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Secrets and rumors behind San Jose’s treasured taco topping, Orange Sauce

Secrets and rumors behind San Jose’s treasured taco topping, Orange Sauce
Photo Credit: La Victoria/Google Maps
By Wesley Severson - Published on July 08, 2022.

It’s considered one of the most treasured ‘made in San Jose’ specialties. The world-famous Orange Sauce sold at La Victoria Taqueria is the stuff of legend. The creamy condiment that customers can’t seem to get enough of continues to grow in popularity year after year. It was created just a few months after the first La Victoria location opened its first location in 1998 on San Carlos Street near San Jose State. Now, four more San Jose locations are selling Orange Sauce, as well as one location in Hayward. Customers love coating their tacos, burritos, and quesadillas with it, or buy their own bottles of it to use on anything they want.


Flagship La Victoria Taqueria Location on San Carlos Street. | Photo Credit: Google Maps

 

The sauce is made using a secret family recipe that is so private that only three family members of the Barrita family, which owns the taqueria chain, know how to make it. The secrecy gets taken a step further after the three designated Orange Sauce makers, patriarch Marcelino and his two sons, Nick and Marco, revealed some interesting tidbits about the coveted creation in a new interview this week with the Mercury News. The trio says they make 750 gallons of Orange Sauce every week “at an underground location.” 

To ensure the secret ingredients don’t get leaked, they say there is no handwritten recipe for the sauce, and the information is only stored in their heads. The only thing that Marcelino would reveal to the Mercury News about the recipe is that “it’s made with dried chiles, garlic, white onions.” Specifically, chiles de arbol are used, and it’s widely known that tomatoes are also a key ingredient in the Orange Sauce.


Photo Credit: La Victoria Taqueria

 

One reason the sauce is so beloved is because it is vegan. Given its creaminess, many people have challenged La Victoria's claim, but they say the secret recipe is 100% vegan-friendly. “There have been several rumors over the years about certain ingredients, but none are true. A few years ago, there was a rumor started on the internet and everybody kept asking us if we put chorizo grease in the sauce,” Nick Barrita told the Mercury News.

Controversially, San Francisco-based taco chain Tacolicious has their own version of Orange Sauce inspired by La Victoria's, and they published a recipe for it their cookbook — the creaminess, their guess is, comes from blended and whipped up vegetable oil.

As for an expansion of the sauce-making, Marcelino says they have turned down several offers to franchise the Orange Sauce but they say they want to keep it a family-run operation. That being said, it appears they could sell the sauce outside the La Victoria locations. When asked why the sauce is not available in grocery stores, the response to the Mercury News was, “because we don’t have big enough blenders yet.” Keyword being “yet.”