Is Chipotle’s salsa spicier? Customers hotly debate whether recipe has changed

TODAY Illustration / Chipotle

People are crying foul — with some literally in tears — about whether or not the recipe for Chipotle’s red salsa has changed for the spicier.

On April 5, the Wall Street Journal published a report on how Chipotle customers are saying that the chain’s Tomatillo Red-Chili Salsa has recently become spicier. The article shared voices from fans who have been noticing a bigger kick to the salsa, taking it from merely spicy to nearly unbearable.

“I thought maybe it was just in my head and it was always that spicy and maybe I was just being a wimp, I guess. I was like, maybe I can’t handle hot salsa anymore,” Jordan Strickland, a 29-year-old Chipotle regular, told WSJ. “I think they should go back to the way it was … It was spicy enough.”

The salsa in question, which is the hottest of the four salsas the chain offers, consists of tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic and red chile. Chipotle maintains that it has not altered the recipe.

But in recent months, multiple posts on Reddit have brought the salsa's seeming change up for discussion, and with posts like “Did the hot salsa get spicier?” and “People keep saying the hot salsa got hotter. Maybe?,” usual fans of the spicy sauce appear to be at their breaking point.

“I’m Indian and have ate spice food for my entire life and that hot sauce f---ed me up,” commented one Redditor.

“Just got some chips and hot salsa — dipped my first chip in, took a bite, and my mouth is absolutely on fire!” reads another Reddit post. “Chipotle hot salsa is just extreme. I’d wager to say it’s the hottest consumer product on the market. It’s also definitely changed over the last year or so — i used to order it and have no troubles, but sometime in the last year… i just can’t do it anymore. It’s a literal inferno.”

One person disagreed with this person's assessment, commenting, “It’s hot but it’s not that hot. I think it might be time to abdicate your title of ‘spice lord.’”

Still, showing how widespread the issue is, a commenter lamented the several Reddit discussions on the subject, writing, “Ah yes the daily it’s hot post.”

Across the rest of the internet, folks are discussing this apparent change to the Chipotle recipe, taking to social media to air their grievances as well as their flaming tongues.

“The tiktoks weren’t lying Chipotle really upped the heat with their hot salsa MY GOD my nose running, forehead sweating, lace lifting this is SURRIOUS,” one person tweeted, adding a meme of a very defeated-looking toddler.

On TikTok, the hashtag #chipotle has been overrun with users complaining about the spiciness of the salsa, with some showing their reactions to it in real time.

“Chipotle went to the depths of HELL to make this salsa,” reads the text on a humorous clip of the TikToker taking a bite from a Chipotle burrito with bloodshot eyes.

“POV. When you have to get the red chili salsa from chipotle on the side now because it’s actually spicy all of a sudden,” reads the on-screen text of a TikTok from Feb. 2 that has garnered nearly 1 million views. “Bro it was never like this, and I can’t just put it all over my bowls anvmore!!! I be burning up!!” reads the video’s caption.

So, is the salsa actually spicier?

“Our recipe for tomatillo red-chili salsa has not changed,” a Chipotle spokesperson tells via email. “However, we use dried red chili peppers sourced seasonally from varying regions that can have a range of different heat levels.”

According to the report, Chipotle executives say they started noticing comments last fall from customers who said the salsa seemed to be getting hotter. Surprised by this assessment, Chipotle mounted an investigation.

For the salsa in question, Chipotle uses chiles de árbol, which range from from 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). For context, jalapeños measure at around 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, while ghost peppers clock in at 800,000 to 1,000,000 — or even hotter.

The peppers for Chipotle’s salsas come from Mexico, Asia and particularly India, which the brand discovered may be the culprit for the four-alarm fire happening in some customer’s mouths, with a yield of slightly spicier peppers this past harvest.

WSJ, in the interest of putting the matter to the literal test, sent samples of Chipotle’s current Tomatillo Red-Chili Salsa to a lab in New Mexico called Southwest Bio-Labs. There, scientists tested the SHU of samples from Phoenix, Chicago and Washington, D.C., ultimately finding that the samples ranged from 2,730 SHU to 3,420 SHU.

Since the spiciness of the salsa varies, according to the test, this may be the reason some folks are sweating bullets while others are wondering what all the fiery fuss is about.

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