What The Hell Happened To Huy Fong Sriracha?

The beloved hot sauce disappeared for months. Now it's back—but might not be the same.

Like many millennials, I have to rank sriracha as my favorite condiment. Hot sauce is already versatile, but unlike most hot sauces, sriracha adds some enticing garlicky flavor instead of just pure heat, and its thicker consistency makes it ideal for dipping. While there are numerous brands available, the undisputed king is Huy Fong. The rooster bottle is to sriracha what Heinz is to ketchup. So why has it been so elusive in recent years?

The Huy Fong shortage, explained

Back in July 2020, Huy Fong sent shockwaves through the market by warning the public that in the midst of COVID-related supply chain issues, a sriracha shortage loomed. What many thought would be a few months without the beloved condiment turned out to be a few years, with the sauce virtually disappearing from store shelves. Finding a bottle of sriracha was like finding a needle in a haystack, with fans joyously posting on Reddit when they found a bottle in the wild. A black market even sprung up, with bottles selling for upwards of $150.


The company cited severe drought issues as the cause of the shortage, and reiterated this when it suspended production in April 2022. But it turns out there was more to the story.

Huy Fong’s issues go back farther than 2020

For 28 years, California-based Underwood Ranches acted as Huy Fong's sole supplier of chili peppers. But a tense argument in November 2016 led to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit and the end of the companies' longstanding partnership, as Fortune details.


Huy Fong sued Underwood in 2017, claiming the company was overcharged for the previous year's pepper harvest, and Underwood countersued, alleging fraud and breach of contract. The court found that Huy Fong did in fact overpay by $1.4 million, but ultimately ruled in Underwood's favor, ordering Huy Fong to pay the farmer more than $23 million ($13.3 million in compensatory damages, $10 million in punitive damages), minus the $1.4 million overcharge, in 2019.

With the decades-long relationship terminated, Huy Fong began sourcing jalapeños from Mexican farms that couldn't keep up with the demand, leading to sriracha production issues. Although Huy Fong spun this in the media as a "chili shortage" that seemingly stemmed from environmental factors (like the ones that affect our orange, peach, and wine supply), there wasn't truly a shortage in the strictest sense. Underwood even told NBC Los Angeles last year that his jalapeño crops were doing just fine and that there would be no sriracha shortage at all if Underwood and Huy Fong hadn't fallen out.


Now, however, Huy Fong seems to have surreptitiously aggregated new spice suppliers, and those beloved rooster bottles are finally reappearing on grocery store shelves across the country. Rejoice, right? Well, not exactly.

Does Huy Fong sriracha taste different now?

Sriracha lovers on the web are claiming that the new peppers have resulted in a product that is markedly different from the Huy Fong sriracha they know and love. Multiple users on one Reddit thread claim the new product tastes like "dirty carrots." Other Redditors noticed that the color of the sauce is now a bit more orange, whereas the original is more of a dark red. The general consensus seems to be that the new stuff tastes different—namely, it's allegedly not as hot as it used to be.


Redditors, you have my attention. I managed to find a bottle of the "new sriracha" in a local market and put it to the test to see if it hits the same dopamine receptors it did before.

After whipping up some frozen chicken dumplings in my air fryer, I put a nice puddle of the Huy Fong sauce on my plate to dip the dumplings in, ensuring a nice big mouthful of heat. Upon the first bite, my brain's pleasure centers immediately lit up. It initially tasted exactly as I remembered: a nice balance of garlic, chili, and vinegar. My heart sang. My eyelids fluttered. It was perfect. Or so I thought.

During the shortage I tried a couple Huy Fong alternatives, but the one I kept going back to was Roland. Although it doesn't taste identical to the rooster sauce, it's more than serviceable. When I tasted it side-by-side with the new Huy Fong, I noticed that Roland was spicier, much spicier, and its heat lingered longer. The more I went back and forth between the two srirachas, the more I realized that the new Huy Fong actually isn't very spicy at all. The classic garlicky, vinegary taste is still there, but the classic heat seems to have dropped off. In fact, on the basis of the heat we expect from sriracha, this tastes more like a separate condiment altogether.


Ultimately, whether or not you'll like the newly formulated rooster sauce—or even notice a difference at all—will depend on what you liked about the original. If you liked its smooth, garlicky taste, you will continue to be satisfied by the rooster bottle. But if you're looking for that punchy spice, you're better off seeking alternatives like Roland or Tabasco sriracha.