Cooking with Fire: Meet Colorado’s Hottest Hot Sauce, Salsa Makers

The craft condiment market has exploded in recent years, with artisanal barbecue sauces, mustards, salad dressings, syrups, and more filling grocery store shelves and popping up in restaurants.

Among the hottest craft condiments—thanks in part to America’s burning obsession with all things spicy—are hot sauces and salsas. Over the past decade, salsa has joined—and occasionally displaced—ketchup as America’s favorite condiment, and according to a 2019 Fortune Business Insights report hot sauce sales—which were just over $2.25 billion in 2018—are expected to reach nearly $4 billion by 2026.

A 2019 Wall Street Journal article attributes the escalating demand for these sauces to a number of factors, including a generations-long broadening of the immigrant population and the accompanying cultural spread of often-spicy fare. As the collective palate of the United States has evolved, so have food television and our social interactions about eating; many modern food shows focus on exotic, adventurous flavors, and viral videos of celebrities and others engaging in mouth-melting pepper and hot sauce challenges rack up tens of millions of views.

Colorado alone is home to literally dozens of craft salsa and hot sauce makers. Some have grown into large corporations while others are industry uprisers and others still are small business built around a personal passion. Some sauces were born of necessity, others of obsession, and others of being dumped.

The tales behind these hot sauces and salsas are as diverse as the sauces themselves, which vary widely in style, geographical influence, heat level, and flavor. With hot sauce- and salsa-complementary food holidays like National Margarita Day (Feb. 22), National Tortilla Chip Day (Feb. 24), and National Chili Day (Feb. 27) on the horizon, DiningOut talked to some of the Front Range’s top hot sauce and salsa purveyors about their stories and their products.