What Actually Goes Into Taco Bell's Iconic Red Sauce?

taco bell red sauces in packets on table
taco bell red sauces in packets on table - Deutschlandreform/Shutterstock

Taco Bell is famous for serving its fast food tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and specialty items like Crunchwrap Supremes on the regular. But besides the convenience and affordability of being a fast food chain, what sets Taco Bell apart is their iconic rich and tangy red sauce to drizzle on top of your favorite Taco Bell treats. Also known as "Border Sauce," Taco Bell's red sauce comes in mini packets labeled with fun sayings and expressions to entice the diner into choosing which spice level of sauce they want.

Though the sayings are a fun branding tactic and the fast food chain has even let fans vote for new hot sauce packet phrases, it wouldn't work very well if the sauce wasn't equally as exciting. So what is this tasty sauce made from, and how does Taco Bell make it irresistible to keep customers returning for more? Per Taco Bell's ingredient statements, the red Border sauce is made from a base of tomato puree. This makes sense, given that the base of most traditional salsas and enchilada sauces is tomatoes anyway. But some extra seasonings and ingredients go into creating this iconic sauce, as well.

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An Ingredient And Flavor Breakdown Of Taco Bell's Red Sauce

spicy red sauce in jar
spicy red sauce in jar - Corinna Haselmayer/Shutterstock

The flavor and texture of Taco Bell's red sauce can best be compared to that of an enchilada sauce -- a smoky and rich tomato sauce with more of a watery texture than a traditional chunky salsa. The smokiness comes from a litany of spices such as salt and chili spices. Paprika, minced onion, garlic powder, chili powder, and jalapeño are also added to bring additional spiciness. And of course, sugar is included for sweetness. Despite this long list of ingredients, each of Taco Bell's red sauces is certified vegan, with all sauces including soy and the Hot red sauce including wheat.

Additionally, Taco Bell includes some preservative ingredients, allowing the red sauce to stay fresh from production to sauce packet to takeout bag. Potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate (P), and maltodextrin are a few examples of these preservatives, with maltodextrin in particular used as a thickening agent in addition to extending the shelf life of the sauce. But if you want to make a Taco Bell red sauce dupe at home, just start from scratch with a can of crushed tomatoes and the aforementioned spices, or doctor up a jar of store-bought enchilada sauce. Keep it in your refrigerator for a couple of months, and no hard-to-pronounce preservatives are needed.

Taco Bell Red Sauce Variations And Spice Levels

taco bell hot sauce packets with purple background
taco bell hot sauce packets with purple background - Tony Savino/Shutterstock

It's hard to imagine a world where people didn't tear off the corner of a sauce packet and drizzle on some red sauce when digging into a Taco Bell taco. But Taco Bell's sauce wasn't always this fire! The chain started with serving only two sauce options: Red chili and green chili sauce served in unlabelled cups. Once the mid-80s came along, Taco Bell ushered in the iconic red sauces and packets that they're known for today.

Nowadays, you have four spice levels to choose from when you visit: Mild, Hot, Fire, and Diablo. While all rank pretty high as some of the spiciest fast food hot sauces out there, Diablo may be at a level reserved only for the most daring spicy food fiends. Fire and Diablo sauces also include an extra ingredient, xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a frequently used thickening agent that's a great gluten-free alternative to bind ingredients and make the sauce more viscous. Now you can enjoy the iconic red sauce at Taco Bell knowing exactly what you're eating, and maybe you can even try your hand at recreating it yourself.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.