Mary Risavi and Dandy Sauce. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mary Risavi and Dandy Sauce. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The idea for Dandy Sauce Co. was born when Mary Risavi decided to take a guided trip with musician and fly-fishing enthusiast Chuck Ragan, and he casually mentioned he used to co-own a hot sauce company.

“I used to go fly-fishing when I lived in Colorado,” she said. “I feel really grounded when I am in nature so I set up some trips with him. He said he had started a company with his friend in Texas, Chad Dolezal, called ‘South Mouth Sauce’ about six years ago. They tried to do farmers’ markets and things like that, but they didn’t have a clear direction, and they kind of let it fizzle out. So I said, ‘Let’s get it going again.’” 

South Mouth launched in 2018 during the South by Southwest Festival in Austin and featured two flavors, Americana and Fried Green Tomato, the prototypes of Dandy’s red and green sauces. Ragan and  Dolezal brought Risavi into the company as a full partner.  Risavi, with the success of her Hollister-based Wise Goat Organics, had the business sense and food production experience to revive the brand, and they named the company after her favorite horse, Dandy, which she used when working as a horse logger in the forests of Northern Canada.

“An infestation of pine beetles is killing a lot of trees,” she said. “Loggers were selectively cutting down infected ones. When they were down, we would hook up my two horses, Dandy and Pride, and skid them out of the forest.” 

Ragan and  Dolezal brought Risavi into the company as a full partner, then held remote conferences to develop the business plan. The first two products she produced for the new company were the Dandy Green Sauce and the Dandy Red Sauce, based on the original sauces created for South Mouth. 

The company officially launched last January, but the partners were able to enter their sauces in the 2022 Good Foods Foundation competition, where they won an award for their Original Green Sauce.

As with everything Risavi makes, the ingredients are sourced locally and produced without artificial ingredients. Most of the components of the sauces are organic.

“We source from the same places I use for Wise Goat, like Lakeside Organic Gardens, Coast Produce, and Coke Farms,” she said. “But we started making the sauces in the Fall, so we could not get some of the seasonal peppers as organic. But now that we have our recipes and our systems down, my goal is to go fully organic and apply for the organic certification next year.”

One thing that makes Dandy Sauce unique, according to Risavi, is there is more of an interest in flavor over just adding peppers to push up the heat. 

“It is not like a hot sauce, necessarily,” she said. “We are not just going for the heat. We might add some different ingredients, like orange juice or lime juice, that give you a different flavor dynamic, balancing the acidy and tanginess with the heat from the peppers. It is not just a burn-your-mouth sauce—you can actually enjoy it.”

Risavi is still working out the distribution of the sauces locally, but they are available in 14 markets from Carmel to San Francisco, including Vertigo Coffee in San Juan Bautista, and she sells them at the Morgan Hill Farmers Market as well. Locations can be found on the Dandy Sauce website, where the sauces can also be ordered.


The Sauces of Dandy Sauce Co.


Original Green Sauce – “The green sauce is a jalapeno-tomatillo base,” Risavi said. “You can use this with avocado for a spicy guacamole  or if you are going to make any kind of verde sauce.” I am pretty much a lightweight when it comes to hot sauces, which should be considered when I am talking about heat. But I had no problem with this one, straight out of the bottle. Risavi rates it as a two out of four on her heat scale. I would place it at good medium heat, with the taste of the tomatillos more forward in the flavor profile than the smokey jalapenos and with the same depth of flavors that you will find in a good chile verde. There are hints of lime, mustard, and onion riding on top of the crisp tomatillo flavor, and the heat of the jalapenos catches you in the back of the throat. This was my favorite of the three sauces, and I think it would be a good entry point for most people who look at hot sauces a little askance. It is good to remember that the pepper oil does settle to the top of the bottle, so shake well before using.


Original Red Sauce – A friend who tried this one described it as a “refined buffalo sauce,” and the comparison is not far off. I find most buffalo sauces to be a bit cloying and one-note, and Risavi has toned down the vinegar in this version which allows everything else to shine.  This is a carrot-based sauce, which brings some sweetness that is countered by the citrus juices. It has about the same heat as the Green Sauce, and you can taste the carrots, onions and garlic, without them being overwhelmed by the Fresno peppers. Risavi said this is her go-to everyday sauce, and it is probably the most versatile—and fun—of the three.


Original Gold Sauce – The newest addition to the product line, Risavi places this sauce as a three out of four on her heat scale, and it does pack more of a punch than the other two. This sauce also uses carrots as a base but gets its heat from habanero peppers and bell peppers, with the heat spreading through your mouth and lingering. It is a little too hot for me out of the bottle, but Risavi recommends cutting it with mayonnaise as a drizzle, which smooths the heat out and makes the blends of peppers and onions stand out better. I also threw a little bit on some fresh popcorn, and it worked nicely.


Mary Risavi’s Wing sauce
1/2 cup Original Red Sauce
5 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
Heat sauce over medium high heat until boiling, remove from heat and slowly swirl in butter until combined.

Add 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce



BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.