Safety note: Whenever handling hot peppers, always wear disposable plastic gloves. Always. And wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after taking the gloves off.
This last week I finished making our family’s favorite: Sriracha. All the men in our family love this spicy condiment and chances are yours do too. It’s on our table at almost every meal. Last year for Christmas stocking stuffers, I bought Sriracha key-chain bottles and filled it with my homemade sauce. Now they carry it to work with them.
It is so easy to make I hope you’ll try your hand at it. It takes anywhere from a few days up to a week, so get started on it now.
Get your supplies
Start by getting a ceramic crock (or two), the kind with the latch that seals them tight. You can use a glass jar, but these crocks are so much better—they keep the mix cool and protect it from light. They’re also perfect for sourdough and culturing other vegetables (like kimchi), so they’ll get plenty of use. They’re all over the place at every thrift store for just a couple dollars, so get at least one good sized one. I usually triple my recipe, so I have three crocks.
2 lbs red peppers
6 cloves garlic
1 small onion
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 C white vinegar
Wash peppers, cut off the stems and remove all or most of the seeds. It’s okay if you don’t get 100% of the seeds out, but if you leave too many seeds in, it will be inhumanely hot. Peel the garlic and onions and quarter the onions. Put all the vegetables into the food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Put all of this into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients—sugar, salt and vinegar. Stir well.
Put your mixture into a glass jar container. Use the ceramic crock mentioned above or a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. If you use a mason jar, be sure to store the mix in a cupboard so that it is not exposed to light. Seal it up and put it aside.
Stir this mixture once every day. Smell that delicious aroma? When you stir it, you’ll see bubbles. This is the peppers fermenting. Fermenting draws out the pepper’s flavor and it also helps soften the seeds so you get some good heat from the seeds. After 5-7 days, when you don’t see any more bubbles, the fermenting is done and your mix is ready to process.
Put your now-fermented mixture into a heavy large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. When everything is nicely stewed and softened, start blending it into a sauce in batches. Put a portion of it into a blender and blend it until smooth. If it is too thick you can add vinegar or water. Repeat until everything is blended.
To strain or not to strain?
This is a matter of personal choice. Most of the sriracha recipes online will tell you to strain the blended mixture. This will eliminate any small bits of seeds or skin that didn’t get thoroughly blended and produces a nice, smooth sauce, just like what’s in the store. But after a few taste tests, the unanimous opinion in our house is to leave it chunky and unstrained. The unstrained sauce has a little more heat and the skins and seeds give it added layers of flavor.
But if you want to strain your sauce, just put a couple cups into a sieve and stir with a spoon until all that’s left is the (somewhat) dry remains of seeds and skins.
How to store
Now just store your sauce in the fridge in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Most recipes tell you that the sauce will keep for a couple months in the fridge, but I make a triple batch of sriracha and that’s enough to last us about a year. I store it in a 1/2 gallon jar and pour just enough for one month’s use into a squeeze bottle. By limiting exposure to air I’ve never had any spoilage.
The first year I made sriracha I washed out and used an old sriracha bottle, but it was hard to keep the tip clean and our thicker (lumpier) sauce often clogged the hole. Now I use a condiment squeeze bottle that has a larger hole. (Something like this.)
Traditionally we use red jalapeño peppers, to get the red color. But as you can see in my pictures, I
used a variety of peppers. This is where you can expand or vary the flavor. Choose hotter or milder peppers to get the kind of heat you want. Use a variety of peppers for a more complex flavor. There’s really no wrong way to make sriracha.
This is the end of the season and I want to use up all the peppers that came in from the garden. I always add some super hot Scotch Bonnet and the Asian Datil peppers. (My guys like it HOT!) And, since it’s the end of the season, I’ll add a few of the under-ripe peppers that are green, yellow or orange. It all gets blended together, so you’ll never see the green ones.
You can make your sriracha a little sweeter by adding sugar or molasses when you boil the fermented mix. You can also add a layer of smokiness by roasting and peeling the peppers before chopping them up for the fermentation process.
I hope you’ll try your hand at making this tasty sauce. And trust me, you will love it.