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If you want a great Mexican hot sauce, ask for a bottle of Salsa Huichol. Made in Xalisco, Mexico, the spicy condiment is sold all over the country, as well as in the USA and Guatemala.

Alfonso and Leticia Lopez
Alfonso and Leticia Lopez
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Salsa Huichol recipe is a secret, but Alfonso Lopez explained that the ingredients include organic, naturally dried cascabel peppers, cumin, salt and vinegar. The Mexican hot sauce contains no preservatives but the US version contains sodium benzoate.

Once opened, Salsa Huichol has a three-year expiry date. You will probably use it up long before then. (The tagline of the hot sauce is "improve the flavor of your food.")

Family recipe

Alfonso is an industrial engineer and the grandson of the founder, Roberto Lopez. He works with his brother, also named Roberto, an electronic engineer, and his mother, Leticia Lopez.

The history of Salsa Huichol is an interesting one. In 1949, Roberto Lopez, the grandfather, manufactured the hot sauce from his wife's recipe. He started the Nayarit company with 40 pesos (US$3.14) and a bicycle for delivery.

Roberto Lopez in Salsa Huichol factory
Roberto Lopez in Salsa Huichol factory
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Now in his early 80s, Roberto Lopez still oversees the company. Salsa Huichol produces more than 100,000 bottles of hot sauce daily and employs 20 people, including family members.

Recycled beer bottles

In the early days, Roberto used empty Cerveza Pacifico (beer) bottles for packaging the sauce, because the bottles had no logos or names on them. He asked kids to collect the empty bottles and bring them to the local popsicle vendor in Tepic, Nayarit.

Roberto paid the popsicle-seller two pesos (US$0.16) for each bottle, but the vendor, in turn, had to give the children a free popsicle for each bottle. Eventually, the Pacifico beer company ran out of empty bottles for recycling, so they began labeling them with their name and logo.

Cascabel peppers
Cascabel peppers
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A museum houses some of the original equipment used to bottle the hot sauce. Today, Salsa Huichol uses the latest technology to make plastic bottles and caps from polypropylene beads (PEP) from Japan.

"No human hands touch anything," said Alfonso as we toured the factory and watched bottles of the Nayarit hot sauce parade along the assembly line.

Our noses and throats tingled from the aromatic oils released into the air by the cascabel peppers. Machines clinked, hissed, roared and whirred, while forklifts stacked boxes of the Salsa Huichol hot sauce.

A second production line produces Salsa Cora, made with puya peppers. "The Cora hot sauce is thinner and less expensive than Salsa Huichol, ideal for spicing up potato chips and popcorn," explained Alfonso.

Salsa Huichol label
Salsa Huichol label
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Origin of the Huichol and Cora names

Roberto Lopez wanted the names of his hot sauces to represent the State of Nayarit, Mexico, so he named them after the indigenous Huichol and Cora people. Alfonso sometimes dresses up the bottles with colorful Huichol costumes and gives them away as gifts.

Salsa Huichol labels depict the inactive Sanganguey volcano in the Sierra Madre mountains, which you can see from the factory in Xalisco, as well as a person wearing traditional Huichol clothing.

Cooking with hot sauce

Many Nayarit chefs use Salsa Huichol in regional cuisine. Chef Marco Valdivia at Emiliano Restaurant in Tepic, for example, makes a delicious citrus vinaigrette with it. Other chefs use the hot sauce to spice up chocolate desserts.

Where can you find Salsa Huichol hot sauce? You can buy it at Mexican grocery stores for about nine pesos (US$0.70) for a 6.5 oz bottle. In restaurants, just ask your server to bring a bottle to your table.

Roberto Lopez and his family are justifiably proud of the success their Mexican hot sauce has achieved since its modest beginnings.


Salsa Huichol: www.salsahuichol.mx

Riviera Nayarit: www.rivieranayarit.com

Visit Mexico: www.visitmexico.com

More things to see & do in Riviera Nayarit:

Mexican Breakfast - Almuerzo in Nuevo Vallarta

Sayulita - The Best Fish Tacos in Nayarit Mexico

Birding Tour in La Tovara - San Blas, Nayarit

Jala Nayarit Mexico - Pueblo Magico (Magic Town)

Mexcaltitan, Riviera Nayarit - Seafood Restaurants and Mexican Culture