Is Sriracha Just Another Name for Hot Sauce? Or is it Something Else Entirely?
The Short Answer
While all sriracha is hot sauce, not all hot sauce is sriracha.
The Long Answer
Sriracha has become a big deal in the foodie community as of late. This relative upstart sauce exploded onto the spice scene in recent years and now it’s everywhere. But what is the difference between Sriracha and hot sauce? Is sriracha hot sauce, or something else entirely? This “hot” question stirred my interest upon biting into a sriracha chicken breast recently, and I just had to know. So, now you all have to know as well.
Sriracha IS, in fact, hot sauce. This might be perplexing to some as it has a very different taste as compared to your average bottle of “Texas Pete”. That’s due in part to Tabasco hot sauce becoming the norm for the average American table. We tend to think of Tabasco as the only hot sauce, but that’s not true at all. Hot sauce is defined as any condiment, seasoning or salsa made from chili peppers and other ingredients.
When you look at Tabasco and sriracha, you instantly realize how different they are. Tabasco gets its flavor from red pepper, distilled vinegar and salt. It comes out very thin and watery. Sriracha has a lot more going on. It’s composed of chili, garlic, sugar, salt, distilled, vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfate and xanthan gum. It’s also far thicker than its distant cousin, Tabasco sauce, and more accurately resembles a thin ketchup.
One difference between Tabasco and sriracha is level of spiciness. Sriracha is a little less spicy than Tabasco, which may be why it has become so popular. What’s interesting is that the tabasco pepper itself is way hotter than the red jalapeno which is found in sriracha. So, if that’s the case, why are their levels of spiciness within range of one another? The answer lies in the ingredients. The level of distilled vinegar used in Tabasco sauce cuts the spiciness of the pepper, thus making it easier for the average person to enjoy.
So, can you substitute one for the other if they’re both hot sauces? That’s a big definitive no. Sriracha contains a sweet garlic flavoring, thanks to the amount of sugar contained within. This is very different from the vinegar-heavy tabasco, which has more of a tangy taste. Their flavors are so wildly different that you’d never use them interchangeably.
Sriracha continues to grow in popularity, popping up in recipes for major restaurants, cooking websites and television shows. Do you think it will someday eclipse tabasco as the definitive hot sauce? Which hot sauce is your favorite? Let us know!