Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

5 Hot Sauces to Watch Who’s ready for the next hot sauce?

Nam prik, a Thai chile sauce, is one of many fiery global flavoring agents ready for broader exploration on American menus.

Consumers know and love Sriracha. They’re discovering the nuanced flavors of gochujang, harissa and sambal. And are diving into a sense of place with the Calabrian, guajillo and Hatch pepper. With each discovery, dining consumers practically squeal in delight, falling in love anew with the latest chile pepper, hot sauce or fiery condiment.

What’s next, ready for its menu close-up? We’ve compiled a list of five that are catching fire here—some of them with just a slow burn at the beginning. Each offers a first-to-market opportunity for differentiated heat sources.

Although diners love heat, most prefer a nuanced flavor experience rather than a scorching one. That’s where tempering of heat sources comes in, whether through a familiar form, like chicken wings, or through a battered topping that absorbs some of that heat, for instance.

First, it balances the heat with salt, fat, crunch, acid and/or sweetness. Second, it tethers these more exotic ingredients to the more familiar, paving the way to a safe culinary adventure.

Here are five heat sources to watch, with menu sightings showcasing how they’re showing up in foodservice today.

Urfa biber—dried Turkish chile pepper that’s smoky and earthy with a mild heat

Smashed Potato with marinated lebneh, urfa biber and chive oil
Ciudad, Seattle


Achaar—Indian condiment made of pickled fruit marinated in oils and brightened with chile peppers

Curry Row Pizza topped with achaar, onions, peppers, cauliflower and chutney
Emmy Squared, Detroit


Taberu Rayu—Japanese chile oil with a crunchy mix of fried garlic, chiles and sesame seeds

Karaage Fried Chicken with taberu rayu
Izakaya Ronin, Seattle


Nam Phrik / Nam Prik—Northern Thai condiment made with crushed chiles, shallots, garlic, and lime, and usually a bit of shrimp paste or fish sauce

Fried Chicken Thighs served with nam prik noom
Night + Market, Silver Lake, Calif.

Shatta—Egyptian condiment made from ground chiles and olive oil, along with tomato base, parsley, and/or coriander

Beef kibbeh meatballs napped in date butter and red pepper shatta sauce
—Chauhan Masala Ale House, Nashville


More fun with heat

As diners start to embrace new forms of global heat, they still hold love for the more familiar. Here’s how chefs are keeping those interesting:

Salt Cod Fritters with Calabrian mayonnaise, fines herbes
Warm Marinated Feta with housemade semolina-fennel bread, harissa
The Solo Club, Portland, Ore.

Beer-Battered Fried Pickles with Sriracha aïoli mayo
Valhalla, New York

Taleggio with sea salt-toasted cashews and Marcona almonds, pretzels, harissa-seasoned corn nuts
Interurban, Portland, Ore.

Chicharrones with lime powder and mango-habanero sauce
Saraveza, Portland, Ore.

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