As countless news outlets have breathlessly reported over the past week, a sriracha shortage is looming. Huy Fong Foods, the California-based producer of the country’s most popular brand of sriracha — the one with the rooster on the bottle — says that it will have to scale back production of this much-beloved hot sauce due to an “abysmal” spring crop of red jalapenos imported from Mexico. This means that folks who are obsessed with putting sriracha on just about everything they eat are now scrambling to stock up on the sauce, or find a suitable alternative.
The shortage is so dire, in fact, that one Los Angeles restaurant is asking its patrons to bring in unopened bottles of sriracha, specifically the Huy Fong brand, in exchange for free food. “Of all the supply chain issues in the world, this one feels personal,” Vietnamese street food restaurant Bé Ù Kitchen said in an Instagram post, noting that its patrons go through more than 300 bottles of the sauce each year, slathering it on banh mi and dunking spring rolls into peanut sauce with a swirl of sriracha.
The shortage is expected to last at least through the summer — Huy Fong won’t resume production of sriracha until September at the earliest — and as such, sriracha obsessives are going to have to adjust to this new reality. To drum up a guide to suitable alternatives, I polled the brightest minds of the Eater braintrust for suggestions that will at least help fill the temporary void until sriracha is as abundant on store shelves as it was before the shortage.
The obvious choice: other sriracha brands
Even though that green-tipped bottle with a rooster on it has become synonymous with sriracha in the United States, Huy Fong is not the only producer of the sauce. There are a number of boutique brands, including Austin-based hot sauce purveyor Yellowbird, that make their own iterations of sriracha that are surprisingly similar to the flavor most of us recognize. Yellowbird CEO George Milton tells Eater that his company hasn’t been impacted by any chile supply chain issues, and that there’s plenty of the brand’s blue-agave-spiked, totally organic sriracha on store shelves.
Even big hot sauce companies, like Tabasco and Lee Kum Kee, make their own versions of sriracha. Thai brand Shark is also wildly popular with chefs and sriracha fans, many of whom say it boasts a better, more balanced flavor profile than Huy Fong.
A texturally appropriate alternative: sambal oelek or harissa
In contrast to many popular American hot sauces that are thin in consistency, sriracha has a thick, clingy texture that makes it perfect for squiggling across the top of a poke bowl or bowl of pho. Sambal oelek, the most popular brand of which is also produced by Huy Fong, is an obvious replacement thanks to its thick texture and spicy, garlicky flavor profile. Unfortunately, it too is impacted by the chile shortage, though it does seem to be more broadly available both on grocery store shelves and sites like Amazon.
If sambal is also hard to find where you are, another texturally similar option is harissa paste. Made with dried chile, coriander, and lots of garlic, the flavor profile might be slightly different, but it’s a solid second choice. The Trader Joe’s brand is a good option, as is New York Shuk’s classic harissa.
If all else fails: literally any hot sauce you like
When your grocery store is out of sriracha and your steamed dumplings are in serious need of some spice, it’s important to keep in mind that pretty much any hot sauce you love will do. It might seem weird to put a big scoop of Lao Gan Ma chile crisp into your bowl of pho at first, but it’s still going to be delicious. Even vinegary Louisiana hot sauces, like Crystal and Tabasco, can work in a pinch. The wonderful thing about good hot sauce is that it makes literally anything you put it on taste better, even if it doesn’t exactly replicate the familiar flavor profile that you’re used to.