Why I love Crystal Hot Sauce

Crystal Hot Sauce

Do the math: 12 oz of Crystal for $2.49…

Do a web search for “Crystal vs Tabasco” and you’ll find lots of Louisiana stories about how one po-boy restaurant uses one, another the other as a matter of personal preference. Buy two bottles and try them side by side and I predict you will prefer Crystal. It’s got a more complex taste that starts with smokiness and proceeds to vinegar, and it’s not as fiery so you can douse your food with more of it.

Tabasco Hot Sauce

… vs $1.99 for 2 oz. of Tabasco

But the #1 reason I love Crystal is its price—not that it’s cheap per se, but what that cheapness stands for. In my local supermarket, 2 oz. of Tabasco was $1.99 this week and 12 oz. of Crystal was $2.49. That’s SIX TIMES as much product, people, for hardly any more money. (Crystal does make a 3 oz. size but I’ve never seen it except on their website where it sells for 74 cents.)

Its price, plus the fact it’s sold in a much bigger bottle, says Crystal is for people who plan to use a LOT of hot sauce—you and me, gentle reader. We’re not like that couple in the classic (or maybe apocryphal) New Yorker cartoon who have been married for so long they’re on their second bottle of Tabasco. When we buy Tabasco, if we do, we actually go for a larger bottle. And the 12 oz. of Crystal is obviously cheaper by comparison.

The folks at Tabasco are very sophisticated marketers and brand-extenders. Baumer Foods, which makes Crystal, seems to be satisfied getting its product into as many people’s hands as possible. They also make no secret of the fact they do private-labeling; I happen to have access to a pricy little bottle from a well known fried chicken place in my town and it tastes identical to my big boy with the Crystal name.

Crystal’s been around since the 1920s, so I have to believe that Baumer is not losing money in spite of its generosity. Do yourself, and them, a favor. Go out and buy some Crystal right now. Don’t wait till your Tabasco is used up, because when you have them both side by side you can do your own taste test. I predict the Tabasco will find itself at the back of your condiment shelf, like a high-and-mighty prom queen who’s grown long in the tooth.

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9 Responses to Why I love Crystal Hot Sauce

  1. Daniel B. says:

    I love them both.

    Red Beans & Rice would be wrong with Tabasco, but oh so right with Crystal. But when I want to add heat without a lot of vinegar tang (think eggs or doctoring a cocktail sauce) I’m reaching for the Tabasco. Often, I’ll use them in combination with each other to create a more layered red pepper flavor. In fact, those two bottles are the secret to my Frank’s Red Hot based Buffalo wing sauce.

    Fried catfish gets Crystal. Manhattan clam chowder gets Tabasco. If you would like more examples, I’d be happy to provide them.

    • Actually, vinegar is listed as the first ingredient in Tabasco, red peppers in Crystal. But I agree Crystal tastes more vinegary in a good way.

      I’d love to have more pairings, sure. But more than that, I’d like to get your recipe for your frankensauce in which you combine the two and get Frank’s Red Hot, if that’s what you are saying.

  2. Pirate Jeni says:

    I was just saying the other day that I’ve never even tried Tabasco.. so now I have two hot sauces to try

  3. Laura Green says:

    I grew up in Louisiana, and my dad often goes with Crystal over Tabasco for the very same reasons. That is, when he’s not making his own hot sauce. Enjoyed your post!

  4. That’s nice. I’ve been to the Fiesta in Dallas. Some real treasures there.

  5. Judith says:

    Frank’s is just for wings in our house (the wing sauce version). Tabasco is meh! I have it but I force myself to use it except for raw oysters and eggs. Crystal is better on fried fish and most everything else. But our family staple is Trappey’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce. It’s a hand me down from my mother’s parents, California immigrants from Alabama in 1902. None of us could imagine eating greens, fried green tomatoes, chili corn, eggplant patties, okra and tomatoes, and pork (especially ham hocks) without it.

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