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
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.
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
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.