Does sriracha sauce have to be red? I think you have the answer in the title. But if you want to make a red fermented sriracha, and/or get lots of advice on making a sauce safe for shipping or sharing (i.e. making it non-explosive), click here and read through that post.
A while back I had written a guide to crafting hot sauces based on colors and heat levels of peppers. As a case in point, this is a recipe for an orange-colored sriracha using orange Manzano peppers and orange Habaneros (and you could certainly swap those out for others like Scotch Bonnets, orange Cayennes, Aji naranja, or the many options out there).
Because sriracha is so simple and versatile, it also serves as an amazing base sauce from which you can craft more complex flavors. So after this sriracha recipe, I’ll give guidance on adding ingredients and give a recipe for a sauce I made using this sriracha as the base.
Let’s quickly review the basic ingredients of sriracha. Although the popular (unfermented) store brands normally add vinegar, this isn’t necessary with fermented sriracha because the fermentation process is what’s going to achieve that sour/acidic flavor and low pH (both of which are offered by vinegar in an unfermented sauce). For a fermented sriracha, all that is really needed is: peppers, garlic (or garlic powder), brine (i.e. saltwater), and sugar.
It’s interesting how we become so accustomed to certain foods having a certain color or look that we can forget there’s no rules dictating this and it can be fun to break out of the mold sometimes. There’s nothing that says kimchi has to be red, which is why I have a recipe on this site for a green, yellow, and orange kimchi (with others to come).
Likewise, there’s no reason sriracha has to be red. There are so many amazing peppers with different colors and flavor profiles. In fact, the peppers used in the popular Huy Fong Brands sauce is the red jalapeno, which is certainly not the same pepper used for the sauces that originated in the Thai town of Si Racha (the birthplace of the iconic sauce).
Notes on pepper choice:
In the photos shown I used 20 orange manzano peppers (from Peru and typically found in Latin American grocers), a total of 2.75 lbs. Also added were 0.20 lbs. orange habaneros, which was about 10 habs. The Manzano is a fair bit larger than a hab. Both are known for being very hot but with a fruity, citrusy flavor. To get a sense of comparison, red jalapenos are closer to 8,000 scovilles. Manzanos can be upwards of 30,000, and Habs are listed as between 150,000 – 325,000, which is why they were a more minor component.
I knew I’d be using this sriracha as a base to add fruits, sugars, and liquids later for a different final product, but if you don’t plan to do that, adding the Habs may not be necessary and might make the sriracha too hot for you. Just something to think about.
Scotch Bonnets, which I frequently see at conventional grocery stores (often as the only alternative to green jalapenos), are very comparable to Habs. If you only have access to these, I’d recommend using about a half pound of them and making up the remaining 2.5 lbs. with orange Bell peppers or orange sweet peppers. Of course, these decisions also should be based on how hot you like things. My sauces are quite hot in my opinion, but I’m not into the “superhot” varieties or really punishing myself. If you want mild, bear in mind a single Scotch Bonnet or Hab will go a long way.
Over a few ferments, you’ll start to get the feel for what will yield the right heat for you.
You will need: half-gallon jar; knife and cutting board; latex gloves (for handling peppers and removing seeds); measuring cups & spoons; blender for processing after the ferment (or other preferred saucing equipment); sauce funnel (recommended if using sauce bottles)
- Between 3 – 3.5 lbs. orange colored peppers (before tops and seeds removed)
- 10-20 cloves garlic (I use 20); ~13-25 grams
- 2.5 TBS non-iodized salt (can round up or down as desired)
- 4 cups filtered, distilled, or otherwise clean water
Added after the ferment (at blending):
- 1/4 cup sugar (~40g); white, brown, organic, any variety is okay
- 3 TBS white vinegar (optional; suggested if peppers fermented less than a month)
1.) Dissolve the salt in water by combining in jar and shaking vigorously; transfer the saltwater to a bowl or pitcher, to add back to the jar later
2.) Rinse the peppers in cool water; remove the tops, cut peppers in half, and discard the seeds
3.) Once removed of seeds, rough chop the peppers some more
4.) Since garlic is more prone to floating, place them at the bottom of the jar, then top with the chopped peppers
5.) Fill the jar with peppers; it should reach to just below the shoulder (can press down if needed)
6.) Next add the brine, slowly, ensuring all crevices get filled, until the brine level at the shoulder.
7.) Add the fermentation weight so everything is held down and fully submerged in brine
8.) Apply the airlock lid and ferment for the desired length or pH level. The peppers featured in this recipe were fermented four months.
Notes on length: A fully complete ferment has a pH of 3.2 but anything below a 4.6 is considered “acidified” (inhospitable to foodborne pathogens). A 4.0 or below will have the sour flavor most people seek in a fermented sauce. If you want to be sure, buy a pH tester or test strips. Fermenting for a few a month is a good assurance you’ve hit a pH of 4.0 or below. Many fermenters go longer since flavors will deepen, meld, and sour over time; in the minds of many, the longer the wait, the better the flavor.
1.) It’s suggested to wear gloves and remove the ferment (the peppers and garlic) from the brine. The brine should be reserved. Tipping the jar to pour the brine into a bowl, obviously, is the quickest method. However, since the brine can get rather yeasty at the bottom with less desirable flavors, you may want to use tongs or find some way to remove the veggies while keeping the brine in the jar and the yeast at the bottom, but it’s up to you.
2.) Place everything in the blender, add the sugar, vinegar, and a cup of the brine (this may be about all you have, and remember to keep the yeasty stuff out if you can). Blend on high for 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, pulse for a few minutes.
3.) The sauce can be bottled at this time (or further ingredients can be added, discussed in Phase II below). Unless you know the pH, the added sugars, even with the vinegar, can kickstart fermentation back into action. If you’re unsure of pH, keep the bottles in the fridge and you’re advised not to go long periods without opening the cap. Another solution is to bring the sauce to a boil in a pot, reduce to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Note that this will kill any probiotic bacteria in your sauce… for some, this means the whole purpose of the ferment has been lost. On the flipside, it will lock in your flavor and prevent explosive bottles. This is a personal decision.
Phase II: Adding Fresh Fruits, Herbs, Spices to Build Complex Flavors
As with the sugar added above, adding fruits and even herbs or spices will introduce additional sugars into the ferment. What’s more, herbs and spices will typically have natural yeasts and bacteria on them which could even further intensify a restarted ferment. The refrigeration method will still work, but again you may choose to deal with this by boiling (essentially heat canning) the sauce.
It’s up to you what to add to your sriracha base, if anything. The sky is the limit though. I like to think about items out there within a similar color range as a guide. I also had the fruity, citrusy notes of the peppers I used in mind. I could have added mango, apricot, melon, I had lots of ideas and there’s countless options.
Ingredients: In this case, I added one ripe persimmon (peeled), the fresh squeezed juice of one tangerine, and about 1/3 of a pineapple (400g). (By the way, if you are throwing away your pineapple skins and cores, you’ve got to check out the fermented drink tepache!)
Lastly, I added 2 TBSP of Chinese 5-Spice. Chinese 5 Spice, in case you’re not familiar, is a rich and aromatic blend of five spices commonly used in Chinese cooking. It typically includes anise, star anise, cinnamon, black or white pepper, and fennel (though I made my own mix with ginger and cloves, no fennel or pepper).
Want a different flavor? Try the same thing but with Curry powder instead of 5 Spice, or some other spice or blend you enjoy. What fruits would it pair well with? Just some “food for thought.”
Processing: After blending the fruits, spice, and sriracha sauce together for about 5 minutes on high, I chose to heat treat it as I knew I’d be mailing these to several friends. Bring the sauce to a boil, immediately reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. I then blended it again for another 3-4 minutes, ensuring an extremely smooth sauce that wouldn’t get stuck in the bottle.
Here’s a look at the finished product, bottled:
What is this sauce good on? Really, what is it not good on?
It is particularly well suited to ribs. To start, I brined the ribs in the leftover saltwater brine from the ferment. Then I dry rubbed the ribs thoroughly with Chinese 5 Spice and brown sugar. Next I applied the sauce towards the end of grilling as a glaze, and used the sauce fresh when eating too. Now those were some spicy ribs! Have a look below.
It’s also great on fish and chicken, chops, burgers, and I can only assume a lot more. A friend says it’s incredible mixed in to a bowl of pho; I’ll have to try that (like I needed an excuse to have more pho!)