There’s a commercial for hot sauce on TV with the tagline, “I put that #%*& on everything.” That’s how I feel about sriracha.
Sriracha is a fiery-red Thai-American hot sauce fondly known by its loyal followers as rooster sauce (just look at a bottle), and the condiment’s popularity means that it can be found everywhere—from mega-marts and convenience stores to truck stops and 4-star restaurants.
The ingredient list is actually printed in five different languages. Chilies, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar are the main ingredients. Then comes potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfate. I wanted to figure out how to make my own rooster sauce, minus the preservatives.
I found a few recipes that called for cooking a mixture of chopped red jalapenos with a little bit of sugar, three garlic cloves, a few tablespoons of vinegar, and water (fish sauce was in the mix as well). After I had simmered and pureed the ingredients in the blender, painstakingly strained it, and pressed out all the seeds, I gave it a taste.
Disappointing at best. It was ripping hot, for sure, but tasted more like a spicy red bell pepper sauce and was the wrong color; more orange than the deep red I was looking for.
Then I found a recipe that pureed the peppers raw, along with significant amounts of water and vinegar. After that, the mixture was pressed through a fine mesh strainer (not an easy task), simmered until thickened, and aged for about a week. The balance of flavors was better, and the consistency was the ketchup-y thickness of the original. But I wanted to make it easier.
For my next batch, I took the extra prep step of seeding the jalapenos before adding them (raw) to the blender, which eliminated the need to strain the sauce at all. I tweaked the proportion of vinegar to water, blending the mixture until no red bits were visible through the container, and then I transferred the potent mixture to a saucepan. I added sugar and salt, brought the mixture to a boil (skimming the foam that inevitably floats to the surface and causes the pot to boil over), and simmered the sauce until slightly thickened. After 20 minutes, I gave the sauce another whirl in the blender to thoroughly pulverize any chile bits.
I let it cool and gave it a taste—straight up on a spoon. It was delicious. Hot (but not searing), spicy, salty, sweet, sour: the perfect condiment. And yeah, I will put it on just about anything.
My sriracha recipe calls for red jalapeno chilies—they’re not the hottest peppers on the block, but it’s still a good idea to wear rubber gloves when you’re cutting them to protect yourself from potential pepper-oil irritations.
Choose chilies that are bright red, firm, and ripe. Start by cutting the stems off the peppers. Next, scrape out all of the remaining seeds; I find that using the tip of a teaspoon is helpful for this. You can leave the seeds in if you want a spicier sauce.
After you’ve stemmed and seeded all of the chilies, cut them in half lengthwise. Assemble the rest of your ingredients: garlic, water, vinegar, sugar, salt.
Put the chilies and garlic cloves in the blender. Then add the liquids: I like to use both water (for easy blending) and vinegar (for a sour bite). Blend the mixture until very smooth; it takes about 2 minutes.
Transfer the puree into a large saucepan. Stir in the sugar and salt and bring it to a simmer.
As the mixture starts to boil, foam will rise to the surface (and may cause it to boil over if you’re not paying attention—this has happened to me, so beware). Use a large spoon to skim the foam and discard it.
After the mixture has simmered until it has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups (this typically takes me about 20 to 25 minutes), it will turn a deep fire-engine red color. Transfer the mixture back to your clean blender.
Blend the sriracha on low speed (so you don’t incorporate too much air) until the sauce is as smooth as ketchup (about 20 seconds).
Transfer the sriracha to a glass measuring cup and let cool. Then refrigerate it for at least 1 day before using. Yeah, you could use it right away, but I found that the flavors deepen and get better with age.
You can transfer the cooled sauce to a glass jar or a plastic squeeze bottle for easy serving. Sriracha is good on rice, great in stir-fries, or in soup, or… just about anything.