Whether it’s that devilish Rooster Sauce made by Huy Fong Foods or a home-made variety, Sriracha is about as popular as they come among hot sauces. Right there with Tabasco it’s a staple in nearly every grocery store and widely available in restaurants. It’s a popular hot sauce, but how hot is Sriracha really? Where does it fit in on the Scoville scale?
Surprising to many, Sriracha’s hot pepper base is typically none other than the jalapeño pepper. Yes, the same jalapeño that sits at the lower end of medium on the pepper scale.
“But wait”, you may be asking, “It tastes a heck of a lot hotter than other jalapeño sauces I’ve tried.” That’s true. And there’s a good reason.
Sriracha uses red jalapeño peppers, the fully ripened form of the chili. With the ripening comes a kick up in heat (an increase in capsaicin) to the upper end of the jalapeños range (2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units). Your normal jalapeño will typically fall somewhere in the middle of that range (with many coming in pretty close to the mild depending on where they are grown and the plant itself). Red jalapeño peppers are more likely to hit the 5,000 to 8,000 SHU range much more often.
How does Sriracha compare to other hot sauces in the grocery store aisle?
In terms of the hot sauces you normally find in general grocery stores, it holds its own in terms of heat. It’s a definite medium bite, but not as strong as most of the seriously spicy sauces made with habaneros or scotch bonnets that are showing up more and more in grocery stores. We say most because the more ingredients a hot sauce has (fruits, mustards, etc) the more diluted the heat from the pepper will be. With Sriracha hot sauces there normally aren’t many ingredients between you and the hot pepper, so it can pack a surprising punch comparatively.
Of course, there are a lot stronger hot sauces out there that you can buy online and at specialty stores, some of which leave Sriracha heat (as well as habanero heat) well in the dust. Those are for the true chiliheads that love a real taste bud challenge. Sriracha’s heat is very “eatable”, and that’s a big reason why it has become as popular as it has.