Step foot into any Asian market or restaurant, and you’re almost sure to be greeted by a glowing red bottle of Sriracha Chili Sauce. Its vibrant color and unique, piquant flavor have made it a hit, growing in popularity simply by word of mouth. A mainstay in many home kitchens and innumerable college dorms, Sriracha (pronounced “see RAH chuh”) strikes a delicate balance of flavors and sensory experiences that isn’t just appealing, it’s downright addictive. And with a price tag near $3 a bottle, there are certainly far worse habits to adopt.
Thai cuisine has traditionally focused on a delicate harmony of four sensations—spicy, salty, sour, and sweet, all of which are gracefully represented in the celebrated condiment. Blending the sweetness and squeeze bottle simplicity of ketchup with a welcome garlic pungency and just the right amount of spice, the Sriracha hot sauce known to most Americans is certainly no far cry from the original. The noticeable but certainly not overpowering heat of the chilies and robust pungency of the garlic fuse as the vinegar begins pickling and marrying them. But there are marked differences, and that’s just fine with David Tran, creator of the now ubiquitous Tuong Ot Sriracha, or as it is affectionately called by many, “rooster sauce.” The plastic squeeze bottle emblazoned with a proud rooster (representing the year of Tran’s birth on the Chinese zodiac) is quickly becoming a staple among American condiments and topped with a bright green lid that stands out on restaurant tables and store shelves.
So why on earth would you want to make your own Sriracha? I mean, the bottled stuff is already amazing, and it’s actually cheaper to buy than it is to make. Um, because you can! Besides being delicious and pretty easy to make, there’s that cool sense of pride that comes with the DIY approach that money just can’t buy.–Randy Clemens
LC Some Sriracha On This, Some Sriracha On That Note
“There are those of us who love Sriracha, and then there are those of us who need Sriracha,” observes Randy Clemens, author of this recipe. If, like Clemens, you find yourself in the latter category–which essentially means you rely on the not-quite-incendiary condiment as a tool in your kitchen arsenal–your culinary curiosity probably knows no bounds. Clemens emboldens the flavor of just about everything with a dose of this condiment, stirring it into ketchup, mayo, butter, cream cheese, honey, sour cream, ketchup, deviled eggs, hot wings, chili, grits, mac-n-cheese, Bloody Marys, and, well, we could go on. But we won’t. Because we’re curious to hear what you can add to the list…
Homemade Sriracha Sauce
- Quick Glance
- 5 M
- 7 D
- Makes about 2 cups
- 1 3/4 pounds red jalapeño peppers, stems removed and halved lengthwise
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
- Water, as needed
- 1. To make the Sriracha, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the peppers, garlic, garlic powder, if desired, sugars, and salt. Pulse until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a glass jar, seal, and store at room temperature for 7 days, stirring daily. (It may get a little fizzy; that’s to be expected.)
- 2. After 1 week, pour the chile mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then purée in a food processor for 2 to 3 minutes, until a smooth, uniform paste forms. If the mixture is too thick to blend properly, feel free to adjust the consistency with a small amount of water.
- 3. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Press on the solids with the back of a spoon to squeeze out every last bit of goodness you’ve been waiting a week to get. Adjust the seasoning and consistency of the final sauce, adding additional vinegar, water, salt, granulated sugar, or garlic powder to suit your taste. Transfer to a glass jar, close the lid tightly, and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Recipe Testers Reviews
I made this sauce as written, and patiently waited a week to do a side-by-side tasting with the commercial version. The hardest part of this recipe is passing the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. If you want whole pepper seeds in your sauce, you can skip it, but if you want anything resembling the seed-free original sauce, resign yourself to a nice, long session with your strainer. You really have to work this and mash as much through the strainer as you can—long after you want to call it quits—to get everything out of this sauce. The result? It’s a wonderful sauce that’s brighter, more complex, and less salty than the bottled version. It’s absolutely wonderful. Is it worth it? That’s up to you.
This gets a thumbs-up for its bright pepper flavour, but it loses points for lacking depth, and for being quite thin. We did a side-by-side comparison to the Rooster brand sauce, which has more body, is thicker, and has a somewhat smoky taste. This recipe also was spicier than the Rooster sauce—I like a little zing, but this was sizzling. As for preparing the sauce, it’s very easy: I pulsed the peppers in three batches, adding the next batch to the food processor when the paste formed to make room for all of the peppers. All told, it’s a good sauce, but it’s not my first choice if I were to pick between it and the Rooster brand.
I enjoy recipes that remind you of how easy it is to make something that you might not think about making. Compared to commercial Sriracha, my homemade version had more heat and more garlic flavor. I’m not a five-pepper, sweat-in-the-corner type of guy, but I enjoy a little pain on the tongue, and the sauce’s heat in relationship to the flavor of the peppers was just right. However, the garlic flavor was a bit too strong, and the garlic powder aftertaste detracted from the overall flavor. I’d consider reducing the amount of powder next time, or just using garlic cloves. The homemade sauce is also runnier, but that’s expected because there’s no xanthan gum in it like the commercial brand. My other quibble is the need to use (and wash) a food processor twice. Would it really harm the recipe to puree the heck out of the mixture in the beginning, and then just strain it after adding the vinegar and cooking?
For folks who like to prepare their own condiments, this is a distinctive, amazingly colored hot sauce. But, watch for spills! Though you may enjoy them as blood-red badges of brewing honor, left on the counter or floor too long, they’ll stain. I used Fresno Reds, which are ripened green jalapeños. I halved the main recipe (using 12 to 15 peppers) and used dark instead of light brown sugar. I also wore latex gloves as I prepared the recipe (from experience, gloves save a lot of accidental ocular anguish). The recipe is simple to follow, since the processor and room-temperature storage do most of the work. Processing didn’t create a paste, however, as the recipe indicated, it was more of a slush. Take care when opening the glass jar to stir; whiffs of the stuff can make you cough and sneeze. (You’ll also smell it for hours after you reseal the jar.) I bought a bottle of the original Sriracha with the rooster on the label to compare: The original tasted richer and aged, but strong—a second of sweet pepper taste on the tongue, then a slow burn. I didn’t adjust the seasoning on my homemade sauce; it tasted only a tad milder than the original. Mixing the sauce with Trader Joe’s organic ketchup was a nice balance for me, sweetening the sauce and bringing out flavor over heat. This would be great with fries or scrambled eggs. I tried it with hardboiled eggs, but the taste was lost. It’s probably better as a fry or veggie dip.
My version of this sauce used cayenne chili peppers, with the majority of the seeds removed. They worked very well, and yielded a slightly thickened, orangey-red sauce with a fair kick. It has a nice tang to it, and a rich, garlicky heat that doesn’t persist. It’s great for wings or any occasion that requires a good hot sauce. It took a little elbow grease (about 10 minutes worth) to get the last of the hot pepper purée to go through the sieve. I persisted because that’s how I got any thickness to it at all.