The Untold Truth Of Frank's Red Hot Sauce

Frank's RedHot sauce has been gracing our plates and burning up our taste buds since 1920. Its unique flavor, featuring a proprietary blend of spices, makes it instantly recognizable to anyone who tries it. It is no wonder that for so long Frank's has been considered, at least by the brand, to be America's #1 hot sauce with an established influence on American food. 

Frank's is more than a hot sauce though; it's an American culinary icon. Without Frank's we wouldn't have amazing dishes like Buffalo wings. Frank's is the inspiration for celebrity shoutouts, pop culture references, and a truly astounding variety of Frank's hot sauce-flavored treats. Frank's isn't going anywhere anytime soon. All of this begs the question, how did this delectable hot sauce come to be? And why is it we really will put it on anything? We answer all these questions and more about Frank's RedHot sauce.

Frank's is named after the sauce's founder

The name Frank has become intrinsically linked to the words "red hot." Ask someone at a wing joint to pass the "Frank's" and they will know exactly what you mean. But who was Frank, and how did this tasty hot sauce come to be named after him? 

Frank's RedHot sauce is named for its founder Jacob Frank. Frank was not new to naming companies and food products after himself. Prior to his venture into the world of hot sauce, Jacob Frank owned and operated a spice company out of Cincinnati called Frank's Tea and Spices which, by 1906, grew to include such products as Frank's Jumbo Brand Peanut Butter (via

In 1918, Frank traveled south to start on a new venture and learn about hot sauce making. Specifically, he wanted to learn about using cayenne pepper instead of the tabasco peppers used in a popular sauce of the time of the same name. Frank took his knowledge of spices, and his newfound knowledge of cayenne peppers and used it to make the first batches of Frank's RedHot sauce, and the rest is history.

There is a silent second partner nobody talks about

While Jacob Frank may be the namesake of the company, he was not the only founder of Frank's RedHot sauce. Without the knowledge and experience brought to the table by co-founder Adam Estilette we likely wouldn't have the hot sauce we all know and love.

Adam Estilette and Jacob Frank met when Frank made his journey south on his quest for peppery knowledge. Estilette was a pepper farmer from a Cajun family working in Louisiana. He worked with Frank to combine their expertise to develop their innovative, peppery sauce. While Jacob Frank provided his knowledge of spices, a hot sauce can't exist without peppers and Adam Estilette was able to bring the heat.

The two worked together and set up the process to preserve and manufacture a fermented pepper sauce, which was then shipped back to Cincinnati where their own secret spice blend was added to the mix, creating a flavor profile the world hadn't seen before. Without Estilette's knowledge of pepper production and processing, Frank wouldn't have been able to create his famous namesake sauce.

The recipe hasn't changed ... but it remains a secret

Frank's RedHot sauce first hit the market in 1920. The recipe is simple, but creates a distinctive flavor recognizable anywhere. It is no wonder that in the past hundred years, the recipe hasn't changed.

The key ingredient in any hot sauce is the peppers. According to "Unwrapped," Frank's uses red cayenne peppers grown in New Mexico entirely for the use in their pepper sauce, a harkening back to pepper farmer and co-founder Adam Estilette. The control over the crops allows Frank's to have a consistent flavor. Once the peppers are picked, they are sorted before being washed, chopped up, and poured into large fermenting tanks that seem to look more at home on a farm than in a pepper factory. This is where the secret comes in, however.

The peppers are left to age for an undisclosed amount of time and when the fermentation process has finished, the peppers are shipped to the final processing plant, where vinegar and the top-secret Frank's spice mix are added. The spice mix in Frank's RedHot is the same recipe as it was when the sauce premiered. Aside from some updates in processing, Frank's RedHot sauce remains the same as it did in 1920.

It is a Louisiana-style hot sauce

There are many different styles of hot sauce from all around the world, each of which is delicious in its own way. In North Africa, harissa, a hot sauce made from a combination of mashed peppers and spices, is popular. Gochujang is a Korean hot sauce known for its thick and distinctive taste. In addition to chili powder, it features ingredients such as fermented soybean powder, sticky rice, and malt barley. Frank's RedHot, however, is a Lousianna-style sauce. Louisiana style is distinctive due to its high vinegar-to-pepper ratio, which makes the sauce tangy, in addition to spicy, and produces a much thinner sauce than other styles. Tabasco, a predecessor to Frank's in the hot sauce market, is also a Louisiana-style sauce. These sauces are easy to make, due to their limited ingredients, and have an added bonus of a long shelf-life due to the vinegar.

Other vinegar-based hot sauce styles, such as Picante and Sriracha, distinguish themselves by the amount of vinegar in them, with the addition of other ingredients.

Celebrities love it, and it's been featured on SNL

Everyone loves Frank's. It's the tangy, delicious sauce that goes on everything. But few people are as devoted to it as television personality Wendy Williams. In a New York Times article, Williams declared she loves the sauce so much, she carries her own bottle with her in her purse. She specifies that it's not just any hot sauce either. If Tabasco is what's offered she responds with "are you kidding me?" and pulls out her own bottle. Only Frank's will do.

Frank's cult-like popularity also got it featured in a "Saturday Night Live" parody of "Naked and Afraid." The skit features actor Peter Dinklage and then-cast member and comedian Leslie Jones dropped in the middle of nowhere, each naked, and allowed to bring just one survival item as they try to survive for 21 days. Dinklage chooses to bring a fire starter, whereas Jones chooses to bring a bottle of Frank's RedHot Sauce. When Dinklage, confused, says "we were supposed to bring a survival item." Jones quips back "This is a survival item. I put this s*** on everything." Jones is then shown throughout the skit putting Frank's on different things in an attempt to eat them including leaves, twigs, and even her partner Peter Dinklage.

Celebrities, they're just like us.

Frank's is one of the top selling hot sauce brands

For years Frank's RedHot sauce has claimed the spot of #1 hot sauce in America. And recently, they actually found the statistics to back it up — a true feat in such a hot market. In 2019, Instacart conducted a study to reveal the top hot sauce in America. After all the surveys were in, Frank's claimed its title as #1. In order to get the spot, the brand had to beat out hot sauce competitor Cholula, which in a similar study done in 2018, was listed as the top hot sauce in the U.S.

All good things must come to an end though, and as of 2022, Frank's RedHot sauce has been ousted from the top-selling spot, and replaced by Huy Fong Sriracha. Frank's didn't go far though, and was only bumped to #2, still ahead of previous top choice Cholula. Frank's may not be number one for Instacart anymore, but that hasn't stopped the brand from claiming the title on its website. While, according to Instacart, Frank's is no longer #1 in the country, the sauce is in many Northeastern states and in our hearts.

We can thank Frank's for the Buffalo wing

What game day or sports bar would be complete without a plate of delicious, saucy Buffalo wings? These zesty and messy pieces of chicken have become so commonplace in bars that it's hard to remember a time without them. But if it weren't for Frank's RedHot sauce, we wouldn't be able to enjoy this spicy, fried American delicacy.

In 1964, a bar in Buffalo, New York was about to make history. The Anchor Bar where Teressa Bellissimo worked is responsible for the first serving of Buffalo wings. The original recipe for the wings consisted of just oil, and Franks RedHot mixed together and tossed with the fried chicken wings. The stories differ about what exactly drove the bar to do this, from an incorrect chicken order, to a late-night masterpiece. Some even claim Teressa's husband, appropriately named Frank, was responsible for the recipe. Whatever the case, history was made and we are all the better for it.

Frank's is more than just hot sauce

Frank's RedHot has come a long way since it first premiered in the 1920s. Over the years, the brand has expanded to include a whole host of products from additional sauces, such as Buffalo wing sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce, and, Stinging Honey Garlic, to dip seasonings. Starting in 1996 Franks began to feature its own line of frozen Buffalo Wing sauces in a variety of flavors — the very food it helped create. They have since expanded to include other flavors, such as Original and Kickin' BBQ wings.

But that's not all. In addition to the foods that Frank's themselves produce, Frank's RedHot sauce has partnered with various brands over the years to bring America's favorite hot sauce and snacks into beautiful harmony. For a limited time, Frank's partnered with Goldfish to create a RedHot cracker. They have also partnered with Lay's for a hot sauce flavored potato chip and Baken-Ets for spicy fried pork skins. Frank's is really cutting out the middleman by putting their product directly onto the food.

Frank's donuts exist

True to their moto, Frank's really will put that s*** on anything. This became truly apparent in 2020 when the Frank's Donut was born. After a Twitter dare featuring a Frank's-covered donut caught Dunkin's attention, the donut chain announced that it was partnering with Frank's and turning the creation into a real store item. The donut was dubbed the Frank's RedHot Jelly Donut, and was given away at two different Florida locations over the course of a weekend.

Lest you think Dunkin' just took a donut and slapped some Frank's RedHot on top, Dunkin confirmed a lot of testing and thought went into the process. Rick Golden, Manager of Donut Excellence, and his team tested over one dozen flavor combinations, before finally settling on the final product, which consisted of a yeast donut, apple and raspberry jam filling, topped with white icing, and the pièce de résistance, Frank's RedHot sauce, drizzled on top.

Frank's Ethel is just as spicy in real life

One of Frank's RedHot's most popular campaign ads featured then-89-year-old Jean Hamilton as the deceptively sweet grandmotherly figure of Ethel. At a petite 4' 11" and with curling white hair, Jean looked the part of the unsuspecting grandmother. But as the commercials show, there's more to her than meets the eye. One commercial shows Ethel working a church bake sale selling lemon bars to help put a new roof on the church, another features Ethel entering a pumpkin growing contest where she wins the top prize. In both, when asked for her secret, she responds "Frank's RedHot. I put that s*** on everything," much to the shock and horror of those around her.

While Jean Hamilton doesn't swear as much in her own life, she is just as spicy as Ethel. When originally offered the part of Ethel, Hamilton told the Vancouver Sun that the director told her she was perfect, to which she responded "I know I am." According to KMTV 3, at 92, Hamilton unlike her counterpart Ethel, does not have an online dating profile, declaring she's "not looking for anyone. I've been there and I've done that." And like her namesake, Hamilton does put Frank's on a lot of things, including hot chocolate.

It doesn't need to be refrigerated

Something this hot doesn't necessarily need to be cold. According to Frank's own website, most of the Frank's RedHot sauces do not need to be refrigerated; in fact, only Frank's RedHot Sweet Chili sauce should always be refrigerated after opening. Frank's website goes on to say that while they recommend refrigeration to maintain the quality and longevity of the product, it is not necessary and Frank's can be stored at room temperature.

So why leave it on the counter, then? Research has shown that the temperature of food can affect how it is perceived, making something more or less flavorful.

Whatever you choose, don't worry. Frank's is still perfectly good in the fridge, and as long as we continue to put it on everything, there's no chance of it merely sitting on the counter and going bad. We'll be back at the store in no time for another bottle of Frank's RedHot.

It's not as hot as you think

Despite its name, Franks' RedHot, while red, is not actually that hot, especially when compared to its competitors. Capsaicin is the ingredient in peppers that make them spicy. The more capsaicin, the spicier the pepper. Today scientists can test for the exact amount of capsaicin in a pepper and assign a metric called Scoville Heat Units to define how spicey it is. The Scoville Heat Unit (or SHU) is the amount of sugar water-to-pepper it would take to make it not taste spicy.

Frank's RedHot features a measly 450 SHU, the lowest of the top popular brands. Cholula, for example, comes in at around 1,000 SHU and Tabasco Green Sauce has 1,200 SHU.

But what Frank's lacks in capsaicin, it makes up for in delicious flavor. Additionally, for those looking for the same great Frank's flavor but with an extra kick, Frank's RedHot XTRA Hot hits 2,000 SHU, bringing it well past the original Frank's RedHot. 

Frank's RedHot is healthy

If you are someone who loves to turn up the heat when it comes to food, don't stop now. Research has shown that adding spicy food into your regular diet isn't just tasty, but can also be good for you. Time Magazine reported on a scientific study that backed up the claims that spicy food is good for you. The study found that those Chinese men who ate spicy food at least three times a week had a whopping 14% reduction in death rates.

By way of explanation, scientist and hot sauce enthusiast David Popovich found in his studies that the capsaicin in peppers can actually help reduce the growth of cancerous cells. While this is amazing, peppers have a lot more to offer. Fellow Scientist José de Jesús Ornelas-Paz goes on to explain that hot peppers provide a whole host of amazing compounds. And one of the best ways to get them? By processing them into a hot sauce. Breaking down the peppers makes it easier for the body to absorb the beneficial components.

Of course, many hot sauces have added sugar and other less than ideal qualities. Frank's however, features no added sugar, low calories, only moderate sodium levels, and actually has vitamin A in it, making it a fine choice to add spice to your healthy life.