Scoville Scale: How Hot is Tapatio?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: February 3, 2023
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The world of spice isn’t just painful, it’s also tasty! There are all sorts of amazing hot sauces out there — some blazing hot and some pleasantly mild. All of them have one thing in common: heat. Having a bit of spice and flavor in a dish is quite possibly one of the best things ever, and hot sauces allow us to control spice levels to exactly the level we prefer. Tapatio is one of the most famous and popular hot sauces out there. Let’s take a look at the spice in the bottle to answer the question: How hot is Tapatio on the Scoville scale?

How Hot is Tapatio?

Thankfully, Tapatio isn’t all that hot when it comes to the Scoville scale. The current measurement for Tapatio on the Scoville scale is around 3,000, which is about as hot as a relatively mild jalapeno pepper.

Tapatio hot sauce is a very popular brand of hot sauce that originated in 1971 by Jose-Luis Saavedra Sr. in a 750-square-foot warehouse in Maywood, CA. The company later moved to a larger facility in Vernon, CA, where it still produces the sauce today; just a lot more of it. Tapatio is made with water, red peppers, salt, spices, garlic, acetic acid, xanthan gum (a thickener), and sodium benzoate (a preservative). The sauce itself has a pretty distinct flavor and it’s generally regarded as a medium hot sauce, although these sorts of things can be a bit subjective.

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The name “Tapatio” comes from the Spanish word “tapatío,” meaning “from Guadalajara,” and is a nod to the Mexican heritage of the company’s founders who emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico. The sauce is distributed nationwide in the U.S., and it’s also exported to Mexico, Canada, Central America, Australia, and other countries. It’s particularly popular in the U.S., especially among Mexican-American families.

The sauce comes in various sizes and is sold in stores around the world. Make sure you try some!

The Scoville Scale and Flavor

white beans in tomato sauce in a wooden bowl closeup. horizontal

The Scoville scale only measures the heat level of a pepper, not its flavor or overall sensory experience.

©Sergii Koval/Shutterstock.com

The Scoville scale is a measure of the heat level in chili peppers and other spicy foods. It was developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 as a way to quantify the heat level of peppers. The scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives peppers their heat. The scale ranges from 0 (no heat) to over 2,000,000 (very hot) Scoville heat units, known as “shus.” The Scoville Organoleptic Test is the original method for testing pepper heat and required a panel of testers to taste dilutions of pepper extract until the heat from the pepper couldn’t be tasted (felt) anymore. Since the original test had some subjectivity issues, there is a new type of test known as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC is considered a more accurate and precise method since it is chemically tested as opposed to human tested.

It’s important to note the Scoville scale only measures the heat level of a pepper, not its flavor or overall sensory experience. While heat is an important aspect of peppers, it’s not the only factor that contributes to a pepper’s overall taste and sensory profile. For example, a pepper with a higher Scoville rating may be hotter than another pepper, but it may also have a different flavor profile, texture, and overall sensory experience. Some peppers may have a fruity or sweet taste, while others may have a smoky or earthy flavor.

Additionally, the heat from some peppers may be more localized in the mouth, while others may have a lingering heat that spreads throughout the body. Understanding the differences in flavor and sensory experience can help you choose the right pepper or hot sauce, and it gives us a window into how different flavors and heat can be used in cooking.

Examples of the Scoville Scale with Other Hot Sauces

  1. Blair’s 16 Million Reserve – over 16,000,000 Scoville heat units
  2. The Last Dab XXX – over 2,000,000 Scoville heat units
  3. Mad Dog 357 Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce – over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units
  4. Melinda’s Naga Jolokia Pepper Sauce – over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units
  5. Pain is Good Batch #37 Xxxtra Hot – over 200,000 Scoville heat units
  6. Da’ Bomb Beyond Insanity – over 135,000 Scoville heat units
  7. Tapatio Hot Sauce – 3,000 Scoville heat units
  8. Cholula Original – 2,000-5,000 Scoville heat units
  9. Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce – 2,200-5,000 Scoville heat units
  10. Tabasco Original Red – 2,500-5,000 Scoville heat units

As you can see, Tapatio most definitely isn’t going to cause any long-term damage to your mouth, but it is just enough to add a little kick to any dish. Enjoy!

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Carlos Pereira M/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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