Huy Fong Sriracha Lovers Are Moving On

The rooster hot sauce is back, but for some fans, its return is too little too late.

Huy Fong sriracha has finally made its triumphant comeback after years of shortages and scarcity, but not everyone is happy. As I noted in my own taste test of the new batch, it tastes a little different now than it did before it disappeared. Namely, it's a bit lacking in the heat department, much to the chagrin of those who crave the intensity of the original. For some former rooster sauce loyalists, the return is simply too little, too late—Huy Fong left them at the altar, and they've since moved on. Now, they're in happily committed relationships with other, hotter sriracha brands.

During the extended shortage, I switched to Roland sriracha, for no particular reason other than that it was easily available and reminiscent of the product I knew and loved. But according to recent data compiled by NielsenIQ (via Fortune), Tabasco brand makes the most popular sriracha in the country. This is only surprising because of how new it is; the sriracha product only debuted in 2014. Presumably, its popularity is due in large part to Tabasco's huge name recognition for its classic pepper sauce, along with some clever marketing around the product.

Tabasco subtly mocked Huy Fong's production problems by registering the domain SrirachaShortage.com, positioning itself as a direct alternative to the OG. In the online hot sauce community, Tabasco's sriracha is divisive. Some people love it, some hate it, but all agree that the company's namesake product, a thinner pepper sauce, is very present in the taste. As one Redditor put it, the sriracha tastes like Huy Fong "tried to make Tabasco."

Other popular Huy Fong sriracha alternatives

Despite its apparent popularity, Tabasco sriracha never came up in the course of my own informal polling. In fact, when I asked friends on Instagram and strangers on Reddit which brands overtook their Huy Fong allegiance, only two names came up.

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My Instagram followers, a group composed primarily of people I personally know based on the East Coast, all said they'd switched to Trader Joe's. I found this very interesting, as I've tried Trader Joe's sriracha several times and absolutely hated it. It is in no way comparable to the original rooster sauce. The consistency is much runnier, and the cap is a pop-off with a wider spout than Huy Fong's twisting nozzle cap. This, combined with the thinner consistency, makes it very hard to control how much sauce comes out of the bottle.

One friend of mine is sticking with Trader Joe's despite all that—actually, because of all that. "It's not the same, but at the same time, it feels more honest," they explained to me. "Every other knock-off sriracha I've seen still has the green cap. With TJ's sriracha I don't feel like I'm living a lie." And like most items at Trader Joe's, it's a cost-effective alternative at $3.99 for an 18-oz. bottle.

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Redditors, on the other hand, overwhelmingly preferred a different alternative: Underwood Ranches. For the uninitiated, Underwood Ranches was Huy Fong's sole pepper supplier for nearly three decades until a bitter dispute severed their business arrangement, leaving Huy Fong scrambling to find new suppliers, which ultimately led to the years-long sriracha shortage. (I wrote more extensively about this here.) Now, Underwood is making its own sriracha sauce with the original peppers that once made Huy Fong so good.

However, the sauce is not exactly easy to come by. Underwood doesn't have the distribution reach of Huy Fong, so it's likely not going to be on the shelf at your local grocery store anytime soon. The farm sells sriracha, along with its other hot sauces, on its website, but at $12 a bottle, it's easily the most expensive popular alternative. Nonetheless, some fans swore the sauce was worth every penny. As Underwood claims in its trademarked slogan, The Peppers Make The Sauce.

As for me, I'll be going back to Huy Fong. It's only $4 or $5 a bottle in my neighborhood, depending on the store, and it's still my favorite hot sauce even though it's now a little different. What can I say? I'm exclusively attracted to people who are unavailable—even if it's only temporary.

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