Note: This post contains an updated recipe after numerous trials and some obsessive tweaking, as well as a note about the updates at the end of the intro, before the recipe itself.
If I had to sum this post up in two words, those words would be “F#@% YES.”
Sorry, that’s a bit of an aggressive way to start off a post! But seriously, can you blame me? I have been obsessing over making this stuff for nearly eight months, ever since Joshua Bousel detailed his experiments with homemade Sriracha on Serious Eats. I planned my entire garden around it, sacrificing what would have been a variety of peppers to grow only jalapeños. And then I waited, and waited, and WAITED for those darn peppers to turn from green to red. Being an impatient person, I also spent my Saturday mornings elbow-deep in Half Pint Farm’s hot pepper bin at the market, collecting every last red jalapeño I could find. It was on one of these days that Spencer of HPF suggested that red serranos might also work well, so I started buying up those too. (A great suggestion, it turns out, as a little more research led me to the fact that serranos were once the pepper from which Sriracha was made, until the company deemed them too difficult to harvest [or perhaps too costly] and switched to red jalapeños.)
After a couple weeks, I finally had enough peppers to start my first batch. I chopped them all up in my food processor. I endured an epic coughing/sneezing/eye-watering fit as I cleaned said food processor. I tended to the mash for about 5 days, until the fermentation stopped. Then I puréed it, strained it, cooked it down, tasted it, and WHOA, was it spicy!
In a side-by-side comparison, the differences between the two sauces are quite clear. Huy Fong’s is darker in color, with an almost earthy flavor and a heat that hangs back for a minute before it kicks you in the teeth. The homemade Sriracha is brighter in both color and flavor, with a heat that hits immediately and burns hotter and longer. I believe the difference in heat intensity is due mainly to the serrano peppers, as I used a fairly even mix for the batch. As for the earthy taste, I don’t exactly miss it in the homemade version, but I am curious why it’s not there. Perhaps Huy Fong’s version undergoes a longer fermentation, or there’s a sweetener with a richer flavor added in at some point (i.e., molasses, barley malt syrup, or brown rice syrup). Regardless, I love this homemade version. I really enjoy watching other people try it for the first time, as I know they aren’t expecting it to pack such a punch. Also, I’m pretty sure this stuff completely cured me of whatever illness I was coming down with last week. I woke up one morning feeling a little tired, and then within an hour was shivering, sniffling, battling exhaustion, and sensing the beginnings of a sore throat. I made myself a garlic omelette (yes, that’s as scary as it sounds) and dipped every single piece of it in homemade Sriracha. By the time I was done, my mouth was numb, I was sweating profusely, and I was feeling CRAZY (like tweaking-out-on-capsaicin-triggered-pain-endorphines crazy). I still didn’t feel that great for the rest of the day, but I woke up the next morning and felt pretty much fine. The next day, I felt even better. I couldn’t believe it. I was definitely getting sick, and then my symptoms just disappeared. Freaking awesome.
So, why make your own Sriracha? I realize that the DIY process just might not appeal to some, especially when you can go and buy a perfectly delicious bottle of the stuff pretty much anywhere these days. It’s certainly not any cheaper (unless you grow the peppers and garlic yourself). And it requires attention and patience. But if you read the title of this post and said, “oh hell yes!” without a second thought, then I probably don’t even need to explain why doing this is awesome. You can experiment with ingredients. You can control the consistency of the sauce. You get to make your entire kitchen/pantry reek of spicy, fermenting peppers. And when you’re done, you get to say to people, “that’s right, I MADE Sriracha.”
(Side note: I’d like to thank my mom for letting me borrow her tiny antique rooster, which belonged to the mother of a close friend. [Hi Andrea!] When I first asked to borrow it this past week, right before she and my dad left me alone to house sit for a few days, she flat out refused. I already knew that this thing had to be part of the pictures, so I decided I’d just have to steal it and deal with the repercussions. But then I asked her once more over the phone, and she replied, “I thought about it, and you can borrow it.” She followed that with, “However, you might think what I’m about to say is crazy, but you need to do this if you want to take it. Go to the back room. Get a jewelery box. Put the rooster in the box. Put a rubber band around the box. Put the box in your purse. When you’re done with the pictures, do the exact same thing. DO NOT LOSE IT.” Thanks again, Mom. I’m pleased to have avoided antique theft, and incurring The Wrath of Helen.)
UPDATE: I have made a LOT of batches of this stuff, tweaking things and changing up peppers and the sugar ratio to develop a deeper, earthier flavor. Here is what I’ve found works best:
Using some half-red/half-green serranos and jalapenos, and throwing some completely green ones in the mix as well. My favorite batches have used 1/2 completely red serranos/jalapenos, around 1/4–1/3 of the half/half colored, and the rest completely green. These not-so-hot flavor of the green peppers seems to mellow out the in-your-face bright heat that was present in my first batch.
Doubling the sugar, and going with dark brown. This causes the mash to ferment about a day or two longer. The prolonged fermentation and the molasses-y taste of the brown sugar seemed to add the earthiness I was looking for.
Swap out half the kosher salt for smoked sea salt. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Smokiness = awesomeness.
yield: 1 1/2 cups
- 1 1/2 lbs of jalalpeños and red serranos, stems snipped off, leaving green tops intact:
— 3/4 lb should be 100% red
— around 1/2 lb or a little less should be partially green/partially red
— the remaining 1/4+ should be completely green)
(Adjust the ratio based on how spicy you’d like the final product to be. I did a 1:1 ratio, and it was quite a bit hotter than Huy Fong’s. The more serranos you use, the spicier the sauce will be.)
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 8 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
- 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar
Place peppers, garlic, sugar, and salt in your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, you could finely chop the peppers and garlic by hand, then mix in the sugar and salt.)
Transfer mixture to a clean jar, then cover and let sit at room temperature. (I put the mash in a mason jar with the lid screwed on very loosely. You want to give your mixture a little breathing room, so don’t screw the top on too tight. Alternatively, you could forgo the jar/lid combo and just use a bowl and plastic wrap.) Store in a dark, dry place.
Check the jar every day for fermentation. (This should begin after 2–3 days.) Once you begin to see bubbles/liquid-y magic at the bottom of the jar, fermentation has begun! (For me, this began after 2 days.) Stir contents each day, until the contents of the jar are no longer rising in volume from the fermentation. (My mash hit this point after 5 days.)
Transfer mash to your food processor/blend, add vinegar, and purée until completely smooth. (To get the mixture really smooth, I let my food processor run for about 10 minutes straight.) Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a heavy saucepan, stirring and mashing it through the sieve until you’ve gotten every last bit of spicy goodness through. When you’ve finished, only seed and large chili chunks should remain in the sieve.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5–10 minutes, or until you’ve achieved a desirable consistency. (I let mine go until the sauce began to “spit” a little.) Transfer to a clean, airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
(If you know a lot of Sriracha addicts, make as much of this stuff as you possibly can! I’ve already done three batches, and I’m trying to get in one more before the red jalapeños and serranos disappear from the market. Or just make a quadruple batch and keep it all for yourself. I totally understand.)