Americans’ long-standing sweet-tooth and newfound love for spicy food have combined in what is currently one of the most popular flavor combinations in restaurants: Hot honey.
The product, often as simple as honey infused with a healthy dose of chiles, has been a long time coming: Restaurants have been combining sugar and chile for decades with barbecue sauce, and more pointedly in recent years with ingredients like Thai sweet chile sauce — a favorite accompaniment for grilled chicken in that country, with the primary ingredients of sugar (traditionally palm sugar) and chile. McDonald’s introduced Sweet Chili Sauce, with a flavor profile similar to the Thai sauce, as a limited-time dipping option for its McNuggets in 2010.
It’s also on the new menu introduced this month at Yard House as one of two sauces served with pork lumpia, a Philippine-style eggroll now available at the casual-dining chain’s 67 units. The other sauce is creamy soy white truffle sauce.
Another trending sweet-spicy sauce is the Korean paste gochujang, a fermented condiment of chile, glutinous rice, soy and other ingredients that bring a considerable amount of potentially polarizing funk to a dish. Often menu items containing “Korean barbecue sauce” have gochujang, and it’s the condiment of choice on the new Sweet & Spicy Shrimp at Scotty’s Brewhouse, a 16-unit sports bar chain based in Indianapolis.
But hot honey is definitely enjoying a moment. Mike’s Hot Honey, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company whose product’s ingredient list is simply New York wildflower honey and chiles, is a seasonal option, through April, at Seattle-based Mod Pizza’s more than 300 locations, and it’s also a drizzleable option at 26-unit &pizza, based in Washington, D.C.
In December, it was on a monthly special at three-unit New York shop Black Seed Bagels, which teamed with pizzeria Emily to make a Stromboli Bagel drizzled with the honey.
Take a look at other chain restaurants that have introduced items with hot honey in recent months.