Sriracha is a relatively new product, but it quickly gained popularity as a good hot sauce alternative for almost all of your cooking needs. Most people think it works best in Asian cooking since the formula is based on Asian hot sauces and flavors, but no one would blame you for adding a little to your Mac and Cheese, or as a topping on your morning eggs.
Recently though, getting sriracha has been a bit of a challenge, thanks to a bad pepper growing season and limited supplies of the high-quality ingredients that manufacturers use to create the distinctive sauce.
That means a lot of people have been reaching for other hot sauces as a replacement, even when they aren’t necessarily the best option.
Instead, let’s talk about some of the best Sriracha substitutes, and when to use them.
What Is Sriracha?
On the surface, sriracha is a pretty typical hot sauce. It’s made from a combination of chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, and salt.
However, it’s a bit different from other hot sauces in a few different ways.
For one thing, Sriracha is from Thailand, and uses flavors and chilis common in Thai cooking, as opposed to the hot sauces inspired by Central and South American flavors.
The sauce is a combination of tangy flavors and heat and uses pickled garlic to give the sauce a distinctive zing and flavor. Different brands do use different combinations of peppers and vinegar with the other ingredients. Adding more chilies and vinegar leads to a hotter sauce while adding more pickled garlic and sugar results in a tangier and less spicy sauce.
How Is Sriracha Used In Cooking?
Sriracha is a bit of an anomaly in cooking. Most hot sauces are there to provide a little bit of flavor and a lot of heat. Franks Hot Sauce and Cholula are both hot sauces a little closer to what Sriracha offers. Both are plenty hot, but they have a lot of additional flavors that makes them delicious as well as a good source of capsaicin.
Sriracha works the same way.
People don’t generally use sriracha when they want pure heat. There are other hot sauces that are better for that. People use sriracha when they want both heat, and that authentic Asian flavor to really shine in their cooking.
One notable difference between sriracha and other hot sauces is the sugar content. Sugar is a flavor enhancer. It doesn’t just add sweetness, it also makes it easier to taste the other individual flavor in the sauce.
Sriracha has the same amount of sugar as ketchup. That's one of the biggest reasons that sriracha isn't just about heat, it's also about flavor.
The Best Sriracha Substitutes For Home Cooking
There are a lot of different options when it comes to replacing sriracha. However, we’re not going to make recommendations for how much of each substitute you should use when you’re replacing sriracha, since your personal preference and flavor goals can make a huge difference in how much of each ingredient you want to use.
Sambal Oelek is widely thought to be one of the best sriracha substitutes, thanks to packing most of the same flavors as sriracha. It’s also easy to find. Look for a clear jar with a green lid and a golden rooster on the label.
This option works well because it shares a lot of the same core ingredients, namely chilies, and garlic, with a little bit of vinegar and oil.
The biggest difference is that Sambal Oelek is a stronger and thicker sauce, so you won’t need as much of it as you’d use sriracha.
If you want to make it a little more similar to Sriracha, you can add a little bit of sugar and water, or your favorite fruit juice, to thin the sauce and give it a similar sweetness.
This sauce works better as an addition while you’re cooking your meal, rather than a condiment that you add when everything is done.
Sambal Oelek is a great way to add a little spice to your favorite low-calorie dinners!
Gochujang is a much more traditional sauce in Asian, and specifically Korean, cooking compared with Sriracha.
This sauce is made from ground chili peppers, just like sriracha, but doesn’t have the same vinegar content. Instead, the tangy flavor of a good gochujang sauce comes from fermented soybeans.
Like Sambal Oelek, it’s thicker and can be a little stronger than sriracha and works best when you add it while your food is still cooking.
The paste also isn’t as sweet, so you might want to increase the sugar in your recipe slightly to make up for the lack of sweetness in the gochujang sauce.
Peri Peri Sauce
Looking at a very different part of the world, peri peri sauce is a surprisingly good substitute for sriracha.
Peri Peri sauce is made from Peri Peri peppers and is a Portuguese take on hot sauce. However, unlike the previous two substitutes we've mentioned, peri peri sauce tends to have a little more sweetness.
The other big difference between peri peri sauce and sriracha is how tangy the sauce is. Peri peri sauce is typically made with more vinegar, which increases the sour tang in the sauce significantly.
It also has lemon and onion added, which can help add some complexity the way pickled garlic does in sriracha. However, this option also tastes a good bit brighter and more acidic as a result.
If this is the best sriracha substitute you have, we’d recommend going slow and adding a little and tasting before you commit. You might want to combine peri peri sauce with other options, like adding some garlic and cayenne powder to mimic the flavor of sriracha.
Harissa is another good option, though it does have a very different flavor profile. Harissa is a Moroccan sauce, which is made from a combination of hot chilies, red bell peppers, and oil. It also often contains coriander, caraway, and garlic.
Harissa comes in a wide range of spices, from much milder than sriracha, to even more heat.
That’s a nice option though because it means you can customize your Harissa’s heat to the dish you’re making, or your own spice tolerance.
However, it can have a very distinct spice flavor which can be difficult to make meld with Asian cooking the same way Sriracha can. We’d recommend using this alternative for foods like curries and sauces that already have a similar flavor profile and avoiding Harissa in dishes like stir fry.
Noodle dishes are a bit of an exception. Sometimes Harissa is a fantastic addition, and sometimes it’s a poor substitute for sriracha.
Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Sweet chili sauce didn’t take very long to become one of the most popular condiment options for Asian cooking and appetizers here in the United States.
Another Thai sauce, sweet chili sauce is often made with rice vinegar, a sweetener like honey, and chilies. Some sauces have garlic, some don’t.
However, there is a key difference in how these sauces work in your cooking. Sriracha primarily adds tangy heat, sweet Thai chili sauce primarily adds tangy sweetness.
There is a little bit of heat in this sauce, but not nearly as much as sriracha. But, that also makes this a very kid-friendly sriracha substitute.
We love this sauce added to our Weight Watchers shrimp stir fry!
Chili crisp is a generic name for chili flakes and seasonings combined with hot oil and mixed. You can make your own at home, or you can buy a store-bought version of the sauce to save a little time.
The trick with chili crisp is getting the right balance of raw heat from the chilies, with other flavors from the spices and even the oil.
This option also doesn’t have the same sweetness as sriracha, though some brands do have added garlic or onions for flavor.
Cholula is a Mexican-style hot sauce, but it's one that has a good amount of added sweetness, and a fruity aftertaste that makes it a versatile and effective option.
You can add Cholula to a marinade, during cooking, and as a condiment, so it's also a versatile and easy-to-use Sriracha substitute.
However, the flavors are not Asian, so it might taste a little off in typical Asian cuisines.
Franks Red Hot Sauce
Frank's Red Hot Sauce is more of a Louisiana-style hot sauce, but, like Cholula, it packs a lot of flavor. It’s a good bit sweeter than other Louisiana hot sauces, like Tabasco, which is what makes this sauce our preferred Louisiana hot sauce substitute for sriracha.
However, like most Louisiana hot sauces, this sauce is much thinner and runnier than sriracha, and you don’t need nearly as much of it to make this sauce work.
Ketchup certainly isn’t a hot sauce, but it’s actually a surprisingly good replacement for sriracha.
The key here is that ketchup actually has about the same amount of sugar as sriracha, and it has the tangy flavor you get from vinegar and garlic in sriracha, this time from tomatoes and vinegar.
You can replace ketchup 1:1 with sriracha, and skip the heat if you’re cooking for someone who doesn’t like a lot of spice.
Chili Garlic Sauce
Chili garlic sauce is very similar to Sambal Oelek, but the more generic version of the sauce. There are a lot of different brands out there, and you can even make your own at home. The balance of chili and garlic flavor in each sauce is a little different, so you can play with the recipes to get a sauce you like.
Or, just buy a couple of different brands to find the right one for you.
Chipotle ketchup is one of the more readily available ketchup that's more than just sugary tomato sauce. It's a good stepping stone to higher spice levels for kids and people who have a very low spice tolerance and is still a good sriracha substitute for the same reasons as plain ketchup.
Just, don’t expect a lot of heat or a radically different flavor, and chipotle ketchup will serve you well.
Cayenne Pepper (Flakes or Ground)
In a pinch, you can even skip the sauces entirely and get the same heat, and a similar flavor, from regular old cayenne spices.
If you want to make something a little closer to sriracha flavor, combine cayenne powder with tomato paste (to add thickness) , a little bit of rice vinegar, and garlic powder. If you can make this mix a few hours ahead to let the flavors combine, that’s even better.
But, if you realize at the last minute that your dinner needs a little more heat and flavor, tossing in a pinch of cayenne powder as a sriracha substitute is a perfectly legitimate option.