Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

When Rodrigo Salas and his wife moved to Texas from Mexico City, they couldn’t escape questions about their favorite Mexican restaurants in the area.

“We said, ‘It’s not what we’re used to eating, so we’ll gladly invite you over and give you what we eat in Mexico City,’” Salas says. “We cooked for them, and they loved it.”

Salas’ Mexican sauce business, Molli, was born. The company, founded in 2013, makes cooking and hot sauces that can be used on traditional dishes from different regions in Mexico.

Salas, who first sold the sauces at the White Rock Farmers Market, has expanded to retailers, such as Central Market, Whole Foods, Albertsons and Tom Thumb. In 2017, Molli sauces could be purchased in 44 stores in 10 states. By the end of 2018, that number had grown to 355 stores in 22 states.

The best-selling Veracruz sauce is a blend of red-ripened tomatoes, Morita chile peppers and green olives that adds a “sweet heat” to just about anything. Although the sauce was inspired by a Veracruz fish dish, it can be used as a slow-cooker, Instant Pot or skillet sauce for any type of meat, Salas says.

“These sauces make it easier for anyone to cook a meal in under half an hour, even if they don’t know how to cook Mexican food,” he says.

Salas cooks with the sauces almost every day, experimenting with new flavors and recipes. Good recipes are included on the bottle or posted on the company’s website, where consumers can access more than 300 recipes featuring his seven sauces.

The less successful recipes are left at home, to the dismay of his family. “I experimented with lasagna this week,” he says. “My wife and son said it was horrible, but they still ate it.”

Word of Salas’ products spread as he performed cooking demonstrations at local grocery stores and served samples to young professionals, families and a few brave kids. 

“This one kid — probably 8 or 9 — said, ‘Give me your spiciest sauce,’” Salas says. “I gave him a small dose, and he started to turn red. I asked him if it was spicy. He said ‘no’ but drank four glasses of water.” 

The products are marketed to non-Hispanics, but Salas says some Mexicans order the sauces online or buy them to take home while visiting the United States. The company is also exploring frozen food options and meal kit services to appeal to a younger demographic.

“Slowly but surely, people are talking about us and looking for our products in the stores,” Salas says. “I was wearing my Molli T-shirt to a concert at the American Airlines Center, and a lady stopped us and said, ‘I love that brand and use it all the time.’ It was fun to hear that. Somebody knows us.”  

Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

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