Sriracha Shortage: 5 LA Chefs on the Sauces They’re Using Instead
The shelves could be empty for a while, so here are some similarly spicy alternatives
If you’ve been noticing a dearth of sriracha at your local supermarket, you’re not alone. In a repeat performance of 2013, Irwindale, California’s Huy Fong Foods has been forced to suspend production of not just its signature sriracha but also its sambal oelek and chili garlic sauce due to a red jalapeño shortage in Mexico, following two years of drought. Don’t hold your breath on the hot sauce making a return to grocery store shelves any time soon; the company probably won’t be releasing more sauce until September at the earliest.
While some have resorted to hoarding the familiar green-capped, rooster-emblazoned bottles, other chile heads are instead turning to different hot sauces and condiments to add flavor and fire to their favorite dishes. We asked L.A.’s top chefs to share their picks — and they more than delivered.
Luke O’Grady, Chef de Cuisine, Little Dom’s
Chef Luke O’Grady has been using gochujang in place of sriracha for years, ever since he first heard about the aromatic Korean chile paste from Roy Choi.
“I felt like I was late to a very exclusive party,” says O’Grady of the ingredient that forms the flavorful base of some of Korea’s most famous dishes, including bibimbap and bulgogi. “The depth of flavor comes from fermented chile peppers and soybeans, barley (though there are gluten-free versions), and a slight sweetness from rice. Gochujang is a party that everyone should know about.”
Unlike sriracha — or, for that matter, other hot sauces like Tabasco and Frank’s Red Hot — gochujang isn’t meant to be used as a finishing sauce, but rather in combination with other ingredients to add depth, funk and heat. O’Grady, for example, likes starting his chicken wing sauce with gochujang.
“I thin it out with a little soy sauce and vinegar, and then treat it like a Buffalo sauce,” says the chef.
Travis Passerotti, Executive Chef, The Tasting Kitchen
Chef Travis Passerotti’s spicy condiment of choice these days is pilacca, a lightly fermented, garlic-scented fried chile pepper concoction common in southern Italy. The chef loves tossing it on anything and everything, from eggs to pork chops to chicken.
“I love this condiment because it’s so easy to tailor to my needs,” he says, noting that he generally makes his own with a mix of hot Fresno chiles and either sweet bell peppers or fresh pimentos, depending on what’s in season. Roughly chopped, the peppers are then lightly sautéed with a few shaved cloves of garlic, a touch of vinegar, salt, sugar and a few anchovy fillets.
“Once combined, all you need to do is store it on the kitchen counter for a few days, or until you see little bubbles start to form,” he says. “After that, you can process in a food processor to your desired consistency.”
Mitch Austin, Executive Chef, Four Seasons
Chef Mitch Austin has a soft spot for the Manifesto sauce from El Machete, an L.A. local whose handcrafted hot sauces and condiments boast “a perfect blend of spice and flavor.”
The company, founded by the self-taught Oscar Ochoa, peddles a host of toppings ranging from fresh salsas to bottled sauces, which are sold online as well as at the Mar Vista and Hollywood farmers’ markets. El Machete’s stand is easy to find, according to Austin, as it always has “the longest line in the market. Totally worth the wait.” Manifesto specifically is made of a combo of fire-roasted chiles, habaneros, agave and apple cider vinegar.
“I love to put it on tacos, burritos and my eggs in the morning,” says Austin. “When I make chicken wings at home I smother them in that sauce.”
Tony Coito, Executive Sous Chef, Artifact at Mingei
Chef Coito doesn’t hold back when it comes to sharing his favorite hot sauces with InsideHook. In addition to the Italian Bomba from Trader Joe’s and Majestic’s creamy jalapeño-garlic paste, he always has homemade Lao Gan Ma chili crisp in his pantry.
“It’s slightly sweet, crunchy, aromatic and spicy enough to satisfy a chili head,” he says.
Best of all, it’s not too hard to make. Simply fry some garlic and shallots in oil until golden, and let them sit on a paper towel in a very low oven to crisp up. Meanwhile, blend the oil with dried chilis, and when the garlic and shallots are nice and crispy, stir them into the resulting sauce, which you can season with spices including the traditional Chinese five-spice with star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.
“It will literally go on anything. I’ve heard that some people eat it with ice cream.”
Nick Priedite, Owner, Priedite Barbecue
The spicy condiment Priedite can’t get enough of is Momofuku Chili Crunch – no contest.
“It’s perfect,” he says of the sauce from Chef David Chang, which combines three types of Mexican chiles with fried garlic and shallots for a sauce Priedite praises oh-so highly.
“Crunchy, oily, spicy and has umami,” he says. “I put it on everything.”
His particular favorite use these days? Spooning it over crushed cucumbers or plain steamed rice. With its rich flavor and crowd-pleasing textural components, it’s a total game changer. Enough for you to never go back to sriracha? I guess you’ll have to try it and find out.
This article was featured in the InsideHook LA newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Southland.
Suggested for you