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IMPORTANT EDIT – Dec 4th ’18: Turns out things aren’t quite what they once were! Be sure to scroll down to the comments section to get the latest answer to the “Is Sriracha Vegan?” question!
There’s a sauce craze sweeping the globe. It’s name? Sriracha.
Sriracha, if you (somehow) haven’t heard, is a red hot chili sauce packaged by Huy Fong Foods. From Sriracha inspired clothing, to recipes for Sriracha ice cream, to what is essentially a Sriracha cult with millions of devotees (you can even book tours of their manufacturing plant!), this fiery condiment is beloved by millions.
Yep, the world loves Sriracha. But, have you ever been offered this spicy concoction at a restaurant or friend’s house, and had to stop and think – “Is Sriracha vegan?”
At first glance, it’s not really obvious if Sriracha is vegan – it’s not as if all food products are required to state whether they are vegan or not on the packaging, after all. And then there’s that handsome rooster on the front. What’s all that about?
Never fear, in this post not only are we going to answer the big question- is Sriracha vegan?- we’re also going to answer questions about Sriracha you didn’t even know you had! Because, let’s be honest here, who doesn’t want to indulge in spicy, savory, hot chili goodness?
What is Sriracha anyway?
Sriracha sauce is named after the city in which it was first created, Si Racha, located on the eastern coast of Thailand. Ms. Thanom Chakkapak dreamed up this spicy condiment and initially only shared it with her family and friends. After a positive response, however, she started manufacturing it commercially.
The original Sriracha sauce, as Ms. Chakkapak created it, was produced and sold under the label Sriraja Panich and was mainly sold in Thailand. In fact it is still in production, although it is much more difficult to find outside of the Land of Smiles than its widely known green-capped competitor. That said, if you’re interested in trying it, you can buy it on Amazon here. (You can buy pretty much everything on Amazon, it would seem!).
The rooster sauce that you see splattered across grocery store shelves and the Internet came into being in 1980, when a Vietnamese immigrant named David Tran founded Huy Fong Foods and started producing his own version of the sauce. There are several different brands that produce what is technically sriracha style sauce, but Huy Fong Foods has quickly become the most recognized and most popular. Generally when someone refers to Sriracha, the green-capped bottle with the rooster on the front is what comes to mind.
How is Sriracha made?
Sriracha is made by grinding a special chili pepper, a jalapeño-chile hybrid, into a paste. This paste is then mixed with vinegar, sugar, garlic, and a few preservatives. That’s it!
There was a bit of controversy in 2014, when the Sriracha company was facing a lawsuit due to complaints about a smell in the surrounding area during chili grinding season. Changes were made, however, and peace was restored to Southern California.
Right around the time of the controversy, Refinery 29 took a video tour of the factory, including some footage of the manufacturing process. Check it out!
Is Sriracha vegan?
So, back to the question at hand – is Sriracha vegan?
The answer, my friends, is yes. If we examine the ingredients in this spicy sauce, we find the following – chili, sugar, salt, garlic, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite, and xanthan gum. All of these ingredients are veggie friendly – hooray!
One quick thing to keep in mind: Sriracha mayo, also known as samurai sauce, is usually not vegan. Remember that although sriracha does not include animal products, mayonnaise is manufactured with eggs. Therefore a sriracha mayonnaise or a samurai sauce is likely not vegan if it doesn’t explicitly say otherwise. Avoid!
Is Sriracha bad for you?
Although the rooster sauce may be vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. Consider the classic example of Oreos – those bad boys are definitely vegan, but they are also definitely not something you should be putting into your body with any frequency. So this begs the question – is Sriracha bad for you? Let’s dig in.
One serving of Sriracha is about one teaspoon. That one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce will contain 1 full gram of sugar and about 100 milligrams of sodium. To put that into perspective, one teaspoon of ketchup contains 1.2 grams of sugar, and 50 milligrams of sodium.
Most of us don’t consider ketchup to be the most healthful of condiments, so seeing that comparison can be a little disheartening. However I would like to point out that, when using either ketchup or Sriracha sauce, most of us would limit our sriracha consumption at 1-2 tablespoons, but would indulge in far more ketchup.
Another thing to note is the presence of xanthan gum. This additive may be derived from wheat, corn, or soy. Therefore, someone with a wheat, corn, or soy allergy could potentially experience an allergic reaction to the sauce, depending on the source of the xanthan gum. Unfortunately, there is no way to differentiate among xanthan gum sourced from different grains.
NOTE: Xanthan gum can, occasionally, be manufactured using lactose as a base. While this is rare, it can happen, but the good news is that the label will always state its inclusion. Food regulators require manufacturers to declare the presence of lactose due to the increase of dairy allergies.
The takeaway? As with pretty much everything, always read the label!
Finally, some people have strong allergic reactions to sulfites. Anyone who is allergic to sulfites could react to this ingredient in Sriracha.
So, is sriracha bad for you? The answer here is – not necessarily. Just like everything, moderation is key. Should you enjoy it heaped on top of every meal you eat, breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Probably not. But I can’t think of any condiment that you should do that with!
For the record, Huy Fong also makes a chili garlic sauce that doesn’t contain sugar. You can find it on Amazon here.
Final thoughts on “Is Sriracha vegan?”
In this article we talked about Sriracha’s history, both the original sauce and the Huy Fong Sriracha sauce that has become so loved around the world. We talked a little bit about the process of making Sriracha, as well as the ingredients.
We also discovered that, although Sriracha is vegan (surprise! hooray!) it probably shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities. However, that’s something that shouldn’t come as a surprise – and if you’re guzzling a jug of hot sauce every few days, I suspect that you already know you have a problem.
Have you tried Sriracha? (If you haven’t, you can get your hands on some here). What do you think about this spicy sauce? Do you have any favorite recipes? Let me know in the comments below!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention.
She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living. Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
Lisa lives in Sussex with her husband and their three-legged wonder dog, Mable.