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What Is Sriracha Anyway?

Bottle of Sriracha on a table with Asian stirfrys
The Image Party/Shutterstock.com

Some people can’t live without the tangy heat of Sriracha on their eggs, pizza, burgers, and just about everything else. But what exactly is Sriracha and why do so many people love it?

If you’re a Sriracha enthusiast, you’ll be glad to know the ingredients are actually pretty simple, and the spicy sauce packs a punch while keeping things minimalist.

The main ingredients in Sriracha are chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar, and that means that yes, you can make your own Sriracha if you want. However, if you’ve got a bottle on hand, you might notice additional ingredients like xantham gum and potassium sorbate. Don’t worry, those are for texture and preservation.

When it comes to the basic sriracha ingredients, each serves a purpose. For example, the hint of sugar balances out the heat from the peppers, while the acidity from the vinegar actually helps to “cook” the peppers and break them down. Genius, right?

Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha Hot Sauce

Classic sriracha sauce meets the fermented complexity of gochujang chili paste for the perfect everyday condiment.

Sriracha doesn’t just contain any random chili pepper, though. Its main pepper is a hybrid red jalapeño, but it also contains serrano peppers. And no, there’s no such thing as a Sriracha pepper. It’s just the name of the sauce.

Unfortunately, though, that pepper is why there’s a bit of a Sriracha shortage at the moment. Poor weather conditions over the last few years have caused a dip in the chili pepper harvest. While it hasn’t completely halted production of Sriracha, it has slowed things down significantly—particularly for Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha, the one with the iconic green top and rooster on the top.

It was actually Huy Fong Foods that helped make the sauce popular in the States in the 1980s. Sriracha, however, has been around for longer than that. The recipe was originally created in Thailand by a woman named Thanom Chakkapak. Her granddaughter, however, claims it was her great-grandfather who originated it. Eventually, the recipe was passed down through the family, and her grandmother’s brother and sister began selling the sauce in Si Racha—where it got its name.

In the 1980s, Chinese-Vietnamese migrant David Tran moved to Los Angeles where he struggled to find a job until he decided to make his own version of Sriracha. He began selling the hot sauce in markets, and business boomed. Eventually, he founded Huy Fong Foods and the Sriracha became the most well-known iteration of the sauce in the States.

People’s love for the Huy Fong Foods Sriracha isn’t hard to understand, either. It’s more complex than other hot sauces thanks to the layered flavors. It’s also thicker than most American-style hot sauces, like Tobasco.

FLYBYJING Sichuan Chili Crisp

The gold standard of chili crisp that will add heat and complexity to any dish!

With the current Sriracha shortage, you might be wondering what you can use to impart a similar kick to your foods. There are other brands that sell Sriracha, and you might find that you like one of them just as well. But, other thick sauces that have more flavors than just heat and vinegar should also suffice. Things like chili crisp and gochujang are all substitutes you might enjoy.

Hopefully, the shortage will end soon, in the meantime, you can find an alternative or make your own Sriracha. While you wait for bottles to return to the shelves, you can better appreciate why it’s so popular and the ingredients that make it more complex and unique when compared to other hot sauces.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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