Here's How Tabasco Sauce Got Its Name

The sultan of spice and one of the most iconic ichors in the world, Tabasco has developed so potent a brand that its name will forever be known with the likes of Sriracha, Frank's, and Cholula as the one of the most well-known hot sauces of all time. 

Tabasco was invented by Edmund Mcllhenny after the end of the American Civil War. During the Reconstruction, Mcllhenny had found himself in the great state of Louisiana, a bit short on cash but rich in pepper seeds — specifically the seeds of Capsicum frutescens. Ever the businessman, Mcllhenny grew those peppers and combined them with the salt from Avery Island, an island in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. 

He left the peppers in jars to ferment for several months and then later added white wine vinegar. After letting the sauce ferment a bit longer he found himself with a heat-packed flavorful hot sauce that he could market as "Tabasco sauce."

How Tabasco was named

In 1870, Edmund Mcllhenny obtained a patent to his invention and the trademark to the name Tabasco sauce. According to Tabasco themselves, the name is of an Indigenous Mexican origin which they believe to mean "place where the soil is humid" or "place of the coral or oyster shell." 

If you dig a little deeper, however, some of the glamor of the name gets lost amidst the history of it all. The pepper that Mcllhenny used, Capsicum frutescens, is a pepper that is native to Central America and Mexico specifically. The pepper actually grows very plentifully in Tabasco, a state in Mexico, per The Spruce Eats, so much so that the pepper is actually known colloquially as the Tabasco pepper. Tabasco peppers feature heavily in Tabascan cuisine and have for a very long time, per MexConnect, although Tabasco sauce itself does not. So, while Tabasco could very well mean "place where the soil is humid" or "place of the coral or oyster shell," the name of the sauce more likely came from just the name of the pepper it uses.