Everyone knows Tabasco is the best part of an MRE, apart from the jalapeño cheddar cheese spread. But for the last decade, there has been a void in the meals, and our hearts. In 2011, the U.S. military did away with the infamous tiny Tabasco bottles, which served as much as a novelty as a flavor force multiplier, in favor of ketchup-style packets.
But no more.
The Army’s Combat Feeding Division brought back the beloved Tabasco bottle.
In 2019, the division found that the pouch packaging material that was used for the hot sauce was no longer available for purchase, Julie Smith, Senior Food Technologist with the Combat Feeding Division told Military Times.
“No other commercially available pouch materials have been able to contain the hot sauce without pitting and delamination of the pouch material,” Smith said. “As a result, a decision was made to revert back to the bottled hot sauce.”
And even though the bottle cost is higher, the enjoyment troops get from the compact spice containers is worth the premium.
Tabasco’s inclusion in military rations unofficially dates back to 1966, when Walter McIlhenny, a Marine and grandson of the hot sauce mogul Edmund McIlhenny, tapped into the military market with a C-ration cookbook called ‘No Food Is Too Good for the Man Up Front.’
The little cookbook came with a 2-ounce Tabasco bottle, clothed in waterproof camouflage packaging, making it the perfect care package gift for soldiers in Vietnam.
“The cookbook often called for ingredients we did not have, but the bottle of Tabasco sauce was always ready to aid any crappy 1968 C-ration dish,” said Chris Woelk, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, according to the National Museum of American History.
In 1990, the military made the decision to add the fan favorite 1/8-ounce Tabasco bottles to MREs until they were retired in favor of the packets in 2011.
“Your product has always been in demand by troops in the field,” wrote legendary Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in a 1991 letter to the McIlhenny Company. “I have enjoyed spicing up my own rations with your pepper sauce for many years.”
Troops can expect to see start seeing the bottles in their MREs any day now, as they began being added in 2019.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.