Posted March 14, 2008 by Brendan in Reviews

Review: Benito’s Original Naranja Hot Sauce


First Impressions: The front of the label seems ever-so-subtly psychedelic to me: there is some kind of desert scene appearing through a peripheral maze of wood-colored smoke. On the back, we see another image of a man, presumably Benito, sitting in a lawn chair in a river, feet submerged in the water. I want to imagine that this product was the result of a vision quest of some kind, inspired by the “Delectable Addiction” to hot sauce touted on the bottom of the label. 100% Organic. I am reminded of my first experience with an all organic “naranja” sauce, my first review actually, which didn’t go so well. This seems to have kept its color a lot better than the Mayanik did. It is bottled and served at a place in Caldwell, NJ called the Laughing Burrito. East Coast baby! I hope it represents my region well.

Ingredients: Orange habanero peppers, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, distilled white vinegar, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, spring water


Appearance: Woah…first I have to report on something that’s never happened before! The shit blew up on me! I opened it and all this pressure, along with all this sauce, busted out! And then I put it by the sink, where it proceeded to foam out of the bottle for a good 2-3 minutes! Is this even safe? Weird. Anyway”¦it’s very, very orange, light orange, almost neon, probably more a credit to the carrots than the habaneros. It’s a little chunkier than it looked in the bottle. I’ve said this about another sauce, but I’ll say it again, it looks a lot like a squash soup that one might make for a fall harvest dinner.


Smell: Benito’s smells extremely fresh, like if you were walking through someone’s vegetable garden when everything was starting to ripen. The bell peppers, the tomatoes, and the onions are all quite discernable. And earthy carrot smell is also present, as is a hint of garlic.

Taste: This sauce is fun because you can really identify the individual components one after another when you place it on your tongue. I always thought of carrots as more of a filler and coloring agent, but in this sauce they really shine. As with the smelling, the other vegetables are potent and fresh, and it’s held together with a citrus-infused acidity of lime juice and vinegar. The flavor is not unlike a fresh salsa. The garlic is there, but I would actually like a considerable amount more of it. It could also use something salty, like salt. It comes across as a bit watery, or perhaps “watered down” is a more accurate characterization. I don’t think it needs thickening though, just the aforementioned additions. I guess another way to solve this problem would be to pair the sauce with a dish that is already heavy on garlic, salt, or other spices. In that sense, Benito’s is the perfect burrito sauce.


Heat: The heat is on the lower end of medium. It’s mostly sticking to the back of my tongue. Nothing impressive, but I like that there are absolutely no heat claims on the bottle. This appeases the heat gods, as well as the picky reviewer. Nobody’s gonna have trouble with the heat in this sauce, but it’s a yummy kind of spice nonetheless; it works with the whole salsa vibe I’m getting.

Addendum: I used it as a salsa on tortilla chips last night and the heat was more intense. Still nothing crazy, but if I was to put it up against some mainstream, store-bought salsas, it would probably get a “hot” rating.

Overall: I’d buy it. It’s fresh, it’s colorful, it’s different, it’s from New Jersey. I would like an explanation of that little explosion in the beginning, or maybe that was just a literal testament to the figurative explosive potential of this sauce. Maybe this particular bottle has a mind of its own and knew that it was about to get reviewed on the HSB, and you know, just had to do something memorable. So I blasted some Benito’s on a homemade fried tilapia soft taco (sorry, not a Laughing Burrito), and it was an excellent accoutrement. This could turn into a delectable addiction, indeed.