Tabasco pepper plant care


Tabasco Pepper: The American Chili Staple


Uniquely juicy and very popular…

Scoville heat units (SHU): 30,000 – 50,000
Jalapeño reference point: 4 to 20 times hotter
Origin: United States
Products and seeds: Tabasco pepper on Amazon

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last century, you’ve heard of the famous Tabasco hot sauce. It is made in America and is arguably the most popular (and easily found) hot sauce on the planet. The tabasco pepper is the chili behind this tasty concoction and gives the hot sauce its name. With its medium heat and surprising juiciness (unlike any other chili), the tabasco chili has become a kitchen staple because of the wide variety of products in which it is found.

How hot is the tasbasco pepper?

This is a medium hot chili (30,000 to 50,0000 Scoville heat units), very similar to the cayenne pepper in terms of overall spiciness. Compared to our reference point, the jalapeño, it’s around twelve times hotter on average, so it’s got a bit of a kick. Though you may not tell that from Tabasco hot sauce. The pepper mash is diluted in the vinegar base to the point where the hot sauce has more of a jalapeño level heat (2,500 – 5,000 SHU).

What makes the tabasco pepper different from others?

There are actually a few things that set it apart. First, as a plant the peppers grow straight up on the vine (as seen in the picture above); they don’t dip down on the plant. That’s very unique among hot pepper plants. Only certain varieties of Thai peppers have a similar growing pattern. As they ripen they change color: starting yellow, then taking an orange hue, and finally a beautiful red shade. Their colors and the way they grow make the tabasco pepper a lovely option to use in landscaped home gardens.

And then there’s the juice. When cut open, most chilies are dry on the inside with just the white membrane which holds the chili seeds (where a great amount of the capsaicin and heat is held). Not the tabasco pepper. It is juicy on the inside. It is the only hot pepper like it, and this is perhaps what makes it so very tasty as a hot sauce pepper.

Where does the name come from? And what’s the history?

The name tabasco derives from the Mexican state of Tabasco, but that’s about as deep as the relationship with the state goes. Some tabasco peppers are grown in Mexico, but the real powerhouse here is in Louisiana in the United States.

On Avery Island, Louisiana, the McIlhenny family has been running since 1868 perhaps the most famous hot sauce business on the planet. Tabasco sauce has been made there ever since, starting with Edward McIlhenny, and all tabasco peppers that have been grown commercially for Tabasco sauce come from seeds from the island. Because of the hurricanes and climate issues that Louisiana faces on an annual basis, along with the vast amount of Tabasco sauce that is demanded by the market, the McIlhenny family works with farmers that cultivate tabasco peppers (from the original Avery Island Tabasco seeds) in South America, Central America, and Africa.

These days it’s tough not to find a bottle of Tabasco sauce in most well-stocked kitchens and restaurants. The so-called “Cajun Ketchup” has become an expected condiment. Perhaps it still lacks the fanatic popularity of tomato ketchup and mustard, but its fan base grows every day. People use it on meats, eggs, poultry, and any sort of Mexican, southern, or southwestern dish. Careful, though: there are now many flavors of Tabasco sauces. Their jalapeño, chipotle, and habanero sauces have become very popular too. If you want the original (with tabasco peppers), you’ll want to look for the words “Original Flavor” on the bottle and read the ingredients just to make sure.

Where can you buy tabasco peppers, and what products are they used in?

These are extremely popular chilies in terms of hot pepper products. Tabasco sauce, as mentioned, has become a kitchen go-to for its very tasty heat. These chilies are also very popular pickled in vinegar and Tabasco pepper jellies are prevalent, too . Due to their overall juiciness, you don’t typically find these chilies in dried or powdered form. Opt for the similarly spicy cayenne pepper powder if you want dried spices.

In terms of buying the tabasco peppers whole, you may find them at specialty grocers, but they aren’t as prevalent as all of the Tabasco hot sauces and products out there. You can buy tabasco seeds and plants online (or sometimes at your local garden shop), and, as was mentioned earlier, they make for great gardening due to their “reach for the sun” look.

The tabasco pepper has a great American tradition surrounding it, and a wide variety of products around it. You’ll definitely want to explore the taste options here, as there are many. And be sure to stock up on Tabasco Sauce for your home — it’s the new American condiment staple!

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  • Edmund McIlhenny first produced Tabasco sauce in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. The sauce is still produced in the same location as it was in the 1800s. Additionally, the process remains pretty much the same, of course, the facilities have undergone modernization throughout the years.
  • The sauce was named after the chili variety, which is used to produce it, known as Capsicum frutescens or the tabasco pepper. McIlhenny was gifted seeds from this pepper which he then planted on Avery Island to grow and produce the Tabasco hot sauce. It is believed that those seeds were brought from Mexico or Central America.
  • To distribute the sauce in the early years, McIlhenny used discarded cologne bottles.
  • As the years went by and Tabasco become more popular the McIlhenny’s needed to expand their chili growing fields. Though some of the peppers are still grown on Avery Island, the company now has growers throughout Latin America. Regardless of the place, it was grown, the seeds all originate on Avery Island then are transported to the growing fields around the different countries. The peppers are always hand-picked in the same manner they were by the original creator, Edmund McIlhenny.
  • After being picked from the fields (around the world), the chilies make their way back to the production facilities on Avery Island. There, they are turned into a mash with salt (that comes from Avery Island) which is then stored in white oak barrels. The barrels are sealed then a layer of salt is poured over the top, and then they are allowed to age for three years before proceeding. After being aged, the mash is quality checked then taken to machines to be mixed with vinegar and stirred for about a month. After mixing, the pulp and seeds are separated from the sauce, then it is poured into the jars, labeled, and ready for distribution.
  • The sauce is now sold in over 160 countries around the world and the labels are translated into 22 languages and dialects. Tabasco is even part of the official space shuttle menus and given to American overseas soldiers in their MREs or meals ready to eat.
  • One of the many great things to love about Tabasco Pepper Sauce is the natural ingredients list that includes three simple ingredients: vinegar, red pepper, and salt. Since there is no preservative this can cause the sauce to separate, and hence the need to shake it before using.
  • Tabasco is certified Kosher, Halal, and gluten-free. In each teaspoon of Tabasco, there are 0 calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. It does contain 35 mg (1% DV) of sodium. According to the company “…other hot sauces can contain four to five times more sodium than TABASCO® Original Red Sauce per serving…”
  • The original Tabasco sauce has a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. The habanero variety is the spiciest in the collection but the original is the second spiciest.
  • According to the Tabasco website, “A 2-oz. bottle of our Original Red Sauce contains at least 720 drops.” (There are 60 drops per teaspoon; 3 teaspoons per tablespoon; 2 tablespoons per fluid ounce and 2 fluid ounces per bottle).

This spring I went to Avery Island, Louisiana, to see how Tabasco pepper sauce is made.

Avery Island isn’t really an island, but more of a dry mound (a salt dome) surrounded by wetlands. It’s about 165 feet high and that makes it the tallest point in the Gulf Coast.

The island is owned entirely by the Avery family, of which the McIlhennys form a branch. The first of them on the island was a man named Marsh, who built the Marsh House in 1818 that is still used for family weddings and other gatherings. Marsh wasn’t a pepper sauce maker, but grew sugar cane on the part of the island that he owned. There are remains of three sugar refineries still on the island, and sugar cane is still grown in the surrounding area.

Marsh’s son-in-law, who was an Avery, bought the rest of the island. This Avery’s daughter married a McIlhenny, so that’s where the families come together. And it was this McIlhenny who invented Tabasco sauce.

At some point, they discovered that the island was rich in salt deposits. Salt is still mined on the island by the Cargill company, and they’ve now drilled to 2000 feet below ground to do so. Every night, they detonate an explosive underground to ready some more salt for harvest, and sometimes you can hear the boom from the Marsh House.

During the Civil War, the families fled New Orleans to live on the island and escape the conflict. But armies need salt, for preservatives and for animals, so the war soon came to them. They were making salt for the Confederate army and the Union army tried to seize the island in a conflict that came to be known as “The Great Salt Expedition.” Though this was a victory for the Confederates, the Union won the island just six months later.

After the Civil War, Edmund McIlhenny, a banker whose industry had been destroyed by the conflict, succeeded in his venture creating a pepper sauce. (It wasn’t the first pepper sauce in America, though they were not common. It was said people initially complained that the sauce was too hot, as they applied it in quantities like the ketchup they were used to.) He grew peppers and developed the recipe from 1866-1868, and sold his first Tabasco sauce in 1869.

Unlike most brands who tout their recipe as being identical to the original, Tabasco has definitely changed. Initially, the pepper mash was aged for 30 days in jars, then vinegar was added and it aged for another 30 days.

Tabasco Today

Today, Tabasco sauce is a global business, but all of it still originates and is processed on the island. The seeds for all the peppers grown for Tabasco originate on the island, picked from the best plants, then peppers used in the sauce are grown in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Around the world the peppers are all hand-picked, ground up, have eight percent salt added (in South America, the salt they use is actually sent from Avery Island), and then the peppers ferment for a month before they’re shipped back to Avery Island.

Back on the island, the “pepper mash” is aged in ex-bourbon barrels- about 50,000 of them here at the warehouse. The barrels are first de-charred and re-hooped, as the acidity of the mash would eat right through the typical barrel hoops. The pepper mash then ages in a barrel for three years on Avery island, stacked six-high on top of each other.

Not only is there salt used in the pepper mash, salt is added on top of each barrel. The barrels have a valve on top that releases carbon dioxide from the fermenting peppers, and it bubbles through the salt. When the fermentation is done, the salt forms a hard rock salt puck on top of the barrel, helping to seal the valve.

The three-year-old pepper mash is then added to vinegar and aged for up to 28 days before bottling. Peppers make up about twenty percent of the final product.

The actual peppers register from 40,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale, but after aging and dilution the final Tabasco sauce is around 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville heat units.

Inside the warehouse, we were able to taste the pepper mash- just putting a bit on our tongues and then spitting it out. As expected, it’s hot as heck. But as a reward for doing so, we are given a necklace with a spoon attached, engraved with N.S.A.O. N.S.S.S. – allowing us membership into the The Not So Ancient Order of the Not So Silver Spoon.

My fellow Tabasco taster Amy Sherman made an illustration of me undergoing the initiation.

After they make the Tabasco sauce, the spent peppers are sold to a pharmaceutical company that makes things like pepper spray and medicinal applications.

Types of Tabasco

The main line of Tabasco sauces now includes the Original, Green (jalapeno, the first sauce extension from 1993), Chipotle, Buffalo, Habanero, Garlic Pepper, and Sweet & Spicy.

But a trip to the gift shop on Avery Island shows just how many other brand extensions there are: Tabasco has hundreds of products it co-brands with, including A1 steak sauce, Hormel Chili, Cheez-Its, Slim Jims, and SPAM. They’re all there, along with Tabasco-branded clothing and accessories and just about everything you can put a logo on.

They also sell some other sauces not available everywhere, like a Raspberry Chipotle and a Family Reserve that’s aged up to eight years. They always seem to keep experimenting, and we got to try some prototype sauces.

So yeah, it turns out that Tabasco pepper sauce, something we see practically every day and never think about, actually has a fascinating history, production process, and global reach, all from this little island in the Louisiana bayou.

by Matt Gibson

Did you know that you can grow tabasco peppers? Native to the Mexican state of Tabasco, the Tabasco pepper is a household name due to the famous hot sauce made in Avery Island, Louisiana. The compact, easy-to-grow pepper plant produces many clusters of tiny pepper pods nearly all year round, from late summer to early fall. The pepper pods start out yellow, green, or a pale yellow-green, then mature to shades of red, orange, or yellow.

During the Reconstruction period in the Southern U.S. following the Civil War, American cuisine on the whole was rather bland. In 1868, a man named Edmund McIlhenny set out to change the trend toward blandness and created a recipe to spice things up that would quickly rise in popularity. Tabasco sauce is now the most popular pepper sauce in the world and is sold in more than 195 different countries and territories.

The tabasco pepper hits the Scoville heat scale at 30,000 to 50,000 heat units. It’s mega spicy compared to the popular jalapeno , which clocks in at 2,500 to 10,000 heat units, much weaker than the tiny tabasco pepper.

So, want to try your hand at making your own version of Tabasco sauce? Well, the official recipe is a closely guarded and coveted secret. You can probably get pretty close after a few attempts though, and it’ll only take a handful of ingredients (red pepper, salt, and vinegar) and a little bit of patience. (McIlhenny ages their mash for the official Tabasco sauce for up to three years in white oak barrels.)

The tabasco pepper plant itself is relatively easy to care for and should do well outdoors in warm climate areas. If you live in a cold climate area, you can still have a successful harvest of tabasco peppers, as they also do very well indoors in container gardens.

This frost-tender perennial pepper plant can grow up to three feet high and wide, with a single pepper measuring, on average, one and a half or two inches long. Each little tabasco bush produces loads of peppers—way more than you need unless you are opening your own hot sauce business—in a range of hues spanning the spectrum from green to yellow, orange, and red. Often, gardeners may find their pepper plants producing a rainbow of different colors together on one plant.

Types of Tabasco Peppers

The standard tabasco pepper, known officially as capsicum frutescens, is the only variety of tabasco pepper that is commonly grown in North America. However, there are a few rare varieties of tabasco that are grown around the world. You may want to add a few of these to your pepper garden as well just so that you can compare and contrast the variety that’s out there for yourself.

Tabasco Pepper: This is the standard tabasco pepper that the world has grown to love and the main focus of this article.

Tabasco Greenleaf: This variety was created by Auburn University in Alabama specifically to emulate the original tabasco pepper and create a version that is resistant to the tobacco etch virus, which tends to plague the original cultivar to no end in certain areas in the Southern U.S. Other than being resistant to the common virus, there is not much difference from the original to be found in the Greenleaf variety.

Tabasco Hawaiian: The Hawaiian variety of tabasco pepper is exactly what its name suggests—a cross between the Hawaiian hot pepper and the tabasco pepper. These plants make one- to two-inch peppers in hues from pungent yellow to fiery orange that pack a mean punch somewhat similar in flavor to the habanero pepper.

Tabasco Short Yellow: The short yellow tabasco pepper grows on a very small pepper plant. This variety grows only one foot high and wide, producing blunt-tipped, inch-long, yellow or orange fruit. Aside from the small green flowers that the plant blossoms into during the spring, this variety can easily be mistaken for the orange pekoe plant.

Growing Conditions for Tabasco Peppers

The tabasco pepper plant is not very particular about the type of soil it needs to flourish as long as there is a good amount of organic matter present. Like most pepper plants, these guys require lots of heat from the climate, and a daily dose of bright sunlight. Full sunlight exposure is preferred, but in especially sweltering climate areas, if the leaves of the plant get scorched or start to dry up, provide some afternoon shade to take the edge off.

Tabasco pepper plants are not tolerant of drought. In fact, they require consistent levels of moisture to survive. Due mainly to their tropical origins, tabasco pepper plants also require high levels of moisture to perform their best. In addition to being sensitive to drought, these plants do not grow well in environments that get too cold. If temperatures fall to 28 degrees Fahrenheit or below, your pepper plants will start to show signs of damage. If you live in an area that is subject to cold weather, you will want to plant your tabasco peppers in containers so that you can bring them inside when the cold fronts come blowing in.

How to Plant Tabasco Peppers

If you live in the northern United States, cover your garden beds with a dark-colored mulch about a week before planting your peppers to keep the soil warm. The mulch layer will also help with moisture retention to provide an environment that is especially beneficial to young plants.

Choose a sunny location to plant your peppers or to place your pepper plant containers. If you’ll be planting in the ground, dig a hole that is two times as wide as the pot you were using for the seedling or transplant. Gently remove the pepper plant from its pot by loosening the soil and carefully tipping the plant into your hand.

Place the transplant into the soil, and position it about as deep into the ground as it was in the pot. Refill and position, gently packing in new soil around the plant. Water your transplanted tabasco pepper plant deeply to help settle the soil, and be ready to add in a bit more filler after the soil settles to fill in the area.

Care of Tabasco Peppers

Small stakes tied with rubber bands to the longer fruit-bearing stems of the tabasco pepper plant may be necessary for support, as the small plants tend to produce a massive amount of fruit.

From the second you plant them in the ground or get them settled in their containers until the end of the season when they are finished producing fruit, tabasco pepper plants require a steady but moderate amount of water. Proper drainage is key, however, as the pepper plants will not tolerate saturated roots.

Amend with lots of organic matter, and top with mulch to help improve drainage and water retention. A standard vegetable fertilizer will work fine for tabasco peppers, but be sure to avoid overfertilization, which will lead to lots of extra foliage and much less pepper production.

Harvesting and Storing Tabasco Peppers

Allowing the peppers to ripen on the plant before harvesting will enhance the flavor of your yields, but allowing this extra time will also reduce the size of your harvest. Considering how many peppers tabasco pepper plants can produce in one season, we recommend letting them ripen fully.

When removing the peppers from the plant, avoid damaging the plant or the fruit itself by using a sharp pair of garden shears. Many gardeners feel compelled to remove the fruit by tugging on the peppers themselves, but doing so can damage the plant in the process.

For the best flavor and overall quality, enjoy your tabasco peppers on the same day they were picked. You can also let them ripen for a few days on the kitchen counter. Because of the juicy quality of the tabasco pepper, we do not recommend drying them out for storing, as doing so would lose a lot of what makes tabasco peppers so tasty. Freezing the peppers is really the only way to keep their full flavor intact for future use. However, the peppers will no longer be crisp—they are softened by the freezing and thawing.

Instead of eating these incredibly hot peppers raw off the vine or freezing them and losing the texture, why not create your own version of Tabasco sauce to keep around the house or give away to friends and family as gifts?

Health Benefits of Tabasco Peppers

Like many other hot peppers, the tabasco pepper has many worthwhile health benefits. It can help in the digestive tract, promote heart health, relieve joint pain, encourage weight loss, fight against cancer, reduce psoriasis, and even soothe migraine headaches.

Pests and Diseases of Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco pepper plants typically have very few pest or disease issues—as long as the gardener provides the plants with the appropriate conditions. Try growing the greenleaf variety mentioned under “Types of Tabasco Peppers” to avoid the tobacco etch virus. Provide proper drainage to prevent issues with mold or rot, and make sure to keep pests away from your peppers.

Videos about Growing Tabasco Peppers

Check out this in-depth tutorial on how to grow tabasco peppers:

Watch this expert gardener explain how to prune your pepper plants:

This video reviews the tabasco pepper plant, gives growing tips, and highlights some interesting facts about the plant:

Play part one of this DIY tutorial to learn how to make your own homemade fermented tabasco pepper sauce. Then continue to part two.

Want to learn more about growing tabasco peppers?

Bonnie Plants covers Tabasco Hot Pepper

Gardening Know How covers History of Tabasco Pepper Plants

Burpee Home Gardens covers Tabasco Hot Peppers

Heirloom Organics covers Guide to Growing Tabasco Peppers

SFGates Homeguides covers Care of Tabasco Pepper Plants

PepperScale covers Growing Hot Peppers Indoors

Tabasco covers The History of the Tabasco Brand

Growing Chillies

One of the world’s most recognised chillies is the Tabasco. It’s no doubt that Tabasco is most famous for the sauces that these chillies are made into. This is possible because Tabasco peppers are not dry, the inside of the fruit is wet. Tabasco chilis rate between 30,000 and 50,000 on the scoville scale.

The Tabasco plant is quite distinctive as its very bushy and unlike most chilis the Tabasco fruits grow up rather then hanging down from the stems.

The Tabasco peppers grow to about 4cm and change colour from light yellow and green to orange then eventually ripen at a bright red colour.

Characteristics of the Tabasco bush
Plant height – 4-5 feet
Stem color – Green
Leaf color – Green
Leaf size – medium
Fruit color – light yellow and green to orange and bright red at maturity
Fruit shape – long and conical
Fruit length – 4cm
Fruit width at shoulder .5 cm
Fruit surface smooth

Tabasco Planting tips

Tabasco chillis like most other chillies grow best in warmer weather. People in colder climates should plant the seeds indoors in a warm spot during the winter month. The seeds will germinate and start to grow. When the winter is over the plants can be moved outside ready for the spring and summer months.

When potting Tabasco plants make sure that there is good water drainage. They also like sandy soil conditions so don’t be afraid to add in some sand.

Regular watering is required and if ensure the Tabasco plant has good sunlight and daily watering you should see fruits appear in about 120 days.

Once you have some Tabasco chillies try to make some Tabasco sauce. A simple recipe is provided.

Homemade Tabasco Sauce

1 pound fresh red Tabasco peppers, chopped
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic (optional)
Combine the chiles, garlic and the vinegar in a saucepan and heat. Stir in the salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, and place in a blender. Puree until smooth and place in a glass jar. Allow to steep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Remove, strain the sauce, and adjust the consistency by adding more vinegar if necessary.

Check out our great range of chili seeds!!

Growing hot peppers in containers is so easy and productive. Here’s everything you need to know!

Actually a short living perennial in tropical and subtropical areas (USDA Zones 9-11), this productive vegetable can live for a couple of years. Also, with care in winters and by keeping them indoors, some varieties can be grown as perennials in Zones 7 and 8.

Due to the compact growing habit, pepper plant grows successfully in containers. The plant remains under 1 to 3 feet height (depends on the variety). Whereas, on the ground, in its favorable conditions some cultivars can grow up to 4 feet tall.

Choosing a Pot

For growing chili peppers in containers, choose a container that has sufficient drainage holes (You can also use grow bags). A 5-gallon pot (12 inches deep and wide similarly) is sufficient for a single plant for most of the varieties. Use a 3-gallon pot for small varieties and a little larger 7 or 10-gallon pot for growing a large variety or if you live in a warm climate as peppers are a perennial plant there.

When is the Right Time to Sow Seeds

You can start to sow seeds 6-10 weeks before the last frost date indoors or anytime when the nighttime temperature starts to stay around or above 55 F (12 C). If you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, you can plant pepper seeds anytime except the peak summer.


Either buy young plants from a nearby nursery or start your own seeds. The germination usually takes 1-3 weeks, depends on the warmth and humidity.
Sow the seeds almost ¼ inch deep in a seed starting mix. Place seed trays in a spot that is warm, temperature above 60 F (15 C) is important for germination. Keep misting the seed tray frequently and keep the soil evenly moist. To make germination of seeds easier cover the seeds with a plastic wrap and keep it in a warm location.

Requirements for Growing Hot Peppers in Containers


Growing hot peppers in containers need a position that receives full sun. They are heat loving plants like tomatoes and eggplant. If you are short of space, try growing peppers indoors on a sunny windowsill. Also, choose a spot that has good air circulation to avoid diseases. *Provide shade in the afternoon in summer if you’re growing pepper in tropics.


Good soil is the key to productive pepper plants. Buy best quality potting mix that is well drained and loose, or make your own. It must be rich in organic matter and fertile. For this, you can add well-rotted manure or compost into it at the time of planting. It’s also a good idea to mix 5-10 gm of neem cake at the time of soil preparation; it will protect the young plants from soil-borne diseases and pests.


Keep the soil slightly moist constantly and never allow the plant to dry out completely. Also, avoid overhead watering as this may lead to wet foliage, which can cause fungal infections. At the time, when flowers start to appear and fruits begin to form reduce the watering a little. But be careful, drying out of soil completely results in flower drop.


Soil temperature above 60 F (15 C) is required for best growth. The optimum seed germination temperature is above 68 F (20 C). It can tolerate temperature up to 95 F (35 C) and down to 50 F (10 C) easily. The ideal growing temperature is between 70-90 F (21-32 C).

Chili Plant Care


Like all other plants in tomato family, chili peppers are heavy feeders. The best simple way is to use tomato fertilizers to feed this vegetable. Application of compost and well-rotted manure is also favorable. Feeding once in a month with compost or manure tea boosts the plant’s growth.


Pinching in early growth makes the plant bushier. When the plant is around six inches tall, clip the growing tip, which helps it to be more bush type. If you see the flowers appearing early, remove them. Do this also at the time of transplanting. During the growth, look out for diseases or infected foliage or branch and remove it too. Here’s an excellent article on it, check out!


Growing hot peppers in containers require support especially if you’re keeping your plant in a windy spot. Simply poke a stick near the main stem and tie the plant to it


If your plant is flowering too early deadhead the flowers, it is important. This will direct the plant’s energy into growing and becoming healthy.


Like tomatoes, pepper plants are self-fertile, and you don’t need to do anything.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids are the biggest enemy of pepper plants, so keep an eye on them. Also, in dry and hot weather spider can affect the plant. Other pests to look at are cutworms, hornworms and flea beetles. Common diseases are rot, mildew and bacterial spot.


Time to harvest may vary and depends on the cultivar you’re growing and conditions, but most of the varieties take 2-4 months. You can identify this when they are ready from their size. The longer you leave chilies on the plant, the hotter if flavor they become, but at the same time leaving them on the plant after it’s ready for harvest will decline in further fruiting.

Those who received such gifts were so enthusiastic that McIlhenny resolved to bring his Tabasco sauce to market. That year, he planted a bumper crop of peppers. A year later, he sent 658 bottles of his sauce to grocers in New Orleans, where they sold for $1 apiece.

Sales increased each year, and by 1872 Tabasco was being distributed throughout the Northeast, each bottle adorned with a warning, “CAUTION: One or two drops are enough for a plate of soup, meat, oysters &c., &c.” But as the condiment’s popularity grew, comic tales of people mistaking Tabasco for ketchup and slathering it over their food began appearing in the pages of The New York Times. “B’jocks, though, I was thunderin’ nigh dead when I fust et that ketchup,” a seafaring New Englander exclaims in one such account, published in 1901. “Dreadful powerful stuff that is to put on victuals.”

By then Tabasco had begun to achieve international renown, thanks to the marketing efforts of Edmund’s enterprising sons John and Ned. Edmund McIlhenny had died 10 years before, never suspecting that Tabasco would be his enduring legacy. “He died thinking himself much more successful as an antebellum banker than as a sauce manufacturer,” observes the McIlhenny company historian Shane K. Bernard. “I don’t know that he thought he would be remembered for Tabasco sauce at all — or really for anything.”

It doesn’t collect dust in your cupboard because you use it so often. It’s served on Air Force One and NASA’s space shuttles to give bland astronaut food a kick. Across the pond, the queen of England even has it in her kitchen. It’s pint sized, but packs enough punch that when it was first bottled, it came with a warning label for consumers.

That was back in 1868.

This year, Tabasco Sauce from McIlhenny Company is celebrating its 150th birthday. Since its history is as colorful as its flavor is hot, here are 10 things you should know about one of your favorite condiments that really brings the heat.

1. It has island roots.

Every bottle of Tabasco starts its journey on Avery Island, an island that’s about two-hours west of New Orleans. Here, the heirloom Tabasco pepper seeds are grown and stored in a vault. They’re that valuable. The island is still owned by the same family who founded McIlhenny Company. In fact, McIlhenny Company’s current CEO is the great great-grandson of Tabasco’s founder Edmund McIlhenny.

McIlhenny Company

2. It has just three ingredients.

It may come as a surprise that Tabasco has, and has always had, just three ingredients. (This fact is easier to digest when you remember the sauce has zero calories.) The recipe’s ingredients — Tabasco peppers, salt and high quality vinegar — haven’t changed in 150 years.

ERICWOLFINGER / McIlhenny Company Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

3. It was once considered a luxury item.

When Tabasco Sauce first hit the shelves in 1868, most of us probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it! The price, when adjusted for inflation, of a single bottle was $17! Today, you can buy the same bottle for about $4.

ERICWOLFINGER / McIlhenny Company

4. Military members can get it for free.

McIlhenny Company

Created just three years after the Civil War ended, Tabasco made its first mass appearance on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. Thousands of bottles were shipped to American troops who appreciated the taste of home. In the 1980s, the military officially added mini bottles to its MREs. Today, any U.S. active duty service member can contact McIlhenny Company for bottles of free hot sauce!

5. It’s in more countries than McDonald’s.

Just 20 years after being introduced to Americans, Tabasco was made available in Europe and Asia. By 1892, it was in Africa. Today, it’s distributed to 185 of the world’s 195 countries. (McDonald’s is only in 119.) Labels are printed in 22 different languages and dialects.

ERICWOLFINGER / McIlhenny Company

6. It takes longer to make than wine.

Wine can take just four weeks before it’s ready for consumption, but Tabasco Sauce takes five years! Most of that time is spent aging the pepper mash in white oak barrels. (The mash is about 10 times hotter than the final product.) Still, the Avery Island factory produces 700,000 bottles per day. Each 2-ounce bottle holds 720 drops.

ERICWOLFINGER / McIlhenny Company

7. There are eight flavors.

For 125 years there was only one kind of Tabasco Sauce … the red kind. A green sauce — made with a jalapeno pepper base — was the first new flavor when it debuted in 1993. In 1995, McIlhenny Company added Garlic Sauce and Habenero Sauce to its line-up. Today, there are eight different flavors: Original Red, Green Jalapeño, Garlic Pepper, Habanero, Chipotle, Sweet & Spicy, Buffalo Style and Sriracha Sauce. Limited edition flavors include Raspberry Chipotle, Family Reserve, Roasted Red Pepper and Scorpion —the company’s hottest sauce to date.

McIlhenny Company

8. The sauce has its very own restaurant.

Diehard Tabasco fans should add Avery Island to their travel bucket lists. Every year, more than 100,000 people visit the island where the only dining establishment is Restaurant 1868. All of the menu items complement the different sauce flavors, and all of the sauces are available tableside. Island activities also include birdwatching and touring the Tabasco factory and museum.

McIlhenny Company

9. There’s a Tabasco Sauce-inspired opera

In the late 19th century, “Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera” was one of the hottest tickets in town. It hasn’t been performed in New Orleans since 1894. But starting Jan. 25, it will be brought back to celebrate the sauce’s 150th birthday as well as the 75th anniversary of the New Orleans Opera. The musical comedy stars a sailor looking for something spicy to serve to an Ottoman ruler. It will run through Jan. 28.

McIlhenny Company

10. It boasts a Royal Warrant by Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Tabasco received this prestigious honor back in 2009 when a committee determined it was used regularly (if not religiously) in Buckingham Palace for at least five years. Queen Elizabeth II isn’t the only celebrity fan. Kate Upton dressed as Tabasco for Halloween one year, Beyonce puts it on her noodles and Priyanka Chopra always keeps a bottle stashed in her purse.

McIlhenny Company

Tabasco Tales: The History of Tabasco Sauce

You know what’s a staple in every Cajun kitchen – tabasco sauce! We love to put it on gumbeaux, fried catfish, jambalaya, and just about everything, but did you know this fresh little has humble beginnings in Louisiana? Read on to learn how the simple hot sauce became a worldwide phenomenon:

It Began with a Gift.

The year was 1865, and the food in the South was boring and bland. Edmund McIlhenny found himself in possession of some tabasco pepper seeds – or Capsicum frutescens – that someone gifted him and realized it was the perfect opportunity to create a pepper sauce to jazz up the local fare.

Seeds of Success

McIlhenny planted them on Avery Island, along the coast of Louisiana, and began to grow pepper plants. The seeds originated from somewhere in Central America or Mexico and would be the perfect pepper plant for the South. In 1968, word of McIlhenny’s famous pepper sauce began to grow and he grew his first commercial crop. He prepared 658 bottles of sauce and they were sold to wholesale grocers all along the Gulf Coast region, focusing on the New Orleans area. The name of this sauce: Tabasco, which means “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell,” depending on which historians you trust.

The sauce is made by turning the peppers into a mash, then combining them with salt and vinegar. But it’s not just any mash or not just any salt. The mash is created the same day the peppers are ripened to red perfection and then it’s seasoned with pure Avery Island salt. After 2-3 years of fermentation, the mash is combined with high quality vinegar, strained, and bottled for distribution.

The Word Spreads

The word spread on this amazing Tabasco sauce coming out of Avery Island! By 1870, McIlhenny had opened a European office to manage distribution there. In a few years, news of the sauce has spread up the entire East Coast. Today, you’ll find that G.I.’s get bottles of Tabasco in their meals and even the Queen of England enjoys Tabasco at Buckingham Palace!

Alright – so here’s the question: what’s your favorite dish to put Tabasco on? (We can think of a few good ones right here at your favorite Cajun food restaurant – Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe!)

Read on to find out how to pickle peppers or dry them. I gathered my information from Barbara Abdeni Massaad’s book, Mouneh,and different other online sources.
If you don’t have your own pepper plants (yet), this might encourage you to start growing them in your garden or on your balcony. Plants are available in most local plant nurseries, or you can grow them from seed. Here is a good online guide I found for growing peppers indoors or in pots:
Pickled peppers
What you’ll need (adjust quantities as necessary):
-Red peppers
-300 gm sea salt (coarse or ground)
-2 liters of water
-1 liter of vinegar
-1 pan + jars
Pick you red peppers fresh (they should be red and firm) then wash them in water on the same day. Allow the peppers to dry on a newspaper or towel indoors (you can place them under a fan). Remove any leaves or long stems.
Dilute the sea salt in water and bring it to a boil. Allow the salt water to cool down to room temperature then mix in the vinegar; you now have a basic pickling solution you can use for a variety of vegetables.
Get a sterilized jar for your peppers. An easy way to sterilize a jar is to wash it thoroughly then rinse it well. Place your jar in the microwave for a minute or until all traces of water evaporate. Remove the jar from the microwave (Warning: use kitchen gloves as the glass will be very hot) and allow it to cool down a little.
Place your peppers inside a sterilized jar (try to fill it to the top, shaking the jar and pressing the peppers down gently). Some people like to add herbs, garlic cloves, green almonds or small onions to their pickled peppers for extra flavor – go ahead and experiment or keep it simple with peppers only. Add the pickling solution in the jar so as to cover the peppers entirely (the peppers will float to the top, so you can cover them with a slice of lemon to keep them down.
Close your jar tightly then place it in a pan with water. Bring the water to a boil then remove the jar and place it upside down to cool. This will prevent air bubbles from forming inside. When you jar has cooled down, place it in an upright position in a cool dark place away from sunlight. You should wait at least 1 week for your peppers to pickle before opening the jar. Once open, you can keep the jar in a cool dry place or refrigerate it for extended periods. Your pickled peppers should last 1 year or more if you used well-sterilized jars and store them carefully.
Tip: Do not throw away any excess pickling solution. You can store it in a sterilized jar in a cool dark place for future pickles
Dried peppers
After I finished pickling my tabasco peppers, I had a few left over that weren’t enough to fill even a small jar, so I decided to dry them. They can still be used for cooking afterwards, but I personally use them to make chili-flavored olive oil (it tastes great with pizza or baked potatoes).
What you’ll need:
-Red peppers
-Needle and thread (preferably a strong thread or fishing line)
Sterilize a sewing needle by burning its tip and wiping it with alcohol. Thread the needle with a strong thread or fishing line (I didn’t have any fishing line or strong thread, so I used a double line of regular sewing thread). Run the needle and thread through the center of each pepper. When you’re done, make a loop and tie it so it looks like a necklace.
Hang your pepper necklace in a dry, ventilated place away from direct sunlight (or cover it with a newspaper) for about a week until the peppers start to dry. Store your dry peppers inside an airtight container (like a jar) in a cool dark place. Dried peppers should last 1 year or more if stored correctly.

Tabasco Peppers in Vinegar

Back in the late spring, Laurie and I made our trip to the local Lowe’s to find some vegetables for our back porch raised planters. She likes to grow greens like kale, etc. and I have this thing about peppers. Last year I tried banana peppers and I got a grand total of one to grow. And it tasted awful.

So for some reason I figured I’d try peppers again. As we were browsing the plants, I saw a couple of little plants labeled as Tabasco peppers. The picture looked cool – lots of little red, orange and green peppers. And I like Tabasco sauce, so I thought “hey, let’s give it a try”. So we planted the pepper plants in a couple of pots on the patio table to see what would happen.

One of the plants took off. The other kinda dawdled and didn’t do much. But eventually BOTH of them started producing peppers. A LOT of peppers. By the end of summer, we probably had a couple hundred cute little red peppers on the plants. The plants probably wound up being 2-3′ tall. But then – what do we do with the peppers?

I thought “hey, let’s see how they taste.” So I picked on and cut it into VERY small pieces – probably 2mm long. It smelled good, so I gave one of the VERY small pieces to Laurie to taste.

Mistake #1

She got this terrified look on her face and spit the thing out immediately…and started looking for some way to put out the fire in her mouth. Turns out that just as she was spitting it out, I had put a piece in MY mouth.

And that was Mistake #2.

I spit mine out a tiny bit faster than hers, so my pain was slightly less than hers. It probably took us a couple of hours to shake off the effects. Laurie said “It felt like my teeth were melting”.

But we DID wind up finding a use for them. Turns out folks that grow collard greens like using Tabasco peppers in vinegar as a sauce for greens. Sounded like an easy way to get rid of a few peppers and create something that looked “cool”. Thus, I made a couple of bottles of Tabasco Pepper in Vinegar “sauce”

Tabasco Peppers in Vingegar

Print Recipe

Prep Time

5 minutes

Prep Time

5 minutes

Prep Time

5 minutes

Prep Time

5 minutes

Tabasco Peppers in Vingegar Print Recipe


  • 6 oz White Vinegar
  • 25 Tabasco Peppers

Servings: Instructions

  1. Fill a small (preferably decorative) bottle with the Tabasco peppers. It helps to pierce the peppers so the vinegar can infuse with the pepper flavor. Be sure not to burn yourself with the pepper oil (smart move: use gloves). Once the pierced peppers are in the bottle, fill it the rest of the way with the vinegar. Seal the bottle and let it sit and age.

Recipe Notes

It’ll probably take a while for the pepper flavor to infuse into the vinegar.

Tabasco Peppers: All About Them

The tabasco pepper is a chili pepper originating from Mexico, best known for being used to make the famous Tabasco sauce. The peppers are vibrant red and offer a nice level of heat. Learn more about them.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 – 50,000 SHU
Capsicum Frutescens

The tabasco pepper is a variety of the chili pepper species Capsicum frutescens, like the Naga Jolokia. It’s a very pungent pepper grown mostly in the Gulf Coast states and Mexico. It is mostly known as the pepper used to make the very famous hot sauce, Tabasco sauce. It’s one of the most well known peppers next to the jalapeno pepper.

Origin of the Tabasco Name

The word, “tabasco”, is the name of a state in Mexico. The name of the pepper came first, which was later adopted by the famous hot sauce by McIlhenny Co.

Tabasco Pepper Appearance

The fruit is tapered and usually grow under 2 inches long. The color is usually creamy yellow to red, and turn yellow and orange before ripening to a vibrant, bright red. You can see the wonderful colors from these pods that I picked from my own garden.

How Hot is the Tabasco Pepper?

Tabasco peppers range in heat from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale. Compare that to an average jalapeno pepper, which averages in at 5,000 SHU and you’ll find the tabasco is 6-10 times hotter. They are more comparable to the popular cayenne pepper in heat and also flavor. It is quite a hot pepper.

Tabasco sauce, the brand hot sauce, measures in much lower, at 2,500 to 5,000 SHU.

Growing Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco pepper plants can reach a height of up to 5 feet tall (60 inches/1.5 m), though smaller plants are more normal. They’re very productive plants, holding many pepper pods at one time. The peppers start out green, then turn yellow green and ripen to bright orange then vibrant red. Peppers usually can be picked 80 days after germinating.

They grow better in warmer temperatures, above 75°F (24°C), and in well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5. They have a low tolerance for frost, as do most chili pepper plants.

Tabasco pepper plants are somewhat bushy, though you can trim them back as needed to accommodate room for your other pepper plants.

Personally, I have grown tabasco peppers for a few years and highly recommend them, though they prefer warmer temperatures and full sun. Grow them in a sunny location if you are able. The plants are always very productive and produce fruit, and they’re easy to grow in a simple home garden. I have a great growing season last year with lots of pods produced, and I am currently in zone 5, where temperatures don’t always stay consistent and warm overnight.

I love making my own homemade Tabasco sauce with them, and cooking with them in general.

Can You Pick Green Tabasco Peppers?

Yes, you can pick these peppers when they’re still green, but they are much better when they mature and turn bright red or orange-red. They are sweeter and fruitier with a much better overall flavor when they have ripened. However, if it is the end of the season and you are concerned about frost, then it is best to pick them green and attempt to finish ripening them indoors or use them to make a salsa verde or cook them into other meals.

Learn how to ripen unripe peppers indoors.

What to do with Tabasco Peppers

My favorite ways to cook with tabasco peppers are for making fresh salsa, making homemade tabasco hot sauce, and dehydrating them to make spicy tabasco chili powder. These peppers make a great salsa roja that is nice and spicy and great for game day gatherings, parties and other events.

For making hot sauce, I make fermented and non-fermented versions and love them both. I usually keep it simple and include nothing but tabasco peppers, vinegar and a bit of salt. Very tasty! They make an outstanding Louisiana style hot sauce.

Dehydrating is simple, as I use a dehydrator. I usually leave them to dry overnight until they are very dry and brittle, then grind them into powders for use as a seasoning. Learn more about how to dehydrate chili peppers for making chili powders here.

They’re also good for general cooking. I often chop some and freeze them, cook use them to cook down with onions and celery as a base for soups, stews and other sauces with a bit of a kick to them. I do like my foods spicy.

Where to Buy Tabasco Products, Plants and Seeds

Purchase tabasco sauce or purchase tabasco seeds other products at Amazon (affiliate link, my friends). You can also check out my chili pepper plants and chili pepper seeds resources pages.

Try making your own Homemade Tabasco Sauce!

Got any other questions? Drop me a line anytime. I’m happy to help.

NOTE: This post was updated on 1/27/20 to include new information and photos. It was originally written on 9/23/13.


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