sriracha substitutes

Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

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Sriracha, the condiment mega-sensation from Irwindale, CA-based Huy Fong foods, is loved by many. Unfortunately, Huy Fong has been suffering from a shortage and as such, grocery shelves have sat barren of the crimson treat.

Curious about the shortage? Want to know what’s causing it? Need some recommendations for substitutes? We’ve got you. Here’s everything you need to know about the current shortage of sriracha sauce.

What Is Sriracha?

Sriracha is a hot sauce made from chile peppers (most commonly red jalapeños), vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. It’s typically more paste-like than your classic American hot sauce. The sauce is tangy, heavily garlic-smacked, and tends to be incredibly balanced heat-wise with a touch of sweetness.

Where Did Sriracha Originate?

The original version of sriracha, known as Sriraja Panich, was bottled and sold by Thanom Chakkapak in Thailand in the 1930s. The name comes from the town in which she did it: Si Racha. Though this is widely considered the birth of sriracha sauce, there is evidence that its roots began in 1800s Shunde, China.

The California-based company Huy Fong Foods, Inc., founded by David Fong who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in the 1980s, however, is undoubtedly to thank for its widespread popularity, selling 10 million bottles of its iconic green-cap-topped Sriracha sauce each year. (Huy Fong's Sriracha is often referred to as "rooster sauce" thanks to the animal's prominent placement on the bottle.)

Why Is There a Sriracha Shortage?

Thanks to a shortage of Huy Fong’s signature red jalapeños, the company's production has had no choice but to slow.

According to a recent interview in Food & Wine, there has been "unexpected crop failure from the spring chili harvest" due to the current drought in Mexico, where Huy Fong sources some of its chiles from. Because of this, the hot sauce black market has exploded, with some bottles selling for as much as $70 on eBay and over $100 on Amazon for a two-pack.

Huy Fong has faced a chronic scarcity of chili peppers for three years, affecting its production of Sriracha, Chili Garlic, and Sambal Oelek. It even halted orders temporarily last year due to the low supply.

Where Is Huy Fong Sriracha Made?

The company sources its chiles from Mexico and California, and its main facility is in Irwindale, California.

sriracha substitutesPhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

What Can I Substitute for Sriracha?

With Huy Fong expected to need a little bit of time to reboot its iconic Sriracha hot sauce before it lines the grocery aisles again, what brands are out there to fill the void in our fiery hearts? I tasted three different Sriracha alternatives: Harris Teeter’s take, Trader Joe’s version, and Lee Kum Kee's Sriracha chili sauce (this is found in most supermarkets). Here’s how they tasted. 

(And if you're looking for other types of heat, check out our taste test of 20 popular hot sauces.)

Prices and availability are subject to change.

harris teeter srirachaPhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Harris Teeter Traders Sriracha Sauce

$3.49 from Harris Teeter

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At first, Harris Teeter’s Sriracha isn’t too hot, but the spice quickly comes for you. It slides out of the squeeze bottle bright and shiny, like a candy button. I was surprised to find it sweeter than the others, not unlike it was made with ketchup. I really hope that’s not the case. It’s an OK substitute if you’re really starved for some ‘racha. But it’s not as good as the real thing.

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trader joes srirachaPhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Trader Joe’s Sriracha Sauce

$4 (price may vary)

Available in store

I have to tell you, it’s rare when I don’t like a Trader Joe’s product (check out my ranking of Trader Joe's salsas, for instance). This just isn’t working for me. Joe’s sauce is the mildest of the three, and the consistency is way too thin. It has no sense of thickness, just sweet, wet, chili-garlic sauce. I’m really disappointed, Joe. I thought I could trust you. We were like brothers.

lee kum kee srirachaPhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Chili Sauce

$15.95 for an 18-ounce bottle from Walmart

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Uh … OK, I have seen this brand in grocery stores about 100 times now, and I have never once considered buying it. What wasted years. Chinese condiment brand Lee Kum Kee has put together an absolute banger here, with a thick, granular texture that really works. It’s very much in the gochujang neighborhood — pasty and almost fermented in flavor. I love the balance of the spice level and the garlic. This is not what I’d use as a substitute for Sriracha, though. Because now Sriracha might end up being a substitute for this.

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