Take a Tour of the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory in Louisiana

Add some zing to your next trip to southern Louisiana with a tour of the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory on Avery Island.

To get there, you take a 50-cent ferry ride across a small channel to Avery Island, one of five salt-dome islands along Louisiana's Gulf Coast. This salt--a key ingredient in Tabasco sauce — runs as deep underground as Mt. Everest is tall!

Edmund McIlhenny began producing his fiery pepper sauce here in 1868, using peppers grown from Central American seeds. Today, his sauce is a mainstay in kitchens around the world.

As we started the free tour, we received a tiny bottle of Tabasco. Our guide explained this was a bit of lagniappe (LAN-yap)--a Cajun term for "a little something extra".

An informative video showed that workers handpick the peppers when they're just the right shade of red; the pickers use a "baton rouge", or red stick, to gauge the color. Then the peppers are mashed and packed with Avery Island salt into oak barrels.

After aging for up to 3 years, the mashed mixture is blended with vinegar for about 4 weeks… strained to remove the pepper skins and seeds… then bottled and shipped to 105 countries. You can watch the bottling and shipping process in the plant.

Our next stop, the Tabasco Country Store, was a delight for the senses. Lively Cajun music surrounded us as we tasted free samples, picked up free recipes and browsed through Tabasco merchandise.

The tour takes about 2 hours, but you can easily spend a whole day on the island by adding a visit to Jungle Gardens. Mr. McIlhenny's son, E.A., established this 200-acre oasis to preserve Avery Island's rare plants and animals, especially snowy egrets.

Whether or not you like spicy food, this factory tour is sure to add some sizzle to any Louisiana vacation.

Before You Visit

Avery Island is on State Highway 329, about 10 miles southwest of New Iberia, which is about 20 miles southeast of Lafayette on U.S. Highway 90.

Factory tours run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except on major holidays. For more information, call 1-800-634-9599.

Jungle Gardens (1-337-369-6243) is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $6 for ages 13 and up and $4.25 for children ages 6-12.

More to See

New Iberia, "the Queen City of the Bayou Teche", features a unique blend of French, Spanish and Native American cultures amid brick-paved streets and colonnaded sidewalks. For details call the Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-337-365-1540.

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