Think there's only one sriracha? Think again.
Published Dec. 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 20: Nutritious and Delicious
A decade ago, many Americans hadn't even heard of sriracha. Then, sometime around 2010, this Thai-style chile-garlic sauce went from specialty ingredient to phenomenon. Suddenly it was as common to see sriracha on a T-shirt or water bottle as it was to see it in a Vietnamese pho shop. Compared to other popular hot sauces such as Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce, the winner of our hot sauce taste test, sriracha is thicker and more garlicky, with a pronounced sweetness and a fiery finish. We use it often: As a condiment straight from the bottle, it adds zip to fried or scrambled eggs and all sorts of noodle or rice dishes. We also use sriracha in marinades, stir-fry sauces, and dips and sometimes even for a garlicky-sweet twist on spicy buffalo wings.
Like Xerox photocopiers and Kleenex tissues, a single brand of sriracha has come to be synonymous with the entire category. But Huy Fong, the iconic brand with the rooster logo, isn't the only option. It wasn't even the first sriracha (more on that later). But now that Huy Fong has paved the way for sriracha in America, other companies have entered the game. Even Tabasco is making a version. With more options available, we wondered which was best. To find out, we purchased five srirachas priced from $2.49 to $6.99 per bottle ($0.12 to $0.38 per ounce). Panelists sampled them in a trio of blind tastings: plain, in spicy mayo sauce with potato chips for dunking, and drizzled over fried rice.
Although sriracha is best known in America as an accompaniment for Vietnamese pho and as a key ingredient in spicy tuna sushi rolls, the sauce originated in Thailand. The original incarnation can be traced back to the 1930s, when Thanom Chakkapak started making a chile-garlic sauce in the seaside town of Sriraja (the Thai characters are also sometimes translated as Si Racha). At first, Chakkapak made it just for family and friends, but when she began to sell it commercially, she named it after her town. In the 1980s, Chakkapak sold her company to the Thai Theparos Food Production Public Co., Ltd., a major Thai food manufacturer, and it became known as Sriraja Panich. According to a cookbook produced by Thai Theparos, Chakkapak's sauce was used mainly as a dip for seafood. It's now primarily found in restaurants, where it's used as a condiment for foods such as Thai omelet (khai jeow), pad thai, and grilled or fried appetizers. It's still the most popular brand in Thailand and has some limited distribution in the United States.
Around the same time that Chakkapak sold her company, a different sort of sriracha was taking root in southern California. David Tran, h...
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Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.