Sriracha shortage sparks alternative sauce search – but will other brands have staying power?

The specific spicy-sweet flavor is hard to replicate.

By Michael MarksJuly 18, 2023 3:26 pm, ,

Sriracha, the iconic red hot sauce with a rooster on the label, isn’t quite as essential as salt and pepper for most restaurants. But it’s not far behind.

Sriracha is a staple condiment for Asian cuisines in particular. But it’s currently in short supply. Its manufacturer, California-based Huy Fong Foods, can’t get enough of a key ingredient: red jalapeños. 

Bao Ong, restaurant columnist for the Houston Chronicle, spoke to the Texas Standard about how some Houston restaurants are trying to get around the shortage.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: I know some people who put Sriracha on pretty much everything, but I’m curious: Who’s getting hurt hardest by this Sriracha shortage?

Bao Ong: Well, it’s a big challenge for restaurants, you know. Huy Fong Foods, who makes the most notable Sriracha brand in the U.S., has had a shortage for about the last year, and it’s gotten worse in the last few months. There are bottles on eBay that have sold for $150. You can’t find it at the grocery store. Restaurants are creating their own lines of hot sauce for the shortage.

You are kidding. So some house brands of Sriracha have emerged?

Yes. So, for example, here in Houston, there’s a brand called Mama La’s is from the family behind Kim Son Restaurants, which are very popular in town. And in the past few months, they started making their own hot sauce because it was just impossible to find the name-brand Sriracha – the Huy Fong Foods brand, that is.

And they’ve kind of tweaked the recipe. They just recently sold 30,000 bottles, and they’re in the process of filling 100,000 more. I was just in Asiatown this weekend to find this particular brand. And sure enough,  it was at a Hong Kong Market.

» GET MORE NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE: Sign up for our weekly ‘Talk of Texas’ newsletter

So is this something that you think could have maybe some marketing legs after this Sriracha shortage is formally over? 

I think that will be the interesting question. You know, because this shortage has been going on for so long, people have started looking at other alternatives, such as this Mama La’s brand, which some restaurants in Houston are using.

But I think that’s the big question: Can these other brands live up to this kind of nostalgia that everyone has for the Huy Fong Foods Sriracha? You know, that iconic green cap bottle is what everyone is used to finding at a pho restaurant. It’s used in, you know, spicy tuna rolls. It has a very distinct taste that people feel very attached to.

Well, that’s the question: What is it that makes Sriracha so irreplaceable – or seemingly irreplaceable?

Well, until this past year, you know, it was also very affordable. David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods – it’s based in Southern California – he has this tale of, you know, kind of from immigrant to successful entrepreneur. He’s said at one point that it was always his goal to to create a rich man’s sauce at a poor man’s price.

For so many years, people could buy a bottle Sriracha for about $3, and people would put it on everything: an omelet, their fried rice, any kind of noodle dish. And, you know, this kind of like slightly tangy, spicy and sweet flavor – there’s all these other brands, but no one quite captures that same recipe.

You mentioned that this Sriracha shortage has been going on much longer than perhaps a lot of folks realize, a couple of years now. Any end in sight to the shortage?

Well, it really hit last summer, and Huy Fong Foods said that is related to some climate issues, some supply chain issues. There was a slight recovery in the fall, but the problem started happening again earlier this spring.

And now you see, you know, people trying to hoard bottles of Sriracha. And that’s why you see those prices on eBay that are so crazy. But, you know, the company hasn’t put any kind of timeline on when the shortage will be over. And right now you’re seeing more and more brands on the market stepping up.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on and Thanks for donating today.