Updated: Mar 1

As part of our celebration of Black History Month at Gift Good Co., we not only wanted to highlight a favorite Black-owned business (read our full review of Cutino’s Sauce Co. here), but also share a short history of their main product: hot sauce.

Zoomed-in picture of a lot of red chili peppers
red hot chili peppers (in a generic sense)

Chili peppers are native to the Americas, becoming domesticated in present-day Mexico over 6,000 years ago. In the 15th and 16th centuries, they were spread across the world both as food and as medicine.

According to Adrian Miller, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, because of a “French-informed sensibility that food should have balanced flavors and seasoning,” spicy foods and hot sauce were not popular among white elites, and became more strongly associated with “poor whites, ethnic immigrants (mainly Asian and Latino) and African Americans” in the 19th century. (See: How did hot sauce get in so many African Americans’ bags, anyway?)

The popularization of hot sauce in America appears to have started on a plantation in Louisiana, where enslaved people farmed, harvested, and experimented with different types of peppers and ratios of pepper to vinegar to create “pepper sauce”. After the passing of the 13th Amendment, many Black Americans took their hot sauce and recipes as they resettled around the country as part of the Great Migration, further spreading the usage of hot sauce as a condiment across the nation. (See Sawyer Phillips’ A Brief History of Hot Sauce in the African American Kitchen)

More recently, during Jim Crow, Black Americans often were not allowed to dine in at many establishments, and often needed to bring their own utensils, serving dishes, and condiments, including hot sauce. Beyonce’s line in “Formation” —“I’ve got hot sauce in my bag, swag” —seems to nod at this history and use it as a celebration of Black culture.

Today, Americans of all backgrounds continue to enjoy hot sauce. In her Hot Sauce in Her Bag article, Mikki Kendall describes hot sauce as “essential a condiment to the Black Southern table as salt.” Hot sauce not only helps food become more flavorful, but is also a way to carry on culinary traditions and foodways and celebrate cultural heritage.

  • Lillian Fu

Gifting box of 4 bottles of Cutino Sauce Co. hot sauces

Business: Cutino Sauce Co.

What I got: Custom 4-Pack with Habanero, Jalapeño, Verde, and Miso ($33)

Price: $32 - $40 (depending on sauces chosen)

Size: four, 4 fl oz bottles

Good For: People who can handle heat; people who like balanced flavor (instead of pure heat) in their hot sauce

First Impressions: As soon as I heard about Cutino Sauce Co, I knew I had to try it. Not only is it based out of Phoenix, AZ (where I currently live), but it is also born from a partnership with Chris Bianco, who makes the best pizza I’ve ever had. Their website also features fun ways to use their sauces in various delicious-looking recipes.

Animation showing the process of cooking Beer Mustard BBQ Chicken Wings, from adding Cutino Sauce Co. Habanero hot sauce to Huss Scottsdale Blonde beer, whisking, and the final product
home-made gif of home-made food

The Experience: My first foray into Cutino Sauce Co. was by making their Beer Mustard BBQ Chicken Wings. Out of all the Cutino recipes, I chose this one because 1) I’ll take any excuse to eat a wing, and 2) the recipe featured beer from another local business, Huss Brewing Co. Though the wings ended up too salty for me, the sauce was incredible. Thankfully, there was enough sauce that I was able to make a second batch (without the salt marinade) which was perfect.

Since then, I’ve also used up most of the Jalapeño, as a condiment on homemade breakfast tacos and also mixed in with mac and cheese (if you’ve never had hot sauce in mac and cheese, you are missing out!).

Delivery: 🚚🚚🚚🚚🚚

Super fast! I ordered on a Monday night, they shipped the package Thursday, and I received it on Saturday. I ordered online to gauge processing/delivery times, but the sauces can also be found in stores (AZ, CA, NC, OR, PA, and WA).

Giftability: 🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁

Packaging is clean and classy. I love the 4-pack because it caters to indecisive people like me, but the individual bottles would be fantastic stocking stuffers / “just because” gifts!

Value: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There are cheaper hot sauces out there, especially if you look at unit price. However, Cutino sauces don’t include emulsifiers or preservatives, which definitely matters to me. Plus, there’s so much flavor that the 4 fl oz bottles still go a looong way.

Would I buy it again? Absolutely, hands-down, 100%. We’ve actually already decided that this will be the gift for a few of our spice-loving friends this coming year!

Check out our post on the history of hot sauce in America post here! #BlackHistoryMonth #BlackHistoryMatters

Updated: Jan 25

February not only features Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day, the superior counterpart to Valentine’s Day), it’s also Black History Month! So why not consider celebrating both by getting something special for bae from a small, Black-owned business this year?

Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. My elementary school teachers would always make a big deal out of it: we were required to make and bring cards for every person in the class, which, to me, felt like a lot of pressure. In high school and college, I found Valentine’s Day to be a very polarizing holiday. When I was single, the holiday made me feel like I was missing out on some great love story. When I was in a relationship, there was so much expectation around February 14 that it was hard to just enjoy the day. It didn’t help that all these people were also showing off these extravagant gifts and gestures from their significant other on social media.

Me, as a kid, when I saw PDA on Valentine's Day:

In the last few years, I’ve come around to Valentine’s Day and, in many ways, appreciate it. It is a great reminder for us to show love to our friends, family, and significant others. While I find the roses and hearts to be a bit cheesy and overdone, I’ve enjoyed having my gal pals over for brunch and giving small gifts that spark joy. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on your relationships and enjoy fond memories together.

I also can’t help but think about the ways the pandemic will reshape Valentine’s Day this year. For one, we probably won’t be having larger gatherings with friends. We probably won’t be having a nice meal at a restaurant. Few of us will be getting couples massages or staying in hotels drinking champagne. Given how much time we now spend in the home, I’ll probably be getting little things here and there that will spruce up our living space or make our day to day routine just a little bit better. Here are some of my picks for #Vday2021:

1. Satisfy their sweet tooth with Lavender Honey from Zach and Zoe

Zach and Zoe is a Black family-owned bee farm located in the rolling hills of New Jersey.

This blend combines their delicious Wildflower Honey with Lavender, long known for its health benefits. Lavender is commonly known as a fragrant flower but it is also an edible herb. The herb also has a calming effect and is traditionally recommended as an alternative treatment for insomnia. Lastly, lavender is an excellent tonic for stress and anxiety due to its relaxing nature and wonderful scent. ($20)

2. Write beautiful notes for them on a Note Neutrality sticky note from Cloth & Paper

Cloth & Paper is a Black-owned stationery brand in Richmond, Virginia, known for their quality products and minimalist aesthetic. These 3x3 inch sticky notes give a sophisticated look to any working desk or love note. They come in other colors too, including linen, nude, and eeru. ($3.90)

3. Revitalize their mornings with a tea subscription from INI Sips Coffee and Tea

INI Sips Coffee and Tea is a veteran and family-owned company based in New Britain, Connecticut. They sell premium organic, direct trade coffee and flavorful blends of loose leaf tea.

How the tea subscription works: You choose whether you want caffeinated or non-caffeinated tea, as well as delivery schedule (every 30, 60, or 90 days). They'll send you (3) 1 ounce tea packs.

(2) teas from their current selection, and (1) brand new tea sample. ($10)

4. Treat them to an at-home spa day with Almond Cuticle Oil from Auda B Beauty

Auda B Beauty is a Black-owned vegan nail care brand that values and fosters diversity, inclusion and empowerment of beauty for everyone.

This Almond Cuticle Oil revitalizes and hydrates your cuticles and hands. The Almond Oil extract paired with safflower seed oil nourishes your nails and locks in moisture, which is especially great for dry days in the winter. ($23, use code GIFTGOOD10 for 15% off your purchase)

5. Lift their spirits with a Good Vibes comfy tee from Ivory Paper Co.

Ivory Paper Co is a family owned business that makes personalized planners & stationery by hand out of Columbus, Ohio.

This tee is cute and pairs well with jeans and loungewear, so good for a cozy day at home. Because many of their products are made by hand, I'd allow for longer shipping times with Ivory Paper Co. (at least that's what my experience has been!). But, their stuff is worth the wait because the packaging and quality are beautiful. ($36)

Comment below with some other ideas you have for this Valentine’s Day! And if you can’t choose for them or if they’re far away, consider getting them a gift card from one of the recommended shops.

Gift Good Co. connects people and organizations with remarkable gifts and gift cards from small-to-medium sized businesses owned by people of color. Our vision is to create a more diverse and inclusive economy, while strengthening relationships and spreading joy. Learn more by signing up for our email list (scroll down) or following us on Facebook or Instagram.