What Is Sriracha and Why Do People Love It?

We'll splash Sriracha onto, well, just about everything. But what makes this spicy sauce so popular? We unpack everything you need to know about America's new favorite condiment.

Not many foods can boast the success of Sriracha (it’s pronounced see-ROTCH-ah). The bright red condiment went from a specialty topping for Thai food to a nationwide obsession, spawning an entire industry of cookbooks, flavored snack foods and, of course, knockoffs.

While copycats abound, the original Sriracha sauce is made in California by Huy Fong Foods. (It also goes by the name “rooster sauce,” thanks to the design printed on its ubiquitous bottle.) A single factory produces 3,000 bottles every hour, 24 hours a day, six days a week. That’s about 20 million bottles a year.

What’s the hype behind this amazing sauce? Let’s dive in.

What Is Sriracha?

Sriracha is a chili sauce that originated in Thailand. The original sauce, Sriraja Panich, was made by Thanom Chakkapak of Si Racha, Thailand in the 1930s before being recreated and popularized by David Tran in the 1980s. Tran’s brand Huy Fong Foods makes the most popular version of the tangy sauce, but several versions can be found at any supermarket.

What Does Sriracha Taste Like?

Huy Fong Sriracha is sweet and tangy with a garlicky taste, but the flavor can vary depending on the brand you choose—spicier, more vinegar, less garlic, etc.

The sauce gets its heat from red jalapeno peppers, but it’s only moderately spicy. On the Scoville scale, developed to measure the level of heat in chiles, Sriracha measures 2,200. By contrast, Tabasco sauce clocks in at 3,750 and cayenne pepper at a startling 50,000!

What’s in Sriracha?

The label says chiles, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum. The closely-guarded secret recipe doesn’t give much more away, so let’s take a closer look at how these ingredients work to make the sauce we can’t get enough of.

First, the chiles are ground up, seeds and all, and combined with vinegar. Then, because Sriracha’s particular peppers are only in season four months out of the year, the Huy Fong factory mixes the chiles with salt and preservatives and seals them in barrels. Sriracha also flavors their sauce with sugar and garlic, which adds complexity to the spicy chile flavor. Its sugar content is roughly equal to that of ketchup.

What makes Sriracha so different from other hot sauces is it’s thick consistency, most similar to America’s other favorite condiment, ketchup. The secret to the thick sauce is probably in a combination of the ratio of ingredients, as well as in the xanthan gum, a powerful thickening agent.

How to Use Sriracha

Sriracha can go on just about anything! Use it as a dipping sauce for your fries by mixing Sriracha with mayo for a milder taste. Or top off your meals, like a burger or salmon rice bowl, with a drizzle of the sauce for an added kick of spice. It’s extremely versatile, but be warned—Sriracha is one addicting sauce.

Next up: These new condiments could be the next Sriracha.

Make These Sriracha Recipes!
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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes, cooks and travels from her home base of Chicago. After going gluten-free over a decade ago, Kelsey turned to home cooking and baking as a way to recreate her favorite foods. Her specialties include gluten-free sourdough bread, pizza and pastry. When not wrangling her toddler, she enjoys reading, watching old movies and writing. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, was published by William Morrow in 2019, and her second is forthcoming.