Why Another Sriracha Sauce Shortage May Be On The Horizon

Heat seekers may need to consider rationing that stalwart bottle of Huy Fong Foods sriracha unless you can get your hands on a couple of back-ups. Those iconic rooster-adorned, green-topped bottles full of spicy red sauce are the likely subject of another shortage. As of May 6, the company has halted production and canceled all orders from its wholesale accounts. This includes restaurants and retailers since Huy Fong Foods does not sell directly to consumers.

The reason behind the decision comes down to the red jalapeño peppers. Red jalapeños are just regular green jalapeños that have been left on the plant to fully ripen. The resulting fruit is both sweeter and spicier than its verdant counterpart, making it key for both the vibrant color and unique taste of sriracha.

Apparently, the jalapeños that Huy Fong Foods usually buys are too green, even though they should be fully ripened by this point in time. Major suppliers in Northern Mexico are citing alarmingly hot and dry weather conditions that can delay or fully prevent the peppers from getting to that red-ripe stage. Chilis are the main ingredient in the condiment, followed by salt, garlic, vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite, and xanthan gum. Huy Fong uses green jalapeños for about a tenth of the mix, but using more would throw off both the taste and signature scarlet hue of the product.

What happened to cause the last sriracha shortage?

An insufficient supply of red jalapeño peppers is also what caused a shortage of Huy Fong Foods sriracha in the past. In 2016, a decades-long relationship between Huy Fong Foods and supplier Underwood Ranches got nasty and quickly dissolved. Underwood Ranches was the only supplier to Huy Fong with a notoriously tricky product; red jalapeños are challenging to grow due to the extended time on the plant and require delicate treatment during transportation. Without California-based Underwood Ranches, Huy Fong turned to suppliers in Mexico.

This worked for a time, but — due to drought conditions and over-irrigation from the Colorado Rivers — those crops have been very inconsistent. Combined with supply-chain issues due to COVID-19, Huy Fong Foods has had to halt production at various times, including in 2020, 2022, and 2023. The current pause in production will be in effect until at least September 2024 when a new growing season is underway.

Huy Fong sriracha substitutions

Vietnamese immigrant David Tran is the founder of Huy Fong Foods and was the first to bring this Thai-inspired sauce to the United States market in the 1980s. Since then, many other competitors have sprung up as American palates have become more adventurous, and demand for interesting and spicy condiments has grown. Now, there are tons of options available, including imports from Thailand and products made by both large and small companies in the United States. Even loyalists to Huy Fong Foods may need to consider sriracha alternatives if faced with a shortage again.

Polar seems to have a close approximation of the Huy Fong taste, while the sweeter Shark brand is more similar to traditional Thai versions. Trader Joe's, Yellowbird, and even Tabasco have all sought to capitalize on this new gap in the market with takes on the now ubiquitous style of hot sauce. Though not exactly the same, products like tangy sambal oelek or a DIY chili crisp may be exactly what you need to tide you over until the next jalapeño season.