate food editor
“That one’s oddly soothing.” —Sean Parsons, associate art director (and heat freak)
Pueblo chiles + tomato sauce = pasta with flair. —Denise Mickelsen
If you’re a cook who adds red pepper flakes to your tomato sauce (or an eater who sprinkles them over every plate of pasta), put down that shaker and pick up Musso Farms’ Pueblo Chile Pasta Sauce instead. Carl Musso, one of the largest chile producers in Pueblo County, based the rich, zesty sauce on a Sicilian family recipe. “About two years ago, I thought to myself, We gotta make this sauce Pueblo-fied! We gotta add some chiles,” Musso says. The exact pepper blend used in the sauce is a secret, but Musso did divulge the inclusion of the mirasol variety most people know as the Pueblo chile, as well as a few other types grown on his 120-acre farm. Imported San Marzano tomatoes, Sicilian sea salt, oregano, Musso Farms onions, and a host of other seasonings go into the mix, resulting in a delightfully spicy noodle topper. It’s available online or at the Musso Farms market in Pueblo ($8 for 26 ounces). “I’m not pushing it at grocery stores because it’s a very expensive product to make,” Musso says. “It’s not Ragú, you know.”