What Is Sriracha Sauce? What It’s Made Of & How To Use It

sriracha sauce by Huy Fong Foods

It’s no secret that sriracha, a red hot sauce famous in Southeast Asian cuisine, has become a national sensation in recent years. It was made famous by Huy Fong Foods, the company that helped popularize it using sun-ripened chilies pureed into a smooth paste. Although sriracha sauce is spicy and peppery, sriracha itself is not a pepper. 

To be precise, it’s a blend of jalapeno, chile peppers, and other spices and ingredients. It is also commonly referred to as the “rooster sauce” because of the rooster logo on the label. Huy Fong Foods use roughly 100,000,000 pounds of red jalapeno-hybrid chile peppers annually to make sriracha, produced at a 650,000-square-foot facility in Irwindale, California. 

Where is sriracha from?

sriracha and other hot sauces

Sriracha, pronounced as “see-rah-jah,” is just a generic term like “ketchup” or “catsup.” Si Racha, a seaside province in Thailand, is where the sauce was first invented and named after.

“Si” is the modern Thai translation of the Sanskrit “Sri,” which has a root meaning “old.” “Si” can also be translated into Thai as “honor” or “glory.” Racha is a Sanskrit word that means “royal” or “regal” in English.

So if you put it all together, you get a town called Si Racha, which means “The Glory of Our King.” As a result, Sriracha sauce could mean “Sauce of the Glorious Ruler” or “Sauce of the Glorious King” if taken literally. However, it simply means “sauce from the town of Si Racha” informally.

Thanom Chakkapak, a Thai woman, is credited with inventing Sriracha sauce in 1949. All of Chakkapak’s guests became addicted to the bright, garlicky chili sauce she served with her meals. So when her friends and relatives begged her to sell the product, she decided to give it a try. It’s now known as Sriraja Panich after her sauce recipe. 

Meanwhile, David Tran of Vietnam began making his own hot sauce in 1975. Three years later, Tran and his family fled their homeland aboard the Huy Fong, a Taiwanese freighter translating to “gathering prosperity” in English. He decided to make and sell his hot sauce after settling in California with his family, among many Southeast Asian immigrants. 

Initially, he would bottle the sauce in baby food jars from his blue Chevy van. After a few years, Tran successfully opened his own manufacturing facility and produced more hot sauce. He eventually improved his recipe to create what is now the most popular Sriracha sauce worldwide.

What is sriracha made of?

sriracha ingredients label
ingredients label on Huy Fong Foods sriracha bottle

Many store-bought and homemade hot Sriracha sauces share a few of these basic ingredients. The sauce is surprisingly mild in terms of heat. Here’s what sriracha is typically made of:

  • Chiles
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Sodium bisulfite 
  • Xanthan gum

Green jalapenos that have been allowed to mature fully are used in the sauce, resulting in a deeper red color. Sriracha is ideal for people who are unsure of their heat tolerance but still want to experiment with spicy food, as the peppers have been processed to remove about 50 percent of their heat. In addition, the sauce has a mild flavor that makes it suitable for a wide range of palates.

In hot sauces, it is common practice to grind the chiles down to a powder before adding vinegar and salt. Due to sriracha’s non-cooking method, the vinegar aids in the breakdown of the peppers. Additionally, salt also serves as a preservative for peppers. 

Sugar and garlic are used to enhance and round out the flavors of the sauce. An ingredient known as xanthan gum, a powerful thickener, is the key to the sauce’s thick consistency in this recipe. Finally, sodium bisulfite and potassium sorbate are common food preservatives, antioxidants, and anti-browning agents. 

What does sriracha taste like?

Sriracha’s flavor and consistency can vary from brand to brand, and you may prefer the milder taste of western-style sriracha. It has a tangy, sweet flavor with pungent garlic notes and a ketchup-like consistency. Some brands, such as Polar from Thailand, are hotter and more vinegary, with bolder flavors. Meanwhile, Lee Kum Kee has a grittier and chunkier texture, while Siraja Panich is thinner and has a sweet and vinegary flavor than the other brands. 

The Huy Fong variety, the most popular, is thicker and has a strong garlic and sweet flavor. The flavor profile of these sriracha sauces is nearly identical, even though they differ slightly in terms of acidity and heat. In addition, they all share the sauce’s signature red-orange color. Sriracha sauce should not be confused with other hot sauces, such as the much thinner and more vinegary Tabasco.

How spicy is sriracha? 

We use the Scoville Heat Unit scale to measure the amount of capsaicin, which is the chemical substance found in peppers that gives them their spicy heat. Hotter peppers have higher Scoville heat index values. As a result, a low rating indicates little to no heat.

Hot Sauce BrandScoville Rating (SHU)
Frank's RedHot450
Huy Fong Foods Sriracha1,000-2,500
Crystal Hot Sauce2,000-4,000
Tabasco 2,500-5,000
Da Bomb Beyond Insanity1,500,000
The Last Dab Triple X2,000,000+

According to the Scoville scale, sriracha is classified as mildly spicy at approximately 2200 SHC on the 0–3.2 million Scoville Heat Unit scale. The SHU range for sriracha is between 1,000 and 2,500, whereas Tabasco sauce is at 2,500-5,000. Average habanero peppers have approximately 350,000 SHU. 

In the Hot Ones video series, the starter hot sauce in Season 3 was a basic sriracha with a SHU range between 1,000 to 2,500. It was then followed by Tabasco Original, which was 2,500 on the Scoville scale. Blair’s Mega Death was the final sauce, with a Scoville rating of 550,000.

How to use sriracha sauce

A recipe of pickled garlic and sriracha has recently gained popularity as a result of a TikTok video by @lalaleluu. This recipe requires only a jar of pickled garlic, sriracha, chili flakes, and thyme. You can use it as a garnish or, as the creator suggests, eat it by the spoonful!

sriracha mayo

Sriracha mayo is becoming as popular as plain sriracha sauce these days. Just recently has it gained popularity as a condiment for burgers, a dip for sweet potato fries, and even as a sushi topping. Even though you can buy it pre-made in bottles at your local grocery store, the recipe provided here shows you how to make it in just a few simple steps.

spicy tuna rolls with kewpie and sriracha bottles

Spicy tuna rolls with Kewpie and sriracha sauce are another tasty option. Japanese restaurants across the United States serve the spicy tuna roll, along with California rolls, as a sushi staple, but you can easily make these at home using this recipe.

salmon rice bowl w avocado

The popular Tiktok salmon rice bowl that recently exploded features sriracha to season the rice. In addition to Kewpie, and soy sauce, sriracha is one of the major flavor components that also adds spice to this dish.

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