Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Homemade Sriracha Chilli Sauce - Part I

In November last year, the Sriracha hot sauce factory in Irwindale, California was shut down.  I was devastated.  What would I have on top of my homemade tacos?!  Or drizzed onto Korean bulgogi buns?!  And what about the delicate balance of peanut butter, Sriracha and hoisin sauce required for the perfect sauce for Vietnamese rice paper rolls?!?!  Life as I knew it was over.

After waking up on the ground, having fainted, I was struck with an idea.... a BRILLIANT idea!  I could make my own Sriracha sauce!

But seriously, melodramatic rant aside, one of the first recipes I made for this blog was a Homemade Tomato Ketchup with Chipotle and Ancho Chillies.  It tasted pretty good, but it was early in in my preserving adventures and I made 2 crucial mistakes: 1) it wasn't tomato season and, 2) I think I added too much vinegar (rookie error).  So I was hoping this sauce would restore faith in my abilities and turn out a bit better than the ketchup.

For me, the other issue with making sriracha sauce, is my questionable tolerance to chilli.  Don't get me wrong, I really love chilli, but unfortunately I've got the 'sweaty reaction' gene, so after eating a couple of chillies or something particularly spicy, I end up looking like I've just walked through a car wash.

But even in light of these obstacles, I pressed on and set out on the arduous journey towards sriracha perfection.

The first step was getting hold of some appropriate chillies.  Most of the recipes online ask for red jalapenos and long red thai chillies.  I managed to find the long red ones quite easily (they're available everywhere) but I could only find green jalapenos at Paddy's Markets. I decided that the green ones would have to do.

One of my mates, @thetalentedmrhatten, moved houses last year and his new place had a big balcony, on which he's started growing some herbs...then fruit...then more herbs... and then he just went a bit crazy with growing chillies.  He cultivated four different types - Red Rocoto chillies, little red African Peri Peri chillies, lemon drop peppers (aji limon), and the fieriest of the lot, the orange Habanero chillies.

His chilli plants were all going mental, so he had an abundance of chillies and no idea what to do with them.  That's where I stepped in to save the day, and proposed a chilli exchange - fresh chillies in exchange for Sriracha - it's a win-win situation! So one night he rode over on his motorbike, dressed in ridiculous Robocop-esque motorbike armour, and dropped off a great big bag of them.

African Piri Piri
Lemon Drop Peppers
Now that I had gathered together a haul of diverse chillies, the next step was the fermentation - the key to Sriracha's unique flavour.  Suspecting that @thetalentedmrhatten's chillies would be quite spicy, I decided to keep the store bought chillies separate from the home grown ones, and make two different batches.

Blending up the chillies with some salt and sugar draws out the water and prevents spoilage, and simultaneously promotes the growth of good bacteria that creates lactic acid and promotes preservation.

Safe Batch - The batch with green jalapenos and long red chillies
Toxic Batch - The batch with the homegrown chillies

Chillies ready for fermentation
Post-blending, the store bought chillies smelled great, particularly with the addition of a load of garlic cloves. The home grown ones on the other hand, smelled intense; really really intense.   First you'd get a nice fruity, floral fragrance, probably from the lemon drop peppers, but this pleasant smell was then followed with an overpowering waft of Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chillies.  It really cleared the sinuses! And I was sweaty already, and I hadn't even tasted it.

I kept the blended chillies in a few jars at room temperature for a week.  Over the course of the week they softened and the blended mixture expanded as gas was produced from the fermentation.  The scent of the mixtures also changed, mellowing out and started to smell like the real deal.

Safe Batch
Toxic Batch

The Safe Batch getting blended down to a liquid
Pushing the sauce through a sieve
Cooking the sauce down
The Toxic Batch had more of an orange tinge

At the end of that week, I took the batches and blended each of them up separately for a few minutes until they were totally puréed.  I also added vinegar to the sauces (an important component of Sriracha) before they were cooked down to a perfect consistency.  It was a pretty messy process, which was also fraught with danger - I managed to get chilli all over my face, which was a particularly bad idea with the homegrown chilli sauce, which burned in the same way that I imagine tear gas does.  

The end result was mixed.  The store bought chillies were excellent.  I tasted just like regular Sriracha, with a bit more of a fruity flavour - the taste of real chilli.  On the other hand, my mate's home grown chillies, when blended up and boiled down into a concentrated, lava-like concoction, was absolutely bloody toxic.  The initial flavour was really interesting and floral, but this gets wiped out by an overwhelming heat, that not only lasts for ages, but may also cause other, uhum, ramifications a few hours later.  And I only had tasted about a quarter of a teaspoon!
Testing the Toxic Sriracha Sauce
@thetalentedmrhatten's mouth is on fire
 In Part II of the Sriracha saga:  The Sriracha Strikes Back, I'll let you know how I go in my attempt to reign in my toxic sauce....

Thought it was a good idea to label them to avoid mixing them up.
Homemade Sriracha Chilli Sauce Recipe

What you need:
  • 1kg of chillies, with stems cut off but with the green crowns/tops left on;
  • 2 tablespoons of ground sea salt;
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar;
  • 8 cloves of garlic (about half a bulb), crushed and chopped;
  • 1/3 cup of white vinegar (I used a mixture of coconut vinegar and rice wine vinegar).
Making the Sriracha:
  1. Processing the Chillies:  Put your chillies into a food processor with the salt, sugar and garlic.  Blend until all of the chilli and garlic is very finely chopped and the salt and sugar is mixed through.  
  2. Preparing for Fermentation:  Scoop the mixture out of the food processor and into a sterilised jar or air-tight container.  
  3. Fermentation:  Allow the chilli mixture to sit at room temperature in a dark place for seven days.  Check the mixture daily and give it a stir when you check it.  If any mould is growing on top, scoop it out of the jar.  
  4. Blending:  After 7 days, pour the fermented mixture into a blender, add in the vinegar and blitz for five minutes, until the mixture is completely liquidized. 
  5. Push Through a Sieve:  Pour the blended sauce into a sieve and push the liquid through and into a pot.  The sieve should catch any remaining chilli seeds and large chunks of chilli.  
  6. Simmer down: Bring the sieved mixture to the boil and simmer on a low heat until it reaches a consistency just like the store-bought Sriracha (it should coat the back of a spoon).  Taste for salt or sugar.  Make sure that the sauce is balanced.  Watch out for splattering.
  7. Seal and store:  Pour the finished sauce into a sterilised jar or squeeze container and store in the fridge!  
You've got to be careful when sterilising jars! This could happen! 


  1. This Blog is so hot right now!

  2. this is bloody awesome, ive always wanted to make sriracha!

  3. ha I've been stocking on real sriracha sauce since those headlines hit the news but making your own is brilliant. I was already wondering how you coped with cooking them and winced when you said they went on your face. OUCH!

  4. LOL this post is brilliant down to the Toxic vs Safe labels! Yes you don't want to mix them up! :D

  5. Homemade chili sauce!? I love spicy foods.I wanna try this in My homeland Kiama Australia.

  6. Your version is way better and fresher. I just found out that pringles are doing sriracha flavour

    1. Thanks! Sriracha flavoured pringles! That sounds fantastic... but do they beat the chili flavoured kettle chips?