I'm a Sriracha addict. Whether mixing it with mayo to spread onto a sandwich or slathering it onto scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito, Sriracha is the quickest-devoured condiment (behind Hellmann's mayo) in my fridge. I prefer Huy Fong Foods' Chile Garlic Sauce which combines that tangy, building heat with a chunky texture and chile seeds.
But the ingredients in Sriracha are just chiles, vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar, so why not strive for a homemade version of the chile sauce? I set out to research options, consulting numerous sources.
While I opted for red jalapenos with a few Thai chiles thrown in for a notch more of heat, other chiles that can be used include Fresno, Cayenne, Holland, Red Serrano or Chile de Arbol. According to the oh-so-informative Viet World Kitchen blog, who used Robert Danhi's Sriracha recipe, the chile stems should be snipped but with the crown remaining. This adds a floral component to the sauce. Instead of using sugar and vinegar in the recipe, I used the already-sweetened rice vinegar. Some recipes suggest an infusion of tomato sauce for a brighter color and more ketchup-like consistency. A few recipes also called for a dabble of fish sauce, which I added for a more complex saltiness.
I made both the fresh and fermented Sriracha to test the differences. While the fresh Sriracha goes in the fridge right after a brief cooking and blending of the chiles, the fermented one sits on the counter in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap for a few days. (Any mold that springs up during the process is scraped off.) The fresh Sriracha is sweeter and fruitier while the fermented one has a more pronounced tang that rounds out the spiciness.
Both deliver a jolt of heat. The Huy Fong version, in contrast, is a darker red color and saltier with a slower buildup of heat. All in all, the homemade version is pretty darn close to the Huy Fong one with the fermented sauce pulling up slightly ahead because of the deeper tanginess.
The only problem for some people (but not myself) would be the 30-day shelf life to the homemade Sriracha. Easily solved because Chowhound has some suggestions on using it up in time.
About the author: Andrea Lynn is senior editor for Chile Pepper magazine, where she not only creates a wide range of zesty recipes for readers, but also participates in numerous tastings for hot sauce, salsa, and other spice-laden products (even chocolate!). Her favorite chile? A tie between the mild yet flavorful poblano and the mighty, reliable fire of the serrano.