Long Beach based hot sauce company Chile Herrera has crafted a sauce able to replace the mass produced brands that have become kitchen staples.
“I needed more than Tabasco, Tapatio and Cholula,” Manuel Vital, co-founder of Chile Herrera said.
Although Vital was inspired by the different sauces and flavors made by his mother and sisters, that originate from the rural parts of Jalisco, Mexico, they didn’t have the versatility he needed.
“There are salsas that are made for very specific things,” Chile Herrera co-founder, Jheuli Hernandez, explained. “Sometimes you don’t use the pozole chile on a sandwich.”
It took two years of careful experimentation before Vital finalized the recipe for his red sauce. The result was a versatile condiment that can add spice to almost anything.
“I put this [Red] Herrera on McDonald’s nuggets, turkey sandwiches, tacos, enchiladas– everything.”
Those who want to experiment even more can use the Red Herrera sauce in mixed drinks such as micheladas or a Bloody Mary.
He was content to share his sauce free of charge with friends and coworkers, taking the occasional paid order from them as well.
Then his coworker, Jheuli Hernandez, proposed a business model in which a portion of the profits made from the sauce would benefit people and animals in the community. After taking some time to plan their packaging and branding, Chile Herrera was launched in Dec. 2019.
So far, Chile Herrera has made one donation to Alivio Open Mic Emergency Relief Fund, which provides financial support to artists affected by the pandemic. Since the business is still developing, the majority of Chile Herrera’s profits are reinvested back into the growing business, but Vital and Hernandez plan to make further donations in the future as more revenue comes in.
As a small business, Chile Herrera tries to buy supplies from other local small businesses as much as possible. While a few ingredients like salt and pepper are bought commercially, many of the spices and chiles used are bought in bulk from the same local bodegas Manuel purchased ingredients from when he was just making sauce for him and his friends.
Chile Herrera also mixes its Red Herrera sauce with other condiments to make spicy hummus, spicy ketchup, spicy marinara and Herrera hot wing sauce.
A new flavor of sauce has also recently been added. Chile Herrera’s “white sauce”– official name to be announced later– is actually light pink in color. Vital recommends drizzling it over shrimp or fish on a bed of rice, while Hernandez has been using it as a salad dressing. It also has great potential on Ensenada-style tacos.
“It has a very citric, spicy, salty flavor so it’s really something that appeals to the savory aspect of a bite,” Hernandez said.
The current version of Chile Herrera’s white sauce contains mayonnaise as one of the ingredients, and Vital and Hernandez have been working hard to also create a vegan version with the same taste.
“There are a few little nuances that are still not completely parallel,” Hernandez told the Signal Tribune. “[…] We want to make sure that there is a consensus that it is exactly the same, or at least almost exactly the same, as the non-vegan version.”
Customers can now order white sauce from Chile Herrera, but are warned that the flavor may go through a few adjustments as the amounts and type of citrus may change to improve taste and increase shelf life. Chile Herrera has been experimenting with different combinations of lemon, Meyer lemon and lime juice within its white sauce, using lemons sourced from Hernandez’s and Vital’s neighboring yards.
Chile Herrera is among the countless small businesses currently feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Complications with their usual supply chain have left them unable to provide their large bottle size. Customers who order a large size of Chile Herrera will be given a medium and small bottle, which equals the same amount of ounces as a large.
Sizes for sauce orders include a party size for $25, large for $20, medium for $15, small for $8 and sample size for $2. Six packs of sample size bottles are also offered for $9.
To place an order, customers can either text Chile Herrera at 562-810-1073 or send them a direct message on Instagram, @chile.herrera. Free delivery is offered within the City of Long Beach, and the delivery fee for those farther away will only consist of the United States Postal Service shipping price.
“We both grew up in households that enjoy feeding people,” Hernandez said of herself and Vital. “And we enjoy connecting with people over food.”