Having established that many Americans love spicy food, we’ll likely see restaurants move beyond the now-ubiquitous Sriracha sauce.
This is a well-established practice at independent restaurants, many of which are making their own hot sauces, but new types of heat are spreading to chains, too (and of course the hot sauce bar is a signature feature of Firehouse subs).
The Korean hot-sweet chile paste gochujang was on the Korean street tacos at California Tortilla earlier this year, and Noodles & Company is rolling out Korean meatballs with gochujang in 2016. If you see “Korean barbecue sauce” on a menu, chances are good that it’s gochujang.
Calabrian peppers also are popular among indies, and it’s also part of brunch at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Yogurt with the North African spice blend harissa was on the menu at Brick House Tavern + Tap this spring. The October limited time offer at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Wild Pepper Tenderloin, was marinated in habanero pepper, aji amarillo and Szechuan peppercorns. African piri piri and Middle Eastern Aleppo peppers also are spreading at independents.
There probably won’t be a single hot pepper or pepper sauce to replace Sriracha, but instead a proliferation of varieties to suit each restaurant and its customers.