Did Chipotle Make Its Salsa Spicier? The Question Has Fans Burning Up

How do you know when questions circulating on social media have sufficiently reached the "viral" stage? The answer is when The Wall Street Journal conducts an independent investigation into it. In a scorching piece of investigative journalism, the outlet reported on its efforts to get to the bottom of customer observations that Chipotle's tomatillo-red chili salsa has become spicier over time.

Some Tik-Tokers have begun ordering the salsa on the side because they say it's so hot, while others advise mixing the salsa with sour cream to make it less spicy, which some Chipotle fans consider a secret menu item they've labeled "dragon sauce." However, the question remains — has the salsa actually gotten hotter?

Barstool Sports did a small-scale investigation in November of 2022, the conclusion was that "Chipotle had to have switched something up!" The journalist tweeted this observation, noting Chipotle's hot sauce had gotten "ABSURDLY" hot, and got an official response from the company on Twitter, which they then shared in another tweet. Chipotle replied, "We haven't touched the recipe tho."

Though this should have closed the case, Chipotle fans are not convinced and continue to call out the chain for its increasingly spicy salsa. This may well have remained a mystery if it weren't for The Wall Street Journal's tenacity. 

Chipotle's recipe hasn't changed, but some of the peppers are hotter

The Wall Street Journal got serious. They sent samples of Chipotle's tomatillo-red chili salsa from several locations to a New Mexico lab to have the sauce scored for its Scoville rating. The results varied by location and ranged from 2,730 to 3,420 Scoville units, making the salsa hotter than several leading hot sauce brands, which are typically used in very small amounts. The news outlet then contacted the Vice President of Culinary and Menu Development, Nevielle Panthaky, who said the company had begun examining the peppers it uses following customer comments about a perceived increase in heat that began last fall. 

They explained that Chipotle sources chiles from Mexico, as well as several Asian locations, including India. Chipotle discovered that some of the Indian peppers were "more assertive" than in previous harvests, which accounts for customer perception of more heat. In response, Chipotle has started labeling its tomatillo-red chili salsa as "hot" on the ordering app and Panthaky indicated that consumer complaints have decreased. While the spicy sauce has both dedicated fans and heat-averse critics who will avoid it at all costs, it does appear that fan perception that the salsa's perceptible heat has increased may well be accurate.