The History of Sriracha

Is there anything that doesn't taste better with Sriracha? This is the hot sauce's spicy history. 🌶️

The sauce has become a cultural phenomenon

It’s quickly become one of America’s favorite sauces. Sriracha — pronounced See-rotch-ah —was created in the small coastal Thailand town of Si Racha. But the origins of the fiery red sauce in the U.S. trace back to 1978, after refugee David Tran escaped Communist Vietnam along with 3,000 other ethnic Chinese people in a boat called Huey Fong. Granted asylum in the U.S., he settled in Los Angeles. In 1980, he founded Huy Fong Foods, Inc. and started selling red chili sauce. Frustrated by the lack of chili sauces that appealed to his tastes, Tran decided to make his own.

The company has never advertised its products, but sales grew steadily by word-of-mouth. Bon Appétit named Sriracha its 2010 Ingredient of the Year. In 2012, over 20 million bottles were sold worldwide. In 2013, the secretive factory opened its door to CBS News for the first time. 2013 also marks the year of the great Sriracha panic over a factory shutdown threat. The city of Irwindale, California filed a lawsuit against the company, after residents complained about the odors emitting from the factory. The Irwindale City Council eventually dismissed the lawsuit. Ingredients of the sauce have remained the same since 1983: fresh chilies, salt, sugar, vinegar. The iconic sauce was made exclusively with red jalapeño peppers from Underwood Farms — until 2017, when the partnership collapsed during a dispute over payments.

Utilizing fresh chilis grown in sunny southern California, he put some of his first sauces—including Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha—on the market. Sriracha carried a Thai name, a move that suggested some business acumen on his part. The sauce has become a cultural phenomenon — but it also has its critics, Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha has been also accused of being a cheap Americanized version of the authentic sauce.