A major sriracha shortage is on the horizon as severe drought conditions threaten pepper production

Things are not looking for good for fans of Huy Fong Sriracha...

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published May 10, 2024 10:30AM (EDT)

Bottles of Sriracha chili sauce are displayed on shelves inside a supermarket (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Bottles of Sriracha chili sauce are displayed on shelves inside a supermarket (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Huy Fong Foods is halting production of its world-famous Huy Fong Sriracha amid severe weather that is threatening the brand’s supply of spicy hot peppers. 

News of yet another sriracha shortage made headlines Wednesday, after the Washington Post published a dismal report on the iconic condiment that’s best known for its deep red hue and sweet yet garlicky taste. Turns out, the extreme drought conditions in Mexico — where Huy Fong’s red winter jalapeño peppers are grown — are causing pepper plants to stop ripening and preventing the crop from achieving their signature red color. According to a letter sent to wholesale buyers, the company said its peppers are still too green, which would alter the color of its brand name sriracha. Huy Fong has decided to cancel all shipments and pause production of its sriracha and related products (including the brand’s Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek) until the next chili harvesting season begins. That means production will be on pause until after Labor Day.

“It’s a double-edged sword when the success of this particular sauce comes from a jalapeño that can only be produced in California or Mexico,” climate scientist Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo told the Post.

For longtime Huy Fong Sriracha fans and consumers, the shortage — though unfortunate — isn’t anything new. Huy Fong’s sriracha hoopla can be traced back to 2016, when Huy Fong demanded its former pepper grower, the California-based Underwood Ranches, return more than $1 million the company said was overpaid to the farm for growing costs, per court documents obtained by the L.A. Times. Huy Fong’s relationship with Underwood Ranches eventually grew bitter, compelling the former to file a breach of contract lawsuit against the latter in 2017. Underwood Ranches filed a cross-complaint in February 2018, claiming that Huy Fong caused the breach in their partnership. The matter was finally settled in 2019 when a civil jury determined that Huy Fong breached its contract and “committed fraud by intentionally misrepresenting and concealing information,” the L.A. Times reported. The jury awarded Underwood Ranches $23.3 million.

Huy Fong has since been receiving its chillies from other growers in California, New Mexico and Mexico. Amid the COVID pandemic, the sriracha experienced mass shortages due to supply chain issues and a drought that affected pepper production. Then in 2022, Huy Fong announced that it would stop production of its products due to a shortage of hot peppers caused by extreme drought conditions in Mexico. The company cited “weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers” and a “megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change” as specific causes for the shortages.

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Sriracha production remained scant in 2023. Huy Fong said it was now experiencing an “unprecedented inventory shortage” and was unsure when the sauce would return to store shelves. “Although some production did resume this past fall season, we continue to have a limited supply that continues to affect our production,” the company said in a statement, per USA Today. “At this time, we have no estimations of when supply will increase.”

Consumers have turned to other brands of sriracha in the wake of Huy Fong’s absence. Many said Huy Fong’s new formula (sriracha made using peppers from the company’s new growers) was more “mild” in taste and instead, praised Roland Sriracha, Yellowbird’s Organic Sriracha, Ninja Squirrel Sriracha and Three Mountains’ Three Sriracha Chili Sauce as tasty alternatives. 

Underwood Ranches also makes and sells its own brand of sriracha along with sambal and chili garlic. The sauce garnered much acclaim from sriracha-loving Redditors. However, The Takeout’s Luke Gralia (who has been covering the sriracha drama extensively) described the sauce as “bland” and “far more vinegary” than Huy Fong’s.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.