Beyond Sriracha: Chefs Dish on Their Fave Hot Sauces

By Kelly Dobkin  |  November 20, 2013

Chefs (and most other foodies) have a thing for hot sauce. The breakout popularity of Thai hot sauce sriracha (a trend probably started by chefs), has gone so far that it's now even a featured condiment on a Subway sandwich. Plus lately, sriracha has been getting a lot of attention over now-abated fears that the factory that makes it would be shut down thanks to whiny neighbors. But is this trendy-to-like sauce the go-to favorite among all chefs? Certainly not. To prove our point, (and give some other brands some love), we did a snap poll and found many other varieties worth checking out. Check out our chefs' picks below.

Chef Jeff Mahin, Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago), Stella Barra Pizzeria (Santa Monica, Hollywood, and opening in Chicago this week): El Pato hot sauce - “El Pato is my go-to hot sauce - it’s got great flavor and spice, and provides that perfect little kick.”

Chef/Partner Laurent Tourondel, Arlington Club (NYC):  “Valentina is authentic Mexican hot sauce - the perfect balance of tangy, sweet and spicy (but not overwhelmingly spicy!). I always keep it the pantry. It’s a great alternative to Tabasco on eggs and wherever else I need a dash of spice. Perfect for mixing into mayonnaise and on its own as a condiment and I actually use it in salad dressings in place of vinegar.”

Chef Alex Garcia, A.G. Kitchen and Amigos restaurants (NYC): “My favorite pre-made hot sauce is Sambal, but I also love making my own Thai-inspired hot sauce that combines fresh chiles and fish sauce. And at A.G. Kitchen, we use Samba Chicken Rub from Latin Spice Co., which combines 13 dried spices and herbs, including three dried chiles."

Chef Richard Gras, Oak (Dallas, TX): "I'm a a big fan of Ass Kickin’ Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce. I love this sauce because it’s hot as hell and has a great flavor. And yes that is a real thing!"

Chef Todd Mitgang, Bo’s (NYC): “Shark Brand Sriracha is my favorite. It’s better than the rooster sriracha everyone is talking about because it starts out sweet before seducing you with heat...At Bo’s we make our own condiments, like a chile de arbol-based hot sauce that also has palm sugar and cider vinegar, as well as Creole mustard with pickled mustard seed, annatto seed, paprika, hint of cayenne pepper, white vinegar and simple syrup.”

Iron Chef Jose Garces, Philadelphia, PA
"My favorite is Valentina Hot Sauce. It has just the right amount of acid and heat. It's great in tomato-based ceviches and sauces, or on it's own on top of tacos or nachos. It's also the proper hot sauce to use in a michelada."

Chef/restaurateur Ford Fry, JCT.Kitchen & Bar, King + Duke, Atlanta, GA
Nam Prik Pao: "My favorite hot sauce is a combination of bottled and homemade. I take bottled Thai chili paste, or Nam Prik Pao, which is made with chili jam, fermented bean paste and chili oil, and elevate it with my own ground Thai chilies, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce and lime juice. The end result is a perfect sweet and spicy marinade for skirt steaks or chicken, that you can also use for basting on the grill. It works as a side condiment, too!"

Matt Fisher of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue (NYC): “At Fletcher’s we make our own red sauce with house-pickled jalapenos, carrot and onion blended with vinegar and tomato. But I also like Dirty Dick's Oral Abuse - that’s my favorite boutique hot sauce. It is sweet, spicy and flavorful in all the right proportions. It is unique and pairs well with just about anything. And for a widely available choice, Tabasco Chipotle. I would drink shots of that stuff.”

Jason Lawless, Tocqueville (NYC):
"I don't use hot sauce in the restaurant, but at home I love to use a hot sauce called Aunt May's Red Pepper Sauce. It is from Barbados and is amazing! I use it on everything from sandwiches to salads. The flavor is spicy with a good amount of acidity. Very well balanced."