Thursday, September 11, 2014

Making Fermented Chile Sauce (My Version of Sriracha Sauce)

I cannot remember the first time I encountered the celebrated Sriracha Sauce but it was some time ago, before it was as readily available as Tabasco Sauce, Tapatio or mayo and mustard for that matter. Yes today the iconic bright red bottled sauce topped with the bright green screw top squirt cap has made it's way into every corner of the culinary world and beyond. From potato chips, themed cookbooks, restaurant menus, t-shirts and iPhone cases this sauce seems to have a cultural following all of it's own.

The original Sriracha sauce created by Huy Fong Foods in Los Angeles has been duplicated many times now as it's popularity is not fading. A fun fact is that this quite simple recipe is something the beginner fermenting enthusiast can enjoy making with a few ingredients in as few as 5 to 7 days. It is a foolproof recipe if you are willing to spend a couple of minutes a day while the results can vary greatly if you decide to play with changing some of the ingredients once you get a taste for it.

Following this recipe you will be involved in a relationship with the living and friendly Lactobacillus bacteria. This is the process and bacteria responsible for such foods as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi (just to name a few foods). It is harmless and if anything helpful, yet remember that it is a living culture and even though it needs little to create it does need your attention.

With lacto-fermented recipes many variables can change the outcome from one persons attempt to an other's. Temperature, light and even the moisture content of the vegetable matter can alter the end result. My advice to you is to give the recipe a try, stick to your part and enjoy the process and end result even if different from what you expected or what you yielded last time. This is the wonder and beauty of working with the living forces and organism of nature. Nature has her own ingredients to add to the process. We merely facilitate.

Fermented Chile Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Total time: 8 days

Special equipment: None Are Required!! The great thing about this recipe being such a short fermenting process is that you do not need to invest in any new gear or bring out your special crocks or airlock lids. Using a quart size mason jar or ceramic container covered with some plastic wrap is all you need. Of course if you do have and would like to use your airlock lids for this recipe this will only help in the process. It is your choice. You need to use glass or ceramic for this recipe. Plastic containers can carry flavors, chemicals and will most likely be forever impregnated by the odor of fermented chile peppers.

Remember the chile mixture will be shy of filling a quart size container so get something large enough to hold it. I use old quart mason jars I pick up at garage sales just for these purposes. I have a lot of jars....  You want to choose something that will not be too large or have too much head space from your ferment. We want to keep the air in the jar to a minimum. Too much oxygen in the jar/ crock can encourage the growth of mold spores. But this is not a serious issue as I will discuss below.

*Caution* WEAR PROTECTIVE RUBBER GLOVES! Most chile peppers, especially the hotter ones used in this recipe can irritate and or burn your skin when working with them. Once your hand has come into contact with the interior and juices (capsaicin) of a spicy chili the danger of spreading the burning sensation is open by wherever you might put your hands such as your eyes. It is hard to wash off the capsaicin from your hands so please invest in some rubber or latex gloves.


1 1/4 pounds Fresno chiles.
1/4 pound Habanero chiles, red Serrano or Thai chiles (depending on what is available).
4 to 5 cloves fresh garlic (if your cloves are small use 5. If cloves are medium to large use 4).
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp Kosher or sea salt
1/3 Cup water
1/2 Cup distilled vinegar


1. Thoroughly rinse your chiles. Wearing your rubber or latex gloves de-stem, slice in half lengthwise and coarsely chop reserving all of the seeds.

2. Place the chopped chiles, garlic, brown sugar, salt and water into a blender and blend. Turn off blender and scrape down the sides to encourage the mixture to liquefy as much as possible. Do this step a couple of times or until you have a consistent mixture blending away.

3. Once mixture is smooth transfer it into your fermenting jar of choice. You do want to use glass or ceramic for this portion of the recipe. Cover the opening of the container with plastic wrap (tightly) or a tight fitting lid. Place the jar in a dark, cool place and wait!

4. Everyday, once a day for the next 5 to 7 days you will remove your jar of fermenting chiles from their hiding place, open the jar and give the mixture a good stirring. Scrape down the sides, cover and return to a cool, dark place.

As the days go by you will begin to notice a beautiful scent along with some bubbling in the mixture and separation in the bottom of your jar. If you are not using a clear glass and cannot see this activity you will just has to trust me and go by the sweet aroma. This is the lactic-acid fermentation process in progress. Those fruity, spicy chiles are beginning to sour along with the raw aromatic garlic developing a depth of flavor that will thrill you once it is done.

Here is a look at my fermenting chilies roughly 24 hours after being made. You will notice some bubbling around the perimeter of the mixture. Things are getting started.

3 days after being made the aroma fills my cupboard and
larger bubbles can be found on the surface as well
throughout the mixture. Some separation can be found
at the bottom. Stir this up every day!

*Note on possible mold growth: If at any time you notice a fuzzy white growth blooming on the surface of your ferment, do not fret or panic and DO NOT throw out your healthy ferment. Simply and gently use a spoon to scoop out the fuzzy growth along with the immediate surface of the ferment. After you have gently scooped out the fuzzy growth along with the immediate surface below simply stir the ferment and return it to it's hiding place. No harm.

Day 7 shows a ferment bubbling with life.
The aroma is rich and truly resembles Sriracha.
*When it's time: You will be ready to finish your chile sauce when the ferment is aromatic and bubbly. I recommend keeping the length of this ferment to 7 days and not any longer until you feel like experimenting on your own. So know that in 5 days you should have the desired results but if you can wait a little longer you will get a little more depth of flavor.

5. Pour the fermented mixture back into your blender or food processor, add the vinegar and blend for a minute.

6. Pour the fermented chile mixture into a sauce pot and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stirring occasionally allow to reduce by 1/2 original volume skimming the foam from the surface as it appears.

Skim. Skim. Skim.
7. Once reduced turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly  to avoid and injuries when straining. Once cooled, pour the chile mixture from the sauce pot into a fine mesh strainer which rests over a bowl. Make sure to scrape out all the chile bits from the pot.

Using the back of a ladle stir the mixture pushing gently on the wire mesh of the strainer. As more and more of the strained sauce passes through the strainer and the pulp in the strainer becomes thicker you will want to apply a little more pressure against the mesh strainer. Pressing on the pulp as you move the ladle in a circular motion will ensure that you get as much of the hot sauce as you can. Tap the strainer over the bowl and scrape the bottom of the strainer to get all the sauce clinging underneath.

*At this time you may discard the pulp from the strainer or you may want to save it keeping it in your refrigerator to use for cooking as you would a chile paste. I will keep in your refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 months. It is up to you!

8. Once your sauce has cooled to room temperature pour it into your storage or dispensing container of choice. I would suggest getting a food grade squirt bottle at a restaurant supply store or store such as Bed Bath & Beyond but there are many options to choose from today so have fun!

I recommend your sauce refrigerated when you are not using it to ensure it's longevity, however, will it really be around that long until you find yourself making another batch?

Your finished homemade Sriracha sauce will safely last when
refrigerated between uses for up to 8 months.

Comments on changing the recipe to taste.

Chile peppers all have a varied amount of heat as well as their own unique fruity accents. The goal of any recipe you follow or create is to achieve a desired taste.

The Fresno chile has a great fruity flavor and a medium amount of heat making it a great base for this recipe. This is why the majority (1 1/4 pound) of the chile peppers called for in this recipe are Fresno chiles. You can however change this portion of the recipe to enjoy a multitude of outcomes.

Red Serrano chiles are a great addition for the remaining 1/4 pound of this recipe. They are a spicy chile adding plenty of punch. Sometimes I feel that they are more spicy than fruity and I use them accordingly.

The Habanero chile is very spicy but does have a unique fruity flavor. I like to use this pepper in this recipe. Depending on the season it will change the heat from one time to the next but the flavor is great.

Thai chiles work great as well but can translate as more heat than flavor. I would suggest using these to augment some of the other chiles on the recipe but not as a complete substitute.

The list goes on for chile peppers. There is a great variety out there and I encourage you to play with what you like and find in your area.


  1. I've never tasted any chilli sauce that makes me cry because of its hotness, other than sriracha sauce.

    1. Sriracha is pretty spicy but I have had some sauces that I felt were actually burning the flesh in my mouth.

      If you were interested in trying this recipe but want a milder outcome try replacing some of the spicy chiles with red bell peppers. Maybe try using 1/2 to 1 pound of red bell peppers and use Fresno chiles for the remaining weight.

      The type of chile/ pepper will not change the fermentation process. Only the flavor and spicy outcome.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi. Thank you for this website.

    I've been doing a lot of research on the net regarding vinegar brewing and your site is by far the best i've found. Can't wait to try out this one as I'm a huge chilli fanatic.

    I just need clarification on when to add the vinegar as you mention it twice in the method.

    5. Pour the fermented mixture back into your blender or food processor, add the vinegar and blend for a minute.

    6. Pour the fermented chile mixture into a sauce pot, add the vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

    I'd rather not blend it again if we don't have to. Reason being is that scraping it back out of the blender before the heat treatment might lose a bit more of the solids in the process.

    Any help is much appreciated.

    Thanks, Liam