Sriracha Ingredients: What’s In This Popular Hot Sauce?

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Sure anyone with a love of chili peppers has likely tasted Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, but do you know what peppers are in there? The Sriracha label says the generic “Chili” which, any lover of spicy foods knows, opens up a wide world of what it hot pepper it could be. Let’s take a look at those Sriracha ingredients and get a better understanding of what makes this popular hot sauce tick. There’s a surprising hot pepper behind the heat that many people don’t realize exists. 

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02/18/2024 08:29 am GMT

Table of Contents

The Sriracha ingredients list

The back of the Sriracha label lists the following main ingredients:

  • Chili
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Sodium Bisulfite
  • Xanthan Gum

The “chili” in Sriracha is…

A surprising hot pepper is behind the famous Rooster Sauce – red jalapeño. Surprised? Some may be. Many don’t realize that jalapeños come in different colors. We are just used to eating them before they are fully mature when they are green in color. Jalapeño peppers mature into a beautiful crimson red color, and with it, their heat increases as well. The level of capsaicin in red jalapeño is much higher than it would be in the same pepper when it was young and green.

That’s also why this hot sauce tastes hotter than your normal jalapeño hot sauce. Red jalapeños bring the heat hammer quite a bit more than the green varieties. They’ll live at the upper end of the typical heat range for these peppers (2,500 – 8,000 Scoville heat units).

Some homemade sriracha sauces use Fresno chilies instead of red jalapeños. This can work, but the Fresno peppers tend to give a brighter taste to the blend than the earthier taste of the jalapeño.

The other Rooster Sauce ingredients

It’s likely pretty obvious what garlic, salt, sugar, and distilled vinegar bring to the table. They all help give Sriracha its great taste. The others are more of a mystery, but we’ve done the digging for you here:

Potassium sorbate is a colorless salt, it’s used as a preservative to increase the overall shelf life of the hot sauce.

Sodium bisulfite may sound like it’s salt, but it’s closer to sulfur in terms of chemical composition. It’s again a preservative.

Xanthan gum has a fermented corn sugar base, and it’s used as a food additive to increase a sauce’s thickness and to act as a binding agent for the ingredients. It helps sauces that sit on store shelves to stay mixed and not separate.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on April 10, 2022 to include new content.
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“PepperScale June 30, 2019 at 9:10 pm Hi Rob – Sriracha itself tends to hover at the lower end of the jalapeño heat. Approximately 2,200 SHU or so. Frank’s is a lot less spicy.” That’s pretty dang hot if you ask me! Thanks a bunch for this post! Very informative to the curious mind, not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy your post as it directly answered my question but you should consider a bit more information, maybe your favorite homemade sriracha recipes (i’m addicted, I can’t get enough and it goes on everything I eat, sometimes just pouring it directly… Read more »

Rob L

So, you say red jalapeño peppers are 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, but what about the Sriracha Sauce itself?

For example you list Frank’s Hot Sauce at 450 SHU while the cayenne peppers used to make it are 30,000 to 50,000.

Partly wondering since, in my son’s opinion, Frank’s and Sriracha are about the same “hotness” as each other but I disagree.