When Donna Lam, executive operations officer at Huy Fong Foods Inc., announced an impending shortage of Sriracha (the company’s most popular product) due to supply chain issues, the situation got heated pretty quickly. Spice-lovers on social media began unraveling. Some flew into “crisis” mode, hoarding March 2020-quantities of Sriracha in anticipation of dark (and bland) days ahead.
The Sriracha that most people buy at the grocery store—the one with the rooster on the bottle—is manufactured by Huy Fong Foods in Southern California. While many have taken to social media to lament the dearth of their favorite condiment, San Francisco spice-fiends need not despair.
At the end of the day, Sriracha is really just a spicy ketchup. And honestly, the Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce is a far more versatile topping. But that’s neither here nor there.
We’ve compiled a list of great hot sauces that can serve as a substitute and may even become your next favorite topping. Read on to learn about the Bay Area’s hot sauce scene, from pepper-growing firefighters to one local boutique that specializes in bringing that heat.
Sol Food, San Rafael
This Puerto Rican hot pepper sauce, known as Pique and beloved for its traditional seasonings, is a local household staple. Perfect for meats, marinades, soups, stews, or cocktails, this versatile sauce is a lovely substitute for Sriracha. Manufactured by Sol Food in San Rafael, Pique is locally-made and available for purchase online.
The Front Porch, Bernal Heights
This Bernal Heights restaurant bottles and sells its own homemade Southern- and Caribbean-style hot sauces. They have two varieties: habanero and red jalapeño, perfect for fried chicken. In addition to quenching your thirst for spice, this is a great opportunity to support a small local business. Both sauces are available for pickup, delivery or mail order.
La Victoria Taqueria, San Jose
There was a time, not that long ago, when creamy mole amarillo was far less common in the Bay Area. But that was before San Jose’s La Victoria hit upon a winning recipe. Created by La Vic founder Marcelino Barrita, this unique taco sauce has grown in stature along with the South Bay taqueria chain that birthed it. A recent profile of the Barrita family notes that they crank out 3,000 gallons of the stuff every month. And while riffs on orange taco sauce can now be found in taquerias all over the Bay Area, plenty will tell you there’s no substitute for the original. You can purchase a bottle at any LaVic’s location.
Local Grocery Stores and Online
What began as a renegade garden of chili peppers, cultivated by firefighter Lee Taylor in the backyard of a Palo Alto fire station, has grown into a thriving business. The pepper sauce is available in three varieties—Taylor’s original recipe, habanero and ghost pepper. Available at Whole Foods, online, (and as to-go chili packets at Philz Coffee), you can’t go wrong with this flaming favorite.
Papalote, Nopa & The Mission
Select Grocery Stores
The product of over half a century of family tradition and secret recipes, Papalote’s homemade roasted tomato salsas are another great alternative. Offering a lineup of four vegan, gluten-free and all-natural salsas ranging from mild and tangy to rich and smoky, this is the perfect sauce for burritos, tacos, or grilled meat and seafood.
Online & Select Stores
Founded in Hayward, Lucky Dog hot sauce places an emphasis on supporting local California farmers and businesses. Scott Zalkind started making his business at home—roasting peppers on a small barbeque in his backyard and mixing ingredients in his kitchen. He now has 10 different offerings, with flavors like Thai Chili Pineapple Sauce and Chrome, a partnership with Drake’s Brewing Co. in San Leandro. These sauces pair well with everything from burgers to lasagna.
Hook Fish Co., Outer Sunset
In Store: 4542 Irving St.
True to its name, Hook Fish Company offers the perfect hot sauce to take your seafood to the next level. Made from a happy marriage of carrots and habanero peppers, this sauce’s spice level will creep up on you with a deliciously slow burn. Savor the aftertaste, which is the best part of any great hot sauce.
Online & In Store: 2601 Blanding Ave. #163, Alameda
Hot sauce lovers know the feeling. You may not actually need every bottle in the condiment aisle, but once you get locked into a serious hot sauce collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. This East Bay business, started by self-described “chili heads” Dylan Keenan and Becky Gibbons, boasts a serious catalog of hot sauces. Stop by their shop in downtown Berkeley or order online with the option to customize your search by heat level, chile pepper, flavor profile and ingredients.