A Spicy Take on Tradition: Formosa Hot Sauce

A family business that can handle the heat

by: Jesse Hom-Dawson


Although Formosa Hot Sauce is made in Campbell, California, the recipe for the original Formosa Hot Sauce comes from Aquila, Michoacán, in Mexico, where Owner Julio Lopez’s brother-in-law was given the recipe by his grandmother. The recipe made its way to the Bay Area, where it was served at a restaurant called MacDougal in Menlo Park, freshly made in a molcajete rock bowl. It became so popular that Julio Lopez and his brother-in-law started selling it to-go. In 2011, they decided to bottle their hot sauce and turn it into a business, and Formosa Hot Sauce was born.

Formosa Hot Sauce

Lopez is proud of the small-business ethos that his company embodies. “The company works without a distributor, instead dealing directly with retail businesses. Formosa Hot Sauce wants control of our product, and to maintain its integrity. When we make batches of the hot sauce at our facility, everybody pitches in and cooks: family, friends, my son. All of us will produce anywhere from 500-1,000 bottles of hot sauce in that one day, and it takes eight of us. We are humble people, but we take much pride in our product.” Only three people have the original recipe, which uses six different kinds of chilis, including Arbol, Jalapeños, and Habaneros, mostly grown in Salinas. Some of the chilies are roasted, and then everything is blended together.

Formosa 5
Julio Lopez, founder of Formosa Hot Sauce, with his son, Giulianno.

At the moment Formosa has two hot sauces, their original Habenero and a Chipotle. They are currently working on two more products including Jalapeño cilantro sauce and a smoked pepper sauce, but their aspirations for growth are limitless. Lopez explains, “Although our hot sauce is popular for marinating meats or used as a cooking sauce, we’d love to develop a Chipotle dressing, and make more cooking-friendly products, not just used at the dining room but also in the kitchen. We want to be a household name. ”


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