It’s happening again. Less than a year after the sriracha shortage of 2022, Huy Fong Foods, the company that makes the country’s most popular brand of sriracha, announced last week that it is experiencing an “unprecedented inventory shortage” — again — and has no idea when the sriracha supply will be back to normal.
Just like last year, the company is blaming an “abysmal” spring crop of red jalapenos imported from Mexico as the culprit behind the shortage. But whether or not it’s actually due to climate change’s impact on chile pepper crops or, as some argue, internal mismanagement, the shortage is expected to endure, and it might be time for sriracha fans to look elsewhere for their garlicky, spicy fix.
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 — or, a permanent replacement for a product that’s struggled to stay on the shelf in recent years.
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 that are surprisingly similar to the flavor most of us recognize. Yellowbird’s version is slightly sweeter than Huy Fong, and a little more bright, which makes it a solid substitute.
Big hot sauce companies, like Tabasco and Lee Kum Kee, also make their own versions of sriracha: The Tabasco sauce is thick and garlicky, with subtle sweetness that makes it taste the most similar to Huy Fong.
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.
Don’t be afraid to get weird with it, either — even if your hot sauce’s flavor profile isn’t identical to sriracha, it will probably still work, whether you go with Cholula or Bravado Spice Company’s umami-packed AKA Miso.
Update, April 17, 2023: This piece was updated to reflect new recommendations after Huy Fong announced the possibility of another upcoming shortage.