Cholula Hot Sauce Was Named For One Of The Oldest Cities In Mexico

Americans like their food with a kick. At least, that's what an Instacart survey in 2022 indicated, with 74% of U.S. adults saying they add hot sauce to their food. According to purchase data from the grocery delivery company, the nation's favorite hot sauce brands include the super-popular (and, lately, elusive) Huy Fong Sriracha, Frank's RedHot, Tapatío, and Cholula — the tangy, bright red condiment that's bottled with its signature round wooden cap.

Recognized by its iconic label, which features a smiling woman and ripe vegetables in front of a sunny yellow backdrop, Cholula debuted in the United States in 1989 in Austin, Texas, but it spread rapidly from sea to shining sea (via, and eventually expanded to more than 20 countries worldwide, per McCormick For Chefs. Today, the hot sauce can easily be found in supermarkets, restaurants, and home kitchens.

Made in Jalisco, Mexico, from a century-old recipe that includes arbol and pequin peppers, Cholula imparts the perfect amount of heat to enhance foods but not set your face on fire. The original variety of Cholula ranges between 1,000 to 2,000 units on the Scoville scale, which measures spiciness. This might sound high, but in comparison, habaneros deliver 200,000 to 300,000 units.

While some might assume that the hot sauce got its moniker from the person on the label or perhaps even the place it was first made, neither theory is true. In fact, Cholula's name comes from an ancient Mexican city that still exists today.

Cholula has Aztec roots

Six miles west of Puebla, Mexico, lies Cholula, a historically significant city that was once the second-largest one in the country, per Mexperience. Around 600 A.D., it was overtaken by the Olmecs, an ancient civilization, and then about 300 years later, it was conquered by the Toltecs, another civilization. 

Cholula eventually became part of the Aztec Empire, and when famous Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico during the early 16th century, he visited the city at the invitation of Aztec emperor Montezuma. This request was actually part of a plan to ambush Cortés there, but the Tlaxacalan people had warned the Spaniard about the plot. In retaliation, the conquistador and his men massacred the people in Cholula, destroyed their pyramids, and ordered the construction of churches to replace them.

Today, Cholula is the oldest North American city that's still inhabited (via Cholula). It continues to draw visitors from all over the globe, who come to see its volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, and enjoy the local museums, churches, and archaeological park — home to Pirámide Tepanapa, the largest pyramid in Mexico. Cholula hot sauce shows pride in its Mexican heritage by bearing the name of this important cultural location, making it known throughout the world, and bringing flavor into millions of homes every day.