We sampled Gringo Bandito's latest Spicy Yellow hot sauce, along with the Original, Green, and Super Hot varieties.
Hot sauce is a curious food staple - nearly everyone uses it, and there's an overwhelming selection available on the market. Even so, a handful of names dominate the segment, making it difficult for new brands to compete for attention.
Gringo Bandito was started by Dexter Holland of The Offspring, and the first bottles hit store shelves in Southern California over 15 years ago. It's rapidly become one of the most popular hot sauce brands in the US, and the Original (red) sauce has since been joined by Green, Super Hot, and Spicy Yellow versions. The labels are quite distinctive - there's a tongue-in-cheek picture of Dexter Holland himself dressed as an old-timey bandit, complete with the six-shooters, bandolier, and wide-brimmed hat.
Disclaimer: Gringo Bandito sent Bestcovery.com each of these bottles of hot sauce to review. We enjoyed them immensely and went and purchased several more bottles on our own.
The original "red" version of Gringo Bandito is where it all starts, and will more than likely be the first encounter most people will have with the Gringo Bandito brand. Though it's ostensibly meant to compete with other mainstream "red" hot sauces, Gringo Bandito Original has a way of creating raving fans who won't touch anything else. This one can be identified by its rich red hue; unlike other hot sauces in this category, there's a thicker consistency to it that will cause it to stay put after it's splashed onto your food. The ingredients used in this sauce are refreshingly simple: there's a blend of several peppers (Red Fresno, Hot Yellow Chili, Habanero) along with the usual water and white vinegar. It hits all the right notes off the bat, with a tart, approachable bite that smoothly yields to satisfying heat. Use as much or as little as you want, since it's got enough character to stand up on its own without taking over the flavor profile of the food you're eating. Gringo Bandito Original is an excellent "everyday" hot sauce - it packs enough of a punch to keep things interesting, but it won't punish your taste buds and make you regret slathering the stuff onto your food. It's incredibly habit-forming thanks to its fantastic taste and consistency, and we're sure it will end up as a staple in many households.
- Everything. Seriously. Mexican food. Pizza. Burgers. Breakfast. Anything you can think of.
Our office is torn when it comes to which one is the all-around favorite, but one thing is clear: we can't think of enough good things to say about Gringo Bandito Green. This one is easily identifiable by its obvious green color, and the text on the label is green to match. It's got a very similar consistency to the Original sauce, with a slightly thicker, viscous pour that won't run like many other hot sauces on the market. Surprisingly, the ingredients list is shorter than Gringo Bandito Original. The blend consists of Serrano and Habanero peppers with water and vinegar, and the cast includes onions, cilantro, and jalapeno as well. The flavor profile of the Green sauce is markedly different from the Original sauce, but it's just as lovely. It starts tangy and almost sweet, and there's a noticeable savory background while the heat subtly builds. It's comparable to the Original sauce in terms of spiciness, with more of an emphasis on adding flavor to any dish without becoming obnoxious or overwhelming. If you're faced with the choice of going with the Green or Original sauces, you might as well do yourself a huge favor and simply get both of them.
- Everything that the Original is good for, if you want a different flavor.
Gringo Bandito Super Hot moves away from being a casual hot sauce and steps firmly into niche/specialty territory. The packaging looks similar to Gringo Bandito Original, but comes with a black label instead of a yellow one. In fact, it's easy to confuse the two if you're not careful. The sauce itself presents a slightly more orange tone compared to the Original, owing to the Scorpion Chili and Jolokia Chili peppers used in the blend. Both of these are former Guinness World Record holders for being the "World's Hottest" peppers, and it's clear that Gringo Bandito isn't joking around with the "Super Hot" branding. The first impression this sauce gives is that it more or less carries the same flavor as Gringo Bandito Original, but that's where the fun begins. It doesn't quite have the tangy, downright inviting flavor that endears the Original sauce to tens of thousands of spice-seekers. Instead, it implies a burn for the first 3-5 seconds until it seems to fade away, creating a lull that imbues a false sense of security. In the meantime, it's most likely going away to fetch a torch; the sheer intensity comes back with a vengeance, to say the least. That torch is used to light your tongue on fire, and it will stay that way for the next 10 minutes while you contemplate how a hot sauce with this much burn manages to retain so much of its tart flavor. We think it'll satisfy all but the most masochistic heat enthusiasts; if you're part of that particular group, keep reading on.
- Heat enthusiasts. If you like the flavor of Gringo Bandito Original but prefer the heat turned way up, here's your ticket.
According to Gringo Bandito's website, Spicy Yellow is both the newest and hottest sauce from the brand. As the name suggests, the sauce itself takes on a distinctive yellow hue - it's a color that most people would associate with a salad dressing, not a hot sauce. The color comes from the Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers featured in the blend, and it's also a good way to identify this particular bottle if you've built up a collection of hot sauces. Spicy Yellow is best kept for thrill seekers who enjoy the sensation of ingesting lava. Super Hot seems to bring more heat from the first bite, but Spicy Yellow definitely earns its spot as the most intense offering in Gringo Bandito's lineup. It's almost disappointingly mild at first; if the food you're eating it with has any punch of its own, Spicy Yellow practically takes a back seat flavor-wise. At this point, most people will splash on more Spicy Yellow to get a better sample of the taste. Here's our advice: don't do that. Give it a few seconds to sink in, then hold on! The habanero is obvious, with a nearly invisible profile at first that gradually builds into a searing burn and forces your body to react. Expect to sweat profusely if there's more than a drop or two on the morsel you're eating. It's not an all-out assault on your tongue and lips, though - beyond the intense heat, there's a wonderful smoky flavor that complements just about any type of food that calls for hot sauce. Our only complaint about Spicy Yellow is its relative rarity - outside of Amazon.com and a few grocery stores, it's nearly impossible to find. If you can find it, though, it's well worth a try.
- Pranking your friends. They'll love the flavor, though, and you'll need to buy them a bottle.